The Dark Side of Samuel Pepys (Hardback)
Society's First Sex Offender
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Samuel Pepys is popularly known as the founder of the modern navy, a member of the Royal Society and most of all, as a unique and frank diarist. Less well known is the fact that he was a serial sexual offender by modern standards; a voyeur, a groper and a rapist.
Set against the London society of Charles II’s restoration, and extensively using Pepys’ own words, this book concerns his numerous extra-marital affairs, often using his professional status and position of influence to advance the careers of his subordinates, in return for the sexual favours of their wives.
With his own very frank descriptions, translated from the strange mix of languages and the seventeenth century shorthand he used to camouflage the content, the reader witnesses in often very graphic detail how Pepys set about achieving his lascivious objectives – on occasion resorting to physical force where persuasion or bribery failed. Whether she be wife, daughter, mother or humble maidservant, no woman was safe from his rapacious sexual appetite.
This book shows the reader a little known, dark and sometimes very disturbing aspect of Samuel Pepys’ character, one which even in his own day, he would not have wanted to be publicly aired.
Samuel Pepys was a high-ranking, hard-working civil servant, music lover, bibliophile, theatre goer and persistent sex offender, ranging from extreme sexual harassment to occasional rape.Historical Novel Society
For nine years (1660-69) he wrote it all in his diary, fantasies included, from business meetings to problems with his ‘house of office’ (toilet). He surely intended to be read by posterity, for he bound the diary in nine volumes with leather covers and bequeathed it to his old college in Cambridge. His shorthand was a published system he had used as a student. Remarkably it was not decyphered for 200 years.
The salacious passages were ‘double encrypted’ as Pimm terms it, written not in English but a mix of Latin, French and other languages. Yet even a schoolboy can translate them, as we did furtively at school in the 1950s. For the latest edition, we had then kept the naughty bits in the original. Earlier editions omitted them entirely.
Today not only can you read the full text in English, but Pimm gives us a book devoted to Samuel’s sex life. Appendix D lists fifty women with whom he ‘may or may not have had a relationship of one sort or another’. He definitely had sexual contact with 21 of them.
Does this mean standards were different in the 17th century? I doubt it. Many rich and powerful men today have probably had inappropriate contact with at least 20 women in the last nine years, but they don’t record it. Pepys was careful to confine his approaches to servant girls and wives of employees who dared not protest, but even so he had strong guilt feelings and hesitated to write his confessions in English. Standards were not so different, but Pepys got away with it.
I have just finished Geoff Pimm's account of the dark side, laughing out loud at some of those diary entries, they never fail to amuse no matter how many times I turn to them. I thought the brief mention of "Matt" (a cook maid) summed up our furtive diarist perfectly (well, that aspect of his work anyway). The reference led me straight back to Latham & Matthews to learn that her departure from the household would be a quickly fading memory given the prospect of a new maid fluent in la langue francais.... oh la la Samuel!Simon Hadlow, Samuel Pepys Club
Geoff, thank you for a fun read, a great laugh and some new discoveries.
As featured inThe Samuel Pepys Club Newsletter, April 2018
As featured inMail on Sunday 28/1/18
As featured inThe Bookseller 10/11/17