Samuel Pepys: The Man in the Making

Samuel Pepys: The Man in the Making

Samuel Pepys: The Man in the Making

Samuel Pepys: The Man in the Making

Excerpt

The life of Pepys presents a unique opportunity to the biographer. It is not unusual for a prudent man of affairs who has reached a great place to leave behind some record of his public life, and this Pepys, in his Memoirs of the Royal Navy, his collections of sea manuscripts, and his vast official correspondence, was careful to do. What is so singular is that this successful man of affairs should have also kept a record of his most secret thoughts and actions which is at once a literary masterpiece and a psychological revelation more profound than that of any novel. From this journal, covering nearly ten years of his earlier life, he excluded no admission, however humiliating to himself, which his selective instinct told him was relevant to his daily being. Nothing so honest has ever been written by a man of his own self.

Presented with this incredible monument of self-revelation--it runs to 1,300,000 words--the earlier editors of Pepys' Diary suppressed the greater part of it, and for much which they omitted it is hard to blame them. In some respects it would perhaps have been better had their successors followed suit. However frank biographical record may prove, certain aspects of a man's life are probably best left in obscurity.

In Pepys' case this is no longer possible. Thirty years ago Wheatley, in his great edition of the Diary, included material which revealed the young Pepys as a man licentious in thought and deed, an unfaithful husband and a seducer. Certain phrases and sentences were still omitted, but these were introduced by passages which made their nature all too plain and indicated by dots which prompted the . . .

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