Friday 23 March 1659/60

Up early, carried my Lord’s will in a black box to Mr. William Montagu for him to keep for him. Then to the barber’s and put on my cravat there. So to my Lord again, who was almost ready to be gone and had staid for me.

Hither came Gilb. Holland, and brought me a stick rapier and Shelston a sugar-loaf, and had brought his wife who he said was a very pretty woman to the Ship tavern hard by for me to see but I could not go. Young Reeve also brought me a little perspective glass which I bought for my Lord, it cost me 8s. So after that my Lord in Sir H. Wright’s coach with Captain Isham, Mr. Thomas, John Crew, W. Howe, and I in a Hackney to the Tower, where the barges staid for us.

My Lord and the Captain in one, and W. Howe and I, &c., in the other, to the Long Reach, where the Swiftsure lay at anchor; (in our way we saw the great breach which the late high water had made, to the loss of many 1000l. to the people about Limehouse.) Soon as my Lord on board, the guns went off bravely from the ships. And a little while after comes the Vice-Admiral Lawson, and seemed very respectful to my Lord, and so did the rest of the Commanders of the frigates that were thereabouts.

I to the cabin allotted for me, which was the best that any had that belonged to my Lord. I got out some things out of my chest for writing and to work presently, Mr, Burr and I both. I supped at the deck table with Mr. Sheply. We were late writing of orders for the getting of ships ready, &c.; and also making of others to all the seaports between Hastings and Yarmouth, to stop all dangerous persons that are going or coming between Flanders and there.

After that to bed in my cabin, which was but short; however I made shift with it and slept very well, and the weather being good I was not sick at all yet, I know not what I shall be.

24 Annotations

Warren Keith Wright  •  Link

Some readers may have previously encountered the sugar-loaf only in "Through the Looking Glass," where the White Knight says he has invented a superior form of armored helmet, shaped "like a sugar-loaf." In Pepys's day, and still in Lewis Carroll's, refined sugar was molded into firm cone-shaped masses called sugar loaves---a jumbo version of today's sugar cube, apparently. Whereas salt would be furnished by cured meats, &c., Shelston the Leadenhall Street grocer rightly thought a gift of sugar would be welcome on a long voyage.

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

Perspective glass - at first transparent, now a darkening mystery to me. I assumed this was a telescope, but looked it up on Google to check. Now I find many different definitions:

* a telescope which shows objects in the
right position (as distinct from the wrong one? What does this mean?)

* an ordinary telescope - Something like this is also referred to in 'Robinson Crusoe', 'The Pilgrim's Progress' and 'Gulliver's Travels'. There does seem to be good evidence that astronomical telescopes were available well before Pepys' time - see and

* In John Dee's diaries, speaking of the refraction of light, he describes how the captain of either foot or horsemen should emply "an astronomical staffe commodiously framed for carriage and use, and may wonderfully help himself by perspective glasses; in which I trust our posterity will prove more skilfull and expert and to greater purpose than in these days can almost be credited to be possible." However, elsewhere he refers to a perspective glass as if it were a mirror.

* I hope it's not too much of a spoiler to say that it is also referred to in Sam's Diary on February 13th 1664 as:
... to Reeve's the perspective-glass maker; and there did endeed see very excellent Microscopes, which did discover a louse or a mite or sand most perfectly and largely.

* tube with faceted lens making multiple drawings appear as one

* a device for making a flat print appear to be in 3D - see

Telescope seems to be the most 'useful' explanation, but could it be a toy, or even a microscope? And what is different between a perspective glass and a telescope if they are not quite the same thing?

Alfred Pinkham  •  Link

The telescope has an erecting lens or lens system that causes the image to be normal vice inverted as is the case in astonomical telescopes. No sailor would go to sea with out one. How else would you identify distant objects or flag signals from other ships.

Susanna  •  Link


The sugar almost certainly came from Barbados. "By 1660, Barbados made most of the sugar consumed in England and generated more trade and capital than all other English colonies combined." (Alan Taylor's excellent "American Colonies: The Settling of North America") The sugar was probably refined in Amsterdam, however. (Dutch sugar mills had more capacity than could be supplied by plantations in the Dutch West Indies, so they subsidied English sugar planters as well, supplying them with easy credit to buy equipment and slaves.)

Mary  •  Link

Sugar loaves

Picard (Restoration London) quotes a price of 3s 4d (i.e. one-sixth of a pound)for a 4lb loaf of sugar. The Companion notes that sugar-loaves were often given as presents.

KVK  •  Link

Pro-royalist satire published today
If you want to see what the popular political press was like, here's an electronic fascimile of a tract that was published this day, March 23: 'Arsy Versy, or The Second Martyrdom of the Rump'

This was also the day that Marchamont Nedham, the major journalist of the 1650s, published 'News from Brussels', one of three notable pro-republican tracts published around this time. It is not on-line, but the first of those three tracts is: John Milton's 'Ready and Easy Way', published February 21. This is probably the strongest expression of anti-monarchical sentiment:

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

Thank you Alfred - I hadn't appreciated the difference between astronomical telescopes and ordinary telescopes, or that they would therefore have a different name in Pepys' day.

Grahamt  •  Link

Perspective Glass:
Could this by a pair of binoculars? i.e. telescopes that show perspective? The name binocular only came into use in the 18th century, so what were they called before? (Hans Lippershey, the inventor of the telescope, apparently made a binocular version at about the same time: 1608)

Keith Wright  •  Link

For what it's worth, from the Companion Glossary:
"perspective, perspective glass(e): ix.261, i.95 probably binoculars: though 'perspective' is good 17th-cent. Eng. for a telescope ... when P is describing undoubtedly monocular instrument he terms it (vii.240) a 'glass'; it is worth noting, however, that 'perspective glass' could mean microscope" (cf. 1653 translation of a William Harvey medical treatise in Latin)

David Bell  •  Link


Mentioned in the diary today, Flanders is pretty well equivalent to the Belgian coast today, maybe crossing over a bit into modern France. It is perhaps better known today for the carnage of the First World War, particularly around Ypres, and is at the heart of what De Gaulle referred to as the fatal avenue between France and the rest of Europe.

It was also the heart of the medieval cloth trade, with deep-rooted connections to Britain. And thus a natural place for spies and troublemakers.

steve h  •  Link


The cravat, whose name comes from the Slavic word for Croatia, has an interesting history. In 1635, a group of Croatian mercenaries came to Paris to fight for France in the Thirty Years War. As part of their uniforms, the Croatians wore scarves, made from wool, cotton or even (for officers) of silk. By about 1650, the Croatian scarf or cravate caught on in the French army (much more practical than a lace collar), then became popular in the Sun King's court. Supposedly, Charles II brought this fashion with him to England in 1660, but as we can see, it preceded the Restoration by at least a few months and maybe more, since Pepys does not treat it as a total novelty here. One imagines it had become the fashion in the British navy, at least.

KVK  •  Link

In 1660, Flanders is part of the Spanish Netherlands. England is still officially at war with Spain (though the fighting has stopped), and part of Spain's fleet is there now. Charles II is also living in Spanish territory, at Brussels. Charles had hoped the Anglo-Spanish war would lead to Spain installing him on the English throne again.

steve h  •  Link

"my cabin, which was but short"

Anyone who has been even on a much larger 19th century ship has to be amazed at the smallness of the officers' cabins, which generally have room for a cot or hammock, a chest, and a small writing desk. The exception would be the captain, of course, who still had a pretty cramped space in any but the largest triple-deckers. In the tiny ships of this age, one imagines even tighter quarters. Even though Pepys's quarters was "the best that any had that belonged to my Lord," I doubt it could be as big as those of the actual naval officers. After all, the captain in this case would get the second-best cabin, after Montague. How Pepys and Burr both "got to work" in the cramped space is beyond me.

john lauer  •  Link

There are two types of optical "glasses":

1 The sailor's glass, low power, focused with a telescoping-tube eyepiece consisting only of a reducing lens, shows an upright image. This is just like the modern opera glass.

2 The true or astronomical telescope, focused with a threaded eyepiece which contains a magnifying (positive) lens, which produces an inverted image. For field use (non-astronomical), the image must be re-inverted with one of several possible prism arrangements, as in the modern binocular.

steve h  •  Link

black box

While this term is currently associated with airplanes, computer programs, and experimental theaters, it appears to be, in the 17th century, the common depository for legal documents, like wills, deeds, and conveyances, presumably to be left at a solicitor's. It plays a key role in that greatest (if most confusing) of "Restoration" comedies, Congreve's Way of the World (1700)

Waitwell (disguised a Sir Rowland courting Lady Wishfort):
"I am charmed, madam; I obey. But some proof you must let me give you: I'll go for a black box, which contains the writings of my whole estate, and deliver that into your hands."

ActIV scene xv (In act V the black box contains a deed of conveyance that foils the villain.)

Hhomeboy  •  Link

Mazarin, Mardyck, the Western Design and Spanish Town...

For a succinct explanation of the Anglo Spanish War--including the French-Spanish-Flanders conflict--and the subsequent peace, see:

helena murphy  •  Link

In an early portrait, attributed to Honthorst, Prince Rupert of the Rhine is painted wearing a cravat,such as that described as worn by Croation mercenaries. He was born in Bohemia,also fought in the Thirty Years War against the Emperor and most likely was acquainted with the dress of the Croation fighters.He also seemingly spoke Czech. Interestingly, he may have brought this fashion into England at the time of the civil war. Sir Edward Southcote wrote,"He was the greatest hero as well as the gretest beau, whom all the leading men strove to imitate, as well in his dress as in his bravery." It seems while on campaign, on a cold morning, he tied a lace handkerchief round his neck and launched a fashion for lace cravats.

Derek  •  Link

Hhomeboy's reference above to the information on the Anglo-Spanish war also sheds more light on the ballad ' to the tune Mardike' that Pepys looks at on 4 February (see Mardyck is one of the towns in Flanders captured by the English during the campaign.

Grahamt  •  Link

Update on "Perspectives":
I just heard a programme on Radio 4, where they were talking about 17th century optics. A perspective was described as a metal ring (not tube) with a handle, and containing a lens (not lenses) that was used to enable near sighted people to see at distance, like spectacles today. Often they were of gold or diamond studded, and used at theatres or in public places. Spectacles existed, but were for private wear, only appearing in portraits around 1690.
Certainly by the time Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels (1726) 'perspective' also referred to a telescope.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

To update two links KVK provided above:

ARSY VERSY, Ratts Rhimed to Death, OR, The second Martyrdom of the RUMP. (Anonymous)
To the Tune of, The blind Beggar of Bednal-green.


The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth was published by John Milton at the end of February 1660. In the tract, Milton warns against the dangers inherent in a monarchical form of government. A second edition, published March 1660, steps up the prophetic rhetoric against a monarchy.

Dick Wilson  •  Link

I believe that sugar loaves came wrapped in blue paper. In colonial America, the paper was used as a source of blue dye.

jeannine  •  Link

Journal of the Earl of Sandwich; Navy Records Society, edited by R.C. Anderson
"Friday March 23. On Friday, March 23 1659, I took barge at the Tower Wharf and about noon boarded the Swiftsure, then riding in the Long Reach in the river of the Thames, off Greenhithe. About 2 oclock Vice Admiral Lawson and divers other commanders out of Tilbury Hope came on board me."

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

‘Perspective glass = Perspective . . .a. An optical instrument for looking through, as a magnifying glass, telescope, monocle, etc. In early use also: any of various devices, such as an arrangement of mirrors, for producing an unusual optical effect, e.g. the distortion of an image
▸c1395 Chaucer Squire's Tale 234 They speke of Alocen and Vitulon And of Aristotle þat writen..Of queynte mirours and of perspectyues [v.rr. perspecsitiuis, prospectyues, prospecsatiuis; profectyues].
. . a1661 W. Brereton Trav. (1844) 60 Wm. Daviseon offered to furnish me with a couple of these perspectives, which shew the new-found motion of the stars about Jupiter.
1692 tr. C. de Saint-Évremond Misc. Ess. 280 By the means of great Perspectives, which Invention becomes more perfect every Day, they discover new Planets.
. . 1748 B. Robins & R. Walter Voy. round World by Anson ii. vi. 195 By means of our perspectives..we saw an English flag hoisted.’ [OED]

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