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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

§ 14. Pepys and the Popish Plot

Disaster came suddenly, without fault on Pepys’s part, and his career was closed for a time. In 1678, the popish plot was invented, and the death of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey drove the public mad with alarm, while unprincipled men took the opportunity of compromising their enemies in order to bring about their condemnation on false issues. Pepys had enemies who sought to sacrifice him by means, chiefly, of the fictitious evidence of a miscreant named John Scott (calling himself colonel Scott). He was first attacked through his clerk Samuel Atkins; but, when the latter was brought to trial, in December, 1678, as an accessory in the supposed murder of Godfrey, he was able to prove an alibi. Then, his enemies opened fire upon Pepys himself; and, on 22 May, he and Sir Anthony Deane, his fellow member of parliament for Harwich, were sent to the Tower on a baseless charge. Pepys, with his usual thoroughness, set to work to obtain evidence against Scott and sent agents to the continent and to the plantations in North America, who returned with a large number of certified documents proving the untrustworthiness of Scott’s evidence and his general dishonesty. These, when presented to the privy council, were sufficient to allow the prisoners to be relieved of their bail and set free on 12 February, 1679/80. Scott refused to acknowledge the truth of his original deposition, and John James, previously a butler in Pepys’s service, confessed, on his death-bed in 1680, that he had trumped up the whole story relating to his former master’s change of religion at the instigation of William Harbord, member of parliament for Thetford, one of the diarist’s most malignant enemies.