There were rumors that he might succeed William Coventry as James’s secretary, and it is strange that he did not. Much lesser men, like Sir Joseph Williamson, took the short step from the civil service into government. But Pepys had no landed estate, he was not in Parliament, and-worst of all- his eyesight was giving way. He sought to leave to go abroad for several months for his health, and he also faced u to the fact that he could no longer keep a diary in crabbed shorthand. His holiday abroad saved his eyesight, but he was shattered by the sudden death of his wife, in November, 1669, at the age of twenty-nine. Though he was childless and increasingly wealthy, he never remarried. Nor did he resume his diary.
His public career in the thirty odd years remaining before him was one of mounting success, broken only during the insanity of the Popish Plot, when better men than he suffered a worse fate. As secretary of the Admirality Commission under James II, the Kinghimself being Lord High Admiral, he enjoyed unparalleled power over the navy and made it into a more efficient fighting force than it had ever been. When James was deposed in 1689, he retired from public life, though he was far from abandoning his interests in literature, philosophy, science, and art, which gave him a substantial reputation as a cognoscente. He died in 1703, and was buried beside his wife.
Without the diary, these last years are like a drama enacted behind a curtain. The last day Pepys recorded was May 31, 1669. It was much like any other, except that he spent the morning with his clerk, making up his personal accounts. He dined at home, then left for Whitehall, calling on the way on his current mistress, a mature charmer called Betty Mitchell, whose daughter he also fancied:
Dined at home, and in the afternoon by water to White Hall, calling by the way at Michell’s, where I have not been many a day till just the other day, and now I met her mother there and knew her husband to be out of town. And here je did baiser elle, but had not opportunity para hazer some with her as I would have offered if je had had it. And thence had another meeting with the Duke of York, at White Hall, on yesterday’s work, and made a good advance: and so, being called by my wife, we to the Park, Mary Batelier, and a Dutch gentleman, a friend of hers, being with us. Thence to “The World’s End,” a drinking-house by the Park; and there merry, and so home late.
He then added a few words to explanation to his final entry:
And so I betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave: for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me!
And so, the diary comes to an end.