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Samuel Pepys and Gray’s Inn

Alec Samuels

Samuel Pepys, the greatest diarist in our history, mentions Gray’s Inn on a number of occasions in the Diary.
The Walks were evidently a popular place for leisure and recreation. He frequently walked in the Walks, or gardens, alone, or to meet a friend, or to admire the ladies, 12 May 1661, 10 August 1661, 20 September 1168, 12 March 1669, or to walk with his wife after attending church (sometimes the Temple Church).
“And so I and the young company to walk first to Grayes (sic) Inn walks – where great store of gallants; but above all, the ladies that I saw, or ever did see, Mrs Frances Butler (Monsieur L’Impertinent’s sister) is the greatest beauty” 23 June 1661.
“Hence I to Grayes Inne walk all alone; and with great pleasure seeing the fine ladies walk there…” 30 June 1661.
“And so to Grayes Inne walkes, the first I have been there this year, and it is very pleasant and full of good company” 6 April 1662.
“Thence to Grayes Inne walkes; and there met Mr Pickering and walked with him two hours till 8 a-clock, till I was quite weary” 13 April 1662.
“…my wife and I walked to Grayes Inne to observe fashions of the ladies, because of my wife’s making some clothes” 4 May 1662.

“and then got a coach and to Grayes Inne walks – where some handsome faces” 12 April 1663.
Pepys records two occasions when he visited rooms or chambers in Gray’s Inn. Having had his portrait painted he visited one Knight in his chamber to buy a picture frame of “Tortoy’shell”, with which he was well pleased 27 June 1666.
He visited Mr W. Howe (spelt How by Pepys), admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1666, who kept the records of the Patent Office and who lived in a chamber in Gray’s Inn, “pretty, and little and neat” (like Howe himself) 12 March 1669. Howe subsequently became a judge in Barbados.
Pepys also records a conversation he had with Howe who told of the rebellion of barristers and students against the Benchers, who “outlawed” them, but peace was restored 19 May 1667. Readings had lapsed during the civil war, and following the Restoration in 1660 there was a lack of discipline, and attempts to revive the readings failed. See A Prospect of Gray’s Inn, Francis Cowper, 2 edition 1985, p.72.

Alec Samuels
J.P., Barrister, B.A.(Cantab)
Member of Gray’s Inn and the Pepys Club