Pepys, Samuel

, secretary to the admiralty in the reigns of Charles II. and James II. and an eminent benefactor to the literature of his country, was a descendant of the ancient family -of the Pepys’s of Cottenham in Cambridgeshire, and probably the son of liichard Pepys, who was lord chief justice in Ireland in 1654. He was born, according to Collier, in London; but Knight, in this particular a better authority, says he was born at Brampton in Huntingdonshire, and educated at St. Paul’s school. Thence he was removed to Magdalen-college, Cambridge. How long he remained here, we are not told, but it | appears by the college-books, that on June 26, 1660, he was created M. A. by proxy, he being then on board of ship as secretary to the navy. He appears to have been related to general Montague, afterwards earl of Sandwich, who first introduced him into public business, and employed him first in various secret services for Charles II. and then as secretary in the expedition for bringing his majesty from Holland. His majesty being thus restored, Mr. Pepys was immediately appointed one of the principal officers of the navy, by the title of clerk of the acts. In this employment he continued until 1673; and during those great events, the plague, the fire of London, and the Dutch war, the care of the navy in a great measure rested on him alone.

In this last-mentioned year, when the king thought proper to take the direction of the admiralty into his own hands, he appointed Mr. Pepys secretary to that office, who introduced an order and method that has, it is said, formed a model to his successors. Important, however, as his services were, they could not screen him from the malevolence of party-spirit; and happening, in 16S4-, to be concerned in a contested election, this opportunity was taken by his opponent to accuse him of being a Papist, which the house of commons inquired into, but without finding any proof. This we learn from the journals of the house. But Collier informs us that he was confined in the Tower for some time, and then discharged, no accuser appearing against him*. After his release, the king made an alteration in the affairs of the admiralty, by putting the whole power and execution of that office into commission; and the public was thus, for some years, deprived of Mr. Pepys’s services as secretary. He was not, however, unemployed for he was commanded by his majesty to ac<­company lord Dartmouth in his expedition against Tangier: and at the same time he had an opportunity of making excursions into Spain, as, at other times, he had already done into France, Flanders, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark. He also sailed frequently with the duke of York into Scotland, and along the coast of England.

In April 1684, on his return from Tangier, and on the


By Grey’s debates it would appear, that Mr. Pepys was accused of having sent information to the French court of the state of the navy: a thing incredible at any time; but perhaps might find believers, when all manner of plots and accusations were fabricated to amuse the public. The only attack on Mr. Pepys’s character, in modern times, is in Harris’s “Life of Charlesll.” and, in such a collection of calumny, seems not at all out of place.

| re-assumption of the office of lord-high-admiral of England by Charles II. Mr. Pepys was again appointed secretary, and held that office during the whole of Charles’s and James’s reigns. During the last critical period, he restricted himself to the duties of his office, and never asked or accepted any grant of honour or profit, nor meddled with any aflair that was not within his province as secretary of the admiralty. In Charles’s time he procured that useful benefaction from his majesty, for placing ten of the mathematical scholars of Christ’s hospital, as apprentices to masters of ships.

On the accession of William and Mary, he resigned his office; and, in 1690, published his “Memoirs” relating to the state of the royal navy of England for the ten years preceding the revolution; a well-written and valuable work. He appears to have led a retired life after this, suffering very much from a constitution impaired by the stone, for which he had been cut in his twenty-eighth year. About two years before his death he went to the seat of an old naval friend, William Hewer, esq. at Clapham, in Surrey, where he died May 26, 1703, and was interred in the same vault with his lady, who died in 1669, in the church of St. Olave, Hart-street, this being the parish in which he lived during the whole of his employment in the Admiralty.

He appears to have had an extensive knowledge of naval affairs, and to have always conducted them with the greatest skill and success. Even after his retirement he was consulted as an oracle in all matters respecting this grand deience of the nation; and, while in office, was the patron and friend of every man of merit in the service. But he was far from being a mere man of business: his conversation and address had been greatly improved by travel, and he was qualified to shine in the literary as well as the political circles. He thoroughly understood and practised music was a judge of painting, sculpture, and architecture; and had more than a superficial knowledge in history and philosophy. His fame, indeed, was such, that in 1684 he was elected president of the Royal Society, and held that honourable office for two years. To Magdalen College, Cambridge, he left that invaluable collection of ms naval memoirs, of prints, and ancient English poetry, which has so often been consulted by poetical critics and commentators, and is indeed unrivalled in its kind. One of its most singular curiosities is; a collection of English ballads, in | five large folio volumes, begun by Mr. Selden, and carried down to the year 1700. The “Reliques of ancient English Poetry,” published by Dr. Percy, are for the most part taken from this collection. His nephew, John Jackson, esq. of the Temple, was Mr. Pepys’s heir to his personal property. It ought not to be omitted, that among other instances of his regard for the advancement of knowledge, he gave sixty plates to Ray’s edition of Willoughby’s “Historia Piscium,” published in 1686. 1


Collier’s Dictionary, Supplement to vol. III.—Cole’s ms. Athenæ in Brit. Mus.—Granger.—Knight’s Life of Colet.—Noble’s Memoirs of Cromwell, vol. I. p. 437.—Nichols’s Bowyer.