Friday 8 August 1662

Up by four o’clock in the morning, and at five by water to Woolwich, there to see the manner of tarring, and all the morning looking to see the several proceedings in making of cordage, and other things relating to that sort of works, much to my satisfaction. At noon came Mr. Coventry on purpose from Hampton Court to see the same, and dined with Mr. Falconer, and after dinner to several experiments of Hemp, and particularly some Milan hemp that is brought over ready dressed. Thence we walked talking, very good discourse all the way to Greenwich, and I do find most excellent discourse from him. Among other things, his rule of suspecting every man that proposes any thing to him to be a knave; or, at least, to have some ends of his own in it. Being led thereto by the story of Sir John Millicent , that would have had a patent from King James for every man to have had leave to have given him a shilling; and that he might take it of every man that had a mind to give it, and being answered that that was a fair thing, but what needed he a patent for it, and what he would do to them that would not give him. He answered, he would not force them; but that they should come to the Council of State, to give a reason why they would not. Another rule is a proverb that he hath been taught, which is that a man that cannot sit still in his chamber (the reason of which I did not understand him), and he that cannot say no (that is, that is of so good a nature that he cannot deny any thing, or cross another in doing any thing), is not fit for business. The last of which is a very great fault of mine, which I must amend in. Thence by boat; I being hot, he put the skirt of his cloak about me; and it being rough, he told me the passage of a Frenchman through London Bridge, where, when he saw the great fall, he begun to cross himself and say his prayers in the greatest fear in the world, and soon as he was over, he swore “Morbleu! c’est le plus grand plaisir du monde,” being the most like a French humour in the world.1 To Deptford, and there surprised the Yard, and called them to a muster, and discovered many abuses, which we shall be able to understand hereafter and amend. Thence walked to Redriffe, and so to London Bridge, where I parted with him, and walked home and did a little business, and to supper and to bed.

  1. When the first editions of this Diary were printed no note was required here. Before the erection of the present London Bridge the fall of water at the ebb tide was great, and to pass at that time was called “Shooting the bridge”. It was very hazardous for small boats. The ancient mode, even in Henry VIII.’s time, of going to the Tower and Greenwich, was to land at the Three Cranes, in Upper Thames Street, suffer the barges to shoot the bridge, and to enter them again at Billingsgate. See Cavendish’s “Wolsey,” p. 40, ed. 1852]

35 Annotations

Terry F.   Link to this

Re "the story of Sir John Millicent"

L&M notes: "Millicent, of Barham, Cambs., was said to be 'the very best extemporary fool' at James's court: A. Weldon, *Court...of James I* (1650), p. 92. James's monopolies had been notorious."
"The Privy Council of the early Stuarts (not the 'Council of State' of the Interregnum had in that way coerced their unwilling subjects."

Terry F.   Link to this

"To Deptford, and there surprised the Yard, and called them to a muster"

L&M note: "Surprise musters were a normal way of inspection and discipline:...."

Pedro   Link to this

"being the most like a French humour in the world.1"

The French have jokes, but do they have a sense of humour?

'Baron, how did you find the English?
'Very distracting. They have a form of conversation
called humour, which makes everyone laugh a lot.'
'Humour...is this like esprit?’
'No, not really.’
'But then how do you translate it?’
'Well, I can’t. We in France don’t have a word for it.’

http://www.economist.com/diversions/displayStor...

Bradford   Link to this

Though the antecedent isn't exactly clear, it would seem it is Mr. Coventry whose "excellent discourse" pleases Pepys so much (see the background note on him). But Morbleu! It might be wise to be wary of anyone who says he suspects "every man that proposes any thing to him to be a knave; or, at least, to have some ends of his own in it," just in case that applies to him as well.

Terry F.   Link to this

Pedro, nice Economist piece on what is "like a French humour".

Glyn   Link to this

It's reminiscent of the British TV interviewer Jeremy Paxman who says that whenever he interviews any politician no matter who, his first thought is "Why is this XXX lying to me?"

Pepys didn't understand why Coventry said that man that cannot sit still in his chamber is not fit for business, but I imagine he was talking about displacement activity. Sometimes you just have to stay at your desk and get on with your work rather than leaving to do some shopping, cut the grass etc. Or even spend time reading this Diary when you should be working.

Bob T   Link to this

his rule of suspecting every man that proposes any thing to him to be a knave; or, at least, to have some ends of his own in it
The old "Don't never trust nobody" rule, and a good one for somebody in Sam's position.

A. De Araujo   Link to this

"Morbleu"
="Par la mort de Dieu"
cf dictionnaire de l'Academie Française

Bob T   Link to this

To Deptford, and there surprised the Yard, and called them to a muster
A surprise inspection as the military call it, always catches some people being slack and idle, and puts the fear of God into everyone. Sam's da man. Wouldn't fancy working for him though.

A. Hamilton   Link to this

"To Deptford, and there surprised the Yard, and called them to a muster, and discovered many abuses, which we shall be able to understand hereafter and amend."

Voila, les inspecteurs de finance!

"his rule of suspecting every man that proposes any thing to him to be a knave; or, at least, to have some ends of his own in it"

cui bono, a first question in politics. The U.S. Constitution institutionalizes
Coventry's distrust of motives.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Interesting juxtaposition...Coventry's hard-headed advice (Rather like Herod Agrippa's to old friend Claudius to "trust no one") followed by his rather sweet act of shielding Sam from the heat with his cloak. Clearly the regard is mutual.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

To put the "death ride" past London Bridge in context, imagine a man of Sam's time driving with you to work on any average day.

A. Hamilton   Link to this

a man that cannot sit still in his chamber ... is not fit for business

Coventry the school marm. Even back then the powers are dividing men into sheep & goats, and preferring the sheep for government work, the goats for fighting. Nowadays we would say such a fidget has ADHD and give him a dose of Ritalin. Back then he was sent to sea, or to a plantation.

Cumgranissalis   Link to this

Why doth a real exercutive spend few mil. on doing the rounds, uninvited [nuthin' quite like dropping in on dear old Bob at 7 am and seeing the lads stroll in.].
there be the prewarned flag waving big dinner galas, but they be just for the stock holders. Good exec does not need the desk, except to look right.
"...his rule of suspecting every man that proposes any thing to him to be a knave; or, at least, to have some ends of his own in it...."
I've yet to meet a true altruistic person, there always be a motive to an action, 'tis best to ferret it out, it may not be be a bad motive, but nonetheless ....
Nunquam autem recte faciet, qui cito credit , utique homo negotians. Petronius, Satyrium, 43.
one cannot prosper in business if ye believe all what ye be told.

Terry F.   Link to this

9 days ago was the "Rosebush" adventure at Woolwich, showing how urgent it was for the bosses to leave the office and scarify-into-life the inert on board and in the yard: a dramatic instance of what ye say. http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1662/07/31/

Terry F.   Link to this

Today the Dynamic Duo strike at Greenwich: there seems to be a pattern here: who's next? Woolwich again? (Chatham's in good shape)

Terry F.   Link to this

Correction: today at Deptford.

George R   Link to this

"Thence by boat; I being hot, he put the skirt of his cloak about me", maybe this should read "I being wet"

Terry F.   Link to this

"Thence by boat; I being hot, he put the skirt of his cloak about me."
George R, surely you are correct: neat read. L&M also like it “hot,” but sometimes Sam misspells. I wonder what the two are like in the shorthand.

Terry F.   Link to this

"Thence by boat; I being [wet], he put the skirt of his cloak about me."
Emendation per George R.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Can our dynamio duo save the Royal Navy and all England from the fiendish plans of supervillain...Louis XIV? to make the British crown his feeble dependency via his partner in crime a certain royal mistress? Tune in next time, same Pepys diary, different entry...

(No, that is not my story...Silly as it may sound it's exactly what Louis is up to...Or will be.)

bardi   Link to this

In the October issue of Realm magazine, there is an article, "Diary of a Londoner" with a full-page photo of our man, a half-page of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge --- AND a box putting readers in touch with these daily online entries.

Terry F.   Link to this

Coventry's advice is doubly self-referential: 'attend to the speaker's interest,' speaks he; and, 'leave your desk and see what's happening,' as he goes with Sam on a walk to Deptford for surprise inspection.

Are we to wonder what's happening at Portsmouth? Will there be thither another road trip?

Sean Adams   Link to this

a man that cannot sit still in his chamber -- is not fit for business
The reference may to Pascal.
“I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man’s being unable to sit still in a room”
http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/870.html
Considering Pascal’s Pensees came out around 1658, Coventry shows himself as current and well read.

A. De Araujo   Link to this

nice find Sean Adams!

Terry F.   Link to this

Touché! On a jog to Deptford, Coventry seems to say: Sit still! — he, also peripatetic, not heeding his own advice? Of course, he doesn’t say *always* sit still, nor does Pascal (great get Sean Adams!).

LAF   Link to this

Regarding: "he that cannot say no (that is, that is of so good a nature that he cannot deny any thing, or cross another in doing any thing), is not fit for business. The last of which is a very great fault of mine, which I must amend in." Isn't it strange that Pepys sees himself as softhearted to a fault, and also that he is willing to jettison what is, in other contexts, a virtue to be sought above all else in the world? From a circumspect approach to Coventry, he is now willing to alter his character based on Conventry's point of view. Really odd.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

I wonder if Coventry is expressing a bit of frustration in his advice to Sam on those not fit for business. After dealing with the brothers Stuart, two men who have great trouble saying no to anyone...To come to the Naval Office and find Batten and Penn such poor adminstrators for all their vaunted fighting skill and experience. Having young Pepys at hand, eager and bright, a perfect candidate for the sort of adminstrator Coventry would like to see throughout the government, must be quite a pleasant change...Naturally he'd want to carefully tutor his new protege in avoiding the pitfalls sinking so many others.

language hat   Link to this

"hot," not "wet":
As Robert Gertz has already suggested, Coventry is shielding Sam from the heat with his cloak. Really, it's not a good idea to try to second-guess the editors, who were professionals at this stuff.

Todd Bernhardt   Link to this

re: Just a boy who can't say no

LAF, I don't think Sam's attitude about this is odd at all, and quite frankly can't think of any contexts where the inability to say no is "a virtue to be sought above all else in the world." What are the areas you're thinking of when you say this?

A person who knows when to say no is, in my mind, someone who is honest and has both a backbone and experience. People who can't say no usually are too eager (and who then can't deliver on all their promises) or are simply doormats who can't bear the thought of confrontation (when, in fact, a "no" does not have to involve confrontation at all).

I like all of Coventry's advice, and try to make use of his points today when conducting business:
* Look below the surface for pitfalls and ulterior motives before believing someone who's asking for something;
* Know when to apply yourself, without distraction, to the task at hand and get it done; and
* Exercise good judgment when consenting -- or not consenting -- to do something.

He sounds like a fine mentor for our Sam, and it's interesting to watch their burgeoning relationship.

Bradford   Link to this

Thank you, Sean, for the Pascal reference which was hovering somewhere just above my head out of reach.
But again: the person who sweepingly suspects all others of incipient treachery draws upon his own nature, and deserves to be just as closely watched in return. It is a tuppence Machiavellianism which attempts to substitute blanket attitudes for careful discrimination of the real nature of other people---and thus unfits one for dealing aright with the real world's complexities.
Thus endeth this day's sermonette.

Australian Susan   Link to this

I think that when Sam says he can't say no, he is not indicating he is soft-hearted, but that he cannot turn down opportunities for business - he's becoming a workaholic!

Jeannine   Link to this

Todd & Glyn, Thanks for the comments--I agree with both. Todd-- of note, in the case of Charles II, who could not say no to anyone, he basically gave a great deal to unworthy people who betrayed him in the end. It speaks loudly to that "tough love" attitude that teaching respect comes from a sharp adherence to values and not letting people walk all over you. Also, to Glyn, today I was especially aware to wait until "after work" to post my comment--I only hope that Sam's thoughts of wisdom for the day don't turn away any potential annotators who then choose not to peek at the diary during work!

LAF   Link to this

Todd B: By his own protocol, Coventry is assessing Pepys's motives, and I read his comment as an admonition against indiscriminate generosity or an overly conciliatory approach in business. But unless it was jettisoned in the Reformation or Restoration, wasn't it virtue on the spiritual front to give what was asked, and more (i.e., New Testament: asked for your shirt, give your cloak; asked to walk a mile with a friend, walk two)? The trait itself is not the fault, but its application in the business context. Because Pepys openly weighs the cost, effect, benefit or detriment of complying with requests, his self-identification as free-handed to a fault surprised me, as did his adoption of Conventry's view that men possessing the trait were not fit for business. Pepys vows to alter his character to eliminate the trait altogether, rather than merely guard against being led by it in business. Pepys "felt" the comment because he sees himself as too amenable to distractions posed by others; but his household might have welcomed greater generosity of spirit or a more conciliatory nature from him.

Terry Foreman   Link to this

Recall (and wait and see) the supplicants that come to Pepys for help, e.g. for positions and succor, about whom Coventry knows not, but of his impulse and action to assist (perhaps for his own benefit) Pepys is well aware.

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