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Pretty Good Privacy: the Dual Impulse of Samuel Pepyss Diary

Sewell, Bradley Allen
Samuel Pepys enjoys literary fame because of the diary he kept between 1660 and 1669. Pepys's encrypted diary lay undecoded and unread until the early nineteenth century. Scholars have debated whether the author anticipated future readers, or if he intended the diary for his eyes alone. Pepys's motivation for writing has rhetorical implications for readers that make the question of intention especially important for his diary. Textual and rhetorical evidence supports the idea that Pepys wrote the diary for a future audience to decode and find after his death. Pepys had no specific reader in mind, but he anticipated a humanistic audience similar to what he found in the Royal Society. The diary represents a literary vivisection of Pepys's life, and finding the external audience in Pepys highlights the diary as a seventeenth-century literary innovation that helped define the later course of literature.