4/14 April 1673
Lisbon 4/14 April 1673
My Worthy Friend
Next to the letters from those excellent ladies, we both admire, I never received any with so much ravishing delight at yours of the 10th of October. Little did I think that the curse I cast on you in drollery, should take place in good earnest for, certainly nothing less than love is able to inspire such noble expressions as yours when you discourse of those persons; who, if any can, deserve them all. But less you could not do in justice, for they are desperately in love with you, and sigh out their passions so charmingly, that I find strange alterations in myself, and ‘tis hard to conclude, whether to envy, or pity you. Your enjoyments in their conversation, can nowhere else be found; and theirs is so great, when you entertain them, that they all acknowledge your humour the best in the whole world. Long may you enjoy these happinesses, which I should envy in my King, if he were so fortunate, but not in my friend. Your expressions of kindness for me are such that I shall always admire, but can never answer that task I have desired the ladies to undertake, which they may do, being as much assured of my respects for you, as for themselves.
I do most unwillingly mention that misfortune happening lately to your house being unable to say anything suitably, upon so sad an occasion, and less able to declare my concerns for you but, I assure you, my affliction was proportionable to that friendship you are pleased to bestow on me.
Whilst this thought is in my mind, it may be unseasonable to mention one enjoyment I have here, but I beg license to tell you, that we have a little consort among us, which gives us enter-tainment. We have five hands for viols, and violins, three of us, use both, and all, except one, the viol, but the want of music in this country obliges us to play over, and over again, some few things I brought from home accidentally, which wears off the relish, so that we are forced to go a-begging to our friends, as I do to you, that if you have anything new, you would bestow it on us and because Mr Monteage (accountant to Messrs Houblons) intends to present me some things, it may be fit to compare compositions, that they be not duplicates.
Mentioning music puts me in mind to acquaint you, that here is a young man, borne in Flanders, but bred at Rome, who has a most admirable voice, and sings rarely to his theorba, and with great skill. This young man lives with a nobleman, upon a very mean salary, and having been formerly in England, most passionately desires to return thither again. If either yourself, or any friend be desirous to favour an ingenious person, I know none more deserving than he. He speaks Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish, and ‘tis ten thousand pities to let him live here among people, who will see no virtue but their own; if I were going home, I should entertain him myself, for besides his Parts, he is a very in-genious, and which is more, a very good, and discreet young man.
I have received the whole library you bestow on me for which I give you humble thanks, when the ships are dispatched I shall have time to read a little. Pray present my services to all your kindred, and if the King, and my aunt Maskelyne, afford you a minute, oblige me with a letter. I most affectionately embrace you and remain
Your very faithful and most humble Servant
In 1673 Pepys was introduced by his friend Thomas Hill to a musician called Cesare Morelli. Pepys decided to act as Morelli’s patron. That Morelli was a Catholic was not apparently considered to be a serious issue, though it would become one for Pepys during the Popish Plot of 1679 (see Letters nos. 116 and 117).
The “misfortune” which Hill refers to in the second paragraph of the letter is the fact that on 29 June 1673 the Navy Office in Seething Lane had been destroyed by fire. Ironically, this part of the City had escaped the Great Fire of 1666. Pepys had now had to move to Winchester Street.
This letter is also one of the first to allude to the convivial and intimate social circle that would dominate much of the rest of Pepys’s life. The “excellent ladies” are Pepys’s friends Elizabeth, Lady Mordaunt, and “her sister Johnson”, later (or perhaps by now) “Mrs Steward” (see Letter no. 230). The letter was in fact dated 14 April since it was sent from the Continent, where the Gregorian calendar was 10 days ahead. Great Britain did not convert until September 1752. The dates given for every letter in this book are by English reckoning in the 1600s, regardless of the date on the actual letter.
The little note enclosed, is a receipt for a few Gammons, and some of our Hunns water, which I have ordered to be got aboard the Queen’s frigate. Pray do me the favor to accept these trifles.