UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn as restoration virtuosi (with particular reference to the evidence in their diaries) Webber, Bernard George

Abstract

After the civil conflicts of the seventeenth century, England during the Restoration period began to emerge as a modern nation. As Charles II understood, and as James II was to learn at the cost of his throne, absolute monarchy was no longer acceptable to the kingdom. Although Englishmen might henceforth tolerate the trappings of absolutism, the substance was irrevocably gone. This was as true of absolutism in religion as it was in government. It was only a question of time before the demands of Englishmen for freedom in belief and for participation in government would find expression in parliamentary democracy and in religious toleration. At the same time that England was developing new patterns of government and social behaviour, great events were happening in the cultural life of the nation. Literature and drama broadened their horizons by absorbing continental ideas and by renewing the inspiration bequeathed by native sources. Though the new literature and drama did not soon attain the excellence of their earlier counterparts, they were striking out in new directions. Scientific attitudes, too, were being revolutionized. In 1662, the formal organization of the Royal Society under royal patronage provided a meeting ground for those of inquiring mind. Soon the achievements of such men as Robert Boyle in chemistry and Isaac Newton in mathematics and physics established the framework of modern science. If art produced no comparable luminaries, architecture had in Christopher Wren only the most outstanding of a number of notable architects. Music, though less spectacular in its development than some of the other arts, soon produced Henry Purcell, whose compositions have rarely been equalled by those of any other English composer. The seventeenth century did not suffer from that proliferation of knowledge which in our own day has forced men to specialize in a narrow field of inquiry in order to be able to speak authoritatively about anything. A cultivated Englishman of the Restoration could still aspire to a reasonable understanding of all learning. Men like Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and John Dryden, Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, even men like the King himself in his dilettante way, were what the century called virtuosi—in the sense that they had a special interest in and aspired to a knowledge of art and science. Their intellects moved, more or less profoundly,over the entire range of human achievement and endeavour. This thesis is concerned with Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. Its particular purpose is to examine their diaries and other relevant sources to discover how each responded to the cultural and social environment of Restoration England, and to establish to what extent they were representative virtuosi of their period.

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