Annotations and comments

Peach has posted 12 annotations/comments since 19 July 2019.

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Second Reading

About Friday 26 October 1666

Peach  •  Link

Doll Lane would probably fit into what we modern folk not-so-nicely call a "butterface", as in, "everything about her was attractive but..."

Perhaps the veneer of respectability Sam has as a Navy Office manager puts some of his behavior above suspicion. This is war-time, hundreds of London's finest lads at sea or in Danish prisons, lots of war widows crying out to be heard by the gentlemen who sent their sons/brothers/husbands to the ships. Would it be so awful for a bureacrat in such a position to be seen with a woman? No telling they're talking of anyhing but the unwholesome conditions faced by the pressganged sailors... Even if they weren't, I wonder how many everyday Londoners would think poorly of a woman they suspected was trading on her assets on behalf of an absent husband or lover, or even condemn the man she was with for expecting the trade. There was very little that could be had for nothing in exchange, and bribes fly fast and thick in the Journal as a part of normal life.

About Thursday 4 October 1666

Peach  •  Link

"...our being designed for destruction." Pepys feeling the righteous anger of an innocent* man set up to fail? Scapegoating during wartime tends to work up the chain rather than trickle down. As my mom told me before I enlisted, "It's always best to be second in command."

*if not innocent then at least no more guilty than the accusers...

About Friday 7 September 1666

Peach  •  Link

A further account of the ruin of St. Paul's, by one William Taswell, a 15 year old boy.

"On Thursday, soon after sunrise, I endeavored to reach St. Paul's. The ground was so hot as almost to scorch my shoes, and the air so intensely warm that unless I had stopped some time upon Fleet Bridge to rest myself, I must have fainted under the extreme languor of my spirits. After giving myself time to breathe, I made the best of my way to St. Paul's. And now let any person judge of the violent emotion I was in when I perceived the metal belongings of the bells melting; the ruinous condition of its walls; whole heaps of stone of a large circumference tumbling down with a great noise just upon my feet, read to crush me to death....I forgot to mention that near the east wall of St. Paul's a human body presented itself to me, parched up as it were with the flames: whole as to skin, meagre as to flesh, yellow as to colour. This was an old decrepit woman who had fled here for safety, imagining the flames would not have reached her here. Her clothes were burnt and every limb reduced to coal."
---A Time Traveler's Guide to Restoration England, pg. 23

About Sunday 2 September 1666

Peach  •  Link

Mr. Ian Mortimer, author of A Time Traveler's Guide to Restoration England, pointed out that much of London at this time was still fairly medieval; most residences were centuries-old wood crammed nearly one on top of the other. There hadn't been any new construction -in- London since about 1600. Multi-story buildings were common, and each successive floor would jut out over the one beneath it, so that in some areas roofs blocked out the sun and nearly touched their counterparts on the other side of the street. Add in that some of those streets narrowed to a point of 11 feet (!!) and the panic and madcap rush to flee becomes less a flood of well-lit people ala the Ten Commandments movie and more the scratching terror of rats from a sinking ship.

Mr. Mortimer says there were a flurry of new laws passed in the wake of the devestation, most aimed at what we think of as residential zoning and building codes. Some 13,000 homes burned in the Great Fire, and were replaced with about 8,000 in the years following. Backyard tenements and successive subdividing were done away with, which allowed more room between houses even if they weren't the manor houses or spacious homes of the well-to-do. Stone replaced wood, and an entrepreneurial (and occasionally shady) contractor named, I kid you not, Nicholas If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hast-Been-Damned Barbon, came up with the idea of covering fire damage through insurance. His company was named, appropriately enough, The Insurance Office.

None of this mattered at the time, of course. The bodies of those overwhelmed by the Fire would be found for a time after it had been contained, and pockets of smouldering debris in cellars popped up for months afterwards. There would be little sense of security for the survivors for a long time coming.

About Wednesday 29 August 1666

Peach  •  Link

It IS hard to imagine. Pepys was a man who hit his wife during (some) intense arguments, cheated regularly while jealously guarding against any perceived male competitors, and spent money liberally while vigorously denying Bess even small purchases without prior approval*. By todays standards he is, at minimum, obnoxiously overbearing. His sympathy for Lady Nelson, while not detailed, gives us a vaguely uncomfortable outline of the types of abuse even gentlewomen could and did endure. I'm glad to hear her second go at marriage was much happier.

*I don't mention his flaws to disparage him. It isn't fair to judge the past by our own standards, but I think we can agree that his behavior can be pretty outrageous from our point of view.

About Tuesday 28 August 1666

Peach  •  Link

Poor Sam; I've seen his pain. When I was in the Navy there were often clashes between lower enlisted that were capable and competent, and officers who were demanding either the impossible or the illegal. It always helped to have a bulldog senior enlisted (or prior-enlisted senior officer) willing to go to the mat and force the officer's hand, and done well it resulted in some bruised ego for the upper eschelons but a much relieved sailor who would go gratefully back to his job. Looks like Sam has the benefit of a bulldog on his side AND the confidence in his own work to stand on.

It's interesting to see the natal version of what would become the modern Navy. I wonder at what point we lost the "gentlemen officer" and switched to a purely professional force. I wonder if Sam would be impressed or horrified at how we do things now. I bet, either way, he'd have some suggestions...

About Friday 24 August 1666

Peach  •  Link

I don't know, it might be his only real paying gig. Lord knows contracting for the government isn't a this point. Gotta do something to keep the pasties on the table. The promise of cold, hard cash in a time when people are going without payment for months on end for services rendered to a broke state might make Mr. Sympson more than willing to help an officious little bureaucrat putter around in his office. And he got a free meal out of it, to boot.

About Thursday 2 August 1666

Peach  •  Link

Poor Mrs. Balty. Her husband was only home for, what?, two days in the last several months? And in that time she went from almost ready to "lie in" to tripping, falling, and miscarrying, presumably after a long and painful labor. Sure, Bess visited a couple times, but it must have been a terrible, lonely time for her. Now she is afraid her husband might be dead too...

About Monday 23 July 1666

Peach  •  Link

If anyone is interested, and perhaps it has even been mentioned here and I am just missing it, English historian Ian Mortimer has a wonderful series of books called "The Time Traveller's Guide To" Specifically, there is a "The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration England", in which our man Sam plays several prominent roles as a reference and citation. I bring it up because there is an entire section dedicated to 17th century entertainment, including sports. He also has books for Medieval and Elizabethan England.

About Saturday 21 July 1666

Peach  •  Link

I can only assume officers had entourages then as they do now. It's never JUST a Captain; it's usually Captain, XO, several senior officers, a contingent of junior officers, some senior enlisted, and a junior enlisted to take notes or run messages. The average orbit of an Admiral pushes 20 personnel. The gaggle of hangers-on must be worse when the officers are actual nobility/gentry, too. Plus with all the favors and nepotism going on, a few extra "open positions" on any given ship might free up if some officer's buddy needed cash or glory. All to the chagrin of poor ol' Sam, trying so hard to keep accurate books and forecasts of supplies...

About Wednesday 18 July 1666

Peach  •  Link

The information on salt petre brings to mind the lovely little boot camp myth that Uncle Sam spikes the eggs with said chemical, in order to suppress "carnal urges". Considering the gossip that goes around a compartment during those 6-13 weeks (depending on branch of service), it is of varying efficacy.

Seriously though if something like that actually happens, it's less likely to be in the food and more likely to be in whatever oodles of shots are given in the first week.

As for Sam...well, he probably couldn't have hurt for a little salt petre, perhaps right along side his lucky rabbit's foot and cups of sacke. I'm sure Bagwell, Mitchell, et al. would've appreciated the attempt, at least.