Samuel Pepys – Entertain myself with my perspective glass
The Diary of Samuel Pepys
Libertine Tendencies Didn’t Prevent His Success
Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703)
Before a month ago, I had no idea that Samuel Pepys existed. I’d certainly never heard of his diary. Or, if I had run across his writing before, it wasn’t that memorable.
I had a full year of English Literature. We encountered lot’s of memorable writing that year, no doubt. But, I’m pretty sure there was not a selection from Samuel Pepys. I know I would have enjoyed his diary more than all the time we spent on Beowulf. And, I know for a fact, it would have been better than the hour we spent listening to that ancient epic read in Old English…
It’s my understanding that Pepys’ diary is at quite infamous in some circles. And, that it’s more likely that you’ll know something of the man and his diary if you are from England. I appreciate now that his diary was groundbreaking in a number of ways, as well as giving a vivid portrayal of life in his time…
I did entertain myself with my perspective glass up and down the church, by which I had the great pleasure of seeing and gazing at a great many very fine women…Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703)
I laughed pretty hard at this quote when I found it. How absurd it all seemed, using a spyglass to peek around a congregation.
Then it dawned on me how going to church would have been much more inviting had I been allowed to bring a small telescope. Even if a church is far from being a sexualized setting, the idea appeals to my voyeuristic side. And, to Samuel Pepys, church was very much a sexualized atmosphere. I think he found most anywhere to be a sexualized atmosphere, if an opportunity presented itself.
What does appear obvious, is that our sense of decorum has changed dramatically since the 17th century. Yes, Samuel Pepys was a Member of Parliment and Chief Secretary to the Admiralty. But, no matter their title, I just can’t imagine anyone in the modern age getting away with bringing a telescope to church for girl watching…
One day in December 1659, a young civil servant and Cambridge graduate named Samuel Pepys went to the shop in Cornhill in the City of London, where the stationer John Cade sold paper and pens, and bought himself a paper-covered notebook too fat for his pockets and took it home to his lodgings in Westminster. There, having ruled in red ink a left-hand margin down some 282 pages, he was ready. Thus it was that on 1 January 1660 the 27-year-old Pepys made his first diary entry…Robert McCrum
When I discovered this Pepys quotation, I had no idea that his diary was considered to be a classic of English Literature. Making the Guardian’s top 100 nonfiction books of all time is an impressive accomplishment.
Pepys’ diary includes more than it’s share of bawdy adventures. There’s no doubt he lived a sexually adventurous life…
“Famously, he reports his sexual adventures with impressive candour, using a mix of the English vernacular and Latin to report his sexual exploits. His seduction of Deborah Willet, a young woman engaged by his wife for company, is probably the most dramatic. On 25 October 1668, Pepys was surprised at home as he embraced Miss Willet. He describes his wife coming upon them “suddenly” while in flagrante delicto:
“She did find me embracing the girl con [with] my hand sub [under] su [her]coats; and indeed I was with my main [hand]in her cunny. I was at a wonderful loss upon it and the girl also…”
Deborah Willet was sacked; Pepys fell into deep remorse; he did not, however, entirely give up his dalliances.”
Excerpted from: The 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time: No 92 – The Diary of Samuel Pepys (1660) – A portrait of an extraordinary Englishman, whose scintillating first-hand accounts of Restoration England are reported alongside his rampant sexual exploits
Samuel Pepys’s diary (1660–69) is notorious for its liberal accounts of his sexual liaisons with women across London. Despite his marriage to Elizabeth St Michel (from 1655), Pepys had regular mistresses and engaged in casual affairs with servants, barmaids and companions alongside the wives, daughters and mothers of friends and colleagues. He flirted with, fondled or slept with Mrs Lane, Mrs Martin, Mrs Tooker, Mrs Burrows, Mrs Pennington, Betty Michell and Elizabeth Knepp in their homes, the backrooms of taverns, in carriages, in theatre stalls and even church pews.
Chief Secretary to the Admiralty & Member of Parliment
The truth is, I do indulge myself a little the more in pleasure, knowing that this is the proper age of my life to do it; and, out of my observation that most men that do thrive in the world do forget to take pleasure during the time that they are getting their estate, but reserve that till they have got one, and then it is too late for them to enjoy it.
At the very least, it seems that Samuel Pepys was a hedonist. Without a doubt, he was a man who pursued sexual pleasures without much regard for decorum. He not only fulfilled a voyeuristic streak in church, he made furtive attempts to act upon his desires there as well.
Pepys could be called “sexually unrestrained”, to say the least. Yet, he did experience some measure of guilt and grief over his sexual dalliances. Undoubtedly, the puritanical age Samuel lived in had something to do with that.
It led to some very conflicted behavior on Samuel’s part. One of the best examples is his encounter with a pornographic book called L’escholle des Filles (“The School for Young Women”). Note – Historians believe Pepys diary is the first literary reference to erotic literature available in the English language.
Just so it’s clear, here’s the timeline…
Samuel Pepys obtains some infamous pornography. He eagerly devours it. Ultimately, he jerks off to the book. Then, Pepys burns the book. Not exactly rational behavior. At least from a kinkster’s perspective.
But guilt, especially the religious kind, doesn’t always lead to perfectly rational thinking. I’m not sure how a theologian feels about religious guilt. They may find it to be perfectly rational.
Samual Pepys – Early Archetype for a Kinkster?
In the end, Pepys could have been a very early archetype for a kinkster. He lived the life of a libertine. He was most certainly a voyeur. It sounds like Samuel rolled thru life as a sexual hedonist, looking for (and finding) more than his share of sexual variety. And, at the same time, he was able to have a very successful professional career.
Sadly, he plays a bit fast and loose on consent issues. It’s very likely that a married woman had more than just a short-term affair with Pepys to forward her husband’s career. That’s not exactly a model of an ethical slut.
Perhaps it’s just the mindset I find myself in today, but Mr Pepys sounds more like Harvey Weinstein than a proto-kinkster…