Updated: Feb 17
Rogues Gallery Uncovered
LONDON, FEBRUARY 1667
The coach trundles through the pitch-black London streets - its bouncing progress illuminated by the flaming torch held firmly in the grip of a link boy running alongside.
Samuel Pepys relaxes underneath his voluminous cloak, enjoying begrudging hand relief from his current mistress.
On the bench opposite, his wife Elizabeth, tired from a busy day and lulled by the swaying motion, dozes peacefully.
As his orgasm approaches, Pepys ruminates that, providing Mrs Pepys doesn’t wake up and start screaming in outraged fury, this is definitely “One for the diary.”
He had just taken Elizabeth and Betty Mitchell – the mutual friend with whom he is currently sleeping - to Drury Lane, to see a play called “The Chances”. To be honest, he wasn’t particularly keen to go, but as it turned out, the performance wasn’t that bad.
There were a few catchy songs and when the activity on stage became boring there were plenty of handsome women in the audience for him to, surreptitiously admire.
Pepys was especially taken with society beauty and royal mistress Barbara Villiers, who had been a fixture in the Kings bedchamber since 1660.
He has awoken many times, guilt-ridden and erect, from some spectacularly filthy dreams about Villiers, and would be at her bedchamber door faster than a hare dipped in quicksilver… if she asked
- but she won’t - so he refers to her contemptuously in his diary as “A whore.”
Another lady who catches his eye that night went by the name of “Mrs Middleton” and he will later excitedly record that she has “A very excellent face and body.”
It’s a testament to Pepys’s rampant libido that while sitting between two women, both of whom he is sexually involved with; he still has the urge to ogle a couple more.
In the licentious world of Restoration London, Pepys is a decidedly third-rate libertine. Unlike swaggering contemporaries such as John Wilmot, Charles Sedley, George Villiers and, Charles II, Pepys has neither the charm nor confidence to be a true “Gentleman of Pleasure.”
Brought up a puritan, he had no idea what “Buggery” was, until he was thirty years of age – an admission that could get him laughed out of every tap room in town if he chose to share it.
Now he’s thirty-four, and slightly more worldly wise but he’s still cripplingly tongue tied and intimidated by the sexually sophisticated ladies with whom he comes into contact at court. Perhaps bitter at the realisation that his low station and shyness means he’ll never get the chance to enjoy any of them, he adopts a highhanded, moral stance with regards to their lascivious behaviour. When Lord BROWNKER became a navy commissioner in 64’ and moved his long-term mistress, the successful actress Abigail Williams, into his home, an outraged Pepys repeatedly referred to her in his dairy as “A Painted Lady,” “A Lady of Pleasure,” and “A Doxy.” His opinion of shop girls, servants and the wives of his subordinates, however, is a little different. These are more easily impressed by his role as Clerk of the Acts of the Navy Office, they also have less money and social standing than he and are much less inclined to say “No” when he shoves their hands down his breeches. It's not that he doesn’t love his wife - he does, very much. They do have the odd disagreement, such as the quarrel about Elizabeth’s supposed inability to discipline the servants.
During a heated difference of opinion she tried to bite and scratch Pepys’s face to ribbons and received a black eye in return.
In an argument, Elizabeth certainly gives as good as she gets and Pepys lives much of his home life in a state of nervous apprehension, fearful of igniting his wife’s volcanic temper.
She will often follow her husband down the street, loudly haranguing him every step of the way before returning home to brood and seethe, sometimes for weeks.
Such behaviour is unbecoming in the wife of Chief Secretary to the Admiralty but Pepys endures it – if he can endure having a tennis ball sized bladder stone removed through the skin above arsehole without the balm of opiates then he can endure anything. In the days after the argument, the atmosphere at home was, as you would expect, somewhat frosty.
Elizabeth however remained indoors until her eye had healed, and Pepys strove to conceal his scarred face, so nobody was any the wiser.
When the dust had settled, they simply put the violence behind them and resumed their domestic routine. So, it’s not lack of affection that leads Pepys to habitually stray it’s just that when it comes to sex, he and his wife are frustratingly mismatched.
Elizabeth’s sex drive is not nearly as high as her husband’s is and she’s suffered for many years from an increasingly painful genital cyst.
The marital bed, therefore, is rarely the scene of lovemaking and while most of Pepys contemporaries consider sexual desire in a woman to be godless and unseemly, for a man it’s a perfectly normal physical need that demands to be satisfied as part of the natural order.
What else can Pepys do but seek his release elsewhere?
Back in the coach, Pepys recalls how at the end of the play, he’d had taken Betty and his wife into town, for a little shopping at a fashionable Bazaar on the Strand known as “The New Exchange.” Betty, he treated to some gloves and a dressing box, Elizabeth he treated to absolutely nothing at all – He’d taken her to the theatre after all, what more did she expect, did she think he was made of money?
The highlight of the evening, of course, came as they shared a conveyance back to the Pepys’ house on Seething Lane, bumping over the burnt-out ruins of last year’s “Great Fire.”
Pepys can’t help but smile thinking about how, when sitting opposite his wife and Betty, he noticed Elizabeth’s eyelids beginning to droop and began to form an ingenious, lascivious plan.
This, he feels was little short of genius and certainly deserves to be recorded for posterity.
Pepys loudly complained that one of his testicles had become inexplicably bruised and that bouncing around on his seat with no one next to him for support was making the journey uncomfortable.
He asked Elizabeth if he could swap places with her so he would be sitting next to Betty.
Being wedged in, he maintained, meant that he wouldn’t move around so much, and thus lessens the pain in his battered scrotum.
Grateful for the chance of some extra space, Elizabeth agreed and Pepys clambered eagerly into position, arranging a cloak across his and Betty laps.
He was probably unaware that as her theatre companion’s head nodded forward in slumber, Betty knew, with depressing certainty, what was about to come next.
As his wife snored opposite, Pepys’s wandering hand began to rummage beneath the travelling cloak until it found hers.
Then, gripping it tightly he started to pull her fingers inexorably, towards his waiting crotch. It was by no means the first time he had done this, and Pepys, Betty had discovered, could be quite insistent.
Reluctantly taking hold, Betty had consoled herself by acknowledging that Pepys was an important and powerful man, the gifts he bought her were nice and if the coach kept bumping and bouncing along like it had been, then the whole messy business would probably be over in five minutes.
By the time the coach had ground to a halt just outside her home however, Betty was beginning to have a change of heart.
For a start she wasn’t really enjoying being forced to tug his pizzle all the time, secondly, her husband might find out about her dalliances and, to top it all, she was nearly seven months pregnant.
Pepys, had no such misgivings, he recorded in his diary that his mind was “mighty glad of what I have prevailed for so far”;
In his writing, Pepys is candid about his ogling, lustful thoughts and extramarital sexual escapades, but he always makes sure that the potentially incriminating passages are written in a code of his own devising which involves using a random combination of French, Italian and Spanish words to mask the more “outré” sentences.
The diary, of course, was only meant to be viewed by Pepys himself, but he found the subterfuge exciting and in the unlikely event that Elizabeth ever read through its pages she would (hopefully) be unaware of his extramarital behaviour.
Had Elizabeth, been a multilingual snoop, she would have learned that her husband’s infatuation with Betty Mitchell went back a long, long way. He first met her when she was little more than a child. Her parents, “The Howlett’s” were local shopkeepers and Pepys was a regular customer.
They were no doubt flattered that Samuel commented on what a beautiful woman their daughter would one day become and how much like his dear wife she looked.
As she matured however, Pepys interest in her took a slightly more carnal turn – all, believe it or not in the name of science. In 1665 during the age of Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle, Pepys decided to conduct a scientific experiment of his own and discover the answer to the age old question “ Can a man could bring himself to orgasm by thought alone”.
Making himself comfortable on a hired riverboat one summer’s afternoon, Pepys drifted lazily down the Thames, his breeches around his ankles and his mind filled with thoughts of Betty's beauty.
To his surprise, after a few minutes of intense erotic concentration, he went off like a broadside at The Battle of Sole Bay.
During the time that Pepys was conducting his “Hands Free Self-Abuse” experiment he was receiving regular sexual favours from another woman of his acquaintance.
She was the wife of a carpenter named Bagwell, who had (essentially) pimped out his reluctant spouse in order to secure a dockyard promotion for himself.
Mrs Bagwell’s allure however had started to fade, and for Pepys, Betty swiftly became a sexual obsession. She occupied his thoughts to such a degree that at church one Sunday morning he found he could no longer concentrate on the sermon because he was too busy thinking about her delicious body.
Blatantly ignoring the word of God, he began instead to vigorously play with himself in the back row while hoping that nobody noticed.
Despite writing “God Help Me” in his diary when he got home, it was not to be the last time he would commit this particular sin. Deciding to make his ecclesiastical fantasy a reality, Pepys began a subtle plan of what he, no doubt, considered to be “Artful Seduction”.
First, he introduced Betty to his wife and encouraged their friendship - so he could see more of her without arousing suspicion – and when Betty got married, he invited her and her new husband on a countryside coach trip with himself and Elizabeth.
She found Betty’s husband charming and encouraged Pepys to do what he could to help the young couple get on in life.
For Pepys, the outing was spoiled by a painful and debilitating attack of the wind but between gastric spasms, he consoled himself at how well his Machiavellian scheming was progressing.
When not troubled by flatulence, Pepys briefly became concerned that he may have also been falling in love with a servant girl at home.
She was called Mary Mercer and possessed a pair of breasts that in Pepys opinion were “The finest that I ever saw in my life; and that is the truth of it.”
Helpless, Pepys found that he was completely unable to stop himself from sheepishly fondling Mary whenever she dressed him in the mornings.
This was a problem he’d also had with other female servants while they were attempting to cut his hair. Mary Mercer however proved to be a short-lived infatuation as, after all, what else were servants for? Betty was different; she wasn’t an employee but a woman of spirit. Like any newlyweds, the Mitchell’s were in need of money and sneaky Pepys used his influence at the Admiralty to get Mr Mitchell a seaman’s ticket – a financial boon that filled Betty with gratitude towards him and also ensured that her husband would be away from home for long periods of time.
At his wife’s insistence, Pepys then began to pay Betty friendly visits to check on her wellbeing.
With her husband away and feeling beholden to her kindly neighbour, the young woman did little to refuse him when he began to “steal a few kisses” or run his hands over her body.
He was just being kindly and affectionate after all.
A year later, when the Mitchell’s house burnt down during the Great Fire and the couple began to quarrel, gentle Pepys stepped in to offer comfort, support, and sage advice.
After one of these comforting chats, he offered Betty a lift home in his carriage and it was during this journey that Pepys first took her hand with “some little violence” and showed her what gratitude really felt like.
Thrilled by the success of this bold approach, Pepys tried to engineer coach journeys with Betty at any opportunity, hoping for the same pleasurable outcome. On one occasion, not even her protestations that she was suffering from a severe headache, and the fact that her husband was in the carriage with them, prevented her hand from being guided beneath his stiffened cloak. And so it continued, until a few weeks after his memorable evening at the theatre.
Pepys had arranged an assignation with a now very heavily pregnant Betty (who was still wrestling with the decision to end their arrangement) in the back room of a shop. All went as planned but during the coach ride home when he absentmindedly placed her hand on his penis, he found himself worrying for the first time about the risk of discovery. What would happen, he thought, if Mr Mitchell went to his house expecting to find Betty there?
Would he become suspicious? Would Elizabeth become suspicious? Would they both become suspicious?
By the time the coach dropped him off at a discreet distance from his front door, Pepys was writhing in a paranoid sweat of guilt, fear, and recrimination.
Once it became apparent however that Mr Mitchell had not, in fact, made an appearance and that neither spouse was at all suspicious, a relieved Pepys resolved to no longer tempt fate, end the relationship immediately and in future keep his busy hands to himself. And this time, he meant it.
AUGUST 18 1667
“…turned into St. Dunstan’s Church, where I heard an able sermon of the minister of the place; and stood by a pretty, modest maid, whom I did labour to take by the hand and the body; but she would not, but got further and further from me; and, at last, I could perceive her to take pins out of her pocket to prick me if I should touch her again — which seeing I did forbear and was glad I did spy her design. And then I fell to gaze upon another pretty maid in a pew close to me, and she on me; and I did go about to take her by the hand, which she suffered a little and then withdrew.
*This passage referrers to an incident when Pepys met with a former mistress by the name of Betty Lane in a London tavern. Presumably overcome with passion or simply patrons of a very free and easy establishment, the couple enjoyed enthusiastic sex underneath a chair…twice!
Pepys had a thoroughly good time but voiced concern that he may have unwittingly given her an orgasm. Why this should be a problem is unclear, Pepys seemed totally ambivalent towards the pleasure of any of his sexual partners. Pe
rhaps in his hypocritical Puritan mind, he thought that by enjoying sex the woman had somehow debased herself and he felt responsible. Perhaps he worried that or orgasm meant that she was now “A whore” and he could no longer, in good Christian conscience, have sex with her again.
At home he admitted to feeling a tad guilty about cheating on his wife for the umpteenth time and expressed hope that it would be the final occasion….it wasn’t.
Without his ingenious code, the passage reads ….
January 16, 1664,
“…. He being gone, I by water to Westminster-hall and there did see Mrs. Lane, and de la, elle and I to a cabaret at the Cloche in the street du roy; and there, after some caresses, je l’ay foutee sous de la chaise deux times and the last to my great pleasure: mais j’ai grand peur que je l’ay fait faire aussi elle meme Mais after I had done, elle commencait parler as before and I did perceive that je n’avais fait rein de danger a elle Et avec ca, I came away; and though I did make grand promises a la contraire, nonobstant je ne la verrai pas long time.
“So, home to bed with my mind un peu trouble pour ce que j’ai fait today But I hope it will be la derniere de toute ma vie” *
January 16, 1664,
“…. He being gone, I by water to Westminster-hall and there did see Mrs. Lane, and she and I went to The Bell in Kings Street; and there, after some caresses, I fucked her twice under the chair, and the last to my great pleasure: but I greatly fear that I made her do it herself as well. But after I had done it, she started talking as before and I did not feel that I had done any harm to her.
And with that I came away; and though I did make great promises to the contrary, nonetheless I will not see her for a long time.
So, home to bed-with my mind a little troubled by what I've done today. But I hope it will be the last time in my life.”