Samuel Pepys



  • (1633 - 1703) English diarist and playgoer, whose journalprovides a record of London's early Restoration theater that is bothpersonal and precise. The diary, which he kept from 1660 to 1669,includes notes about the plays he saw as well as backstage gossipand scandals. His sources included Drury Lane's orange seller OrangeMoll and the actress Mary Knepp.

    Pepys's diary entries also record his observations on theaudience and its behaviour. After taking his wife and her maid toa play, he was "a little shamed" that their clothes werenot appropriate, "all the ladies being finer and better dressedin the pitt than they used, I think, to be." He often complainedabout the unruly conduct of other theatregoers: when he saw Heracliusat the Duke of York's house (see Dorset Garden Theatre)he thought the audience "did so spoil it with their laughing...andwith the noise they made within the theater." On another occasion"a lady spit backward upon me; but after seeing her to be avery pretty lady I was not troubled at it at all."

    In 1668 he went to see The Tempest at the Duke of York'sHouse.

    But there happened one thing which vexed me, which is thatthe orange-woman did come in the pit and challenge me for twelve orangeswhich she delivered by my order at a late play, at night, in orderto give to some ladies in a box, which was wholly untrue, but yetshe swore it to be true. But, however, I did deny it, and did notpay her; but, for quiet, did buy 4s. worth of oranges of her at 6d.apiece.

    Pepys also provided brief personal critiques of the many workshe saw. He thought The Tempest "no great wit, yet good,above ordinary plays". The History of Henry the Fifthby the Earl of Orrery was "full of height and raptures of witand sense". He found The Parson's Wedding, performedby an all female cast, indecent.

    Pepys himself appears as a character in at least two plays;Frederick Ranalow played him in Mr Pepys (1926) while LeslieHenson took the role in And So To Bed (1951).