Annotations and comments

Al Doman has posted 33 annotations/comments since 30 May 2013.


Second Reading

About Sunday 25 August 1661

Al Doman  •  Link

@Louise Hudson:

>I wonder how they "brought down her high spirit."

Raw fear. If neither Sam nor his father would employ her, what was she to do?

Get a position with another family, one which would treat her with the respect she deserves? She'd need a good reference. Chances of that? Square root of boo-all.

Make a poor marriage? A surefire recipe for her getting ridden hard and put away wet for the rest of her life. Maybe her male relatives could provide enough dowry to buy her a little less drudgery, but hardly a life she'd dream of.

The convent? Assuming they'd take her, they're the experts in breaking high spirits. A bare existence, constantly told what to do, hard work, zero prospects - a life sentence.

It's a matter of near life-or-death importance that Pall retain respectability. If she can make a respectable marriage she would be the lady of a household where there might be servant(s) to take the edge off the hard work. Maybe some leisure time and even a little luxury from time to time.

Sam & his dad briefly pulled aside the veil and showed her the chasm. She has to demonstrate some value, beyond whatever dowry may go with her. By the way that's value by 17th century standards, not 21st century.

About Sunday 14th July 1661

Al Doman  •  Link

@Louise Hudson: not quite sure where you're going with this, and at the risk of walking into a minefield I'll offer a few observations.

Sam is often away from his wife. During these periods he knows nothing of what she's doing; there was no telephone, Facebook, e-mail etc. At best one might expect him to record when he left, and when he returned; maybe a note that he misses her. Sometimes the reader is expected to infer that if he travels, he is in general away from his wife, and that is not noteworthy. In contrast from time to time she does travel with him, and these travels are often well-recorded.

One of the great strengths of this diary is that Sam often records aspects of daily life which could be considered beneath the notice of "serious" diarists. As others here have observed it "brings the diary to life". That said, there's still a tendency for anyone to take things for granted. At this point, despite their young (especially her) ages, they have been married 6-odd years.

There is the tendency for us in the 21st century to judge the characters in the diary by our standards. The lamentable fact is that in 17th century England, women were not equal to men e.g.… . While Sam trusts Elizabeth to run their household she cannot help him with his business affairs. When consumed by business, Elizabeth is far from his mind, and often will be remarked on only if there are unexpected domestic issues which affect Sam, or that he feels he needs to address because they were not adequately dealt with by his wife.

When one adds all that up, perhaps it's not so strange Elizabeth isn't mentioned in the diary every day.

About Friday 14 June 1661

Al Doman  •  Link

Breaking wind -- he dangled his legs in the Thames, downstream of a major city, probably unclean water. While he probably didn't absorb anything directly through his legs he might have got microbes on his hands whilst drying them off, then subsequently ingested them.

In some people, getting significantly chilled or mildly hypothermic can have insalubrious effects on the digestive system.

Or, it could just be the cherries, or the wine, or the beer. Or his guts just saying, "Enough is enough".

About Thursday 13 June 1661

Al Doman  •  Link

Bookkeeping - the link to "the King" in today's entry is pointing to William III. Should it not point to Charles II?

About Friday 17 May 1661

Al Doman  •  Link

@ Mary K: your modern sensibilities showing through :)

Back in the day there was no recorded music, it was all live. Music lovers could not retreat to iPods etc. There was probably not one person on the planet at that time - not even professional musicians - who had been exposed to as wide a variety of music, performed by world-class musicians, as frequently, as a typical Western 30 year old today.

Our man has a decent ear for music; if he enjoyed today's entertainment it was probably good by the standards of the day, if not by ours. If one had been living at that time, chances are one would have "cut one's teeth" on music like that, appreciated the chance to hear it performed well, and shown one's appreciation so the musician would be encouraged to do it next time.

About Thursday 18 October 1660

Al Doman  •  Link

@Zexufang: Pepys is often described as an early civil servant, and I consider that more accurate than "politician". Yes, he sought and/or received various positions and appointments but IMO a major incentive was to secure a good and steady income for himself and his family. He came from modest beginnings and rarely, if ever, took money for granted.

Once ensconced in a position SP was energetic and sought to do it well. On occasion that influenced policy, but so might an energetic senior civil servant in a modern government. He was political as much as required - to be able to keep working with people he disliked or disdained, or to help ensure he maintained enough authority to be able to carry out his responsibilities. But I don't think it's accurate to consider him either a professional, or even primarily, a politician.

Re: execution - public executions of the day were by no means limited to supporters of the "regime" carrying out the execution, nor would attendance be considered support for the "regime". Some would view an execution as an act of catharsis, or simple revenge. Others might witness them to take the measure of the ruling government - its rationality, determination etc. An important consideration in a time when there was not rule of law as we know it today.

It's worth pointing out that as a teen-ager SP witnessed the public execution of Charles I. He has literally seen "what goes around, comes around".

About Thursday 27 September 1660

Al Doman  •  Link

An elegant definition of progress is "doing more with less". That principle is a major reason why a middle-class Westerner today lives a life that is in many ways better than that of Charles II's at the time of the diary.

About Saturday 15 September 1660

Al Doman  •  Link

I was wondering what interior artificial lighting might be like. No doubt nowhere near as good as daylight, but if there were interior lamps available that might allow starting one's day before daylight.

About Saturday 15 September 1660

Al Doman  •  Link

@Nix: what was the state of artificial lighting at that time? Lamps etc.?

There are references to "link boys" - presumably with enough illumination to allow navigation of streets at night.

About Tuesday 29 May 1660

Al Doman  •  Link

@ Dick Wilson: re: 5x5:

My British parents once told me one strength of the old English currency was the ability to easily divide up a pound (240p) into a number of shares:


I would have thought that would give some incentive for anyone who handled money, to know at least a few multiplication products above 5x5.