Up, it being a fine day, and after doing a little business in my chamber I left my wife to go abroad with W. Hewer and his mother in a Hackney coach incognito to the Park, while I abroad to the Excise Office first, and there met the Cofferer and Sir Stephen Fox about our money matters there, wherein we agreed, and so to discourse of my Lord Treasurer, who is a little better than he was of the stone, having rested a little this night. I there did acquaint them of my knowledge of that disease, which I believe will be told my Lord Treasurer. Thence to Westminster; in the way meeting many milk-maids with their garlands upon their pails, dancing with a fiddler before them;1 and saw pretty Nelly standing at her lodgings’ door in Drury-lane in her smock sleeves and bodice, looking upon one: she seemed a mighty pretty creature. To the Hall and there walked a while, it being term. I thence home to the Rose, and then had Doll Lane venir para me … To my Lord Crew’s, where I found them at dinner, and among others. Mrs. Bocket, which I have not seen a long time, and two little dirty children, and she as idle a prating and impertinent woman as ever she was. After dinner my Lord took me alone and walked with me, giving me an account of the meeting of the Commissioners for Accounts, whereof he is one. How some of the gentlemen, Garraway, Littleton, and others, did scruple at their first coming there, being called thither to act, as Members of Parliament, which they could not do by any authority but that of Parliament, and therefore desired the King’s direction in it, which was sent for by my Lord Bridgewater, who brought answer, very short, that the King expected they should obey his Commission. Then they went on, and observed a power to be given them of administering and framing an oath, which they thought they could not do by any power but Act of Parliament; and the whole Commission did think fit to have the judges’ opinion in it; and so, drawing up their scruples in writing, they all attended the King, who told them he would send to the judges to be answered, and did so; who have, my Lord tells me, met three times about it, not knowing what answer to give to it; and they have met this week, doing nothing but expecting the solution of the judges in this point. My Lord tells me he do believe this Commission will do more hurt than good; it may undo some accounts, if these men shall think fit; but it can never clear an account, for he must come into the Exchequer for all this. Besides, it is a kind of inquisition that hath seldom ever been granted in England; and he believes it will never, besides, give any satisfaction to the People or Parliament, but be looked upon as a forced, packed business of the King, especially if these Parliament-men that are of it shall not concur with them: which he doubts they will not, and, therefore, wishes much that the King would lay hold of this fit occasion, and let the Commission fall. Then to talk of my Lord Sandwich, whom my Lord Crew hath a great desire might get to be Lord Treasurer if the present Lord should die, as it is believed he will, in a little time; and thinks he can have no competitor but my Lord Arlington, who, it is given out, desires it: but my Lord thinks it is not so, for that the being Secretary do keep him a greater interest with the King than the other would do at least, do believe, that if my Lord would surrender him his Wardrobe place, it would be a temptation to Arlington to assist my Lord in getting the Treasurer’s. I did object to my Lord [Crew] that it would be no place of content, nor safety, nor honour for my Lord, the State being so indigent as it is, and the [King] so irregular, and those about him, that my Lord must be forced to part with anything to answer his warrants; and that, therefore, I do believe the King had rather have a man that may be one of his vicious caball, than a sober man that will mind the publick, that so they may sit at cards and dispose of the revenue of the kingdom. This my Lord was moved at, and said he did not indeed know how to answer it, and bid me think of it; and so said he himself would also do. He do mightily cry out of the bad management of our monies, the King having had so much given him; and yet, when the Parliament do find that the King should have 900,000l. in his purse by the best account of issues they have yet seen, yet we should report in the Navy a debt due from the King of 900,000l.; which, I did confess, I doubted was true in the first, and knew to be true in the last, and did believe that there was some great miscarriages in it: which he owned to believe also, saying, that at this rate it is not in the power of the kingdom to make a war, nor answer the King’s wants. Thence away to the King’s playhouse, by agreement met Sir W. Pen, and saw “Love in a Maze” but a sorry play: only Lacy’s clowne’s part, which he did most admirably indeed; and I am glad to find the rogue at liberty again. Here was but little, and that ordinary, company. We sat at the upper bench next the boxes; and I find it do pretty well, and have the advantage of seeing and hearing the great people, which may be pleasant when there is good store. Now was only Prince Rupert and my Lord Lauderdale, and my Lord, the naming of whom puts me in mind of my seeing, at Sir Robert Viner’s, two or three great silver flagons, made with inscriptions as gifts of the King to such and such persons of quality as did stay in town the late great plague, for the keeping things in order in the town, which is a handsome thing. But here was neither Hart, Nell, nor Knipp; therefore, the play was not likely to please me. Thence Sir W. Pen and I in his coach, Tiburne way, into the Park, where a horrid dust, and number of coaches, without pleasure or order. That which we, and almost all went for, was to see my Lady Newcastle; which we could not, she being followed and crowded upon by coaches all the way she went, that nobody could come near her; only I could see she was in a large black coach, adorned with silver instead of gold, and so white curtains, and every thing black and white, and herself in her cap, but other parts I could not make [out]. But that which I did see, and wonder at with reason, was to find Pegg Pen in a new coach, with only her husband’s pretty sister with her, both patched and very fine, and in much the finest coach in the park, and I think that ever I did see one or other, for neatness and richness in gold, and everything that is noble. My Lady Castlemayne, the King, my Lord St. Albans, nor Mr. Jermyn, have so neat a coach, that ever I saw. And, Lord! to have them have this, and nothing else that is correspondent, is to me one of the most ridiculous sights that ever I did see, though her present dress was well enough; but to live in the condition they do at home, and be abroad in this coach, astonishes me. When we had spent half an hour in the Park, we went out again, weary of the dust, and despairing of seeing my Lady Newcastle; and so back the same way, and to St. James’s, thinking to have met my Lady Newcastle before she got home, but we staying by the way to drink, she got home a little before us: so we lost our labours, and then home; where we find the two young ladies come home, and their patches off, I suppose Sir W. Pen do not allow of them in his sight, and going out of town to-night, though late, to Walthamstow. So to talk a little at Sir W. Batten’s, and then home to supper, where I find Mrs. Hewer and her son, who have been abroad with my wife in the Park, and so after supper to read and then to bed. Sir W. Pen did give me an account this afternoon of his design of buying Sir Robert Brooke’s fine house at Wansted; which I so wondered at, and did give him reasons against it, which he allowed of: and told me that he did intend to pull down the house and build a less, and that he should get 1500l. by the old house, and I know not what fooleries. But I will never believe he ever intended to buy it, for my part; though he troubled Mr. Gawden to go and look upon it, and advise him in it.
On the 1st of May milkmaids used to borrow silver cups, tankards, &c., to hang them round their milkpails, with the addition of flowers and ribbons, which they carried upon their heads, accompanied by a bagpipe or fiddle, and went from door to door, dancing before the houses of their customers, in order to obtain a small gratuity from each of them.
In London thirty years ago, When pretty milkmaids went about, It was a goodly sight to see Their May-day pageant all drawn out.
Such scenes and sounds once blest my eyes And charm’d my ears; but all have vanish’d, On May-day now no garlands go, For milkmaids and their dance are banish’d.
Hone’s Every-Day Book, vol. i., pp. 569, 570. ↩