Samuel Pepys was born in London, the setting of most of the diary. Comfortable in the company of people from all social stations, Pepys navigates between two worlds. His entries describe his professional life as a government official and the lazy, self-indulgent court of King Charles II (1630-85). In many ways Pepys loves this life; he writes of fine food and drink, buying the latest fashions, and attending the theatre. Pepys also delights in learning about the latest scientific discoveries and purchases instruments in order to conduct informal experiments. On the other hand, Pepys's humble origins allow him to relate to the world of the commoners, who often suffer as a result of the king's indifference toward running the government. Pepys is especially dogged in his quest to secure funding for essential repairs and provisions for the navy. Pepys occasionally experiences marital strife caused by his philandering. Pepys uses his station as a powerful noble to harass lower-class women, often servants. Although he regrets hurting his wife, he never changes his ways.
Mrs. Pepys was married at age 15, when both she and Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) were poor. The Diary of Samuel Pepys portrays her as a devoted wife who reads to him when his eyesight fails. They have no children. Pepys records that he loves his wife but that he finds her to be untidy. Pepys nonetheless admires his wife for carrying out the household chores with only one servant to help. As Pepys advances in his career, his wife enjoys the trappings of their improving financial and social station. Mrs. Pepys begs her husband for gloves, lace, and dancing and singing lessons. She also threatens him with a pair of hot tongs in a fit of rage and does not hesitate to dress him down in public.
Lord Sandwich (whose official title is Edward Monatgu, First Earl of Sandwich) initially engages Samuel Pepys, his cousin, as an assistant in the naval offices. Lord Sandwich is impressed with Pepys's trustworthiness and attention to detail and actively promotes Pepys's career. Pepys accompanies Lord Sandwich on the voyage in 1660 to return Charles II to the throne, commencing the English Restoration period.
King Charles II
King Charles II figures prominently in The Diary of Samuel Pepys. It is with some pride that Pepys records several commendations for his work from the king. However, Pepys comments liberally about the frivolous and self-serving company the king keeps as well as the king's infidelity and neglect of the queen.
As the king's mistress, Lady Castlemaine is a popular public figure. To Samuel Pepys's eye, she enjoys her prominent position at court. Pepys writes in his diary about her appearance, her demeanor, and his secret infatuation with her. When she falls out of favor with the king, Pepys feels genuinely sorry for her.
Deb and Samuel Pepys form an intimate relationship that both find very difficult to break off once Mrs. Pepys finds out about it. Deb is eventually sent away, to be replaced by Mrs. Pepys with a far less attractive servant.
Over the course of the diary Pepys increasingly trusts W. Hewer to carry out any and all tasks for him. Hewer and Pepys eventually become lifelong friends.