Samuel Pepys and John EveIyn 3
Pepys and Evelyn were two exceptional men, contemporaries, diarists, correspondents, public servants, curious, learned, polymaths – and happily “particular friends”.
Pepys’ diary ended in 1 669, when he was 36, but the correspondence between them went on until Pepys’ death in 1703.
They got to know each other when Pepys was Clerk of the Acts, and subsequently Secretary to the Admiralty and Evelyn was Commissioner for Sick and Wounded Seamen and Prisoners of War. Both took their duties very seriously. The subject matter of the correspondence was naval and public affairs, especially in the 1670’s and 1680’s. As their friendship deepened all manner of issues were discussed, including books, prints, the classics, the new Infirmary for Seamen (Hospital) at Greenwich, the Clarendon History of the Rebellion, the Royal Society, leading men of the day, such as Newton and Wren, illnesses and remedies, and the health of Mrs Evelyn and Mrs Skinner.
One of Pepys’ letters was sent from Portsmouth just before he embarked for Tangier in 1683.
More of Evelyn’s letters to Pepys survive than Pepys’ letters to Evelyn. It is a matter for regret that Pepys never wrote his projected History of the Navy; he certainly asked a lot of questions and sought a lot of help from Evelyn about the project.
They became staunch friends. When Pepys was in trouble in 1679 and again in 1690, in the Tower, Evelyn stood by him. Clearly they greatly admired and respected each other. Your humble obedient obliged faithful honoured and affectionate servant they say. Yours indefinitely says Pepys in one letter.
Capacity for friendship and the cultivation of friendship are marks of exceptional men.