Friday 30 April 1669

Up, and by coach to the coachmaker’s: and there I do find a great many ladies sitting in the body of a coach that must be ended by to-morrow: they were my Lady Marquess of Winchester, Bellassis, and other great ladies; eating of bread and butter, and drinking ale. I to my coach, which is silvered over, but no varnish yet laid on, so I put it in a way of doing; and myself about other business, and particularly to see Sir W. Coventry, with whom I talked a good while to my great content; and so to other places — among others, to my tailor’s: and then to the belt-maker’s, where my belt cost me 55s., of the colour of my new suit; and here, understanding that the mistress of the house, an oldish woman in a hat hath some water good for the eyes, she did dress me, making my eyes smart most horribly, and did give me a little glass of it, which I will use, and hope it will do me good. So to the cutler’s, and there did give Tom, who was with me all day a sword cost me 12s. and a belt of my owne; and set my own silver-hilt sword a-gilding against to-morrow. This morning I did visit Mr. Oldenburgh, and did see the instrument for perspective made by Dr. Wren, of which I have one making by Browne; and the sight of this do please me mightily. At noon my wife come to me at my tailor’s, and I sent her home and myself and Tom dined at Hercules’ Pillars; and so about our business again, and particularly to Lilly’s, the varnisher about my prints, whereof some of them are pasted upon the boards, and to my full content. Thence to the frame-maker’s one Morris, in Long Acre, who shewed me several forms of frames to choose by, which was pretty, in little bits of mouldings, to choose by. This done, I to my coach-maker’s, and there vexed to see nothing yet done to my coach, at three in the afternoon; but I set it in doing, and stood by it till eight at night, and saw the painter varnish which is pretty to see how every doing it over do make it more and more yellow; and it dries as fast in the sun as it can be laid on almost; and most coaches are, now-a-days done so, and it is very pretty when laid on well, and not pale, as some are, even to shew the silver. Here I did make the workmen drink, and saw my coach cleaned and oyled; and, staying among poor people there in the alley, did hear them call their fat child Punch, which pleased me mightily that word being become a word of common use for all that is thick and short. At night home, and there find my wife hath been making herself clean against to-morrow; and, late as it was, I did send my coachman and horses to fetch home the coach to-night, and so we to supper, myself most weary with walking and standing so much, to see all things fine against to-morrow, and so to bed. God give a blessing to it! Meeting with Mr. Sheres, he went with me up and down to several places, and, among others, to buy a perriwig, but I bought none; and also to Dancre’s, where he was about my picture of Windsor, which is mighty pretty, and so will the prospect of Rome be.

17 Annotations

Linda F  •  Link

Wonder what the treatment for Sam's eyes was, and if it helped or harmed. The stinging suggests something other than a neutral eyewash, but he is investigating every solution with his usual thoroughness.

A good entry, conveying the excitement of May Day preparations. No wonder he was tired!

Mark S  •  Link

55s seems like a huge amount for a belt. Gold or silver buckle?

Sam had to stand over the workmen to ensure that his coach was finished in time. Perhaps the ladies eating bread and butter and ale (no cakes and ale?) in their almost-completed coach were doing the same. Probably some other customers who expected their coaches to be ready for May Day, but didn't check on them, were disappointed.

It seems that the cure for his eyes didn't help, since he is so soon to discontinue the diary because of his eyesight. Perhaps it made them worse - the smarting doesn't sound good, and who knows what harmful ingredients it may have had in it.

Q. What exactly was the nature of Sam's eye complaint? Does anyone know?

andy  •  Link

This done, I to my coach-maker’s, and there vexed to see nothing yet done to my coach, at three in the afternoon...

Had the same problem last time my car went in for a ça change, as Bess might remark.

Ruben  •  Link

to Mark:
As Allen annotated in 2006 (see Encyclopedia - Science - Health):
"Pepys’ eye trouble —-
From Vol X “Companion” to the “Diary” by Latham and Matthews (1983): “It is generally agreed that the nature of Pepys’ eye trouble was a combination of long sight [farsightedness or hyperopia] and astigmatism.” Both of these problems are easily corrected today by eye glasses. Such glasses were not really available in Pepys’ day."
If you google "pepys eyes" first thing you will find will be a very interesting article published by the Archives of Ophtalmology that resumes every thing we know about those eyes.

Chris Squire  •  Link

Here it is:

‘ . . We conclude that the origin of Pepys’ asthenopia was multifactorial: a low amount of uncorrected hypermetropia and astigmatism, convergence insufficiency with near exophoria, nonspecific low-grade ocular inflammation that was exacerbated by alcohol, paranasal sinus inflammation contiguous with or referred to the eye or orbit, a contributing functional element, and an obsessional personality.

Pepys has provided us with a unique account of his eyes, but he was writing at a time when ophthalmic knowledge was simplistic. With the passing of centuries since the writing of the diary, our diagnosis is at best speculative . . ‘

The Big Brown Eyes of Samuel Pepys; Graham A. Wilson, Amanda P. Field, Susannah Fullerton
Arch Ophthalmol Vol 120, July 2002

john  •  Link

"and other great ladies; eating of bread and butter, and drinking ale."

Presumably suitable public behaviour then.

languagehat  •  Link

Eating and drinking isn't suitable public behavior now?

Allen Appel  •  Link

“and other great ladies; eating of bread and butter, and drinking ale.”

Seems like a pretty simple snack for great ladies, like the glass of fresh milk Sam treats himself and others to. I wonder of modern taste would have thought this was an excellent treat, warm bread with fresh cream butter and a glass of honest ale? Or was it merely the fact that the bread wasn't stale and the butter rancid? Though maybe it would have been to our taste. Or were the circumstances what was appealing, sitting in a coach with your gal pals having a good laugh. I always wonder what their food was like, and of course will never know. One more of the many mysteries from Sam's World.

Mary  •  Link

"eating and drinking isn't suitable public behaviour now?"

Not (at least on this side of the Atlantic) for ladies of a certain age and social standing unless in a restaurant, coffee-shop etc. or similar establishment - or, of course, at a picnic or on a beach.

Signed: A Dear, Old-fashioned Thing.

Dorothy  •  Link

I bet the upholstery in that coach was a mess by the time the ladies went home and some poor guy had to sit up all night cleaning it.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

"did see the instrument for perspective made by Dr. Wren, of which I have one making by Browne..."

Have any examples of Sam's drawing survived?

serafina  •  Link

It doesn't look like there were set hours for doing business during Pepys time. Seems like you just went along whenever you felt like it and expected to get service. Workers worked until the job was done. Far cry from today.

Linda F  •  Link

Re: the propriety of those ladies eating bread and butter in their coach:

Sam and Bess have in the past stopped in their coach to have food and drink brought to them to consume on the spot. The coachmaker's would be a venue at least one remove from the public road. And the ladies, ensconced in the coach at what would seem to be pretty close quarters, had further privacy. Seems acceptable to me, and also as those these particular ladies were above concern about what the people around them thought of them.

Bless Sam for this vivid and detailed account of his day. Trust that he did not stare at said ladies.

AllanD  •  Link

Isn't 55s. a lot for a belt considering a sword cost 12s. later in today's entry?

Jenny  •  Link

@ Allen Appel I have attached this link before if you are interested in Sam's food. It is the link to Robert May's "The Accomplisht Cook". What is interesting is the edibility of many of the dishes and the wide range of herbs and spices used.

londonpaul  •  Link

“ though the day was very lowering” How those of us who live in London know about this feeling. Today is a case in point; after days of rain it is grey with low cloud and almost as dull as winter with all the trees coming out in leaf and spring in full bloom making ‘it very lowering’ of the spirits. As for dinking Mary; drinking remains deep within the British adult culture for all ages and is done openly to the point where in some towns and cities it is a serious problem. Before water became drinkable you had to drink the likes of small beers which may be why it is so ingrained even to this day.

pepfie  •  Link

"...their fat child Punch"

punch, n.4 and a. Now chiefly dial.


A n. A name for a short fat man, or for anything short and thick. Cf. Punchinello 2. ? Obs.

 ! 1669 Pepys Diary 30 Apr., Staying among poor people there in the ally, did hear them call their fat child Punch; which pleased me mightily, that word being become a word of common use for all that is thick and short.  ...

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