A New Treatment of Samuel Pepys

bab84c903c52ff8df197a2bb3a9e9b4bI’ll concede this book is a bit of a stretch for a law and religion site. But I’ve been intrigued by the 17th Century diarist, Samuel Pepys, ever since, as a high school student, I first read his description of the Great London Fire of 1666.  (I was too young to read some of the other entries). And there are law-and-religion associations, after all. Pepys lived through the Protectorate, the Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution, and seems to have survived by being a Vicar-of-Bray sort of character. He began as a supporter of Cromwell, then became an Anglican, and then, under the Stuarts, was suspected of being a Catholic. Well, there is a certain charm in that sort of pliability.

A new book about Pepys from Yale University Press looks like a lot of fun: The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, by author Margaret Willes. No doubt it touches on Pepys’s, and England’s, religious tergiversations. Here’s the description from the Yale website:

An intimate portrait of two pivotal Restoration figures during one of the most dramatic periods of English history.

Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn are two of the most celebrated English diarists. They were also extraordinary men and close friends. This first full portrait of that friendship transforms our understanding of their times.

Pepys was earthy and shrewd, while Evelyn was a genteel aesthete, but both were drawn to intellectual pursuits. Brought together by their work to alleviate the plight of sailors caught up in the Dutch wars, they shared an inexhaustible curiosity for life and for the exotic. Willes explores their mutual interests—diary-keeping, science, travel, and a love of books—and their divergent enthusiasms, Pepys for theater and music, Evelyn for horticulture and garden design. Through the richly documented lives of two remarkable men, Willes revisits the history of London and of England in an age of regicide, revolution, fire, and plague to reveal it also as a time of enthralling possibility.

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