Samuel Pepys Diary FAQ

The Complete Diary


Frequently Asked Questions put by readers of

1. Where was he born, where did he live, where did he die?

Read a short biography

2. What do we know about his famous affair with his wife's maid, Deb Willet?

Read about Deb Willet here.

3. How do you pronounce his name?

The accepted pronunciation today of his curiously spelled name is PEEPS. Sam definitely pronounced his name PEEPS as do the descendents of his sister Paulina. However other branches of the family pronounce it PEPPIS.

4. Why is he famous?

Although he was known in his day for his efficient work with the navy, he is famous now for his intimate personal diary, written between 1660 and 1669. It is evocative of the 17th century, a time of great change in England but it is its intensely personal description of a man who is vain, lecherous, hard working, keen to learn, in love with yet argumentative with his wife, and determined to leave his mark on the world that makes his diary so fascinating even 350 years later.

5. Why did he stop writing his diary?

His sight was deteriorating and he believed this was caused at least partly by writing his diary in poor light. His final written words explain this and suggest he might have people write his diary for him, though this would mean he could not write with any privacy. In the end, though his eyes did pain him, he kept his sight for the rest of his life.

6. Is it true that some of his writing is in code?

Yes.The whole diary is written in shorthand and certain private passages are written in a code using Spanish, Italian and French words plus other devices designed to confuse the reader.Though this has been decoded the copyright free edition of his diary used on this website was written by a clergyman (The Rev. Mynors Bright MA in 1885) who refused to translate what he saw as obscene passages.
The modern version (published 1970-1983 by Robert Latham and William Matthews) does have these passages in full. These pages have some translated extracts which do not appear in the Mynors Bright text. They mainly describe his intimate relationships with, and thoughts about, women.

7. Can I read extracts of the Diary without leafing through the whole thing?

Indeed. Visit the front page of this site and near the top of the page click on the book spines above "Extracts from The Diary arranged by Year".

The full diaries are aranged by year down the left hand side of every page and there is a link to the page per month on the top right hand side.

8. What did Pepys say about the great fire of London?

Please look at the tab on the left called Great Fire. It will take you to the relevant extract!

9. Who did Pepys have affairs with?

Apart from his wife, Elizabeth St Michel whom he married in 1655, he was involved to a greater or lesser extent with Mrs Bagwell (William Bagwell's wife), , Jane Welsh (his barber's servant), Sarah (the girl at the Swan Inn), Betty Martin ... and that was mainly January 1665!
Later there was Deb Willet (his wife's maid), Betty Lane and her sister Doll Lane, Betty Michell, Mrs Tooker ...

10. Why was England fighting the Dutch - and what does Pepys say about it?

These were mainly trade disputes, though a free-spending Charles II also needed money and saw the prosperous Dutch as an opportunity to swell his coffers. In the process Edward Montagu lost his life at the battle of Solebay, The Dutch invaded the river Medway and for a while England was fighting a man who would become their king - William III of Orange. Read The Anglo-Dutch Wars.

11. Where can we see the original diaries?

Pepys' diaries can be seen in The Pepys Building at Magdalene College Cambridge.

12. Who translated the Diary?

The diary text on this website is based on the shorthand manuscript in the Pepysian library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, transcribed by The Rev. Mynors Bright MA in 1885. It is published as electronic text by Project Gutenberg. Read the small print if you wish.
A revised and still copyright edition was published in 1970-1983 by Robert Latham and William Matthews - and this remains the most detailed and accurate version of the diary - but as it is copyright it cannot appear here.

13. What is Pepys' connection with Hinchingbrooke House?

Samuel Pepys is connected to Hinchingbrooke and Huntingdon in three ways:

1. He attended the Free School (1642-1644) - fore-runner of the present Hinchingbrooke School

2. He worked as secretary for Edward Montagu , Earl of Sandwich, who lived both in London and in Hinchingbrooke House (now part of the school buildings)

3. He owned a house in the village of Brampton a mile from Hinchingbrooke.

14. How is Pepys' Diary relevant today?

Apart from being of historical importance - he witnessed a time of enormous significance in England's history - his diaries show the natuure of a complex man, vain and proud, ambitious, hard working with human doubts and frailties. Many of us will sympathise and all of us can all learn from him.
In the modern blogging age bloggers everywhere can learn from his personal diaries. He was the first Blogger.
If you're interested, view The Pepys Now Project - how to write a blog they'll read in 100 years