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  Pepys and the Popish Plot Character and Charm of the Diary  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

X. Memoir and Letter Writers.

§ 15. His Later Years.


Pepys was now out of office, and remained unemployed for some time, although he retained the confidence of the king. He was sent to Tangier with lord Dartmouth, in 1683, and wrote a diary of his proceedings during his stay there, which gives an interesting picture of the condition of the place and a vivid account of its maladministration. In 1684, he was again appointed secretary to the admiralty, when the greatest undertaking of his life was begun. The navy had been brought to a most serious condition of decay by the neglect of an incompetent commission. When he took office, he determined to reform the administration and to supply the country with a sufficient number of thoroughly sound ships, and this intention he carried out with triumphant success. Then came the revolution, and the man who had not spared any pains in his endeavour to place the country in a proper condition of national defence was sent by the new government to the Gatehouse in Westminster as an enemy to the state. After a time, he was released by the help of stalwart friends, and he now entered into a period of honourable retirement, in which all his old friends and his pupils and followers gathered round him, so that, for the rest of his life, he was considered and treated as “the Nestor of the Navy,” his advice always being respectfully received. He wrote his Memoires of the Navy (1690), which book contains full particulars of the great work he had done, and kept up his general interest in intellectual pursuits, for some years holding social gatherings of fellows of the Royal Society at his home on Saturday evenings. In 1700, he removed from York buildings (Buckingham street) to what Evelyn calls his “Paradisian Clapham.” Here, he lived with his old clerk and friend William Hewer; but his infirmities kept him constantly in the house. On 26 May, 1703, he breathed his last in the presence of the learned George Hickes, the non-juring dean of Worcester, who bears witness to the big-mindedness of the man, his patience under suffering and the fervent piety of his end. He died full of honour—a recognition thoroughly deserved by his public conduct through life; but he was shabbily treated by the men in power. The last two Stewart kings were many thousands of pounds—£28,007 2s. 1 1/4 d., to be exact—in his debt, and the new government did not see that they were called to help him in recovering it. They might, however, have considered how much the country was indebted to him for a strong navy, and remembered that most of the money owing to him had been spent upon the state.   37

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  Pepys and the Popish Plot Character and Charm of the Diary  
 
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