The central character in this story is not, in fact, the eminent public servant Samuel Pepys, but one ‘Colonel’ John Scott (as he styled himself), surely one of the most comprehensive and unregenerate of villains from any period of English history. This Scott’s well-attested record included murder, theft, swindling, confidence tricks, bigamy, forgery, and other such matters. His significance here arises from the disreputable part he played in the politics of the Restoration years. He was a prize specimen of the chancers and rogues who flourished in those unstable times when England was repeatedly gripped by anti-Catholic hysteria.
In 1679, with fear of the ‘Popish Plot’ at its most extreme, Scott was happy to supply forged evidence (for money, of course) that implicated Pepys in the supposed conspiracy. His special function was to establish treasonable links between Pepys and the French by providing manufactured records of clandestine meetings