Monday 10 May 1669

Troubled, about three in the morning, with my wife’s calling her maid up, and rising herself, to go with her coach abroad, to gather May- dew, which she did, and I troubled for it, for fear of any hurt, going abroad so betimes, happening to her; but I to sleep again, and she come home about six, and to bed again all well, and I up and with Mr. Gibson by coach to St. James’s, and thence to White Hall, where the Duke of York met the Office, and there discoursed of several things, particularly the Instructions of Commanders of ships. But here happened by chance a discourse of the Council of Trade, against which the Duke of York is mightily displeased, and particularly Mr. Child, against whom he speaking hardly, Captain Cox did second the Duke of York, by saying that he was talked of for an unfayre dealer with masters of ships, about freight: to which Sir T. Littleton very hotly and foolishly replied presently, that he never heard any honest man speak ill of Child; to which the Duke of York did make a smart reply, and was angry; so as I was sorry to hear it come so far, and that I, by seeming to assent to Cox, might be observed too much by Littleton, though I said nothing aloud, for this must breed great heart-burnings. After this meeting done, the Duke of York took the Treasurers into his closet to chide them, as Mr. Wren tells me; for that my Lord Keeper did last night at the Council say, when nobody was ready to say any thing against the constitution of the Navy, that he did believe the Treasurers of the Navy had something to say, which was very foul on their part, to be parties against us. They being gone, Mr. Wren [and I] took boat, thinking to dine with my Lord of Canterbury; but, when we come to Lambeth, the gate was shut, which is strictly done at twelve o’clock, and nobody comes in afterwards: so we lost our labour, and therefore back to White Hall, and thence walked my boy Jacke with me, to my Lord Crew, whom I have not seen since he was sick, which is eight months ago, I think and there dined with him: he is mightily broke. A stranger a country gentleman, was with him: and he pleased with my discourse accidentally about the decay of gentlemen’s families in the country, telling us that the old rule was, that a family might remain fifty miles from London one hundred years, one hundred miles from London two hundred years, and so farther, or nearer London more or less years. He also told us that he hath heard his father say, that in his time it was so rare for a country gentleman to come to London, that, when he did come, he used to make his will before he set out. Thence: to St. James’s, and there met the Duke of York, who told me, with great content, that he did now think he should master our adversaries, for that the King did tell him that he was; satisfied in the constitution of the Navy, but that it was well to give these people leave to object against it, which they having not done, he did give order to give warrant to the Duke of York to direct Sir Jeremy Smith to be a Commissioner of the Navy in the room of Pen; which, though he be an impertinent fellow, yet I am glad of it, it showing that the other side is not so strong as it was: and so, in plain terms, the Duke of York did tell me, that they were every day losing ground; and particularly that he would take care to keep out Child: at all which I am glad, though yet I dare not think myself secure, as the King may yet be wrought upon by these people to bring changes in our Office, and remove us, ere it be long. Thence I to White Hall, and there took boat to Westminster, and to Mrs. Martin’s, who is not come to town from her husband at Portsmouth. So drank only at Cragg’s with Doll, and so to the Swan, and there baiser a new maid that is there, and so to White Hall again, to a Committee of Tangier, where I see all things going to rack in the business of the Corporation, and consequently in the place, by Middleton’s going. Thence walked a little with Creed, who tells me he hears how fine my horses and coach are, and advises me to avoid being noted for it, which I was vexed to hear taken notice of, it being what I feared and Povy told me of my gold-lace sleeves in the Park yesterday, which vexed me also, so as to resolve never to appear in Court with them, but presently to have them taken off, as it is fit I should, and so to my wife at Unthanke’s, and coach, and so called at my tailor’s to that purpose, and so home, and after a little walk in the garden, home to supper and to bed.

24 Annotations

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Thence walked a little with Creed, who tells me he hears how fine my horses and coach are, and advises me to avoid being noted for it..."

Bet new minted Montague family member Creed enjoyed that...

"...which I was vexed to hear taken notice of, it being what I feared and Povy told me of my gold-lace sleeves in the Park yesterday, which vexed me also so as to resolve never to appear in Court with them, but presently to have them taken off, as it is fit I should..."

Poor Sam, unable to delight in his success...But it probably is good advice even if Creed and Povy probably very much enjoyed dispensing it.

Allen Appel  •  Link

OK, I'll be the dope. What is gathering May-dew?

This entry has everything that makes the diary great: "for this must breed heart-burnings," office politics, national intrigue, sex, shame and vexedness. I think I'll go baiser my wife.

Ramona in Idaho  •  Link

I see that Jeremiah Smith was knighted in 1665 and it
reminded me of a question that has always puzzled me.
May I ask everyone why Mr. Pepys was never knighted?

Margaret  •  Link

Can anyone explain what the May dew was used for? Cosmetics? Love potions? Health tonics?

Peter easton  •  Link

Margaret. I remember from school that young ladies/maids believed washing their faces in May dew would make them prettier. Sam doesn't mention whether it had any noticeable affect on his wife when she returned at 6am!

Sam's lack of a knighthood throughout his life does seem surprising given how many of them there were in his network. Particularly so when you read of his later life, being Secretary to the Admiralty, and very close to the Duke of York to the extent he played a role in his coronation as James II. Seems he just missed the boat somehow. But maybe it helped him at a time he was locked in the Tower during the anti-James anti-Catholic backlash. See biographies by Arthur Bryant.

Lovef first sentence, very Pepysian. Starting with maids washing in May dew, and ending with meeting the Duke of York.

Mary  •  Link

May dew.

This was supposed to improve the complexion marvellously. Gathering it was yet another of the rituals traditionally practised in earlier times during the propitious month of May.

Michael L  •  Link

So where exactly might Elizabeth have found May Dew in the midst of a dirty, bustling city? Were there any parks with greenery nearby? Or would she have to go outside the gates to find dewy fields?

Adam  •  Link

The may dew obviously didn't work seeing as he later went off with his wenches.

jeannine  •  Link

3 am May Dew wake up Elizabeth goes out with a maid in the dark to get May Dew. I am curious if Sam's 'fear of any hurt' relates more to a fear that someone will physically get hurt #i.e. a fall in the dark,etc.# or perhaps hurt by someone else #assault, etc#. I wonder about the safety that time of the night. Still, he doesn't seem to put any stop to it, or offer to go along for protection, and rather just goes back to hit the sack.

Allen Appel  •  Link

I would think there would be plenty of dew in that garden they walk in every night when the weather is nice. But then she was gone three hours. I guess collecting dew is a pretty arduous task.

JWB  •  Link

In '67:
"After dinner my wife away down with Jane and W. Hewer to Woolwich, in order to a little ayre and to lie there to-night, and so to gather May-dew to-morrow morning,1 which Mrs. Turner hath taught her as the only thing in the world to wash her face with;..."

'1.If we are to credit the following paragraph, extracted from the “Morning Post” of May 2nd, 1791, the virtues of May dew were then still held in some estimation; for it records that “on the day preceding, according to annual and superstitious custom, a number of persons went into the fields, and bathed their faces with the dew on the grass, under the idea that it would render them beautiful” #Hone’s “Every Day Book,” vol. ii., p. 611#. Aubrey speaks of May dew as “a great dissolvent” #“Miscellanies,” p. 183#.—B. ↩'

john  •  Link

"a country gentleman [...] used to make his will before he set out [to Londond]."

Juxtaposed, perhaps by chance, with the concern over 3am excursions makes me curious.

jeannine  •  Link

From Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore:

There is a widespread belief, in Britain and abroad, that dew gathered on May Day morning is particularly good for the complexion, and countless people have acted on this knowledge over the last 500 years. Samuel Pepys's wife Elizabeth clearly believed that any time in May would do, as he records her going out on 28 May 1667, and 10 May 1669. In some areas there were extra stipulations: dew gathered under oak trees or off hawthorn bushes being specially good. May dew was also believed to be particularly effective for certain complaints, first mentioned in 1602 for sore eyes and in Launceston, ‘poor people say that a swelling in the neck may be cured by the patient, if a woman, going before sunrise on the first of May, to the grave of the young man last buried in the churchyard, collecting there from the dew by passing the hand three times from the head to the foot of the grave, and applying the dew to the part affected. If the patient be a man, the grave chosen must be that of the last young woman buried in the churchyard’ (N&Q 1s:2 (1850), 474-5). Other ailments such as consumption and weak joints and muscles could also be treated with May dew, or even with May rain.

Geoff Hallett  •  Link

At our State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday the Gracious Speech was carried to the Queen in a giant ornate pouch first used for the Coronation of James the Second. I did wonder at the time if Sam would have seen it and probably had a hand in it. From what PE says he did.

Jesse  •  Link

re: passing the hand three times from the head to the foot of the grave

Well thank you very much! My image of fairies pouring tiny little cups of dew into Elizabeth's vial just got displaced :)

Linda F  •  Link

Am going to miss entries like this one and comments like these so much.

Know that the gatherings are set for the 13th and 26th (on weekends), but what will be the date of the last diary entry?

Wonder what Sam did with his gold lace sleeves (I had pictured cuffs) after having them removed from his new best suit.

Stan Oram  •  Link

My mother, who died twelve years ago at the age of 83 firmly believed that washing ones face in dew would remove blemishes and, if I remember rightly, even remove freckles! Mind you, she was brought up in very remote rural areas with some very odd family beliefs.

jeannine  •  Link

but what will be the date of the last diary entry?

Sam's last Diary entry is May 31, so the end of the month marks his fond farewell, and depending on your time zone, it may be the 31st of May or June 1, when you catch the last entry. Whatever will we do...........

DiPhi  •  Link

Would that the May dew had worked on Sam's eyes so we wouldn't be losing this lovely part of our daily routine.

Linda F  •  Link

Thanks. A last entry dated the 31st is, while still too soon, better than an earlier one.

Where else could we have learned about may dew from Sam, augmented by the posting from the OED/Folklore and several persons' direct memories? And so much else.

Linda F  •  Link

. . . and supported by the quote from Hone's "Every Day Book". . . (sorry I inadvertently omitted that)

Mary  •  Link

May dew.

Presumably neither Pepys nor Elizabeth had been brought up to believe that the dew could help sore eyes.

Chris Squire  •  Link

‘May-dew, n. Dew formed or gathered on May Day or in the month of May, popularly supposed to have medicinal and cosmetic properties.
. . ?1600 H. Platt Delightes for Ladies sig. H8v, Some commende May dewe gathered from Fennell and Celandine to bee most excellent for sore eyes.
. . 1667 S. Pepys Diary 28 May (1974) VIII. 240 To Woolwich‥to lie there tonight and so to gather May dew tomorrow morning.
. . 1953 M. Traynor Eng. Dial. Donegal 181/1 It is not many years since the girls here used to gather May-dew on May-eve to wash their faces.’ [OED]

Ivan  •  Link

Mr Pepys gives no indication that his wife forewarned him that she intended to go gathering May-dew in the early hours of the morning. Perhaps that added to his concern.

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