Annotations and comments

Sam Ursu has posted 24 annotations/comments since 23 April 2020.

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Second Reading

About Site statistics 2022

Sam Ursu  •  Link

I only caught the last nine months or so, so I'd definitely love a full trip 'round the Diary!

About The Next Chapter of Samuel Pepys

Sam Ursu  •  Link

Thank you for this wonderful epitaph!

Just wanted to point out that it's a little unclear how many men "jacked" Pepys and his friends:

"Sam, his lady friends and John, were robbed by two masked men. Although they were quite frightened, they were not harmed. Two of the robbers were caught, tried and hanged."

About Monday 31 May 1669

Sam Ursu  •  Link

I too join my voice to the chorus singing the praises of this wonderful diary and the people who put it together and contributed their knowledge, wisdom, and insight. This website is always my first stop in the morning. Thank you!

About Tuesday 27 April 1669

Sam Ursu  •  Link

I'll just add here that "nepotism" refers to Popes (and others) giving their children and family members sinecures and other remunerative posts in the Church, a source of condemnation by Protestant thinkers.

About Tuesday 27 April 1669

Sam Ursu  •  Link

"Nipote' is Itallian for both 'nephew' and 'grandson'."

To be clear, the same is true in Romanian (nepot) because they both inherited the custom from the Latin, although the meaning of "grandchild" is far older. The stem of the word nephew means "descendent" which is key to the origin of the word "nepotism" esp. in the Catholic context germane to this discussion.

In terms of the book Pepys was reading, the word "nephew" refers to the fact that many priests (and some Popes) sired children, and it became a custom to refer to these as their "nephews" since having children was forbidden.

About Monday 15 March 1668/69

Sam Ursu  •  Link

As for the meal - pretty sure Sam and William went to a trendy, new restaurant, chose a LIVE chicken that they wanted to eat, and then went to the park (to do what, I wonder?) while the chicken was killed, plucked, and then cooked/roasted to order. Good luck finding that kind of dining experience in Britain anymore!

As for the price, I get the feeling he was saying "Yeah, it was a little expensive, but totally worth it." Especially when it seems that most places were serving cold (pre-cooked) meat in those days.

About Friday 26 February 1668/69

Sam Ursu  •  Link

Skipping work and going to the theater, followed by a "treat"? Sounds like Sam took himself a "mental health day," as they say these days.

About Friday 19 February 1668/69

Sam Ursu  •  Link

"All the afternoon I at the Office, while the young people went to see Bedlam."

Pretty sure this refers to the entertainment activity of Londoners paying to tour the Bedlam mental hospital.

My understanding is that the hospital was relocated in 1676 to a brand-new location, but the work was ongoing for several years, so possibly also underway in 1669. I also read that the Bedlam governor was actively promoting visitors "of Quality" at this time to donate to finance that new construction.

Usually, we think of touring Bedlam and viewing the "mad lunaticks" for laughs as a Georgian thing (late 1700s), but it does seem to be well underway in Pepys's era as well.

About Tuesday 16 February 1668/69

Sam Ursu  •  Link

"among which some clothes for my wife, wherein she is likely to lead me to the expence of so much money as vexed me; but I seemed so, more than I at this time was, only to prevent her taking too much, and she was mighty calm under it."

Sounds like Bess needs her own credit card and Amazon account.

About Sunday 20 December 1668

Sam Ursu  •  Link

As noted, "striking topsails" is equivalent to bowing or taking the knee. It shows respect and obedience while, at the same time, making yourself vulnerable to an attack.

What's interesting is just how much the American colonists loathed this tradition. Hence:

"Historically, various countries have attempted to claim sovereignty over portions of the high seas and required that foreign ships passing through those seas salute the ships and forts of the coastal states by lowering their flags, taking in their sails, and so on. Over the centuries, such claims came to be rejected."

As such, American warships never struck topsails (or the modern equivalent - dipping the ensign flag) to any foreign warship. Much more on this here:

In other words, Pepys was making an illusion to France "bending the knee" to Britain.

About Thursday 26 November 1668

Sam Ursu  •  Link

Those tally sticks were probably the craziest monetary system ever devised. Literally every other form of money, including coins, cuneiform tablets, jade, beads, and cowry shells, were made out of durable materials while the tally sticks were made from willow wood and about as long as an adult's finger. Furthermore, the tally sticks were notched and notated before being split in half.

As such, they were subject to being destroyed or rendered useless by fire, dampness (rot), or simply rough handling. Charles Dickens himself wrote a rather hilarious piece about the tally sticks.

Whether bad luck or just karma, the last act of the tally sticks (after being in use for CENTURIES) was burning down the medieval palace of Winchester (which became the Parliament, and still is, today) when one of the Lords decided to burn the "two cartloads" of superfluous sticks in-house "instead of distributing them as firewood" to MPs. Since the fireplaces in Parliament were designed for burning coal, not wood, the flues caught on fire and bye-bye, Winchester.…

About Wednesday 25 November 1668

Sam Ursu  •  Link

A couple notes about the sembrador (Spanish for a person, and, by allusion, a machine, that sows seeds).

Even though animal-drawn plows (or ploughs) were commonplace in the England of Pepys' time, the actual sowing of seeds was still largely done by hand. A person would wear a bag of seeds over one shoulder with the pouch in front (not unlike a modern "messenger bag") and take measured strides, flinging seeds left with one step and right with the next.

Some gardeners even today remember an English old rhyme about this job: one for the rook (in some versions, it's a mouse), one for the crow, one to rot, and one to grow - referring to the fact that only about 1 in 4 seeds took root and grew into a harvestable crop with the traditional hand sowing method.

The "sembrador" and other seed propagation devices (today, they're usually called "seed drills") both keep the distribution of seeds far more even than hand sowing as well as help place the seeds at the correct depth. This led to a LOT more efficiency so that three-fourths of the seeds were no longer lost.

Pretty easy to see why Pepys et al were so excited about it!

About Thursday 19 November 1668

Sam Ursu  •  Link

"but I have the confidence to deny it to the perjury of myself"

The way I read this, he was saying that his promises about not seeing Deb again were TRUE because otherwise, he'd be perjuring himself because of the oath given to Hewer.

In other words, he's saying, "Bess, I might've lied to you before, but now that I swore an oath in front of a witness (Hewer), I'd be severely embarrassing myself if I end up breaking my word."

But my interpretation may be wrong...

About Monday 28 September 1668

Sam Ursu  •  Link

Sam clearly states that he was standing, and the candle was brought in to seal a letter, so the candle was probably sitting on a WRITING desk. Writing desks were usually sloped, so the candle could have been perched on the upper part of the desk.

Depending on how much time Sam was standing there or how long his periwig was, it seems perfectly feasible for it to catch fire, although the way he describes it makes it seem like it must've been over the flame for several minutes before anyone noticed. However, since the entire wig didn't catch on fire, it was probably more of a smoldering burn (and a rather horrific smell) than actually being set alight, even though it did make a "strange noise."

In 2004, a rabbinical ruling in New York caused several Orthodox women to burn their (real human hair) wigs. I had a look at some of the footage today, and it does seem that wigs do not burn particularly well.

About Friday 25 September 1668

Sam Ursu  •  Link

I think it's worth mentioning here that it would take another 150 years before an army (Napoleon's) figured out how to (partially) provision itself with durable foodstuffs instead of relying on foraging (and theft) during campaigns. Indeed, most ships in Pepys' time were reliant on frequent stopovers to replenish supplies.

Simply put, the long-distance navies and merchant fleets that England and Holland were putting together in the 17th century were extraordinarily complex in terms of logistics, especially in terms of provisioning. The fact that their ships COULD go weeks at sea without all the sailors dying (Spain's perennial Achilles' heel) was the very reason why they dominated the globe.

About Wednesday 23 September 1668

Sam Ursu  •  Link

Kievit seems to be something of an aristocratic, one-man PR machine in his day, which probably explains how he convinced Evelyn to go all-in on the brick-making scheme to build a permanent embankment on the Thames in central London.

During the First Anglo-Dutch War, a key admiral, Cornelis Tromp, had extraordinarily bad luck with the wind and ended up getting his ships separated from the rest of the fleet (St. James Day Battle). Seen as an Orangist (pro-monarchist), Tromp was "vilified in the press" so to speak, but Kievit's sister was married to Tromp, and Kievit put out an influential pamphlet defending his brother-in-law's actions.

Kievit then began fomenting a coup against the (Republican) De Witt brothers in Holland, which led to Kievit getting exiled to England. But this openly pro-monarchical stance led to his being embraced by the newly restored English King (Charles 2). Kievit's allies then murdered (and ate the roasted livers!) of the De Witt brothers in a coup that finally succeeded in putting a royal on the throne (William 3). And then Cornelis Tromp got his revenge by blasting the English in the second Dutch-English War.

Kievit seems like a really nasty piece of work, but you have to admire just how deftly he managed to stay on the right side of history. Everyone in both England and Holland seems to have known just what a blackguard he was (he fomented at LEAST four different coup attempts), but because he was always acting to support royal power, he enjoyed a pretty swanky life.

PS - The Fire of London and the First Anglo-Dutch War more or less bankrupted Charles 2, which is probably the main reason why the brick embankment on the Thames was never built during his lifetime, rather than some flim-flammery on Kievit's part.