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Stephane Chenard has posted 103 annotations/comments since 1 January 2021.

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About Friday 10 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

It seems that Sam collects his notes to write the Diary every 3-4 days. So, if anything has distracted him from the routine it could become apparent around Wednesday. Surely he's not libertine enough to disappear entirely into some week-long orgy, on which we suspect he would only be too happy to give us a report anyway. Could it just be the pressure of work? He seems to have quite a bit of discretion on how hard he works - his neglect of the Office last year was something he reproached himself, not something he ever said his bosses were calling him in about. He did, recently, moan on how the Office would run better if he really took control, perhaps he gave that a try? Or could there be something in the Office caseload, or in the current war scare for all the off-hand way he mentions it in the Diary, that especially preoccupies our bachelor? Something even more dire than the Committees' demands or the constant problems with ropeyards and captains.

Or is he just enraptured by the lives of saints in the Golden Legend?

And, correct on "weighing" the ships. Those things have been half-submerged for months. Some were so well made as to still be salvageable but many of them must have started to disintegrate, filling the river with more or less invisible driftwood and flotsam.

About Thursday 9 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Our own view, if we are to make historicall comparisons, is that the people of the early 21st century (to whom we send our regards) are not facing anything like the geopolitical situation which is plunging Europe into chaos a day's sailing from Sam's little world. The sudden, all-around mobilizations, the complicated and unstable alliances, the central power juggernaut intent on gobbling land while professing peace, all this seems sooo July 1914. Except of course that Europe already is at war, in fact in at least three of them as two other nasty little conflicts continue in Poland and Cyprus (with totally insane trench warfare in the latter case), to say nothing of the colonies. England can really pat itself on the back for being an island.

It surfaces, by the way, that the Spanish force which the Navy is supposed to "convoy" through the Channel on its way to the Flemish front and amid French warships, is of 10,000 men. Go ahead and convoy that.

About Thursday 9 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Sam seems to have been so busy at the office today, that he didn't find time for his letters in the morning sitting. Yesterday, when he reported working on the "great hurry to be made in the fitting forth of this present little fleet", he may have been handed an extremely scary, and no doubt very sensitive, request from Mr. Wren to the Commissioners, which falls right into his area of expertise and

"Asks for an estimate of the charge of transporting 4,000 foot to Ostend, to be made two ways, one upon the King's ships, and the other upon hired vessels." (https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=gCk5AQAAM…)

Left unsaid and hanging in the air is whose men, to do what, on what conditions, and how the French would react if England went from doing its thing as a naval power, to stepping so squarely into the land war.

The other source of Intelligence at our disposall, the Gazette (and no wonder it's in such demand these days) reports (in Nos. 248 and 249) that, even as the plenipotentiaries are assembling at Aix-la-Chapelle, no one is using the truce which Louis has declared until April 10 to learn silk painting and that, instead, tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of warships are converging on the Netherlands - perhaps because there's nothing like putting a gun on the table at the start of negotiations, and no less likely to be ready in case the talks just break down. By coincidence, 4,000 men is also the size of the contingents which the Swiss have agreed to provide to Spain, and of new levies the French are raising to send north. Holland is hurriedly arming 60 men-of-war and frigates, putting its entire fleet on hair-trigger readiness, and is massing troops at Berg-op-Zoom on the border. Sweden has agreed to provide 12,000 men - perhaps some of those could have to come on English ships. Even the Russians are looking to gang up on Louis, with an incredible offer by the Grand Duke of Muscovy, who's been in Madrid, of helping Spain with 40,000 men!

So, it's raining men, and someone in Westminster wants Sam's shop to do a quick costing on putting a finger into the meat grinder.

About Tuesday 7 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

"Great hurry to be made" in particular about the gun crews, which the Ordnance Office was despairing of getting back. Just step back, gents, and let Sam Pepys work his magic network:

April 7, Portsmouth: Capt. John Tinker to Sam. Pepys. Has ordered the gunner of each ship to attend the Ordnance Officers, to get their stores ready to put aboard as soon as the ships are ready to take them. (https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=gCk5AQAAM…)

And, voilà. Anything else?

About Monday 6 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Dear Sam: Congratulations on another spectacular day. Now, why not save some ink and stop it with the protestations that all this praise affronts your modesty? You did enjoy lending HRH your cloak so much that, when you remembered it after closing the day's entry, you did rush back to the page to make sure it was recorded. Come on!

And, the French. Always the French. The intelligence couldn't be more confused. Just today, Thomas Holden in the same letter from Falmouth had a report from a ship come out of La Rochelle "that there is no talk there of a war with England", and a report from Allin's vessel "that we are like to have a speedy war with France". Now we worry that Allin, who even had "a skirmish" with the French, might just be smarting for action when everything is so precariously balanced. Someone on Allin's frigate said "they were cruising off the Lizard to meet the Spanish fleet, and convoy them through the Channel". Beaufort's fleet is there too, but to keep the Spanish from reinforcing their forces in Flanders. How do we wish there was an Economic Exclusive Zone in which it would be OK to convoy the Spanish, to let the French slaughter them in international waters if that be their pleasure. Both sides are now fighting harder than ever to gain the most advantage for when the music stops. Tomorrow, in fact, the Gazette will get a report from Brussels of the Spanish arresting all the French they can find, presumably because hostages are so handy in peace negotiations.

(Holden's letter is at https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=gCk5AQAAM…. The Gazette notice will be in No. 248, page 2).

About Sunday 5 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

5 April, Chatham. Commissioner Thos. Middleton to Sam. Pepys. As to Major Nicholl’s charge for raising the wrecks in the river, it is a thing that should be done upon almost any terms, because the longer they remain the greater is the damage to the river; but the charge should be fixed. He says they will not be worth above 300l. when raised; I will undertake to give him 500l. for them, believing they will be worth 1,000l.; all anchors and cables and guns found in them should be delivered to his Majesty. I think Gould the fittest man, and have spoken to him, offering him 4 ships fitted with all materials, but he to provide any further supplies needed. He asks 10 or 12 men at the King’s charge for each ship. I think this would be better than for the King’s stores to be liable to be robbed at the fancy of another. I promised him the bottoms of the wrecks that lay dry at low water. The work must be done, or farewell in a short time to the Medway. For the Vanguard’s bowsprit Gould demanded 60l.; I offered him 30l., which it is worth, and presume he will let you have it if you pay ready money. I have bought oars for the Greenwich, and paid for them. I want calkers, as every ship that comes wants as much joiners’ work as when built.

You cannot do the King better service than to dismiss all the carpenters, boatmen, pursers, and cooks out of the ships so abused, as it will be an example; but as long as such outrages are committed and connived at, it makes the offenders incorrigible, believing that their superiors are like themselves, and so dare not find fault with them. I have ordered a notice to be put up at the gate that the man who absents himself one day without leave shall forfeit 2 days’ work, and if 2 forfeit 4, and if 3 to be made run, and the clerk of the cheque is not to spare any man, either from favour or affection.

Things are not in good order here, for want of a general inspector who knows the duty of every person in the yard. The Greenwich has gone down to-day. The gunner of the Defiance is not found yet. I used to think those at Portsmouth the worst people in the world, but they are saints compared with these at Chatham. I have surveyed the materials in the Hill house, and find many things wanting. Particulars of a survey of the hemp stores. I think the mast-master, though unfit for his place, should not have been dismissed unheard; I will try to find one in his stead. Suggestions of alterations in the officers of the yard.

(https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-paper…)

About Sunday 5 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

On this slightly discombobulated, Bess-less Lord's day, Sam between going to church twice and to his musique thrice, gives us a glimpse of the Office routine that the Diary otherwise mostly skips: "much work that is not made the work of any one man, but of all, and so is never done". Oh, the interminable, overstuffed meetings that decide nothing, how we can imagine you there, fidgeting and sighing and straining to contradict (yet again) and to offer (yet another) brilliant suggestion. Oh, the misplaced files, the lost invoices, the unopened letters. Of course no diarist is so perverse as to take an hour each night to memorialize those, and the Diary is for the fun and exciting stuff, the Council meetings and such.

So, you want total control? You realize it could require more than the 3-4 hours you currently seem to pull daily in the office, and what that will do to the theater attendance, the musick lessons, the baisers-la and the strolls with the nobility, not to mention the old eyesight?

By coincidence, Middleton today is writing you from Chatham a particularly awesome, 9-page letter, where he lists a good two dozen instances of his appointing such, and negotiating that price, and recommending that you dismiss so and so (everyone, in some cases), and he nailed a notice, and it's all terribly urgent otherwise all these hulks rotting in the estuary since last year will block it for good and it will be "farewell in a short time to the Medway". And it will be your fault! Just that letter could take the whole of tomorrow morning to unpack. And it's only the State Papers, but for every letter to your name in there, there's three or four to "the Commissioners".

About Saturday 4 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Sam's friend John Banks had gone to the trouble of writing the letter which the State Papers summarize thusly:

-- Sir John Banks to Sam. Pepys. Cannot wait on the Board, but desires that they will sign [Wm.] Chambers’ and [Hen.] Higford’s bills upon the Exchequer, or the parties concerned will wait on them to request fair proceeding, being assured by their friends in Parliament and Council that their Honours should not have thus long forborne to pass those assignments which are their due. Has no interest further than to assist neighbours, knowing what mischiefs they are exposed to for want of their money. (No. 306, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-paper…)

The letter is still full of hope and dated of this day from Lee, a good 20 km from Westminster on the A20, so it looks like Banks spent at least a couple of hours in his coach to hand it over to Sam. We hope he had other business in town, and maybe it's a good thing he didn't wait for the answer.

"Ah, Sir John. I really worked hard for you today, old chap. Went all the way to His Majesty, with His Royal Highness himself. This being 3 of the afternoon, His Majesty was still asleep of course, but His Royal Highness told us the most incredible things about the weather. Did you know that the geese, before rain, make this peculiar call - like this: quack, quack, quaaack. Anyway, yes. The King emerged, scratching and yawning, and he scribbled 'OK -- C2K' on a warrant for us to buy stuff and not pay for it. 'Coz we're the best! His Majesty then told us - did you know this? - that Adam in the Garden had been thought by some wit to 'suck on the apple', can you imagine, how would one even do this? Aye, you heard me right. Oh, and a most droll story about... quaker oaths! You get it? Why, Sir John, you're not laughing."

About Thursday 2 April 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

We wager that talk at the Office and at the King's Head today featured the word "gunners". Recall, that troublesome caste had been noted a few days ago for staying home with their retinues of servants. Today they appear in two letters of April 2, from the Ordnance Office to the Commissioners ("We desire you will order the gunners to wait upon us") and, writing from Chatham and so likely in response to a separate thread of complaints, by Commissioner Middleton to Sam, who apparently had to be involved in these matters: "I have spoken to the gunners of the ships; they will observe his Royal Highness's instructions" -- good! -- "but will not yield further attendance" -- ah well, thanks for the observance anyway -- "or be under the boatswain's commands".

Interesting, that one; you could indeed expect the gunners to be more soldiers than seamen, and to be under a combat commander. This could have the advantage of allowing them to wallow in deck chairs between engagements, cocktails at hand and filing their gunpowder-encrusted fingernails, while the ordinary seamen run about. Maybe the command structure wasn't so cleanly partitioned, but it seems the gunners were of the opinion it should be (and, moreover, were moving as a pack). Or, being neither/both soldiers and seamen and less replaceable than either by pressed men, they find so many loopholes to exploit and leverage to flex. In any case the Ordnance Office, whose job is guns and gunpowder, seems to find them beyond its power.

So anyway, Sam had to know. Not that he can do much, surely. We imagine the big, burly gunners, in their wigs and lace and surrounded by their younger, equally roguish and fanatically devoted servants, sipping French wine in their castles, a purloined 8-pounder at the ready should - ha ha - one of the Navy Office come knocking... Unless of course he makes a correct offer? When is it again you want the fleet to sail? Hmm, and the French are streaming out of Brest, you say. Yes, more money will do. And a boatswain's head on a silver platter.

But, anyway squared, Middleton continues, "I believe the gunners and all the servants in the ship have run away, as no news is to be heard of any of them."

(State Papers Nos. 187 and 190, https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=gCk5AQAAM…)

About Sunday 29 March 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

We assure all women barbers of our highest consideration, and as the Five suggest, they existed, and in numbers, in the barber shops of the 1660s, though we've never read (have we) of Bess visiting her hairdresser. But Those Five were special! Notorious a hundred years on, they evoke a blend of the three witches, Sweeney Todd and bearded women. That they fled to the Barbadoes is ominous in itself, this not being an especially nice place one ordinarily went to by choice. The 1757 source, "The Lives and Adventures of Whitney, John Cottington, Alias Mul Sack, and Waters, Three Notorious Highwaymen, Etc", appears at https://books.google.fr/books?id=atVlAAAAcAAJ and is quite an exciting read. By coincidence, our bookseller the perspicacious Mr Google suggests that, if we care about this, we should also like a novel called "Runaway Necromancer". But now we stray far, far indeed from the little world of Sam Pepys...

About Monday 30 March 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

For the record, on the desk at which Sam briefly sat today, should have sat two long and complicated letters from Commissioner Middleton. Check them out at https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-paper… and see how you and your clerks would dispatch them before touring the galleries and lunch. Both deal in part with one of the current main projects, salvaging all those hulks sunk in the river, whose "bread-rooms (...) will have to be dried, rosined, lined, &c." One has, alongside the usual reports of Ropes Being Stolen, this interesting vignette, as we prepare to assemble the fleet: "The gunners omit their duty, not attending the ships they belong to, nor their servants either, and keeping their servants at home to attend them in their houses". So of course naval guns are heavy, high-tech systems with their own crew of specialists; and it seems they move as a group, the aristocratic gunners and their crowd of servants. Another complication.

About Monday 30 March 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

The duke of Beaufort, who crosses the radar today alongside De la Roche: Louis' "Grand Master of Navigation", but, by reputation, by far not the brightest bulb of the two. On Saturday the two of them (who do amount to a lot of brass, certainly) were reported from Dartsmouth to have sailed from Brest with a little fleet of 20 vessels, "to cruise in the chops of the Channel, to meet with the Spanish soldiers said to be coming out". [https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=gCk5AQAAM…] France and Spain are in peace talks, so maybe not much will happen there.

About Monday 30 March 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Apparently Denis Gauden, though he wrote from London today, wasn't part of the nice luncheon for our friends the Creditors of the Navy, but he sent his regards in a letter to the Commissioners. Its summary in the State Papers drips with the man's exasperation, starting briskly with, "I cannot supply the victuals for 12,820 men for 6 months, not having received one penny (...)" [https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=gCk5AQAAM…]

About Sunday 29 March 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Anne, duchess of Albermarle has got to be one of the most interesting characters in the Encyclopedia, where she lives at https://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/958. She seems to have been quite a dragon (and after all, "her mother was one of the five women barbers", eeeew, 'nuff said). She may also have been on the wrong side of history-writing, but she comes across as quite a resourceful and well-connected woman, and a rather dangerous enemy to make.

Sir W. should worry all the more that Sam has heard of his trashing "by several". And likely not at Westminster, since he found no one there to talk to. So more likely by one of the others he met today, or persons too low to be mentioned. And so there were other witnesses than the mice, and since none of Sam's companions today are especially close to power, the savoury news of this latest Outburst seems to be village talk already. It still causes chuckles 350 years on. It's a hundred years before Beaumarchais and Rossini put in another Barber (of Sevilla) that "calumny is a little breeze", but you can almost hear the theme already...

About Wednesday 25 March 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Actually there was a brief notice of the riots in the Gazette, the last one at the bottom of page 2, before the Advertisement, in No. 246 (March 23-26):

**** London, Mart. 25. Several Apprentices of this City, with whom some other idle persons joyned themselves, abusing the liberty given them these Holydayes, tumultuously got together, according to their former practices, to endeavour the pulling down of some houses of ill fame about the suburbs; but were upon the appearance of the Guards dispersed, and some of the number seized, and may in little time receive the just reward of their riotous and disorderly motions. ****

And now, the weather. Now, the article is at the very end after the shipping news and the dispatches from Warsaw, but that's often where it puts the good stuff, and it's rare when the Gazette covers the London street. Nobody in "this City" would have needed the news, so it's aimed at the good folks in the provinces and abroad who heard all those crazily distorted out-of-context rumors about... "riots", you say? Ha ha. Nothing to see here. No, we the Gazette-writing establishment absolutely did not get quite a nasty fright.

On the 28th however, possibly after reading this "nothing-wrong-in-Chernobyl" article, but wanting to check anyway, a Rich. Forster of faraway Newcastle still wrote to Williamson he "hears of the insurrection of the London apprentices, but hopes it is not true" (State Papers No. 97, https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=gCk5AQAAM…).

About Tuesday 24 March 1667/68

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

His Majesty should beware. Our seer tells us that other kings, under different skies and in future times, will also be dismissive of rioting students, fired up by a religious zeal to enforce purity and punish corruption, and they will live to sorely regret it.

About Saturday 21 March 1667/68

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

And, ah, young Monmouth in Paris. You could imagine some secret diplomatic mission about peace with Spain or whatnot, but there's professionals like Temple for that. No, the duke did what any young aristocrat with unlimited time and money would do at this time of year, and he went to Gay Paree for the Carnival. Our sources in the salons report he was given his own apartments in the Palais Royal, was showered with honors and has been quite the success there, until he managed to antagonize the duc d'Orléans (brother to TMC, the second-most ill-advised person to antagonize in Paris) by having such a good time with his wife. TMC had to intervene, and so Monmouth is now kindly excusing himself and going home. Carnival is over anyway. Ah, to be young again, and innocent like the gallant duke... Surely nothing sinister can attach to such a harmless little leprechaun. For now the story appears from page 71 of Anna Keay's "The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth" (Bloomsbury, 2016, on display in Mr. Google's bookshoppe at https://books.google.fr/books?id=S-pvCwAAQBAJ).

About Saturday 21 March 1667/68

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

There have been reports for some time of a 100-sail French fleet setting off in the Spring. They're in a total war with Spain, so no surprise. Just 4 days ago on 17 March Thomas Holden had sent from Falmouth: "The James of Dover has arrived with wine and brandy from Nantes. She (...) reports that they [the French] are likely to have a war there with Holland, but nothing is said concerning England; also that the French king will have 120 sail of frigates ready the next spring." If it's any comfort, The Most Christian ("TMC") is also having some recruitment problems, and his seamen "frequently run away after being pressed, although the King has passed a severe law against it; 50 French seamen would have come away in that ship, if the master would have carried them". Yeah, French seamen seeking refuge in England; a scene we're not likely to see again for centuries, if ever. (State Paper No. 175, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-paper…; also at https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=gCk5AQAAM…)

About Wednesday 18 March 1667/68

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

We second Charlie's advice to grab any naval volunteer while they're around. If anyone is mad enough to want to sign up for a service that notoriously pays late or not at all and is fairly likely to send them back dead or missing a leg, then let them sign up by all means, and put them to cleaning the decks or something (or sell them to Venice? That channel is still open). The incremental cost, measured largely in biscuits, will be minimal, there probably not being many of them anyway. All of Europe is on a hair trigger; aside from the very real possibility of sudden conflict aside, another war scare and they could all scamper away. And what's the alternative? It's springtime, they'll go back to the farm and won't reappear for 9 months. Or another De la Roche will shows up and recruit them away. Or they'll become Company men. Or worse, if they're really good, they'll go pyrate.