Sunday 1 July 1666

(Sunday). Up betimes, and to the office receiving letters, two or three one after another from Sir W. Coventry, and sent as many to him, being full of variety of business and hurry, but among the chiefest is the getting of these pressed men out of the City down the river to the fleete. While I was hard at it comes Sir W. Pen to towne, which I little expected, having invited my Lady and her daughter Pegg to dine with me to-day; which at noon they did, and Sir W. Pen with them: and pretty merry we were. And though I do not love him, yet I find it necessary to keep in with him; his good service at Shearnesse in getting out the fleete being much taken notice of, and reported to the King and Duke [of York], even from the Prince and Duke of Albemarle themselves, and made the most of to me and them by Sir W. Coventry: therefore I think it discretion, great and necessary discretion, to keep in with him. After dinner to the office again, where busy, and then down to Deptford to the yard, thinking to have seen Bagwell’s wife, whose husband is gone yesterday back to the fleete, but I did not see her, so missed what I went for, and so back to the Tower several times, about the business of the pressed men, and late at it till twelve at night, shipping of them. But, Lord! how some poor women did cry; and in my life I never did see such natural expression of passion as I did here in some women’s bewailing themselves, and running to every parcel of men that were brought, one after another, to look for their husbands, and wept over every vessel that went off, thinking they might be there, and looking after the ship as far as ever they could by moone-light, that it grieved me to the heart to hear them. Besides, to see poor patient labouring men and housekeepers, leaving poor wives and families, taking up on a sudden by strangers, was very hard, and that without press-money, but forced against all law to be gone. It is a great tyranny. Having done this I to the Lieutenant of the Tower and bade him good night, and so away home and to bed.

11 Annotations

cape henry   Link to this

"It is a great tyranny." Indeed. So happy Pepys was able to enjoy his lunch.

andy   Link to this

It is a great tyranny...

...thinking to have seen Bagwell’s wife, whose husband is gone yesterday back to the fleete, but I did not see her, so missed what I went for...

Some contradiction here?

A. Hamilton   Link to this

Some contradiction here?

No, I think just an example of stove-pipe thinking. Bagwell works for the Navy and is paid, unlike the tyrannized press-men. Making a mistress of a subordinate's wife apparently doesn't shock the conscience of Pepys, or Bagwell, and may well have been common, like the old casting couch of Hollywood lore. Pepys wouldn't have seen the whole "power as an afrodisiac", "nula puella negat" libertinism of the Restoration as tyrranous, though he was sensitive to the thought that the pursuit of pleasure shouldn't be allowed to interfere with duties. I don't think he would have had any inkling of a contradiction between his sympathy for the press-men and his exploitation of Bagwell. But, then, his consciousness hadn't been raised.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Score another point for Hannah Arendt's banality of evil argument. So is Sam worse, feeling as he does a modicum of sympathy for the men he is ripping from homes and sending to death and injury (while forcing himself on the wife of an employee), than say a loyal Nazi clerk who likewise only stamps the documents or issues the orders but sincerely believes his victim is subhuman and deserves death?

A. Hamilton   Link to this

I suspect by tyranny that Pepys means the men haven't been paid by the rule, not that they are ripped from family and forced into life-threatening and arduous service, a risk that faced generations of Englishmen when their "masters" decided to go to war.

JWB   Link to this

"It is a great tyranny."

And Socrates was quilty.

Todd Bernhardt   Link to this

re: some contradiction here?

Not at all -- pressed men for the Navy, a woman for our Sam to press himself against.

But seriously, folks ... I think Mr. Hamilton has it right here. I found Sam's sentiments at the end of the piece touching, and an insight into what prompted his more progressive policies as leader of the Navy. Impressment didn't end under him, of course, but I'll bet he did his best to make sure that people got paid.

Must have been horrible to constantly be under the threat of being capriciously taken away from your loved ones, or having your loved one (and provider) taken away from you. It "grieved me to the heart" to read this entry -- one more sign of Sam's skill as a journal-ist.

Terry Foreman   Link to this

"And Socrates was quilty."

Well, he did Apologize.

Robert Gertz   Link to this

Hell...

"Battle speed, you infidel dogs!" the cry of the master, the sound of whip on flesh...Screams from the rather distinguished set of chained oarsmen.

"Coventry, I can take no more of this." York in rags, tangled beard.

"Nor I..." Charles gasps from his plank seat.

"I would keep rowing, Sire." Coventry, from his seat, sweating dripping as he rows on. "Your Grace, I did warn you that we should end the war...Apparently we who pressed so many now must all pay the price."

"Silence, dog!!" crack of lash.

"Well, what about Pepys?" Charles, when the oarsmaster has moved on to torment a 19th century slaver.

"Yeah." York gasps. "He certainly did his share of the dirty work. And profitted by it handsomely, as we now know..."

"Samuel always did have that knack for landing on his feet, your Grace." a bloody Coventry notes.

"Uh, sir." Sam in rather decent clothing, unchained, and looking rather well-to-do, addresses the master.

"Pepys?"

"I've completed my survey of ship performance and I believe we could squeeze another knot out if you were to have the lash applied steadily to Number 31 and Number 76." Sam eagerly shows diagram to the master.

"Why that little..." Charles, #76, stares.

Paul Chapin   Link to this

I don't know what if any inference to draw from it, but this is the second time I've noticed Sam starting a Sunday entry with "(Sunday)" rather than "(Lord's Day)", which he invariably used in earlier times.

laura k   Link to this

This entry marks the first time I've ever quoted the Diary on my own blog. I'm active in the campaign to allow US war resisters - former US soldiers who have refused to participate in the Iraq War - to live in Canada. This entry (on Canada Day!) is very relevant to our work.

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