Tuesday 10 January 1659/60

Went out early, and in my way met with Greatorex, and at an alehouse he showed me the first sphere of wire that ever he made, and indeed it was very pleasant; thence to Mr. Crew’s, and borrowed 10l., and so to my office, and was able to pay my money. Thence into the Hall, and meeting the Quarter Master, Jenings, and Captain Rider, we four went to a cook’s to dinner. Thence Jenings and I into London (it being through heat of the sun a great thaw and dirty) to show our bills of return, and coming back drank a pint of wine at the Star in Cheapside. So to Westminster, overtaking Captain Okeshott in his silk cloak, whose sword got hold of many people in walking.

Thence to the Coffee-house, where were a great confluence of gentlemen; viz. Mr. Harrington, Poultny, chairman, Gold, Dr Petty; &c., where admirable discourse till at night. Thence with Doling to Mother Lams, who told me how this day Scott was made Intelligencer, and that the rest of the members that were objected against last night, their business was to be heard this day se’nnight. Thence I went home and wrote a letter, and went to Harper’s, and staid there till Tom carried it to the postboy at Whitehall. So home to bed.

23 Annotations

Ted Mills   Link to this

"...and coming back drank a pint of wine at the Star in Cheapside. "

A pint! No wine snobbery in those days, I think.

Could someone out there enlighten us on the history of wine drinking in England, what kind they were drinking, where it was made, and how this fell out of favor over the centuries to good ol' British ale/lager/bitter?

Perhaps Pepys' "wine" means any drink made from fermented fruit?

David Gurliacci   Link to this

So, what is a "sphere of wire" for?

Nicholas Laughlin   Link to this

"A great confluence of gentlemen":

This, of course, is the Rota club which Pepys joined the day before. James Harrington was its founder; William Poultney (or Pulteney) was chairman, as Pepys notes; Nicholas Gold was a merchant; William Petty was a physician and statistician.

Nicholas Laughlin   Link to this

"Sphere of wire":

"Probably an armillary sphere", says Latham-Matthews.

Lisa   Link to this

Today in England there was sun and a bit of a thaw as well. It's rather comforting to know that some things have not changed so much after all.

David Gurliacci   Link to this

And an armillary sphere is (I'm such a spoilsport)...

. . . "a sighting instrument . . . used in ancient times, formed of rings fixed in the position of the great circles such as the tropics, the ecliptic, the meridian, etc.: later developed into the astrolab."

PHE   Link to this

Wine in England
Later in the diary (I'm sure there is a scholar who knows precisely when) Pepys mentions his first try of Haut Brion wine - still a very well known Bordeaux. This is apparently the first recorded instance of a French wine being named for its chateau. A lot of wine in England came from Bordeaux - in part due to earlier history when England and the Bordeaux area were ruled by the same monarch (others will know this in more detail). In fact, the international fame of Bordeaux is very much due to its associations with England, probably its first major export destination.

I understand that a key reason why alcohol was consumed so regularly at that tiime (both wine and ale) was due to the disinfectant properties of the alcohol making it safer to drink than water - at a time when there was little or no understanding of how water could be made safe through treatment or boiling. I may not be entirely correct on this since alcohol as a diuretic also has a tendency to dehydrate - so this benefit may only be restricted to drinks with a low alcohol content (eg. weaker ale).

Of course, regular alcohol consumption would be a contributor to Pepys's kidney stones.

Andy   Link to this

Even in Victorian times, the wealthier classes really only drank tea, coffee, beer, or wine. This was due to the fact that the boiling and fermenting meant that what they were consuming was relatively safe, at least compared to what the standards of water purity were at the time

Gareth   Link to this

I think Mr. Gurliacci means an "astrolabe", not an "astrolab".

Eunice Muir   Link to this

No worries about driving drunk!

Consuming a pint (20 ozs. UK measure) of wine was not too much of a problem before the invention of the motor vehicle, although there must have been were plenty incidences of drunken horse riders and pedestrians.

Roger Miller   Link to this

This is part of a print of Cheapside dating from 1639.

Signs on poles in front of the houses indicate shops or inns. In the centre of this section of the print is one that bears a star. Does anyone know if this could be the Star mentioned 20 years later by Pepys?

http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com/cheapsdc.htm

Han   Link to this

Although the source of the wine is likely Bordeaux, as PHE suggests, Pepys could be referring to wine made of almost anything. The "Sack" to which he has referred to previously is a form of Metheglyn - a mead flavoured/fermented with fruit juices (in this case fennel root) and the English have long used the Elderberry for brewing.

Wines in this era were significantly different - approximately the same strength, but a yeast cloudiness would be considered acceptable, and simply disguised by using an opaque glass.

Also palates of the time differed, and if any homebrewer attempts a comtemporary receipe - it is likely to be hideously sweet to your taste. However, a much less daunting prospect to drink a pint of sweet wine!

Maso   Link to this

. . .whose sword got hold of many people in walking.

Sounds like it was as much of a pain to walk with a sword on (i'm assuming a rapier on frog) in a crowd then as it is today.

David Gurliacci   Link to this

astrolabE and correct spelling

Yes, I should have written "astrolabe" -- sorry, and thanks for the catch, Gareth. Back in the 17th century they could afford to spell even names with casual abandon -- misspellings become more annoying and even misleading now that we're using computers and Internet search engines.

language hat   Link to this

Han: metheglyn??
Do you have some reason for thinking that "sack" here does not have its usual meaning of 'white wine from Spain and the Canaries'?
Markham (1623): "Your best Sacks are of Seres [Jerez, source of sherry] in Spaine, your smaller of Galicia and Portugall; your strong Sacks are of the Ilands of the Canaries, and of Malligo [presumably Málaga].”

Maso   Link to this

I was assuming that the sack was just a very sweet mead.

iirc Metheglyn is a spiced mead, fruit mead is referred to as melomel although I'd consider fennel more of a spice than a fruit.

language hat   Link to this

But why would "sack" be used for mead here when it elsewhere refers to wine?

Wulf Losee   Link to this

"...who told me how this day Scott was made Intelligencer..." Was Intelligencer an official office of Parliament at this time? I presume that Scott would be in charge of intelligence gathering activities.

--Wulf

David Bell   Link to this

One thing to remember is that wine and beer do vary in strength, and somebody used to something like the American Budweiser could be making a misleading comparison. That example is closer to the "small-beer" of the past than to some of the traditionally-brewed beers which are available in the UK.
And the same for wine.
One of the differences is that there were not the modern yeasts, which have a bit more tolerance for alcohol. That could be a partial explanation for the sweetness, as less of the sugars in the wine can be converted to alcohol before the yeast dies.
A quick check finds a bottle of Italian wine with 4% alcohol (by volume), and one of beer at 5% abv. So drinking a pint of wine isn't the excess we might think.
(OK, so the beer is called "Tanglefoot".)

PHE   Link to this

Wine with 4% alcohol?
This does sound a little weak. Wines are normally between 11 and 13%, occaisionaly 14% (normally Australian). British ale/bitter was traditionally about 3.5% up to 10 or 20 years ago, although stronger beers of 4 or 4.5% tend to be more popular now. Lager beers (ie. the pale beer standard in Europe, USA and Australia) are normally 5 to 6%.

As many people know, the tradition of pub names in Britain derives from a time when few people could read. Thus names like Star, Bell, Bull, etc, which could be denoted with a clear picture, were popular.

A major difference of 17th century wines was that the cork had not been invented so they could not keep as they do today. Presumably in this case, sweet wines kept better.

Mark Bernstein   Link to this

The modern reader will be astonished at the amount of alcohol consumed by Europeans of this period, and indeed through the end of the following century.

In addition to concerns over sanitation mentioned by others, a major concern since ancient times had been preservation of the food value of fruit and grain through the long seasons. Even an abundant harvest could be depleted alarmingly by rodents, and rodent-proof storage can be difficult indeed! The best way to keep grain from being eaten was often to turn it into beer, and the best way to preserve the caloric value of fruit was to turn it into wine. (Remember that, in this period, sugar was extremely expensive, and lump sugar was treated much as we treat wine, as a luxury food; later, when widespread plantings reduced the price of sugar, lots of fruit that once became alcohol instead became jams and preserves)

Compare Pepys pint of wine to the grog ration of a common seaman of his time or Nelson's. Everyone drank a great deal, even those of very modest means.

Grahamt   Link to this

"their business was to be heard this day se'nnight” means a week from today. “se’ennight” is a short form of sevennight or septnight meaning week. This is rarely used in British English now, but fortnight for fourteennight, or two weeks, is in daily use.

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