Sunday 20 December 1668

(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to church, and then home, and there found W. Joyce come to dine with me, as troublesome a talking coxcombe as ever he was, and yet once in a year I like him well enough. In the afternoon my wife and W. Hewer and I to White Hall, where they set me down and staid till I had been with the Duke of York, with the rest of us of the Office, and did a little business, and then the Duke of York in good humour did fall to tell us many fine stories of the wars in Flanders, and how the Spaniards are the [best] disciplined foot in the world; will refuse no extraordinary service if commanded, but scorn to be paid for it, as in other countries, though at the same time they will beg in the streets: not a soldier will carry you a cloak-bag for money for the world, though he will beg a penny, and will do the thing, if commanded by his Commander. That, in the citadel of Antwerp, a soldier hath not a liberty of begging till he hath served three years. They will cry out against their King and Commanders and Generals, none like them in the world, and yet will not hear a stranger say a word of them but he will cut his throat. That, upon a time, some of the Commanders of their army exclaiming against their Generals, and particularly the Marquis de Caranen, the Confessor of the Marquis coming by and hearing them, he stops and gravely tells them that the three great trades of the world are, the lawyers, who govern the world; the churchmen, who enjoy the world; and a sort of fools whom they call souldiers, who make it their work to defend the world. He told us, too, that Turenne being now become a Catholique, he is likely to get over the head of Colbert, their interests being contrary; the latter to promote trade1 and the sea, which, says the Duke of York, is that that we have most cause to fear; and Turenne to employ the King and his forces by land, to encrease his conquests. Thence to the coach to my wife, and so home, and there with W. Hewer to my office and to do some business, and so set down my Journall for four or five days, and then home to supper and read a little, and to bed. W. Hewer tells me to-day that he hears that the King of France hath declared in print, that he do intend this next summer to forbid his Commanders to strike —[Strike topsails]— to us, but that both we and the Dutch shall strike to him; and that he hath made his captains swear it already, that they will observe it: which is a great thing if he do it, as I know nothing to hinder him.

16 Annotations

Terry Fpreman  •  Link

John Evelyn's Diary

20th December, 1668. I dined with my Lord Cornbury, at Clarendon House, now
bravely furnished, especially with the pictures of most of our ancient and
modern wits, poets, philosophers, famous and learned Englishmen; which
collection of the Chancellor's I much commended, and gave his Lordship a
catalogue of more to be added.

Kim Oliver  •  Link

I am writing a newletter for the Adjunct Faculty and Alumni of the SUNY College of Optometry. The current topic is Mr. Pepys vision problems. In fact, one of the authors cited as a reference in the article “Pepys Big Brown Eyes” is one of the College’s faculty (Groffman). I did not find any specific topics (under health or otherwise) about Pepys vision problems.

I am a lurker an have been reading this diary since it started. My “call” name is Pepyspal, which, in truth, I surely am. I have made one or two posts. Can you help find specific dates where Sam made comments on his eyes?

Jim  •  Link

You could do a search of the diary entries for "eyes".

Katherine  •  Link

Is the King of France saying he won't fight naval battles against the Dutch and English next summer? If so, why?

andy  •  Link

the lawyers, who govern the world

As a BA in psychology I always remember the joke about stopping experimentation on rats because there are some things that rats won't do, so finding new experimental subjects in - which profession?

Happy Christmas to all my lawyer friends!

courtney  •  Link

Katherine...the way i read it is this: topsails are the sails most used for manoevering a ship, the last to be taken in. He is saying that the english and dutch are to give in to france, that france won't surrender.

Jeremy  •  Link

Striking topsails to a vessel of another navy is a salute, a tribute paid to a superior power. Thus the king of France is demanding that his captains refuse to 'strike' to English and Dutch ships which must instead 'strike' to the French. Failure to do so is interpreted as an act of hostility.

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

"as troublesome a talking coxcombe as ever he was, and yet once in a year I like him well enough."

I'll bet that rings a bell with many of us - especially in the season of goodwill.

Stan Oram  •  Link

As well as searching the diary for 'eyes' as Jim suggests, you might also try searching for 'tubes'.
The entry for Friday 31 July 1668 carries a footnote thus:
An account of these tubulous spectacles (“An easy help for decayed sight”) is given in “The Philosophical Transactions,” No. 37, pp. 727,731 (Hutton’s Abridgment, vol. i., p. 266). See Diary, August 12th and 23rd, post. ↩

If you open the page there may be a link directly to this item.

Carl in Boston  •  Link

A Carol for the Season (March of the Kings)
Lurkers arise, your posts we won't despise
This diary is closing, there's no more supposing
Lurkers arise, let's talk about his eyes
The tubes for peeping, the fine print receding.
Duke of York, the French he gives the Fork
Annoy le Anglais, Le French have many ways

TonyC  •  Link

I think that in this context the stiking of sails means the taking down of sails whilst in battle, indicating surrender of a ship, usually to preserve the ship and lives of the remaining crew. The King of France is trying to stiffen the backbone of his admirals. Incidentally, being a lawyer, I like this day's entry!

TonyC  •  Link

And Pepys is admitting that the English fleet is no match for the French if the French do not surrender.

Dorothy  •  Link

I am sure someone explained this, but I must have missed it. Why can't we go 'round again and reread the diary? I found this site only this year. It's not fair!

Larry Hill  •  Link

Failure to do so is interpreted as an act of hostility.

And if his captains do surrender, the King of France will regard it as an act of cowardice perhaps?

Mary  •  Link

In answer to Dorothy.

If you look at the headings under "Latest Site News" to the right of today's entry and click on "End of the Diary in London....." you will find the answer to your question.

Michael L  •  Link

Striking the topsail (lowering the topsail) is a form of naval salute. Its use diminishes the power of movement of the ship doing the striking, and thereby puts it at the mercy of the other ship. Striking is therefore a sign of submission and respect. Its use here in this entry is not as a surrender in battle, but a sign of respect between two ships meeting in peacetime.

Related actions are firing one's guns (thereby temporarily disarming the ship until they may be reloaded) and striking the flag (running it down the flagpole). All of these gestures were taken very seriously in Pepys' day. Indeed, arguments over who must strike the flag to whom were among the issues that led to the Anglo-Dutch wars, of recent memory to readers of this diary.

Pepys' entry today implies that King Louis wants other countries to pay homage to his fleet at sea, but that he refuses to do likewise to them.

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