Wednesday 27 August 1662

Up and among my workmen, my work going on still very well. So to my office all the morning, and dined again with Sir W. Batten, his Lady being in the country. Among other stories, he told us of the Mayor of Bristoll’s reading a pass with the bottom upwards; and a barber that could not read, that flung a letter in the kennel when one came to desire him to read the superscription, saying, “Do you think I stand here to read letters?” Among my workmen again, pleasing myself all the afternoon there, and so to the office doing business till past 9 at night, and so home and to bed. This afternoon Mrs. Hunt came to see me, and I did give her a Muske Millon. To-day my hogshead of sherry I have sold to Sir W. Batten, and am glad of my money instead of wine.

After I had wrote this at my office (as I have of late altogether done since my wife has been in the country) I went into my house, and Will having been making up books at Deptford with other clerks all day, I did not think he was come home, but was in fear for him, it being very late, what was become of him. But when I came home I found him there at his ease in his study, which vexed me cruelly, that he should no more mind me, but to let me be all alone at the office waiting for him. Whereupon I struck him, and did stay up till 12 o’clock at night chiding him for it, and did in plain terms tell him that I would not be served so, and that I am resolved to look out some boy that I may have the bringing up of after my own mind, and which I do intend to do, for I do find that he has got a taste of liberty since he came to me that he will not leave. Having discharged my mind, I went to bed.

32 Annotations

Terry F,  •  Link

"the Mayor of Bristoll's reading a pass[age] with the bottom upwards”?

Nice trick!

dirk  •  Link

"reading a pass with the bottom upwards; and a barber that could not read"

Philosophical note...

We do take it for granted nowadays that everybody can read and write, don't we? -- Although at times I'd wish I could escape from it, considering all the junk we're forced to read.

Did it ever strike you that, once you learned it, you can't ever unlearn it any more? (It almost sounds like a curse!)

Terry F,  •  Link

"a barber that could not read"

I assumed the story is told by Batten and recorded by Pepys because it is an exception — one of several related here. As a confirmation of this assumption I found this ASAP:

“At an absolute minimum, 30% of the male population in the countryside could read, while in London, male literacy rates were upwards of 80%.”
*Print: The function of the new media in seventeenth-century England* by Amanda Griscom

A curse or no, Dirk, I cannot recall learning to do it: it has always been who I am.

I am presently 1/3 into *The History of Reading* by Alberto Manguel, which I recommend highly

Pauline  •  Link

'Did it ever strike you that, once you learned it, you can't ever unlearn it any more?’
Do like Sam, Dirk:
“Having discharged my mind, I went to bed”

Australian Susan  •  Link

In this instance, I am assuming this means the gutter down the middle of a street where all the waste ran - hardly a compliment to whomsoever wrote the letter. And haven't we all heard that sentiment "Do you think I've got the time to stand here and......?" Fill in your own blanks. usually said in self-ritgheous tones.
Poor Will has been in for it today and the situation again is a familiar one - I am sure (from what we know of Will) that this was a misunderastanding, but Sam's reaction is typical for someone who hates wasted time and is also uneasy about status - quick to take the interpretation which answers most ot his fears (they're all laughing at me behind my back, they don't take me seriously, and other paranoid gems).

Sam may have found the time he spent watching the workmen "pleasing" - bet they didn't!

HD  •  Link

Back to this site regularly after a long break ... thought it was time to participate.

What's Muske Millon?

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

What's Muske Millon?
it be musk Melon, rather nice; see ref:

“…come with some grapes and millons from my Lord at Lisbon, the first that ever I saw any, and my wife and I eat some, and took some home; but the grapes are rare things…”
Kennel: it be a Canal [the accent gets thee] {Chanel} with a brogue for letting the house waste go to the Tems.

Terry F,  •  Link

"Muske Millon" = Cucumis melo l. var. retuculata/cantalupensis

Musk melon/cantaloup melon with peel

"What is referred to as cantaloup in the U.S. is actuallymuskmelon (Cucumis melo, var. reticulatus). Truecantaloupes (var. cantaloupesis), common in Europe,lack the characteristic netted rind of the muskmelonand are not grown commercially in the United States.Cantaloup is thought to have originated in Persia andWest Africa and came to America with the colonists."

Terry F,  •  Link

(Apologies to Cumgrannissalis, Mary, et al. for slowness here.)

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Reeding, riting and reckoning be difficult for some, ye can do without the first two but never the third.
According to Liza Picard the ILliteracy rates be as follows:
Merchants 0%: Goldsmiths 3%: Drapers 12%: Mariners 23%: Sailors 29%: Clotheworkers 30%: Butchers 35%; [won't argue with him] Bricklayers 38%: Carpenters 40%: Watermen 67%;

amongst the women folk it be 78% in 1670 but 20 yrs later it reduced to 52%; [Page 197]
An aside Lady Anne Evelyn of Smallpox fame, stole her fathers books [ borrowed them without his Knowledge and taught herself Latin and Greek, 30 yrs later [1790's]
Almanacs were good sellers 400,000 were sold annually between tuppence and forpence each;

re: deaf In 1669 William Holder had a method of teaching the Deaf and Dumb. Many cases of this sad affliction, be the result of the young surviving small pox.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Poor "Dad" Pepys, fretting over his obviously increasingly beloved "son"...

His study? Will has a study? Geesh, first Bess gets her own office now Will has one? Wonder if it's new as a result of the roof-raising and Will couldn't resist trying it out alone?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"I am resolved to look out some boy that I may have the bringing up after my own mind"
Dear Sam, the jesuits also are said to have believed that a child could be molded if intervention was done early,but people are not "tabula rasa".
they have unique set of genes.

Andrew Hanilton  •  Link

To-day my hogshead of sherry I have sold to Sir W. Batten, and am glad of my money instead of wine.

I'm tempted to read into this the implication that the sherry sale is reflective of Sam's newly sober way of life. No more,for him, the swinging 60s of Restoration frolic! Also, it seems, he's been taking stock of his own household as well as the Navy as he unloads his hogshead (52.5 imperial gallons!) of sherry and broods about Will Hewer's independence. When one contrasts this purposefulness and sobriety with the general loucheness of the Court, the question arises: Sam is a child of the Commonwealth. Is he reverting to the social values of his youth? (Without which, I daresay, he would not be able to thrive and rise.) Do wee see "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" at work?

A. Hamilton  •  Link

dined again with Sir W. Batten

Synopsis of recent office politics plot developments: Carteret tells Pepys Batten worries that people (read Pepys and Coventry?) are out to get him. Coventry tells Pepys its time to wrest the Navy budget from the control of Carteret,to which Pepys assents. Pepys gets Coventry's boss,the Duke of York, to authorize an inquiry into the management of The Chest, a charitable fund administered by Batten. Pepys dines with Batten, "which I have not done a great while, but his lady being out of the way I was the willinger to do it" and after dinner the two pay a call on Careret and his wife. Pepys again dines with Batten. Trying to allay his suspicions? There is a lot going on beneath the surface of professional relations in the Navy office. Almost academic?

A. Hamilton  •  Link

hogshead of sherry

Most likely 63 wine gallons = 52.5 Imperial gallons (OED) = almost 239 liters(Wikipedia)= just over 318 750ml bottles of Jerez, or 26.5 cases.

Terry F,  •  Link

Cumgrannissalis, since Liza Picard's ILliteracy rates take into account (sic) none of the professions of those who appear in the Diary today except Mrs. Hunt, is it inconceivable that her figures and Amanda Griscom's be not altogether irreconcilable? Did they cite common sources, and how were their sources' figures derived? (Here there be muddy sloughs of despond.)

dirk  •  Link


Obviously there's much dispute over literacy figures for the 17th c., but most sources seem to agree that literacy increased in the 1600s, although primarily in London and not so much in the countryside.

It's not clear either what exactly being "literate" meant in those years. "The definitions of literacy have changed throughout history. It has only recently become expected and desirable to be literate and demeaning if you are not. At one time, a literate person was one who could sign their name. Literacy, at other points, was measured by the ability to read the Bible."

An interesting article for download:

Also have a look at:

A book review, but with interesting side thoughts:

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Re: Illiteracy rates - L. Picard, source be D. Cressy, "Literacy and the social order", Cambridge 1980.
'English Gramamar' London 1688 from Helvitia,[Lausanne] G. Mielge {note accute - e}
Hanna Wooly "Guide to the Female Sex"
Re: Professions: There be schools for the betters and home guelling for thems that live far away from PUBLICK schools, allowing those that had brass to raise up their offspring to be in the Professions which still be led by the Clerics, that be clerks that be literate. There be some questions raise, that all who be spouting the Bible be even literate, i.e. read the text of the Book they be holding.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Errata: Lady Mary it be 1690's not [1790's] after the founding of the big revolution.

language hat  •  Link

"reading a pass"
This will be the OED's definition 7:
Permission to leave, enter, or travel somewhere; a document giving or declaring such permission.
a1586 Let. of Priviledge 15 Feb. in R. Hakluyt Princ. Navigations (1589) III. 825 They shal haue a letter of passe giuen vnto them. [...] 1667 S. PEPYS Diary 3 Apr. (1974) VIII. 145 The Dutch have ordered a passe to be sent for our Commissioners. [etc]

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Thanks Dirk for the leads, interesting note;"...Seven million UK residents are functionally illiterate according to Government figures [14%?]..."
An aside, back in gloomy fifties, I participated in getting sprogs up to snuff, to pass a simple writing Test, it was a 12 week course, and the Carrot was no W/E pass till ye passed the test, the test be a short letter, most wrote either to Mum or the current Lady love, and the motivation worked, in the most part. It took 12 years to know ones ABC's and 12 weeks to get it put to paper. At this time the army, be desperate for janitorial material.

Terry F,  •  Link

The literacy discussion

The prize for the nonce must go to Picard. D.Cressy on whom she relies seems to be an acclaimed authority and according to the review adduced by Dirk to have a healthy regard for the "muddy sloughs of despond" regarding the attempt for a "bright-line" test of literacy.
Amanda Griscom, adduced first by me, then by Dirk, isn't adequately sourced.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

"reading a pass" was still the [in the days of officialdom] a tradition to remove/enter oneself from/to a Government establisment, still requires a Pass to be read by one who can peruse a written or a warrant for such a transition.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

The food be good too. "...for I do find that he has got a taste of liberty since he came to me that he will not leave...."

dirk  •  Link

Amanda Griscom link

Sorry Terry, I should have browsed all the way up.

Terry F,  •  Link

"doing business till past 9 at night, and so home and to bed."

Well, not quite -- the coda suggests that 2+ hours were spent "dealing" with Will's failure to "mind."
The way this is writ suggests to me that Will must have been expressly instucted or under standing orders to check in with "Pops" Pepys 'pon his return from Deptford.

Terry F,  •  Link

"After I had wrote this at my office (as I have of late altogether done since my wife has been in the country) I went into my house"....

Since this is part of what I have called the "coda," wouldn't it have to be written tomorrow at the earliest?
The habit he explains here may show in part why so many days' entries of late have concluded with Pepys's working late at the office, and going home and to bed.

Bradford  •  Link

One has doubts about the worldly wisdom of a man who would sell good wine for the sake of mere money.
Popular local variant in the Mid-South on the fruit discussed above: "mushmelon." They are everywhere right now, along with the corpses of leftover misshapen watermelons, which one doesn't suspect Pepys ever had the chance to taste.

Australian Susan  •  Link

in medieval times, learning was controlled by the Church. If you were in trouble with the law, but proved you could read (the standard test was Psalm 51), you were deemed to be a 'clerk' (lowliest clerical order)and could be tried by the eccesiastical courts (usually more lenient). All rather corrupt probably.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Don't wish it lost or capable of being so, Dirk. My wife lost her ability to read due to an incident years ago and spent five years learning to read again, though she's never fully recovered. It's a blessed thing, whatever bumps may pop up as a result of using it.

Don McCahill  •  Link


Re: Literacy was being able to read the bible. Not too many centuries before Pepys, the only Bibles were in Latin, and being able to read from them was the sign that you were a cleric.

I believe that reading a verse or two from the Bible would be sufficient to get one released from trial in the Kings court, on the grounds that you were a cleric and could only be tried in church courts.

Australian Susan  •  Link

I just said that two posts before Mr McCahill! Literacy indeed!

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