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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

§ 13. His Blindness and the Closing of the Diary

Pepys’s habit of sitting up late reading and writing by candle-light began to tell upon his eyesight, and, in January, 1663/4, he found that his sight failed him for the first time. On 5 October, 1664, he consulted the celebrated Edmund Cocker as to the glass which would best suit his eyes at night; but the weakness of the eyes continued to trouble him, and he proposed to get some green spectacles. How the eyesight became weaker, so that the diary had to be discontinued, we all know to our great cost. On 16 May, 1669, Pepys drew up a rough copy of a petition to the duke of York for leave of absence for three or four months. A few days after this entry, the duke took him to the king, who expressed his great regret for the cause of his trouble and gave him the leave he desired. On 31 May, Pepys made his last entry; and the diary ends with these words of deep and subdued feeling:

  • And thus ends all that I doubt I shall ever be able to do with my own eyes in the keeping of my Journal. 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 so I 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! S. P.
  • We know that Pepys did not become blind, and that he lived for over thirty-three years after the closing of the diary; but, having closed the manuscript, he does not appear to have had the courage to continue his record.

    The life of Pepys after the finish of the diary must be told in brief, although it forms a most important period of his career. He took advantage of his leave of absence to make a tour with his wife in France and Holland, which seems to have done him permanent good; but it was fatal to Mrs. Pepys, who died shortly after their return home on 10 November, 1669, at the early age of twenty-nine. Pepys suffered greatly from the death of his wife, to whom he was beyond doubt deeply attached. He returned to the navy office, but only for a short space of time; for, at the end of the year 1672, he was appointed secretary of the admiralty, the duke of York being suspended and king Charles taking over the office of lord high admiral with the help of a commission. When Pepys entered upon the office of greater honour, he, no doubt, annexed to the admiralty much of the work he had previously done at the navy office, and the latter did not regain the power which it had possessed when under Pepys’s superintendence. He made great improvements in the personnel and business of the office; and, during six years, he exercised a wise authority, causing officers to be smart and constant to their duty.