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has posted 164 annotations/comments since 1 January 2021.

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About Thursday 11 June 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

YES! Yes of course it was William PENN I meant, my lords, Penn not Pett, just a honest mistype, we swear, why, in no wise would our little satire EVER contemplate disregard, or disrespect, of your most rightful Condemnation of the despicable Mr. Penn, I mean Pett, Pett-Pett-Pett, my lords, of course not, such is the Very High Regard your lordships may be assured we have of Parliament, why, but absolutely my lords, and most especially your Most Dignified and Respectable Committee. Yes, yes, of course, yes, thank you so very much my lords.

Pfew. Close call. Thanks Sarah.

About Friday 12 June 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

My Lord Sandwich, still packing his bags in Madrid, is also very merry today, or was very recently, as his colleague from Venice, Catterin Belegno, is cabling home that "Sandovich is waiting for a ship to take him from St. Ander to London"; the Muscovite ambassador is leaving too, and "Presents of equal quality have been sent by the queen to both; to the English ambassador a very rich one and 4000 doubles as a contribution to his maintenance" […].

4,000 doublons! Gulp. In a country still dripping with gold and silver, that would be good money - 16,000 dollars judging from, "The famed Gold Doubloon was worth (...) approximately 4 dollars". At 53 shillings/Charles II silver dollar as per, and 20 shillings/pound, would that be, good Lord, £42,400??

Even assuming some confusion along the way between the various species of doublons and dollars in circulation, compare this with the budget of £4,000 which Parliament had granted Sandwich last year, which we had thought quite enough already.

Part of the rationale was that my Lord wouldn't have to pay for his drinks too often. Indeed; there he goes, the English ambassador, his pockets heavy with the host country's money. England and Spain are currently best friends, and 'tis but the normal courtesies of princes, but still. Most of it may have gone to the multitude of debts and unpaid bills that must have accumulated in his (wildly successful) two years' tenure, but 4,000 still looks like a nicely round number. Surely the Queen, if she agreed to cover those costs, would have generously covered them entirely, and then some.

Sandwich, as he relaxes on his way home, can certainly pay the $4 they charge for a whisky even in first class, make plans to fund his own crusade to liberate Crete from the Turks, and hope that no one in London will ever know or care about the "very rich... contribution to his maintenance".

About Thursday 11 June 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Let us spare a thought for Will Murford, as he briefly surfaced from among the human office equipment known as "my Clerks", and won't reappear. Sam regularly feeds them and banters with them at his own table, as a feudal lord his retainers. But their lives, opinions, jokes, anecdotes and theater reviews are lost to us, as he does not sees them fit to record any more than yesterday's ink-change to the copy machine.

Murford, then, gets one-and-a-half line in Robert Latham's 600-page Pepys Companion (UC Press, 2000, At least he will forever be "young Murford". Indeed on his previous appearance, again accompanying Sam into the country, he rode his own horse alongside Sam's coach, so, as befits a messenger, he was (then) a swift and supple young man, good enough a rider for the Navy's communications. On his last appearance, back on October 7-9, he was also derided as the guy "not knowing how to open our door", among "other pleasant simplicities". A messenger however had to have enough wits to deal with the road's many complications (highwaymen, floods, lame horses, full inns, bad roads, bad guides, weather, no signage, detours, getting lost in the woods, more highwaymen, etc); maybe he was in training. On that particular trip Sam also happened to dig out the remainder of his buried gold from Brampton, so there would have had to be some trust between Sam and young Murford.

So why is he here? Did he need vacations too? Fun enough to be in the entourage? Just part of the security detail? Happens to know the road? His being a messenger can't be accidental.

"Mr Pepys", commissioner Pett had told Sam last week, "I'm so happy for you that His Grace granted this vacation, you surely deserve it, but, ah, if urgent matters should come up, uh..."

"Well, I won't be here for them, I'm afraid".

"At least can you take a messenger and check in once in a while?"

And so Sam, workaholic that he is, equipped with the latest in portable scriptoriums, is constantly checking on Murford - to Bess' despair that he can't let go of work, even here. They're about a 10-hour ride to London now, as the post goes (the State Papers' "Post Labels" collection, e.g. at…, shows Bristol-London to have taken ~24 hours in 1667, with stops). He can shuttle back to the office every night.

Alas, despite all the Post Office propaganda on how their high-speed network covers all of England, Mumford always shakes his head: Nope, no service here; road not good enough. Or it's the horse that constantly needs some hay - every inn they enter, the first query is, "can we recharge the horses here?"

But if he can't be used for communication, at least Mumford has games; he can juggle, and knows card tricks, and recites stories. A most usefull device of a man to have around; you do get to depend on the convenience...

About Monday 8 June 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

So, Mr. Pepys, welcome back. And you had thought of retiring early to Brampton? See how empty the past couple of days have been, how dull the conversation, how all alike those sheep are, and how you sprang back to life on this little escapade to Newport, like a withered plant that finally got water? But now there you are, buzzing about, moving non-stop, visiting the crypt, clambering on the leads, seething with impatience at those sloths who can't keep up and -- the horror -- waste your time. And spending money! That, Hewer, is life!

Of course a Natural Philosopher could have filled pages with inventories of grasshoppers, Proust would have explored the endless reaches of his inner feelings... but not you. It's only when this bridge of many arches came into view that the spark returned.

Or perhaps..? Papa Pepys, seeing how this time you wouldn't just flit in and out like a tourist, put you to work a little? "There's 25 carts of hay to bring in and the rain is coming - We need every pair of arms!" "Sweet lord, son, here everybody knows what to do when the calf's coming out sideways". "We've fattened this pig for when you'd take the time to stay at last - the honour of killing it is yours! Take this knife".

Sam and Will Hewer, back-broken after those three hours of fieldwork, are now sprawled on benches in some farmyard and sample the surprisingly strong booze these country folk brew around here. Sam fumbles with his notebook and gives up.

"Uhhh no I can't", Sam says, slurring his words. Will nods in sympathy. "And you know what, Will, even here, they're heeere, watchin' me - so I gan't".

"Who's here, boss? The children?" (Two dozen are always here of course, watching the strangers' every move).

"Nuuh - Them who watch when I write, Will. I can feel them. The people from the vut... from the future".

"People from the future watch when you write, boss? Wow, far out." But Sam is snoring away already, head on the rough table in his spilled liquor. One of the kids discreetly sponges the drink with his sleeve.

About Tuesday 2 June 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Early morning at the Office. Hewer brings Sam's mail, neatly sorted into the usual three piles: The State business, to be dispatched with all Diligence; the sob stories from suppliers and unpaid sailors, to be fobbed off if at all possible; and the cranks. Everyday there's a few, especially since The Speech made Sam a celeb.

Hewer has saved this one for last: "So, she's an old lady in Woolwich, and the hubby worked all his life at the dockyards there, and she says he never got a penny in ten years and has now died, &c."

"How sad. How does this belong in the nut file?"

"Well she does want money, but if you can't pay up, she wants you - and I'm quoting her, boss, understand - to 'lay with me, and pay with Seed, and beget me a golden-haired child'".

"Ho-hoo". The two other clerks in the room have put down their quills and raised noses from account books.

"And wait, if you wouldn't do it, there's an ultimatum: 'I shall wait until the end of Summer, this being the most Auspicious season, and by the Arts of my black cat, rat and bat, heed me now: In one year to this day, we will be joyous with our newborn son, or you will be afflicted by a Great Sorrow'".

The others guffaw and start making bawdy rhymes in -at. Sam only gives Hewer and his letter a thin smile. Asks him to destroy the letter, given how it could get the old woman of Woolwich in real trouble if found by less open-minded authorities. Rubs his eyes, already painful after a couple of hours of letter-writing. "A year from now, eh?"

About Tuesday 2 June 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Quick, quick, they might still be open:

Mr. Ogilby's Lottery of Books (Adventurers comming in ſo fast that they cannot in ſo ſhort time be methodically regiſtred) opens not till Tueſday the 2d of June; then not failing to draw: at the Old Theater between Lincolns-Inn-Fields and Vere-ſtreet.

This in Gazette No. 263, page 2. But nay, la House de Bagwell is so much more interesting a place to be today. But Ogilby (a.k.a. Ogleby) was a cartographer and printer of distinction, and our Sam did try his luck once at the auctions he arranged from time to time, his work presumably being in more demand than he could supply readily (in early 1666, see In this case the Adventurers came fast indeed, because Ogilby had already advertised his Lottery in Gazette No. 262 as opening on May 25.

Notice also, how the Adventurers must be methodically regiſtred. 'Tis the new way, do all things methodically.

About Saturday 30 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

-- Another letter, somewhat stranger, will come from "Commissioner Peter Pett" - well, ex-Commissioner, shouldn't it be. He writes Sam, anyway, about private business: it's that "the key of the King's house in which I lived at Chatham was demanded from my son or servant", and Pett frets that now his stuff is going to go astray, so "I desire and order to Mr. Norman to take notice of what things are in the house", and he has papers to prove he owns this and that. He must be trusting Sam as a friend, or Sam is just the human switchboard through whom all such orders should pass if one wants them carried out, or it's actually part of his sprawling job description, as concierge to the naval grounds at Chatham and all they encompass. The fun part are the only two examples, perhaps closest to heart, that Pett gives "my own goods": "a lead dial, brewing vessels, &c." [State Papers No. 170,…].

Of all things. Brewing vessels, OK. Beer-making is commonplace enough, though from a wealthy, high-level civil servant one could have expected something grander to pop out as Example No. 2 of My Goods. But what on earth is Example No. 1, the "lead dial"? A sundial made of lead? Surely not. It sounds somewhat... alchymical.

About Saturday 30 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Also worth recording today are two letters, to which Sam will pay attention if he can steer his mind from those visions of naked dancing ladies (Sam? Sam! Mr. Pepys, please! The mail!)

-- One, dated "4 p.m., Navy Office", was likely written by Captain Perriman while Sam in his bombazin suit was doing his ethnographic survey of the London rakes. As it happens the cap'n was at the Exchange too (who wasn't?) and has "spoken to some masters bound for Barbadoes, [who] all demand 40s. per ton for carriage of goods. The Thomas and Edward is ready, and has room for 60 tons". Those tons of goods may be going toward the substantial work there is to do in the Caribbean territories which France returned to England under the treaty of Breda, sometimes after thoroughly stripping them. Coincidentally a "Sir Tobias Bridge and the Officers of his regiment" had petitioned the King on the 27th from Barbadoes, to complain that "soldiers and officers are very naked and necessitous" [State Papers, domestic No. 169 at…, and colonial No. 115 at…].

One wonders if the captain, trudging from master to master on a hot day (and likely from pint to pint, as two fellow sea salts surely wouldn't discuss chartering rates on dry throats), was inconvenienced in his discussions by the loud racket coming from those rakes over there, and was at all flustered not to find Sam at his desk to receive his day's hard-won information ("Mr. Pepys was called to an urgent meeting by the duke, captain", Hewer dutifully tells the sweaty, not-too-steady captain). Or if, who knows, he's not just memorializing the information, still woozy from the rollin' good time he just had with Sam and all those madams. A look at the original MS, and whether it's written in a steady hand on good paper or scrawled on a crumply bar bill with grease stains, would tell us.

About Thursday 28 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

At the Old Swan Sam finds the latest Gazette (No. 262, articles datelined through May 25). By now it's gone through a lot of greasy fingers and is a bit tattered, but with all these travels Sam hasn't seen it this week, and anyway at the Office it disappears as soon as it comes in.

Mercer and Gayet scan it as best they can and immediately hit upon the one story (on page 1, for once) most likely to make the rounds in the taverns, and have Sam read it for them:

"Lisbon, April 20 (...) From Braſille we have advice of the arrival in the Bay there of two very considerable Ships from the East Indies; which may in probability be expected here in June or July following. By them were brought Letters from the [Portuguese] Vice-roy of India, giving an account that being on his way from hence to Goa, upon the Coast of Perſia, he met with two ſhips from some of the Iſlands of India, one of them having on board a Princesse intending for Meccha, with Jewels, Gold and Silver to the value of a Million of Crowns, which she designed as an Offering to Mahomet; both which ships he ſeized and carried with him to Goa, expecting a considerable Ransome for the Princeſs."

(Williamson may have thought the month-old story didn't deserve to take up so much space on page 1 from the more interesting visit of the Prince of This to the Duke of That, but Muddiman insisted: "Gold, jewels, a captive princess - THAT is how you sell a Gazette, Joseph!")

Wow, Sam thinks. That letter has gone Goa to Melacca, across the entire Pacific, round the Magellanick Islands, up to Brazil, and across the Atlantic... Those Portuguese do get around.

The Mahometans make gold offerings, at Mecca? No wonder the pirates are starting to line up, out there... And if this happened, say, six months ago... The winds in the Indian Ocean would have been just right to go east to west, and deliver the ship to their ambush down the Red Sea.

"Ooooh", Mercer says, making a face, "Susan, imagine if our Sam was a pyrate! Would he give the treasure to the King and keep the princess, or the reverse?"

"And would he give us any of the jewels", Mercer adds.

"Hmpf, I'd keep everything of course", Sam says.

But the story has called up the faint, almost exactly decade-old memory of Francisco the venturesome Spanish marquis, captured with his treasure also... God only knows where his friend is now, back to his Indians in America maybe. If the damn stone hadn't kept him pinned in England, Sam could have... Ah, but the Providence decided otherwise. Roads diverge. Maybe someday.

Mercer rescues Sam from the gathering funk - not helped perhaps by all the drink. "Let's sing another!"

[On how the capture of Indian treasure ships coming to and from Mecca would very soon become one of the biggest rackets in history, we recommend Jan Rogoziński's fantastic study of late 17C piracy, "Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Pirate Democracy in the Indian Ocean"; Stackpole Books, 2000].

About Monday 25 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Early 1658. Two young men have a chat in the gardens of House Montagu, watching servants pile coaches with baggage.

"So, Samuel, what have you resolved? Are you coming with me to Madrid tomorrow, and on to America?"

"I fear not, Francisco. Not now, at least".

"Que? But, Samuel, think again of it – the adventure, the fortune I will rebuild, the many-colored birds, the endless forests. Is that not enough for your philosophy? Between your wits, my valor, my reach as a marqués, my brother's connections with the caciques, we would carve our own kingdom! You wouldn't be the first tailor's son to make it big out there, but here? What can you ever be? Secretary of the Navy?" He laughs at the notion, how droll, where did that even come from? "Out there, Samuel. What else is there to do in 1658, but go to America? What, is it your wife?"

"No, Bess rather fancies herself Queen of the Mapuches, too."

"So what? What future have you here with those Puritans? Your Oliver makes the English winter feel even colder to me than it is. In Peru we worship the Sun!"

"Possibly quite a future, under my lord Montagu, but to Spain he would let me go, I think. No Francisco, it's more trivial. It's my stone. It's getting bad. I have to get it cut soon. There's no way I can spend weeks on a ship."

About Monday 25 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Thank you Victoria, the additional color and detail this provides is much, much appreciated.

The sole remaining dissonance is Evelyn's reference to the marquis as "governor of Havannah". It seems Evelyn was confused, for Francisco López de Zúñiga does not appear anywhere in the list of colonial governors of Cuba (at…). He may have mentioned Havana as a stopover the family did make on their way to (they thought) Spain.

Instead he pretty much disappears from history, the 5th marqués de Baides, his name remembered mainly as the man who perhaps taught Sam his Spanish. What happened to him after his ransom was paid? He shows up in the comprehensive family tree maintained at as marrying a certain María Dávila y Córdoba, and having a daughter who will be made marquise de Arcícollar, but, tantalizingly, his dates of birth and death are unrecorded in any source we could find. The Spanish-language Wiki bio of López de Zúñiga senior (…) notes that Francisco's brother José, who had also been captured by England (or rather, by "piratas ingleses", as the notice puts it) returned to Chile as a Jesuit missionary and lived with the Indians, to whom governor López de Zúñiga seems to have been more sympathetic than most.

Francisco, according to Spain's Royal Academy of History (at…), didn't tarry either in this Europe "where he had never been before", and in 1670 became el "alcalde mayor [the big boss] de Zapotitlán", a somewhat obscure posting in Mexico which doesn't seem to have left much traces in 17th century history either, but may have had more appeal than a boring early retirement in some Spanish castle, and was actually more peaceful than Spain itself at the time.

With so many blank spots and ellipses, how can the imagination not be exercised?

About Monday 25 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link


Following always your new Instructions, and taking advantage of the Secrecy afforded by the darkness of the Hour at which Mr. Pepys had chosen to leave Cambridge, I followed him to his country estate in Brampton.

There I chanced, as all were making merry, to inspect Mr. Pepys' lodgings, and made the Discoverie of some papers he was but recently writing in the Spanish language. I did not seize the papers but made a Faithfull copy so they can be translated. Methink this revealls still more about Mr. Pepys than had met the eye, that he may already be far advanced into the Business of Quicksilver, but with Spaine our Rivall in this and so many other matters and mayhap as their Agent.

I found Mr. Pepys again at the Inn they call Goodee Gorram and, having conceal'd my features in a postiche beard and a broad hat, rode with their party as far as Huntingdon, passing myself for a local gentleman. And there I had to leave them, for I was powerless to attempt more and feared being unmasked.

I am, Mynheer, your most loyal and faithfull servant ever,
Cambridge, May 25th, 1668, the 6th hour of evening

[Special archive of the Dutch secret service, Den Haag, 5i778-k, Very Secret. With margin note possibly by Admiral De Ruyter: "Send this cretin to Suriname"].

About Monday 25 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Another source, "Samuel Pepys and Spain", a 1979 article by Edward M. Wilson (paywalled at, but maybe available elsewhere), references the marquis of Baides, with a tantalizing description of how he was born "neere the mountains of Potisi" - the famous silver mines of Potosi, now in Bolivia, which would square with Bryant's description of his being the son of the viceroy of Peru. Wilson sources this to Evelyn's diary, which, on February 10, 1657, does contain Bryant's quote but applies it, not explicitly to any marquis of Baides but to the unnamed "governor of Havannah, a brave, sober, valiant Spanish gentleman, taken by Captain Young, of Deptford". The marquis must have been the 3rd son of the governor of Chile listed at…, and, Evelyn says, "had never been in Europe before".

All the same, if that's the man who got Sam into Spain, what stories he must have had to tell, to a curious young man (of probably about the same age) like Sam. No wonder he convinced him to assemble the fantastic collection of Spanish plays he did - and did read, though somehow without picking up the right orthography for "mujer".

And what a fantastic connection Sam could have developed, should he ever need to use it, to the Viceroyalty of Peru and the giant mine of quicksilver just now being developed there, a couple weeks' ride north of Potosi...

About Monday 25 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

How cute that Sam considers Spanish the language of love... and how puzzling that, for as long as the Diary reveals, he writes "moher" and not "mujer". Not being ourselves so fluent in 17th century Spanish, we ascertained from (…) and a couple of other studies of Sam's hispanophilia, that moher was not the 1668 correct orthography of "mujer". Yes, yes, we know all about orthography not being standardized before the 19th century, but the experts say only Sam wrote "moher", and a search of Don Quixote in the original text (at indicates that Cervantes consistently wrote "muger". Not moher. So there.

But "moher" is how it was pronounced. So this helps address the more interesting question (to us) or where Sam learned Spanish. At college? It seems slightly unlikely that it was on the curriculum (though other men-of-the-world, such as Roger L'Estrange, also read and likely spoke Spanish), and the moher/mujer thing inclines us to think he learned orally, from a Spaniard, or at least a Spanish locutor.

How romantic if it was from Francisco López de Zúñiga, Marquis of Baides, whom Sam reportedly met in 1656 after the marquis had been captured by England in a sea-battle, and ended up rooming at Sandwich's. Annotator Michael Robinson had already pointed to him as a possible tutor to Sam (in 2008, at…), quoting from a 1943 bio of Sam by Arthur Bryant ("The Man in the Making"). Our bookseller Mr. Google let us have a sneak peek at volume 2 (at, search for "Peru"), which does mention the young marquis, as "the most troublesome prize of all" - unfortunately only a sneak peek, at what seems to have been a great story of power and downfall in the colonies.

About Sunday 24 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link


It is my sorrowful but necessary Duty to inform you that our efforts to carry out your new Instructions, to secure the Person of Mr. Pepys and to secrete him to Holland, were thwarted by an Enemy we seem to have mis-estimated.

Mr. Zachtedruk returned shortly before two in the morning to the Rose, with the new Orders from Your Grace and the Capture Team. They did not have time to draw swords, however, before they were set upon with the most savage and efficacious Violence by Mr. Pepys his young servant.

Captain van Vernietigen, who presently nurses a broken arm, was troubled to recognize the fighting style of the Chinee sect of Cha-o-lin he had encountered in the Eastern Indies when he served with the VOC, and said the young Achilles, before sending him flying through a window, told him to "give his best regards from 'My Boy' to the Raad van Stadt".

Mr. Pepys himself appeared shortly after we had withdrawn, yawning and complaining of the noise but seemingly oblivious of the events, which perhaps leaves us at some leisure to contemplate another attempt, at Your Excellencies' pleasure.

I am, Mynheer, your most faithful and devoted servant,
Cambridge, May 24, 1668, the 3rd hour in the morning

P.S. - Your Grace may want to procure fresh supplies of laudanum, as that we gave Mr. Pepys yesterday was apparently no longer potent.

About Sunday 24 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

It's possible Sam had his 'larum watch on the bedstand, but recall that in any case he spent a sleepless night because of "some drunken scholars making a noise all night". On a holiday's eve in Cambridge's inn district it is to be expected, though of course we can't be sure, as there is much the mists of time will occult...

About Saturday 23 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

It seems a scanning error has corrupted the end of "Clancularius"' letter. The Dutch secret service, having kindly checked the original MS in its archive, confirms it was dated from, of course, Cambridge.

About Saturday 23 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link


Pursuant to your Instructions, I contrived this day to spend several hours, and a most pleasant dinner, with Mr. Pepys of His Majesty's Naval Office, after tracking him to the coach he took on Bishopsgate Street, London on way to his country estate.

Mr. Pepys proved quite pliant, and to my relief I had no need of the services of Mr. Zachtedruk, your other agent whom you had adjoined me, or of his concealed Arsenal. Indeed I had no difficulty to steer our conversation to the pricing and readiest sources of quicksilver, or to convince Mr. Pepys of relaying to the Government what a splendid Idea it would be to buy the United Provinces's entire supply, at a small premium for Discretion and with financial Consideration for Mr. Pepys. The latter mentioned grand plans for buying a coach-and-six that are certain to be expensive.

Your Grace knows the doubts I entertained on the whole business of leveraging Dr. Sharrock's peculiar and unwholesome theories, which yourself had wisely declined to forward to The Hague, and the vice secretary of State's interest therein, into this mercurial venture. I do admit I should now recant such doubts, and it does seem the States of Holland may hope for the windfall you envisioned, all at England's expense and while finally getting rid of all those poisonous barrels that make everyone twitchy.

Our alternate Plan of securing Mr. Pepys and his thorough knowledge of the English Navy, remain a possibility as we have arranged to delay his travels by locking the stables and sending the coach's team of horses to a remote pasture. Mr. Pepys is presently fast asleep in his room on the laudanum I slipped in his claret. I will await your Grace's return instructions and pray that Mr. Zachtedruk's horse is fleet enough that I receive them early in the morrow. Pray also confirm that the ship at Felixstowe would be ready to sail at once.

I am, Mynheer, your most discreet and obedient servant,

Bishop's Stafford, May 23, 1668, the 10th hour at night

A note: Future generations of readers, if they puzzle at all this, may want to consult the annotations for May 14 and 18.

About Friday 22 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

We, too, have been wondering about Sam's apparently relaxed schedule. 'Twas not so earlier in his career, but we truly don't seem to know much about life in the Office. However we've seen allusions to working hours being enforced elsewhere in the administration. Is there a boss above Sam checking when he punches the clock? Apparently not, and if he chose to avoid burn-out then he was free to make that wise decision.

Maybe the Office was such a fluid place that Sam got a lot of leeway, but overall it kept the Navy going, and if it wouldn't have if it had been a happy shamble where one didn't have to work. And look at him, his constant, intimate encounters with the highest aristocracy, how he dresses like them, will (spoiler) soon have a coach like them, entertains them (not routinely, but still), has the occasional chat with the King himself... he's still middle-class enough to eat in ordinaries but he's fast becoming one of Them. And they don't work 9-to-5, do they. Papers prepared by others - the faceless entourage of "my clerks" that Sam now has - are perused and signed off in the morning, then it's off to the real business at the theater or Parliament, where the Kingdom is ruled not from behind a desk, but in little hallway chats with the earls and their own sherpas. (Speaking of which, Williamson: "I knew I'd find you at Martin Mar-all. Did you find me that info on quicksilver?" "I put one of my guys on it. Hey, nice wig.")

It's not the same Sam who gets these eye-wateringly boring "I need some planks" letters from Portsmouth that the State Papers preserve. Those have the feel of stuff that fell off Sam's desk while he dealt with the higher matters which the Diary suggest his days were filled with, or they were kicked over to some staffer who conscienciously filed them where future archivists would find them (some place that wouldn't burn in 1673, too, maybe some annex for the less-important stuff). Surely they're not all that crossed His desk, or even the main, but what do we really know either of the ways by which his letters ended in the State Papers around 1890? Their number ebbs randomly (we checked), and in fact this month, with all its Bess-is-away epicurianism, has more than average (around 30), as if more stuff than usual had fallen off.

About Thursday 21 May 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

No indeed, comets do not hang around, the Universe being a busy place where nothing stands idle, and let the record show that we're not suggesting otherwise. Most, however, travel in the same plane as the Earth, and we see them coasting along, as a coach on a road parallel to ours, for up to a few weeks if our roads are close enough. We thought this one, if visible so briefly, was a coach we quickly passed on a road perpendicular to ours. But all is in motion, always, and the comet seen in March, if it survived an encounter with the Sun, is by May speeding away and ever further from Mrs Bagwell.

But, if the comet fractured ahead of its flyby of Earth, and one of the fragments was impelled a lateral push (by, say, a release of gas as the comet's ice volatilised), that fragment may have been drawn to Earth by the forces which Mr. Newton is presently ruminating about, and may have entered a broad orbit around the Earth. With the right combination of timings, angles and velocities, that orbit could, over 2.5 months, have narrowed to the point of bringing this small, second Moon, into collision with the atmosphere. With so few observations to triangulate the comet's trajectory, and much controversy around the 19th century attempts to do so - 'tis pure speculation on our part, but we've done worse.