Mrs Pepys puts her side of the story

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The Independent Online
Elizabeth Pepys has remained a shadowy figure since the celebrated 17th- century diary of her husband Samuel was published. Now, 327 years after Mrs Pepys's death, the public will at last be able to read her own journal.

They will learn how it felt when her husband fell in love with their maid, how she coped with prosperity beyond her dreams and how she bore the sadness of not having children.

Sara George's fictional account of Elizabeth's life was sold last week to Anne Williams, the publisher of Headline. "The character of Elizabeth Pepys is very warm and sympathetic and I think it will ring bells for people today," Ms Williams said.

The book is the inspiration of Ms George, an award-winning crime writer. She says The Journal of Elizabeth Pepys will be closely modelled on Samuel Pepys's diary, which begins in 1660 and tells what it was like to live through the Great Plague and Fire of London.

Pepys was also a voracious theatre-goer, and the diary, which the naval administrator kept for nine years, gives an early reaction to the plays of Shakespeare and details his rows with his wife, the banquets which constituted their daily meals and the women whom he lusted after.

But Ms George will use literary licence to recreate the conversations had by husband and wife, and the emotions felt by Elizabeth on discovering her husband's betrayal with their maid.

"The book will be the portrait of a marriage," she said. "Pepys refers to Elizabeth almost every day, either because she walked with him somewhere, or had a fight with him or looked very nice.

"Pepys married her when she was 15, which was uncharacteristic of him because he was always out for the main chance. To marry a girl without prospects who was so young means it must have been a love match.

"One of the themes of the diary is how their marriage progresses, and I found it quite traumatic. In the beginning it was very much a struggle. But although they are very prosperous and well established by the end, they have encountered all kinds of personal difficulties which get worse and worse."

One was their health. Elizabeth was plagued by illness and had severe gynaecological problems. Her husband was almost certainly rendered sterile by surgery to remove a stone from his bladder.

Later, his eyesight began to fail and it was due to his - probably unfounded - fear of going blind that he gave up his diary in May 1669, the year Elizabeth died of typhus. She was 29.

Another personal difficulty was the increasing loneliness Elizabeth felt as their social status improved. "As they got richer and richer she got more and more isolated," Ms George explained.

The book, due to be published in 18 months, picks up on the 17th-century fever prompted by ITV's adaptation of Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders.

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