Peeping at Pepys' private life

Samuel Pepys -- Admiralty Secretary in 1678 and, much later, famous diarist -- nearly got himself executed in the anti-Catholic witch hunt that swept England in the late 17th century (a wax effigy of the pope was paraded in London and burned -- with cats inside it, the better to simulate screams. Now that's what you call anti-Papist hysteria).

The trumped-up charges were all because of a man Pepys never met. Noel Malcolm reviews The Plot Against Pepys by James and Ben Long (book not yet available in the U.S.):

"What Pepys was able gradually to piece together was the career of one of the most disreputable fraudsters and confidence tricksters of the 17th century. Scott had lied his way through life, giving himself bogus credentials, seducing women for their money, embezzling the pay of a Dutch regiment, and trying (unsuccessfully) to sell strategically sensitive materials to foreign powers.

This is a career so bizarre and so colourful (including a role in driving the Dutch out of Manhattan, for which Scott was once idolised by old-fashioned American historians), one doubts whether Daniel Defoe would have dared to invent it."

September 7, 2007 1:02 PM |



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