Samuel Pepys

1633 (London) – 1703 (London)

A notable naval moderniser, it is the vivid depiction of everyday life and historic events in Pepys’ diaries that have made him famous. Dryden was a Cambridge friend, and again much later in life. A great consulter of opinion, Pepys took Flamsteed’s advice on mathematical schooling for navigation, and Boyle’s advice about his own worrisome eyesight. He admired Wilkins and Hooke, conversing with Wilkins about his proposals for a Philosophical Language, and with Hooke about musical concord and discord. His fellow diarist Evelyn was a greatly loved friend for life. Sloane doctored him and performed the autopsy when he died.

Samuel Pepys knew…

Paul Valéry

1871 (Sète, France) – 1945 (Paris)

Einstein, Bohr, Bergson and de Broglie were personal friends and correspondents. Louÿs introduced both Mallarmé and Gide to him: he became Mallarmé’s protégé, regularly attending his literary evenings. He met Curie in Spain, Rilke in Switzerland, and Conrad when inaugurating a plaque marking Verlaine’s London lodgings. Degas introduced him to his future wife, Breton asked him to be his best man, Honegger collaborated on an opera-ballet, and Tailleferre on a cantata. Stravinsky felt he thought too much about thought. Later in life, Gide persuaded him to publish the poetry he’d written years earlier.

Dorothy Wordsworth

1771 (Cockermouth, England) – 1855 (Rydal Mount)

She lived with her brother William for much of her life; de Quincey started the rumours, still current, of a possibly incestuous relationship. She contributed greatly to the creative climate of their shared household, known through her brother’s and Coleridge’s published works. Her diaries were discovered in a barn by Beatrix Potter when she bought their old home in 1931; her written comments on Lamb, Scott (whom the Wordsworths visited outside Edinburgh), Southey and other literary friends are enlightening. The Wordsworths and Coleridge met the aged Klopstock on their way to a cold and miserable winter in Germany.