'And so I betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave: for which, and the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me!' So wrote Pepys as he closed the last page of his intimate diary. It is not surprising, then, to findHowarth, one of the recent editors of Pepys correspondence, remarking on the difficulty of realizing that life, even the busy life of Pepys, went on after that tragic day in its customary pace. Certainly the emphasis which has been placed of late almost exclusively upon the public life and service of the diarist has left the casual reader to wonder whether the man himself remained the same. The intense consciousness of home and family relationships and the intense personal savour of experience, of course, are not well expressed in the second diary or in the letters to public men. This problem, then, of Pepys's continuing family relationships is the unifying principle of the present collection.
The text has been assembled from letters passing between Pepys and his closest relatives, letters concerning those relatives exchanged between Pepys and persons outside the circle of kin, and other nonepistolary memoranda related to the subject-matter involved. Of the 188 documents here reprinted, 162 are for the first time reproduced in full, although short passages from some of them have been used in various biographical works.
Besides Samuel Pepys, the correspondents include the diarist's father, his two brothers, Thomas and John, his sister Paulina, his sister's husband, his wife's brother and her sister-in-law, and three nephews. Letters to Samuel's cousin, the Earl of Sandwich, are omitted, as also those to other cousins, in order to limit the collection to the concerns of the immediate family circle. The letters between the ageing Pepys and John Jackson, his sister's son, the nephew who inherited his estate, are so far from intimate in tone as to shed little light on the Pepys of the diary, and have been so fully reprinted by Tanner as to make their inclusion here superfluous. Included, however, are thirty-seven letters to and from persons outside the circle of relationship, but involved temporarily in the family concerns, letters throwing additional light on problems discussed in the family papers.
The significance of the present volume lies in its subject-matter, which is closer to the diary than any previous collection of letters. Whereas it is the Pepys of the diary who has endeared himself to readers, the Pepys revealed by previous collections of letters has been . . .