Up by break of day, and walked down to the old Swan, where I find little Michell building, his booth being taken down, and a foundation laid for a new house, so that that street is like to be a very fine place. I drank, but did not see Betty, and so to Charing Cross stairs, and thence walked to Sir W. Coventry’s,1 and talked with him, who tells me how he hath been persecuted, and how he is yet well come off in the business of the dividing of the fleete, and the sending of the letter. He expects next to be troubled about the business of bad officers in the fleete, wherein he will bid them name whom they call bad, and he will justify himself, having never disposed of any but by the Admiral’s liking. And he is able to give an account of all them, how they come recommended, and more will be found to have been placed by the Prince and Duke of Albemarle than by the Duke of York during the war, and as no bad instance of the badness of officers he and I did look over the list of commanders, and found that we could presently recollect thirty-seven commanders that have been killed in actuall service this war. He tells me that Sir Fr. Hollis is the main man that hath persecuted him hitherto, in the business of dividing the fleete, saying vainly that the want of that letter to the Prince hath given him that, that he shall remember it by to his grave, meaning the loss of his arme; when, God knows! he is as idle and insignificant a fellow as ever come into the fleete. He tells me that in discourse on Saturday he did repeat Sir Rob. Howard’s words about rowling out of counsellors, that for his part he neither cared who they rowled in, nor who they rowled out, by which the word is become a word of use in the House, the rowling out of officers. I will remember what, in mirth, he said to me this morning, when upon this discourse he said, if ever there was another Dutch war, they should not find a Secretary; “Nor,” said I, “a Clerk of the Acts, for I see the reward of it; and, thanked God! I have enough of my own to buy me a good book and a good fiddle, and I have a good wife;” — “Why,” says he, “I have enough to buy me a good book, and shall not need a fiddle, because I have never a one of your good wives.” I understand by him that we are likely to have our business of tickets voted a miscarriage, but [he] cannot tell me what that will signify more than that he thinks they will report them to the King and there leave them, but I doubt they will do more. Thence walked over St. James’s Park to White Hall, and thence to Westminster Hall, and there walked all the morning, and did speak with several Parliament-men-among others, Birch, who is very kind to me, and calls me, with great respect and kindness, a man of business, and he thinks honest, and so long will stand by me, and every such man, to the death. My business was to instruct them to keep the House from falling into any mistaken vote about the business of tickets, before they were better informed. I walked in the Hall all the morning with my Lord Brouncker, who was in great pain there, and, the truth is, his business is, without reason, so ill resented by the generality of the House, that I was almost troubled to be seen to walk with him, and yet am able to justify him in all, that he is under so much scandal for. Here I did get a copy of the report itself, about our paying off men by tickets; and am mightily glad to see it, now knowing the state of our case, and what we have to answer to, and the more for that the House is like to be kept by other business to-day and to-morrow, so that, against Thursday, I shall be able to draw up some defence to put into some Member’s hands, to inform them, and I think we may [make] a very good one, and therefore my mind is mightily at ease about it. This morning they are upon a Bill, brought in to-day by Sir Richard Temple, for obliging the King to call Parliaments every three years; or, if he fail, for others to be obliged to do it, and to keep him from a power of dissolving any Parliament in less than forty days after their first day of sitting, which is such a Bill as do speak very high proceedings, to the lessening of the King; and this they will carry, and whatever else they desire, before they will give any money; and the King must have money, whatever it cost him. I stepped to the Dog Tavern, and thither come to me Doll Lane, and there we did drink together, and she tells me she is my valentine … Thence, she being gone, and having spoke with Mr. Spicer here, whom I sent for hither to discourse about the security of the late Act of 11 months’ tax on which I have secured part of my money lent to Tangier. I to the Hall, and there met Sir W. Pen, and he and I to the Beare, in Drury Lane, an excellent ordinary, after the French manner, but of Englishmen; and there had a good fricassee, our dinner coming to 8s., which was mighty pretty, to my great content; and thence, he and I to the King’s house, and there, in one of the upper boxes, saw “Flora’s Vagarys,” which is a very silly play; and the more, I being out of humour, being at a play without my wife, and she ill at home, and having no desire also to be seen, and, therefore, could not look about me. Thence to the Temple, and there we parted, and I to see Kate Joyce, where I find her and her friends in great ease of mind, the jury having this day given in their verdict that her husband died of a feaver. Some opposition there was, the foreman pressing them to declare the cause of the feaver, thinking thereby to obstruct it: but they did adhere to their verdict, and would give no reason; so all trouble is now over, and she safe in her estate, which I am mighty glad of, and so took leave, and home, and up to my wife, not owning my being at a play, and there she shews me her ring of a Turky-stone set with little sparks of dyamonds, which I am to give her, as my Valentine, and I am not much troubled at it. It will cost me near 5l. — she costing me but little compared with other wives, and I have not many occasions to spend on her. So to my office, where late, and to think upon my observations to-morrow, upon the report of the Committee to the Parliament about the business of tickets, whereof my head is full, and so home to supper and to bed.
Sir William Coventry’s love of money is said by Sir John Denham to have influenced him in promoting naval officers, who paid him for their commissions.
Then Painter! draw cerulian Coventry Keeper, or rather Chancellor o’ th’ sea And more exactly to express his hue, Use nothing but ultra-mariuish blue. To pay his fees, the silver trumpet spends, And boatswain’s whistle for his place depends. Pilots in vain repeat their compass o’er, Until of him they learn that one point more The constant magnet to the pole doth hold, Steel to the magnet, Coventry to gold. Muscovy sells us pitch, and hemp, and tar; Iron and copper, Sweden; Munster, war; Ashley, prize; Warwick, custom; Cart’ret, pay; But Coventry doth sell the fleet away.
— B. ↩