Annotations and comments

Sasha Clarkson has posted 752 annotations/comments since 16 February 2013.


Second Reading

About Wednesday 20 November 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

The crucial thing about today's news is that it is "nothing ... but what Ned Pickering tells me". Pickering is currently a jealous poor relation, being Sandwich's brother "in law in law" via Sandwich's sister. His elder brother Gilbert was a regicide who had his bacon (and lands) saved by Sandwich obtaining a pardon for him. Ned's dubious gossip often has the flavour of anticipated Schadenfreude.

The important revenge, against the regicides, having already been taken, I don't buy that there is a Machiavellian plot by Charles to destroy all Commonwealth/Protectorate supporters. Some, like Sandwich's cousin Manchester, now Lord Chamberlain, had very illustrious careers under the restoration. However, the new court is a venial place; the way to the top is by flattery, bribery and backstabbery. Sandwich has always been a moderate, and is a bit too honourable to thrive in this environment; also, being abroad, he can't defend himself easily against intrigue.

About Monday 18 November 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Snide and anachronistic comments and value judgements contribute nothing to our understanding of Pepys' times. Is there any evidence that Sam was regarded as a drunkard by his contemporaries? No, because he held down his job and functioned socially at least as well as his superiors like Admiral Penn. Hence he increased in wealth and influence over the next couple of decades. Pepys' alcohol consumption was normal for his time and class: had it not been, encyclopaedia biographies would mention the exceptional part that alcohol played in his life. Apart from a single incident whilst he was a student at Cambridge, they don't, and Sam lived to a decent old age despite his chronic kidney problems.

The term "alcoholic" did not exist in the 17th century, nor were there even any temperance movements anywhere until around the time of the American Revolution. In cities, these were the days when, because of poor water quality, those who drank beer for breakfast had a longer life expectancy than those who didn't.

When temperance movements did begin, they were largely a reaction to the increased prevalence of strong spirits, and the damage they did to the poor. Even Quakers did not come to temperance until the 19th century; prior to that many were involved in the brewing trade. According to Quaker historian Adrian Cadbury, "Although much concerned with the scourge of cheap spirits, brewing ale was considered acceptable."

Alcoholism, clinically, refers to a disease of addiction and not merely to the regular use of alcohol. That being drunk and being merry are the same thing was not the general view in Pepys time, nor is it now.

About Thursday 14 November 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

"November is a little early". Today for Pepys would be the 24th November in the Gregorian calendar, so less than four weeks to the winter solstice.

About Sunday 10 November 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Canary wine was fortified wine, like sweet sherry. It was probably made from the Malvazio/Malmsey grape like sweet Madeira. It would have been stronger than ordinary wine, and perhaps been more of an irritant to Sam's perpetual kidney problem.

The Canary wine trade was wrecked by the Oidium/powdery mildew plague which arrived from America in the mid-19th century. Unlike with Madeira, the trade never recovered; some Canary was labelled as Sherry in subsequent years.

About Friday 8 November 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

"I found Sir J. Minnes a fine gentleman and a very good scholler."

I wonder whether this is the first recorded instance of the term "a gentleman and a scholar" being used as a complement? :)

About Thursday 7 November 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

"Mr. Pett the Commissioner to dinner with me, he and I alone, my wife not being well"

This is interesting in that it perhaps helps us to read between the lines of the diary. Elizabeth's absence is specifically mentioned in today's diary; normally her presence might well have been taken for granted and therefore not have been noted.

About Tuesday 5 November 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

No Louise - 'seeming' in this context means pretending: he was escaping company he found disagreeable, in the hope that they would leave more quickly.

About Saturday 2 November 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Adding to Al Day's comment, slow matches were like a slower version the "blue touch paper" on the fireworks that we used to buy when I was young. Those of us with access to garden chemicals used to make our own by soaking newspaper in nitrate fertiliser solution and then drying it. It would be handy to make extended fuses for mischief and/or quick getaway purposes.

Boys will be boys, but poor Wayneman seems a bit dim. As has been mentioned, corporal punishment was the norm more or less universally in those days. Flogging was only abolished in the British Army in 1880, following the Cardwell reforms of 1868 - and that was in the teeth of the opposition of the entire officer class. It's quite possible that Sam was unusual in that it troubled him: it was a conscious decision and not the kind reflex reaction which was all too common in some schools even in my childhood.

About Monday 14 October 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

"... but lost my labour."

Before modern instant communications, so much time must have been wasted by people chasing each other around.

About Friday 11 October 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Sam isn't keen on either of the two Toms (although he holds the Doctor's brother Roger in high regard), so perhaps he is relieved to be able to hide upstairs out of the way while the family duty is done.

About Thursday 3 October 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Sam is a normal human being with loves, hates, likes, dislikes and prejudices. Why do we bother to read him?

Firstly, he is a voice from a different age, yet one in which the foundations of our modern world were being laid. Secondly, in a city which was soon to become the centre of a global political and commercial empire, he was in the thick of the political and social action. Thirdly he was intelligent, observant and honest in recording his opinions and impressions, without an eye over his shoulder about how history might judge him.

He was no saint, yet neither was he the most egregious of sinners. One must remember that the diary is a snapshot, and nowhere near the whole truth. Where he clearly dislikes someone, like Peg Kite, there will usually be a history to the relationship, and of course two sides to the story, the detail of which we are largely unaware. So taking sides is pointless: we should merely appreciate the scene painted for us with Sam's broad verbal brush.

About Sunday 29 September 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Discoloured sheets in books and manuscripts are also described as "foxed". The discolouration, typically brown, is known as "foxing".

About Saturday 28 September 1661

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Sir William has obviously forgiven Sam for his role in the recent practical joke.

Of course Batten, the instigator and hence the real "tankard prankard*", is away at the moment.

* Yes - I know the word doesn't exist, but it should! :)