Wednesday 1 January 1667/68

Up, and all the morning in my chamber making up some accounts against this beginning of the new year, and so about noon abroad with my wife, who was to dine with W. Hewer and Willet at Mrs. Pierces, but I had no mind to be with them, for I do clearly find that my wife is troubled at my friendship with her and Knepp, and so dined with my Lord Crew, with whom was Mr. Browne, Clerk of the House of Lords, and Mr. John Crew. Here was mighty good discourse, as there is always: and among other things my Lord Crew did turn to a place in the Life of Sir Philip Sidney, wrote by Sir Fulke Greville, which do foretell the present condition of this nation, in relation to the Dutch, to the very degree of a prophecy; and is so remarkable that I am resolved to buy one of them, it being, quite throughout, a good discourse. Here they did talk much of the present cheapness of corne, even to a miracle; so as their farmers can pay no rent, but do fling up their lands; and would pay in corne: but, which I did observe to my Lord, and he liked well of it, our gentry are grown so ignorant in every thing of good husbandry, that they know not how to bestow this corne: which, did they understand but a little trade, they would be able to joyne together, and know what markets there are abroad, and send it thither, and thereby ease their tenants and be able to pay themselves. They did talk much of the disgrace the Archbishop is fallen under with the King, and the rest of the Bishops also. Thence I after dinner to the Duke of York’s playhouse, and there saw “Sir Martin Mar-all;” which I have seen so often, and yet am mightily pleased with it, and think it mighty witty, and the fullest of proper matter for mirth that ever was writ; and I do clearly see that they do improve in their acting of it. Here a mighty company of citizens, ‘prentices, and others; and it makes me observe, that when I begun first to be able to bestow a play on myself, I do not remember that I saw so many by half of the ordinary ‘prentices and mean people in the pit at 2s. 6d. a-piece as now; I going for several years no higher than the 12d. and then the 18d. places, though, I strained hard to go in then when I did: so much the vanity and prodigality of the age is to be observed in this particular. Thence I to White Hall, and there walked up and down the house a while, and do hear nothing of anything done further in this business of the change of Privy-counsellors: only I hear that Sir G. Savile, one of the Parliament Committee of nine, for examining the Accounts, is by the King made a Lord, the Lord Halifax; which, I believe, will displease the Parliament. By and by I met with Mr. Brisband; and having it in my mind this Christmas to (do what I never can remember that I did) go to see the manner of the gaming at the Groome-Porter’s, I having in my coming from the playhouse stepped into the two Temple-halls, and there saw the dirty ‘prentices and idle people playing; wherein I was mistaken, in thinking to have seen gentlemen of quality playing there, as I think it was when I was a little child, that one of my father’s servants, John Bassum, I think, carried me in his arms thither. I did tell Brisband of it, and he did lead me thither, where, after staying an hour, they begun to play at about eight at night, where to see how differently one man took his losing from another, one cursing and swearing, and another only muttering and grumbling to himself, a third without any apparent discontent at all: to see how the dice will run good luck in one hand, for half an hour together, and another have no good luck at all: to see how easily here, where they play nothing but guinnys, a 100l. is won or lost: to see two or three gentlemen come in there drunk, and putting their stock of gold together, one 22 pieces, the second 4, and the third 5 pieces; and these to play one with another, and forget how much each of them brought, but he that brought the 22 thinks that he brought no more than the rest: to see the different humours of gamesters to change their luck, when it is bad, how ceremonious they are as to call for new dice, to shift their places, to alter their manner of throwing, arid that with great industry, as if there was anything in it: to see how some old gamesters, that have no money now to spend as formerly, do come and sit and look on, as among others, Sir Lewis Dives, who was here, and hath been a great gamester in his time: to hear their cursing and damning to no purpose, as one man being to throw a seven if he could, and, failing to do it after a great many throws, cried he would be damned if ever he flung seven more while he lived, his despair of throwing it being so great, while others did it as their luck served almost every throw: to see how persons of the best quality do here sit down, and play with people of any, though meaner; and to see how people in ordinary clothes shall come hither, and play away 100, or 2 or 300 guinnys, without any kind of difficulty: and lastly, to see the formality of the groome- porter, who is their judge of all disputes in play and all quarrels that may arise therein, and how his under-officers are there to observe true play at each table, and to give new dice, is a consideration I never could have thought had been in the world, had I not now seen it. And mighty glad I am that I did see it, and it may be will find another evening, before Christmas be over, to see it again, when I may stay later, for their heat of play begins not till about eleven or twelve o’clock; which did give me another pretty observation of a man, that did win mighty fast when I was there. I think he won 100l. at single pieces in a little time. While all the rest envied him his good fortune, he cursed it, saying, “A pox on it, that it should come so early upon me, for this fortune two hours hence would be worth something to me, but then, God damn me, I shall have no such luck.” This kind of prophane, mad entertainment they give themselves. And so I, having enough for once, refusing to venture, though Brisband pressed me hard, and tempted me with saying that no man was ever known to lose the first time, the devil being too cunning to discourage a gamester; and he offered me also to lend me ten pieces to venture; but I did refuse, and so went away, and took coach and home about 9 or to at night, where not finding my wife come home, I took the same coach again, and leaving my watch behind me for fear of robbing, I did go back and to Mrs. Pierces, thinking they might not have broken up yet, but there I find my wife newly gone, and not going out of my coach spoke only to Mr. Pierce in his nightgown in the street, and so away back again home, and there to supper with my wife and to talk about their dancing and doings at Mrs. Pierces to-day, and so to bed.

10 Annotations

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Sam's had too many prime examples laid before him, including his initial patron, Sandwich, to risk his hard-earned little fortune at table. Curious that Bess allows herself the dinner at the Pierces...And that Sam doesn't grumble at the need to exclude himself. But in any case Bess' radar is rightly alerting but wrong as to specifics...I suppose she considers Pierce and Knipp far more of a potential threat since socially they're not unacceptable, particularly Betty Pierce. Whereas even if she knew about Betty Martin or Bagwell it would not be so threatening. Must have been interesting at dinner, though, since Betty Pierce seems far too sharp not to notice Bess' jealousy and mischevous enough to tweak it a little.

cum salis grano  •  Link

A wonderful piece on the man and his follies, nature of man has not change just more polished.

Eric Walla  •  Link

All so familiar! Nothing has changed in the intervening years: the cries, the habits, the superstitions, even the belief that gambling "virgins" bring good luck. And the great equalizer himself, all-powerful Odds, who will have his way when played out over several hours:

“A pox on it, that it should come so early upon me, for this fortune two hours hence would be worth something to me, but then, God damn me, I shall have no such luck.”

Know when to leave the table, or as Sam does, know better than to approach it from the start.

language hat  •  Link

One of his best entries, gripping and timeless.

"Sam’s had too many prime examples laid before him, including his initial patron, Sandwich, to risk his hard-earned little fortune at table."

I disagree; he simply doesn't have the gambling bug. In my experience, no one was ever protected from the vices of addiction by "prime examples"; if your nature is such as to pull you to drink, drugs, or gambling, you will succumb to the lure despite your and everyone else's best efforts.

arby  •  Link

I agree, one of his best entries. Aside from his interest in human psychology in observing the gamblers, his knowledge and understanding of market forces is interesting too, given the times. I understand that in that day they thought the amount of trade was fixed, if you wanted to increase national trade you had to take it away from someone else, like the Dutch.

cum salis grano  •  Link

In a sense true. So much money fixed [ in doubloons] so few consumers that had spare cash except the Gamblers of course, the large majority barely had enough for the daily dose of calories, Only needed one set of protection against the elements, one room to rest their weary head.
The 70 % of the population had no spare cash for the niceties of life like a hanky, mug, underwear, comb and other goodies that be in ones possession.
How could there be when an Artificer got only few shillings a day. Selling Oranges to penniless pit men, nowt leftover for buying at the Exchange .

We are reading the diary of Man that has transgressed the lines of income, a good example of reality check is Sams Pop,keeping a family on 50 Quid a year in a house that now is only available for high income, same house, no modern retired small town Tailor could support..

Paul E  •  Link

The gaming parlors I've seen lately are indistinguishable from what Sam described. I too have marveled, mostly to my financial detriment, how "the dice will run good luck in one hand, for half an hour together, and another have no good luck at all...".

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Adding to the vivid gambling scene at the groom-porter's is Pepys's attempt to recall his seeing a back-alley gambling scene between the Inner and Outer Temples, "as I think it was when I was a little child, that one of my father’s servants, John Bassum, I think, carried me in his arms thither" .....

Terry Foreman  •  Link

language hat, two points:
1) what you say about Pepys and addiction may generally be true, although his record as the Groper of many women may suggest room for discussion;
2) Pepys is not about considering making a wager. "In 1693 Samuel Pepys and Isaac Newton [will correspond] over a problem posed by Pepys in relation to a wager he planned to make."

languagehat  •  Link

1) I didn't say he didn't have the woman-chasing bug, I said he didn't have the gambling bug.

2) I also didn't say he would never make a wager. I've made wagers myself, and yet am not a gambler; I've drunk quite a bit and even gotten drunk, and yet am not a drunk. Addiction is different from occasional indulgence.

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