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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

§ 12. His Service in the Navy Office

Again through Montagu’s influence, Pepys was appointed clerk of the privy seal (which, for a time, turned out to be a very profitable appointment) as well as clerk of the acts. Montagu told Pepys: “We must have a little patience, and we will rise together; in the meantime I will do you all the good jobs I can” (2 June, 1660). Pepys’s salary was fixed at £350 a year; at this time, however, fixed salaries bore little relation to actual income, which was largely obtained from fees. At the opening of the diary, Pepys was only worth £40 and, at one time, found it difficult to pay his rent; but, by June, 1667, he had accumulated £6900. Besides his salary, he had the advantage of a house in the navy office, Seething lane, which he found very comfortable after the little home at Westminster. The diary contains many particulars of the new apartments, and of those belonging to his colleagues. He lived here during all the time the diary was being written, and he did not leave until he obtained the more important post of secretary of the admiralty. One of the most interesting passages in the diary relates to the great speech he made at the bar of the House of Commons on 5 March, 1667/8. A storm of indignation had been stirred up against the navy office, and this storm burst in parliament when some members demanded that officers should be put out of their places. The whole labour of defence fell upon Pepys, and he presented his case with such success, in a speech which occupied more than three hours in delivery, that the House received it as a satisfactory defence, and his fellow-officers, who were unable to assist him, were naturally over-joyed at the result. The orator was congratulated on every side, and the flattery he received is set down in the diary in all good faith. Sir William Coventry addressed Pepys the next day with the words, “Good morrow, Mr. Pepys, that must be Speaker of the Parliament House,” and the solicitor-general protested that he spoke the best of any man in England. No report of this important speech is known, and The Commons Journals merely contain a statement that the principal officers of the navy appeared at the bar, Pepys’s name not being mentioned.

This was his first great public achievement; but he had previously (1665) shown what grit was in him. One of the most unsatisfactory divisions of the naval accounts related to the pursers. He was early interested in the victualling department, out of which he afterwards made much money; and, on 12 September, 1662, we find him trying “to understand the method of making Purser’s accounts, which is very needful for me, and very hard.” On 22 November, 1665, he was pleased to have it demonstrated “that a Purser without professed cheating is a professed loser twice as much as he gets.” Pepys received his appointment of surveyor general to the victualling office chiefly through the influence of Sir William Coventry; and, on 1 January, 1665/6, he addressed a letter and “New Yeares Guift” on the subject of the pursers to his distinguished friend. He relates, in the diary, how he wrote the letter, and how Sir William praised his work to the duke of York.