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Art. I.—Memoirs of Samuel Pepys, Esq. F.R.S. Secretary to
the Admiralty in the Reigns of Charles II. and James II. comprising his Diary from 1659 to 1669, deciphered by the Rev. John Smith, A. B. of St. John's College, Cambridge, from the original short-hand MS. in the Pepysian Library, and a Selection from his Private Correspondence. Edited by Richard, Lord Braybrooke. In Two Volumes. London. 1825. THERE is a curiosity implanted in our nature which receives
much gratification from prying into the actions, feelings, and sentiments of our fellow creatures. The same spirit, though very differently modified and directed, which renders a female gossip eager to know what is doing among her neighbours over the way, induces the reader for information, as well as him who makes his studies bis amusement, to turn willingly to those volumes which promise to lay bare the motives of the writer's actions, and the secret opinions of his heart. We are not satisfied with what we see and hear of the conqueror on the field of battle, or the great statesman in the senate; we desire to have the privilege of the valet-de-chambre to follow the politician into his dressing closet, and to see the hero in those private relations where he is a hero no longer.
Many have thought that this curiosity is most amply gratified by the correspondence of eminent individuals, which, therefore, is ofter published to throw light upon their history and character. Unquestionably much information is thus obtained, especially in the more rare cases where the Scipio has found a Lelius-some friend in whom he can fear no rival, and to whose unalterable attachment he can commit even his foibles without risking loss of esteem or diminution of affection. But in general letters are written upon a different principle, and exhibit the writers less as they really are, than as they desire their friends should believe them to be. Thus it may be observed that the man who wishes for profit or advancement usually writes in a style of bullying independence--a flag which he quickly strikes to the prospect of advantage; the selfish individual, on the other hand, fortifies bis predominant frailty by an affectation of sensibility; the angry and irritable man attends with peculiar strictness to the formal and ceremonial style of well-bred society; the dissolute assume on paper an air of morality; and the letters of the prodigal are VOL. XXXIII. NO. LXVI.
found to abound with maxims of prudence not a whit the worse for the author's own wear.
These discrepancies between epistolary sentiments and the real character of the writer, become of course more marked when the letters, like those of Pope, are written with a secret consciousness that they may one day or other come before the public. It is then that each sentence is polished, each sentiment correct; and that a letter, ostensibly addressed to one private friend, is compiled with the same sedulous assiduity as if it were to come one day flying abroad on all the wings of the press.
The conclusion is that there can be little reliance placed on the sincerity of letter-writers in general, and that in estimating the mass of strange matter which is preserved in contemporary correspondence, the reader ought curiously to investigate the character, situation, and temper of the principal correspondent, ere he can presume to guess how many of his sentiments are real; how much is designed as a gentle placebo to propitiate the feelings of the party whom he addresses ; how much intended to mislead future readers into a favourable estimate of the writer's capacity and disposition. We have found ourselves guilty a hundred times of returning thanks to ingenious individuals, who have sent for our acceptance very handsome hot-pressed volumes of poetry and of prose, with a warmth which might to the ordinary acceptation have included much applause; whereas, on our part, the civil words were merely intended to extinguish the debt imposed on us, and to give some value for the certain number of shillings which we must have been out of pocket had we been rash enough to purchase the works on our own account. But in our professional capacity, however the man may have been softened, the critic, like he of Tilbury fort, stands resolved.
Thus much for the faith of familiar letters, which, from the days of Howell downwards we believe, will be found to contain as regular and rateable a proportion of falsehood as the same quantity of given conversation. In private Diaries, like that now upon our table, we come several steps nearer to the reality of a man's sentiments. The journalist approaches to the situation of the soliloquist in the nursery rhyme.
As I walked by myself,
And thus myself said to me. It is no doubt certain that in this species of self intercourse we put many tricks upon our actual and our moral self, and often endeavour to dress deeds, enacted by the former on very egotistical principles, in such a garb as may in some degree place them favourably before, the other's contemplation. Still there must
be more fair dealing betwixt ourself and our conscience, than ourself and any one else ;-here there is much which can neither be denied or extenuated; Magna est veritas et prevalebit. Indeed such seems the force of the principle of sincerity in this sort of self-coinmuning as renders it wonderful how much such records contain of what is actually discreditable to the writers. These confessions may have been made either because the trick was cleverly done, (as many a Newgate knave indites a narrative of his rogueries that at the same time he may preserve some remembrance of his talents,) or because the moral sense of the party in the confessional has become dull and blunted, and insensible of the manner in which his tale is likely to be regarded by men whose sense of right and wrong is undepraved; or, finally, (that case perhaps occurs seldomest of any,) because the narrator feels his secret mind oppressed beneath the same weighty burthen of solitary consciousness which sometimes drives malefactors of a different class to speak out more than had even been laid to their charge. Owing to these and other motives we have ourselves listened to unsolicited avowals made in general society of such a character as served to strike with dismay, and eventually to disperse a gay and unscrupulous company, who shrunk away in disgust, and left the too candid narrator to spend the rest of the evening in reflecting on the consequences of untiinely confidence. Those who make such admissions in society are still more ready to record them in their diaries. Nothing indeed can be more natural than the conduct of the barber of king Midas, who relieved his mind of a burthensome secret by communicating to a bundle of reeds the fact that the worthy prince whom he served had the ears of an ass. In modern times a memorandum and a goose-quill would have naturally been the barber's resource, nor are we at all certain that the committing his mystery to the treacherous' reeds meant any thing more than that the courtbarber of king Midas kept a diary, which fell into the hands of some reviewer of the times.
If there is any one to whom we can ascribe perfect good faith in the composition of his diary, it is certainly the author of that which lies before us. Mr. Pepys was in the fortunate situation that he had no crimes to conceal, and no very important vices to apologize for. We think we can determine to what class the latter belonged: and yet they are so very well glossed over, that we can easily believe the frank gentleman was prevented by the blinding influence of that witch, Vanity, from accurately considering the feelings likely to be excited in the minds of others by certain matters which he has faithfully recorded. There was an additional ground of security in Mr. Pepys's case;
he had, to keep up the parallel of king Midas's barber, dug his pit extremely deep, and secured his record against easy consultation or rapid transcription. His diary was written in a peculiar shorthand or cipher, which he had practised from an early period of life. Undoubtedly he laid considerable stress on this circumstance in considering the possibility of his journal falling into unfriendly hands during his life, or being too rashly communicated to the public after his death. At least it is certain that when he gave up, with much regret, the keeping this daily register of his private thoughts and remarks, it was in consequence of his eyesight being for a time in such a state that he no longer retained the power of writing his cipher.
• And thus ends all that I doubt I shall ever be able to do with my journall, I being not able to do it any longer, having done now so long as to undo my eyes almost every time that I take a pen in my hand; and therefore, whatever comes of it, I must forbear: and therefore resolve from this time forward to have it kept by my people in long-hand, and must be contented to set down no more than is fit for them and all the world to know ; or if there be any thing, I must endeavour to keep a margin in my book open, to add here and there a note in short-hand with my own hand. And so 1 betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave: for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me !'---vol. ii. p. 347.
From this touching passage, as indeed from the whole tenor of the diary, it is evident that Mr. Pepys wrote under a feeling of security, and therefore with a frankness not often to be found amongst diarists, who have not the same resources against the risk of inconvenience from malicious or impertinent scrutiny into their private lucubrations. Why, when his eyes recovered (as they must soon have done) their usual strength, he did not resume the diary, no hint is given. Is it quite impossible that he may have done so, and that other volumes may hereafter be discovered?
In the meantime it is to Lord Braybrooke that we owe the possession of these two curious voluines, containing, as we hope presently to show, much that is interesting to the historian and to the antiquary, as well as a treasure of amusing facts for the benefit of the general reader. The Noble Editor has also favoured us with a sketch of his author's life and some notes: but in both of these we regret to say there is considerable confusion, especially in regard to titles and dates.*
For example, Lord Braybrooke talks of Sir William Congreve as ' a Commissioner of the Admiralty,' when the office of High Admiral was not in commission : Sir William's office was that of Secretary to the Admiralty under the Duke of York. A more serious evil is that Lord Braybrooke by no means distinguishes sufficiently between the widely