Wednesday 27 January 1663/64

Up and to the office, and at noon to the Coffeehouse, where I sat with Sir G. Ascue1 and Sir William Petty, who in discourse is, methinks, one of the most rational men that ever I heard speak with a tongue, having all his notions the most distinct and clear, and, among other things (saying, that in all his life these three books were the most esteemed and generally cried up for wit in the world “Religio Medici,”Osborne’s Advice to a Son,” and “Hudibras”), did say that in these — in the two first principally — the wit lies, and confirming some pretty sayings, which are generally like paradoxes, by some argument smartly and pleasantly urged, which takes with people who do not trouble themselves to examine the force of an argument, which pleases them in the delivery, upon a subject which they like; whereas, as by many particular instances of mine, and others, out of Osborne, he did really find fault and weaken the strength of many of Osborne’s arguments, so as that in downright disputation they would not bear weight; at least, so far, but that they might be weakened, and better found in their rooms to confirm what is there said. He shewed finely whence it happens that good writers are not admired by the present age; because there are but few in any age that do mind anything that is abstruse and curious; and so longer before any body do put the true praise, and set it on foot in the world, the generality of mankind pleasing themselves in the easy delights of the world, as eating, drinking, dancing, hunting, fencing, which we see the meanest men do the best, those that profess it. A gentleman never dances so well as the dancing master, and an ordinary fiddler makes better musique for a shilling than a gentleman will do after spending forty, and so in all the delights of the world almost. Thence to the ‘Change, and after doing much business, home, taking Commissioner Pett with me, and all alone dined together. He told me many stories of the yard, but I do know him so well, and had his character given me this morning by Hempson, as well as my own too of him before, that I shall know how to value any thing he says either of friendship or other business. He was mighty serious with me in discourse about the consequence of Sir W. Petty’s boat, as the most dangerous thing in the world, if it should be practised by endangering our losse of the command of the seas and our trade, while the Turkes and others shall get the use of them, which, without doubt, by bearing more sayle will go faster than any other ships, and, not being of burden, our merchants cannot have the use of them and so will be at the mercy of their enemies. So that I perceive he is afeard that the honour of his trade will down, though (which is a truth) he pretends this consideration to hinder the growth of this invention. He being gone my wife and I took coach and to Covent Garden, to buy a maske at the French House, Madame Charett’s, for my wife; in the way observing the streete full of coaches at the new play, “The Indian Queene;” which for show, they say, exceeds “Henry the Eighth.” Thence back to Mrs. Turner’s and sat a while with them talking of plays and I know not what, and so called to see Tom, but not at home, though they say he is in a deep consumption, and Mrs. Turner and Dike and they say he will not live two months to an end. So home and to the office, and then to supper and to bed.

22 Annotations

Pedro   Link to this

The missing Note may to some extent be a SPOILER...

Sir George Ayscue or Askew. After his return from his imprisonment he declined to go to sea again, although he was twice afterwards formally Appointed. He sat on the court-martial on the loss of the "Defiance" in 1668.

Francis Osborne, an English writer of considerable abilities and popularity, was the author of "Advice to a Son," in two parts, Oxford, 1656-8, 8vo. He died in 1659. He is the same person
mentioned as "My Father Osborne," October 19th, 1661.--B.

alanB   Link to this

So clever Sir Billy Petty. How come you did not realize that sitting before you was (one of) the greatest diarist(s) in the English language and who left a greater legacy than the three tomes you recommend?

jeannine   Link to this

"the generality of mankind pleasing themselves in the easy delights of the world, as eating, drinking, dancing, hunting, fencing, which we see the meanest men do the best, those that profess it. A gentleman never dances so well as the dancing master"

Boy he hit on a few truisms here that must have made Sam squirm in his seat..."easy delights (Mrs. Lane) and "A gentleman never dances so well as the dancing master" (Pembleton) hopefully gave Sam some cause for self-reflection (but I doubt it)
Also, of interesting note to me Sam reports that
"so called to see Tom, but not at home, though they say he is in a deep consumption, and Mrs. Turner and Dike and they say he will not live two months to an end."
I am struck that he literally seems to just be reporting this matter of factly and that there isn't any side comment about concern, fear, interest, etc. in his brother beyond his statement of fact.

Larry Bunce   Link to this

"I am struck that he literally seems to just be reporting this matter of factly and that there isn't any side comment about concern, fear, interest, etc. in his brother beyond his statement of fact."
Pepys is writing only for himself, so he has no reason to record his personal thoughts. We all rember in all-too-vivid detail for the rest of our life, how we felt when we learned of the death or a serious illness of a loved one.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

"Thence back to Mrs. Turner's and sat a while with them talking of plays and I know not what, and so called to see Tom, but not at home, though they say he is in a deep consumption, and Mrs. Turner and Dike and they say he will not live two months to an end. So home and to the office, and then to supper and to bed."

Interesting thing to drop in a casual conversation about the latest shows... "...Your brother won't live two months." I get the impression Sam wrote this one a while after the fact and felt it was enough to note the conversation as a marker of his brother's condition at this point. Unless he dismissed his worthy Cousin Jane along with the rest as talking nonsense, which is unlikely at least in her case, surely he was more concerned than the entry suggests. He and presumably Bess did hurry over to see Tom after the visit to Jane's without success.

[Spoiler]Perhaps this being his own Diary he felt it unnecessary and (especially if this was written later) too painful to discuss his anxiety. It might be a mark of just how disturbed he was that he didn't feel able to embellish the scene as usual.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Poor Pett...A terrible thing to see one's family's monopoly about to crumble before one's eyes.

I'd keep a close watch on that boat of yours, Sir Will...

Michael Robinson   Link to this

Sir W. Petty's boat,

... that his vessel which he hath built upon two keeles (a modell whereof, built for the King, he showed me) hath this month won a wager of 50l. in sailing between Dublin and Holyhead with the pacquett-boat, the best ship or vessel the King hath there; and he offers to lay with any vessel in the world. It is about thirty ton in burden, and carries thirty men, with good accommodation, (as much more as any ship of her burden,) and so any vessel of this figure shall carry more men, with better accommodation by half, than any other ship. This carries also ten guns, of about five tons weight. In their coming back from Holyhead they started together, and this vessel came to Dublin by five at night, and the pacquett-boat not before eight the next morning; and when they came they did believe that, this vessel had been drowned, or at least behind, not thinking she could have lived in that sea ...

http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1663/07/31/

Michael Robinson   Link to this

Sir W. Petty's boat

Drawing in the Royal Society Collection:-

http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/archive/exhibi...

Bryan M   Link to this

Maybe I'm just a contrarian but I find this quite a reflective entry.

In the first instance there is Sam's discussion with Petty, the budding scientist. My reading is that Petty is very critical of the three works in that he argues that they may be cleverly written but they do not stand up to critical examination. Sam has mentioned two of the books. He tried to find something in Hudibras but his final assessment on 10 December was that even though it was 'now in greatest fashion for drollery ... I cannot, I confess, see enough where the wit lies'. On the other hand Sam really liked Osborne's book. His assessment last April 5 was that "I shall not never enough admire for sense and language".

However Petty demolished Osborne using examples that Sam himself brought up:
'as by many particular instances of mine, and others, out of Osborne, he did really find fault and weaken the strength of many of Osborne's arguments, so as that in downright disputation they would not bear weight'. Here I think we see that Sam could be persuaded to change his mind through a well-constructed argument; and is an indication that he was reasonably open minded.

The latter part of the discussion with Petty seems to run pretty deep. Petty observes that most people are satisfied with life's easy delights and there are few in every generation 'that do mind anything that is abstruse and curious'. Petty may have been suggesting to Sam that there is a choice in life for men such as themselves; either to indulge in easy pleasures or to do something more challenging and substantial?

The second instance of Sam's reflection is with Commissioner Pett: 'He told me many stories of the yard, but I do know him so well, ... that I shall know how to value any thing he says either of friendship or other business.' Recall Sam's last assessment of Pett on 14 December 'I shall remember him for a black sheep again a good while, with all his fair words to me, and perhaps may let him know that my ignorance does the King as much good as all his knowledge, which would do more it is true if it were well used.' (This was after Pett questioned Sam's skill at measuring timber with his beloved slide rule).

Lastly with regard to Tom I agree with Larry's assessment. Sam appears to have gone to visit Tom almost immediately after hearing about Tom's rapid deterioration and lack of detail regarding the conversation at cousin Turner's could indicate that his mind just wasn't there. Look at the way Sam reports it: 'Thence back to Mrs. Turner's and sat a while with them talking of plays and I know not what, and so called to see Tom, but not at home, though they say he is in a deep consumption, and Mrs. Turner and Dike and they say he will not live two months to an end.' Sam can be a little convoluted at times I know but that is just bad writing. The obvious reason for it is that he was emotional.

Sam's immediate family probably found him to be a pin in the butt at times, but he was there for them when it mattered. We have seen how he tried to find a suitable match for Tom, lent him money and tried to motivate him in his work in Sam's own inimicable way. I find it hard to imagine that he was not affected. Remember the family buried cousin Edward only five or six weeks ago. The fact that Sam visited Mr Commander a week ago about drawing up a will might say something as well.

Anyway that's my tuppence worth. Alternative viewpoints happily considered.

Jacqueline Gore   Link to this

I'd say Larry, Robert, and LH are right as to Sam's emotional state on Tom. He's deeply upset.

____
This is a spoiler (sorry) but I would wonder if this suggests his refusal to reopen the Diary even after recovering his eyesight is a sign of how terribly Elizabeth's death affected him.

language hat   Link to this

"good writers are not admired by the present age"

This post at the excellent blog Varieties of Unreligious Experience works as a gloss on that observation, since Sam is writing at exactly the time the older, Elizabethan free-form style was giving way to the modern logical/scientific style:
http://vunex.blogspot.com/2007/01/my-fair-lady....

jeannine   Link to this

Perhaps Sam is too distressed to record any feelings about Thomas, but while I was reading this, I was thinking about the incident when he thought Elizabeth would die and his outpouring of emotion:

" where my wife, by drinking some cold beer, being hot herself, presently after 'lighting, begins to be sick, and became so pale, and I alone with her in a great chamber there, that I thought she would have died, and so in great horror, and having a great tryall of my true love and passion for her, called the mayds and mistresse of the house, and so with some strong water, and after a little vomit, she came to be pretty well again"
http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1663/09/14/

Sam clearly knows how to record his feelings of worry and distress and does it in situations that concern him (his worries about Lord Sandwich for instance), so this entry stood out to me as rather matter of fact in comparison.

This has nothing to do with if he is a 'good' brother or not. My curiosity is wondering how Sam actually felt about the situation, which is something he does express & record from time to time, but not here today.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

[Spoiler]

Perhaps, Jeannine, it's because the episode at Ware with Bess had a happy outcome, so he felt free to try and visualize it in all detail. I suspect Sam may have either felt at the time or known if, as I think, this entry was entered a few days after the fact, that Tom's would not.

Glyn   Link to this

"good writers are not admired by the present age; because there are but few in any age that do mind anything that is abstruse and curious"

I assume from that he means by every age, not just his own, but it started me wondering. How many writers that we would consider 'good' are active in Pepys' London? The only two that I can think of are blind John Milton who is currently dictating 'Paradise Lost' line by line to Deborah his daughter; and the philosopher John Locke who is almost precisely Pepys' age and probably drank in the same taverns, but may not have written anything yet. Were there any others?

Conrad H. Roth   Link to this

"Were there any others?"

Robert Herrick was in and out of London and Devon at this time. Then there's Marvell. John Wilkins was in London during the 1660s. Then there's John Evelyn and Izaak Walton. Thomas Hobbes, I believe, lived in London from the 1650s on, so I assume his later works were composed there. Locke didn't write anything until 1689.

Most of the other great writers and thinkers of the time were at Trinity College, Oxford, or so it seems.

Michael Robinson   Link to this

good writers ... abstruse and curious

Given his interests Pettty might include the following:-

Robert Boyle, 1627 - 1691
New Experiments Physico-Mechanical: Touching the Spring of the Air and their Effects (1660)
The Sceptical Chymist (1661)
Considerations touching the Usefulness of Experimental Natural Philosophy (1663)

Michael Robinson   Link to this

good writers ...

John Dryden 1631 -1700, graduated Trinity, Cambridge 1654; occasional verses then his first play, The Wild Gallant appeared in 1663 -- part author of The Indian Queen mentioned today above -- the great work is to come.

Michael Robinson   Link to this

Spoiler good writers ... abstruse and curious

and I ignored Robert Hooke, (1635-1703), chorister Christ Church Oxford, Boyle's assistant at todays date; Micrographia (1665) etc., etc.

Pedro   Link to this

"Mrs. Turner and Dike and they say he will not live two months to an end."

If there was any serious concern for Tom at this stage, then surely Mrs Turner would say to Sam that his brother is ill with consumption and will be brown bread within a couple of months, at the very start of the visit. It seems that it was a casual remark amongst the talk of plays and we know not what. Sam thought he should check up, and finding Tom not at home deduces that he can not be at death's door.

cumgranosalis   Link to this

Man is a sensory mammal "...generality of mankind pleasing themselves in the easy delights of the world, as eating, drinking..........ad lib"
He [Mankind] has five main sensors, ear, eyes, mouth nose and touch, for back up he has the sixth and seven senses with common sense available if all else fails. He is the only mammal that can on occasional overide the senses when he deems to think it be to his long range future pleasure and/or his subconcious takes over.
All the great philosophers always started with a heavenly explanation so that it would or could make sense to the premassaged, then couched nature in two mediums the concious, and then anima, the latter is discused ad infinitum in every world discipline to satisfy each human variation, the former could be proven [eventually accepted]
This Period of time has brought forward many explanions[ theories].
The Printed word allowed people of diverse thoughts to find like minded thinkers rather rely on the local dispenser of known tract.
The caffeinated London water opened up new view points, allowing the imbibers to try and rationised why things in physical world did not always tallie with ancient Greko accepted answers, only ancient Math.[3-4-5 rule still works,] could be proved and as DesCartes points out 'faith inducedd ' answers had to be reviewed.
'Why' was no longer a no no.

dirk   Link to this

John Evelyn's diary for today...

"Was Christned my sonn Richard [2d. of that name] by his Grandfather Sir Rich: Browne, my Lord Vicount Mordaunt & my Lady Warwick being Sponsors &c: Dr. Breton officiating in the greate Chamber at Says Court."

Evelyn's son was born on the 17th - see there...

Michael Robinson   Link to this

Sir W. Petty's boat, as the most dangerous thing in the world ...

Commissioner Pett was not the only person of this opinion:-

"... he presented to the Royal Society a discourse off his (in manuscript, of about a quire of paper) of building of ships, which the Lord Brouncker (then president) took away, and still [circa 1679/80 MR] keeps, saying 'Twas too great an arcanum [secret] of state to be commonly perused;"

John Aubrey, Sir William Petty in Richard Barber, ed., John Aubrey Brief Lives. London: 1975, pp. 246-252 @ p 249.

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