Tuesday, October 14, 2014

'Music and women I cannot but give way to.'

Had the greatest possible fun getting together the beginnings of a talk on Sam Pepys and his love of music: he noted in his diary one day when he and his mistress, the actress Elizabeth Knepp, spend the evening together 'very merry, she and I singing; and God forgive me I do still see that my nature is not to be quite conquered, but will esteem pleasure above all things . . . music and women I cannot but give way to, whatever my business.' She gave way to him, as usual, at the end of the evening.A year later, he was writing: 'I do consider that [music] is all the pleasure I live for in the world, and the greatest I can ever expect in the best of my life.’ Who could dislike such a man? He often combined the two pleasures, of course, teaching his wife's pretty little companion, Mary Mercer, to sing: she obviously had a voice  as pretty and irresistible as her body; alas Pepys could not resist combining the two, and Mrs Pepys understandably turned little Mercer out of the house. The one song of his which is unquestionably his own, 'Beauty, Retire', is by no means bad, but he wasn't a natural composer; but he sang (bass), and played the viol, the  lute and the theorbo. then the flagolet and the recorder, and seriously thought of taking whistling lessons.All that, and running King Charles' navy for him. WHAT a man!

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