25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 35

An Intimate Friend

Pepys, His Life and-Character. By John Drinkwater. (Heine- mann. 21s.)

Wrrn the example of Rousseau before it, the modern mind is apt to assume that the only motive of a diary or a confession is a kind of introspective exhibitionism. People keep diaries, we think, because they feel themselves to be different from other people, of greater sensibility, with organs more finely attuned and a greater capacity for suffering. Pepys had no such unhealthy notions, for he was one of the sanest men that ever lived.

That he intended the Diary to be read may Le inferred from his bequeathing. it among his papers and books to Magdalene College, Cambridge ; but a man may be willing for posterity to read his diary and yet have written it for his own immediate satisfaction, with no thought of a future public. That Pepys did so seems certain. No one was ever less conscious of a possible audience, as he set down with his own admirable clarity and crispness of style, the food he had eaten, the wine he had drunk, his musical evenings, his delight in Mrs. Coleman and Mrs. Knipp, and even his amorous sporting with Deb. Willett. Pepys was a connoisseur, and he liked to roll the flavour of the good things of life round his tongue. He was not one of your hasty men who bolt the meal of life at a gulp, nor one of those queasy mortals whose main interest in the repast lies in the post-prandial analysis of their inadequate gastric juices. But he was also an extremely competent official, a meticulous man, who liked at the end of every day to tot up the accounts, to write down the gain or loss with admirable clear-sightedness, and so begin the next day with untroubled zest. These two motives : his connoisseurship and his tidiness of mind, made him a diarist—one might almost say the Diarist, since no one else, before or since, has left so accurate and yet so living a record of his daily life. We know Pepys better than we know any other man, certainly better than we know Rousseau, who was always throwing out a smoke-screen in the act of tearing off his clothes. His weaknesses, his pathetic attempt at self-deception (where most writers would have been content to deceive their readers), his spontaneous delight in good music, pretty women, social advanceMent (although he was no snob) and in anything new or curious, make Pepys an intimate friend, more intimate than most living friends.

Yet, as Mr. Drinkwater is concerned to show in his admirable study of the Diarist, the Diary itself is hardly fair to the man. Pepys was not a great man, although 'perhaps few great inen could survive the kind of self-revelation to which lie lent himself for ten full years, and his own record of his life makes him out smaller than he really was. The very charm and familiarity of the Diary has damaged his

reputation as a man. For Pepys was a public official of a stamp rare enough in pny age, and almost non-existent in his own. He had not only honesty and application, but capacity of a very high order. He played an honourable, if subordinate, part in the hitt wy of his country, and he left a permanent mark on the administration of the Navy Office. - 'the Diary, too, covers but a short period of his active life. He was, committed to -tte Tower during the madness engineered by Titus Oates ; to was in danger again at the accession of William III. He accompanied the expedition which demolished the fortification of Tangier, he was the friend of Evelyn and of Locke, and even after his final retire- ment from public affairs, he found the world as curious and interesting a place as when he had gone to fetch the King from Scheveningen, or seen the first houses in Drury Lane marked with the red cross, which denoted the coming of the Plague.

Part of the value of Mr. Drinkwater's book lies in his successful attempt to bring the Pepys of the Diary into his proper perspective. It is very. well done, with a humorous and courtly dignity, worthy of its subject, but Mr. Drinkwater would, no doubt, be the first to admit that the main object of his work is to send readers back to the Diary itself, with added zest begotten of greater comprehension. We are interested in his work for the Navy, but we are even more interested in those seeming trifles which bring a past age to lift. in the lute which was as good as any in England and worth tin, in the German expert he got to play it for him, and in the callar of brawn, the mince-pie and the wine with which he rewarded him. " So to the Temple and by water home and so walk upon the leads, and in the dark there played upon my flageolette, it being a fine still evening."

Pepys's weakness for a pretty woman is plain to read in the Diary, and Mr. Drinkwatcr, while acknowledging it. was right not to push it into the foreground of his narrative. Formal condemnation would be as much out of place as a sniggering condonance of his infidelities. It was part or his character, and only his own honesty puts anyone in it position to judge him.

Mr. Drinkwatcr is very fortunate. He has been able to draw upon the latest results of Pepysian scholarship : he has had access to the Hinchingbrooke papers in the possession of Lord Sandwich, and he has made diligent search in the various church registers in the neighbourhood of Huntingdon.

The book has obviously given him great pleasure to write, and the reader may sham his enjoyment. It is impossible to share his great fortune in being able to address his prtMcc from"Pepys House, Brampton, Huntingdon."

JAims LAvElt.