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Fleshing out Pepys' fling

October 14, 2006|Associated Press

LONDON — A British academic says she has uncovered new details about the life of a famous literary paramour: the 17-year-old servant caught consorting with diarist Samuel Pepys.

Pepys' journal describes the moment in 1668 that his wife discovered him in mid-embrace with Deb Willet, a young employee of his London household.

He records that Willet was banished from the house, and she soon seemed to disappear from the historical record. Pepys, whose eyesight was failing, stopped keeping his diary in May 1669.

"After tracking Deb obsessively around London, Pepys eventually lost contact with her and, in his last diary entry in May 1669, regrets that 'my amours to Deb are past,' " said Kate Loveman, a lecturer in the English department at the University of Leicester in central England.

Loveman said she had unearthed documents in London and at Oxford University's Bodleian Library showing that Willet re-established contact with Pepys a few years later, asking for his help in getting a job for her new husband, Jeremiah Wells.

Pepys, who held a senior position in the navy, arranged for Wells to be posted aboard ship as a chaplain.

"Given Pepys' past obsession with Deb, his continued contact with her family raises suspicions about the nature of their relationship," said Loveman, whose research was to be published today in the Historical Journal.

Pepys' diaries are a valuable source of information about women's lives in the 17th century.

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