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Stephane Chenard has posted 253 annotations/comments since 1 January 2021.

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About Sunday 17 January 1668/69

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

What a fascinating document is this plan of Whitehall which Terry helpfully posted in 2020. We shall never follow Sam into that anthill without this map in hand, and in truth almost got lost even with the map, until helped by an old servant who had it in his head.

And yet, it cannot show more than a single floor, and just a fraction of the monster palace's famous 1,500 rooms. The Royal Collection Trust, which holds the original (at…), sheds no further light, on this or on the "John Fisher" who drew it.

Notice the oddities: the "lodgings belonging to His Majesty" (rooms marked with a 1, and this is not France, where everything belongs to His Majestie) amount to a single largish room - perhaps Mr. Fisher wasn't trusted with disclosing too much on the others. Her Majesty (rooms No. 2) has a tiny closet, surrounded by men's larger suites. The duke has a veritable warren, all on the riverside so he can breath in the stench in the morning (if, however, the Thames already does stink as of 1669; if so, Sam is too used to it to comment).

Division and subdivision reign; it looks like a map of the great bazaar of Cairo. All in all we imagine the peril, of all these stuffy little rooms full of open flames, all these servants stumbling in dark twisting corridors with their candles.

No sign of the painted gallery, but there is the stone gallery, both major Sam-stomping grounds. And there, marked with tiny 18s, are the tiny rooms assigned to the Treasury. They seem barely large enough for a few chairs, but they do have refreshing views of the Privy Gardens, where the promenading ladies may turn their heads toward those windows, whence issue those disputes about victualling budgets.

But - how extraordinarie. The large room marked 19, immediately adjacent to the Treasury rooms so familiar to Sam, is "The King's Laboratory & Bath".

About Tuesday 12 January 1668/69

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

This latest tussle with the Treasury Commissioners makes a discreet appearance in their minutes (at…), with a "Warrant to the Earl of Anglesey to assign to the present Treasurers of the Navy 20,000L. in orders registered in his name on the end of the Additional Aid: same to be in lieu of 20,000L. by them employed in paying the yards, &c." It's all rather tangled; the potential is clear for those £20k to fly back and forth some more before they make it to Chatham.

About Saturday 16 January 1668/69

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

A bit of confusion in Sam's records occasions this letter from St. J. Stephenson in Portsmouth: "I cannot find such a vessel as the Shepherd galliot in my book for 1665; nor was there at any time such a galliot. It may be some error in the transcript of the vessel's name; if you have an account of the man's name so borne, I can clear the doubt. We had a flyboat called the Herdereen which is Dutch for Shepherd, but that was employed here to put guns into, and was afterwards sent and sold at London; I never heard of a hoy called the Leicester" (State Papers, usual address).

You mean the Sea Shepherd, of illustrious repute? No? Shouldn't you keep an accurate list of his Majesty's ships, with the correct names and all?

(Just to be helpful we checked and couldn't find a Shepherd either. There was a Leicester briefly on the books in '67 but 'twas rather more than a hoy).

About Friday 15 January 1668/69

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Perhaps Charles heard of Flamel in Paris, indeed, and it's perhaps no accident that Charles returned from Paris with Le Fébure in his bags. His enduring reputation as a top alchemist was at an all-time high when Charles was in the best place to hear of it. It was also likely something between an exaggeration and a complete hoax, and interestingly, according to the Hughes book we quoteth, it may have been manufactured as a defence against England: For "the French were so jealous of this reputation and the status enjoyed by such late medieval English alchemists as George Ripley that an elaborate hoax was perpetuated in the seventeenth century in which alchemical works and a colourful autobiography were foisted on to a late-fourteenth-century wealthy bookseller by the name of Nicholas Flamel" (alas, the source on this machination is paywalled, but enough to make us want to get the book now). Even Isaac Newton fell for it (so says John Maynard Keynes, referenced at

Charles in any case was hardly the only king, or the first one in England, to have had a lab and a man in a pointy hat on the staff (think John Dee). It seemed the prudent thing to do, if anything, just in case somebody did find the Stone and started making gold; and so perhaps Sam's slightly dismissive entry was a case of "duh, of course the king has a lab, now can we please talk of Lady Castlemaine?" A French manoeuver to get London to source its men-in-pointy-hats from Paris wouldn't be too shoddy as French manoeuvers go, we think.

About Friday 15 January 1668/69

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Jonathan Hughes, in "The Rise of Alchemy in Fourteenth-Century England" (Continuum, 2012, excerpted at…) quotes 1660s wag Thomas Vaughan on how the Restoration was "seen in terms of the resurrection of the dead king and his body politic to the original purity of gold", such an Alchemical allegory that "it was partly to underline this point that Charles II maintained his own alchemical laboratories". Mendelsohn's article notes that Charles' first instructions to Le Fevre were to "recreate the celebrated cordial of Sir Walter Raleigh", which apparently was, then was handed in little vials to quality visitors and may still have been dripping from the retorts in 1669; but he also confirms that the pure-as-gold political methaphor was widespread. Alchemy had, at least in previous years, been considered something Phanatiques and Puritans liked to indulge in, and so sulphurous in more ways than one, but by 1669 it had been largely depoliticized, and there was a "laboratory craze" among the Quality. Charles' affair with the crucibles and the furnace was famous enough, Mendelsohn writes, that "that same year [1669] Louis XIV conducted secret diplomacy with Charles through an agent, the abbe Pregnani, who came under the pretext of assisting the king in his chymical activities". All the same we'd have expected Sam to display at least his usual frisson at how he's trusted at the Top.

A pity also that Sam didn't get into distillation, and putrefaction and projection like the rest of London society. Phant'sy how the Diary would be even more fun than it is.

About Friday 15 January 1668/69

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

And so Sam, quite possibly led by the King himself and at the least with a royal invitation that surely wasn't handed to everybody, got to see Charles' Alchemycal elaboratorium this morning.

He was evidently less interested in the "pretty place" and its "things", than in the fascinating case of My Lady Harvey vs. My Lady Castlemaine, confirming along the way that his interest in the Sciences isn't all that deep -- not for him either Oldenburg's readings of Helvetius or Boyle's tedious tinkering with air-pumps, as he seems to attend the Society mainly when there's a vote or a dinner.

Sam's terse, annoyingly incurious and dumbfounded 25 words will for centuries be Evidence A of Charles' interest in the Art. Evidence B will be the installation in 1661, as one of the first acts of the Restoration, of "apothecary-in-ordinary" Nicaise
Le Fevre, a.k.a. Nicolas Le Fébure; on how Le Febre/Le Fébure was likely rather more than the royal pill-maker, see J.A. Mendelsohn's "Alchemy and Politics in England 1649-1655", Past and Present, 135 (1), 30–78, 1992 (doi:10.1093/past/135.1.30). Evidence C, detailed for instance at…, are the severall symptoms of mercury poisoning found in Charles II's later autopsy.

About Friday 8 January 1668/69

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

The Treasurers' minutes (at…) do not record quite so much hoo-hah and only note, sandwiched between resolutions on salaries for the Grooms of the Bedchamber and another mystery budget for Col. Fox, that "the East India Co. and the Navy Commissioners [attend] about the 'Leopard' and 'Convertine'. As to the 'Leopard' they make a dispute: as to the 'Dunkirk' my Lords remit it. In the whole my Lords demand 7,600L."

Faced with the usual avalanche of warrants to endorse and problems to resolve, the Treasurers may well have looked on with some impatience as Sam made his dispute with the Company, and seized the moment when the Company men paused to think to gavel it off to the next session. The Leopard, a ship good enough to carry Ambassador Harvey and his retinue to Constantinople, could be expected to have above-average comforts but, post-Diary, it will keep making trouble, surfacing in the State Papers for this year with complaints in London about its expenses, and complaints from its captain (maybe just a troublemaker) about rations that were so bad and stank so much that they nearly caused a mutiny and had to be stored on the deck.

The minutes do not record the Duke of York being in attendance. Maybe he "was mighty plain with the Treasurers" in the hallway before they started their session, heads bowed and worrying about being sent to the Tower. HRH in fact only appears in this day's minutes in the passing of a "Warrant, or privy seal if needful, for the remainder due to the Duke of York's rockers and nurses".

The Duke has rockers and nurses! Now our Imagination runs wild. We dismiss one vision of York's entourage including a posse of dudes with leather jackers, handlebar moustaches and guitars, and of gals in short white dresses and toting syringes, though his Royal Highness might have enjoyed that (let's keep in view that York is 24 right now, as old as James Dean ever got). Instead we conjure a line of periwigged gentlemen in gold-trimmed liveries, arms half-extended and ready at all hours to receive and soothe the Duke's babies. They think of the privy seal that's coming their way, and wink knowingly at the nurses...

About Thursday 7 January 1668/69

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

L&M strike us as those literary types who didn't pay attention in science class, for "burning sulpher and aqua vitae [ethyl alcohol]" would combust with eerie little blue flames, barely visible, unspectacular and not evocative of burning wood, and as the former would convert to pungent effluvia of sulpher dioxide, its main effect would be to send everyone fleeing the theater, wheezing and rubbing their eyes. Obviously half of Westminster could then burn along with the abandoned decor.

Not that cities on fire aren't reasonably commonplace; if memory serves, just last month the Gazette had a terse paragraph to inform us that Moscow had burned to the ground again. In the play, what's burning is the town of Ternate, in the Moluccas, a bizarre and pagan place that not many Europeans might empathize with. Even so, we marvel that it took, at most, less than 2½ years after the Great Fire for someone to dare show "a town on fire" on a London stage, and for such a perceptive, involved and consummate Londoner as Sam to just find it "a good scene".

About Thursday 31 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

From Paris, under a radiant Sun - though France is, of course, always under his Most Christian Majestie's radiance - we salute Mr. Pepys' I-will-do-it spirit, and his closing of the year with only £5 outstanding from so much expense. Our health & estate excellent, for which we thank Providence, and wish its Blessings & the ſame on our Lords & Ladies of this Society, a happy birth-day to mynheer vM, & to all a happy New Year, Anno Domini MDCLXIX.

About Tuesday 29 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Estimates! Word of dread! Estimates made wrong, by recipes and a witch's brew of assumptions soon forgotten! Indeed, "the want of orderly supplies of money has occasioned the disuse of these [estimates]", though they were meant precisely to deal with want of money, but it also caused "the introduction of many irregularities, and an utter incapacity to distinguish the charge of any particular work". We imagine the clerks throwing their quills and papers in the air and dancing around the tables, maddened by the pointlessness of it all, and perhaps by the opportunities afforded by all the Estimating. Sam's frequent complaint of chaos in the books doesn't stem just from incompetent accounting (such as the shoddy ship's book he moaned about on the 18th, see, but partly from the very method by which they are kept, all this horrid guess-work, vaguely scribbled on some napkin, at how much the beer should come to.

The letter closes, of course, with a demand for more money, but with this humble suggestion: "We renew our request for a warrant that the money arising from the sale of lops, tops and bark of trees, felled in his Majesty's forests for the use of the Navy, may be employed towards defraying the charge of felling, converting and transporting the timber sent to the King's yards", likely a good part of the expenses. So it's not just the deer that feed off the bark in this winterly season.

The State Papers today also record a long memo from John Mennes on how to reform the books, which we will spare this Society. We prefer to quote a letter sent on Sunday last (27 December) by the crusty Captain Tinker from his Portsmouth arsenal, to Sam, who for the Diary had understandably favored better memories of drums, trumpets and Sir Downing's wartime anecdotes: The Papers' summary begins, "Hopes the galliot hoy that came in has brought shovels, as there are none to be had here". Sam of the coach and beautiful horses is also the go-to man for shovels, apparently, but imagine how Louis XIV would chuckle; "Beaufort! Ready the fleet! They don't even have shovels! We invade now!"

About Tuesday 29 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

We had been under the impression that nothing too ponderous was going on in the Office this week, other than the re-powdering of wigs, crafting of menus for New Year and 12th Night receptions, and Sam's vague but routine mornings of "business". Also that, of late, his conferences with and that grandee were mostly about personal politics within and (from without) against the Office.

Along comes a 2½ page from "the Navy Commissioners to the Treasury Commissioners", blazoned with six signatures that seem likely to include Sam's, and that must have taken quite a bit of time to draft and re-draft. It is unusually long, crisp and to the point in its summary in the State Papers (at…), which seem to give it largely verbatim.

"We are informed by the Navy Treasurers", the Navy Coms begin with disbelieving tremors of horror as the new budget year is just 48 hours away, "that the sole fund upon which we are to be supported for the expense of the ensuing year, and for defraying the remainder of the last year's charge [debt], is an assignment upon the Customs for 200,000L." Aye, that had been good news, but - Lord in Heavens, is that the coffer's bare wood we feel under the 200k? And it's not a false bottom? Oh nooooo!

Follows a customary reminder of how discredited the deadbeat Navy is to its suppliers, but this time with revealing detail on how it really works: The Office "submitt[ed] to see the stores, through want of money, supplied at dearer rates". Simple enough; of this its critics disapproved, so "[h]aving observed the reproach our office has suffered", and trusting that the £200,000 would be followed by more, "we have resolved no more to carry on the service at any other than the market prices, without having first laid the case before his Royal Highness [York] or you". At this, HRH did caution that there might in fact not be more, and the habit of padding some extra to buy on credit shouldn't be shed so early: "We have been directed by the Lord Admiral to revive the method of governing ourselves by estimates on each particular service".

About Sunday 20 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

How touching are the anecdotes which his Royal Highness told today, in the safety of his private bubble. The world, reduced to the lawyers, churchmen and souldiers, is so much simpler without the vulgar ploughmen who constitute by far the majority of its population. From Whitehall they seem invisible.

Occasionally they do surface, with pitchforks and bad manners, and we do not resist quoting this State Paper, a report written today from Pembroke to John Williamson, on how a ship cast onshore, "laden with wine and fruit (...) fell into the hands of the rude multitude [urgh!] who turned the wines out to carry the casks away". That says something about either the quality of the wines, or the earthy priorities of the rude multitude. (Apparently they showed less interest in the fruit).

Also admirable is the Duke's fondness for the Spanish troops in Flanders. True enough, while the Gazette (perhaps a bit selective in this case) often tells of plunder and atrocities by the French, such reports seem rarer in the Spaniards' case, and in Franche Comté the locals were not exactly welcoming Louis' troops as liberators when they overran the Spaniards earlier this year. But the Spanish troops in Flanders came across as less than happy and indifferent to money when Dom Juan, expected to show up with the pay after the treaty of Aachen was signed, chose instead to stay home.

HRH may also have paused to reflect that the Spaniards, being the occupying colonial power in the Low Countries, may not have to beg very hard for the Dutch they encounter in the street to get the message, and may also not feel obliged to carry their bags in return.

About Sunday 20 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Having boarded this great Train (of coaches, of course) in 1665, may we join those voices of the past to beg and pray that the wheel keeps turning beyond the you-know-what prophesied for May 1669.

There will be further occasion to discuss this End of the World as it draws nearer, but maybe it is not too early to humbly suggest that, at that point when Sam rests his quill (and his eyes), be appended the shorter, briefer, more obscure but also very interesting diary he did keep on his mission to Tangiers from 30 July 1683 to 1 December 1684? That would be 16 months of nearly virgin Pepysland to travel, comment upon and contrast with 14 years ago. It's full of exotica, unfairly dismissed as a footnote to the Great Work, hard to find, and would feel indeed as a Reprieve...

About Wednesday 9 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Today a denunciation is written to John Williamson, by a Dr Sam. Hinde and a Jo. Carlile, of "seditious and unlawful (...) sordid conventicles" of Dissenters, Catholicks or Phanatiques ('tis unclear which), held by a Mr. Wivel "at the Victual Office built by Sir Denis Gauden" in Dover, a place "originally called Maison de Dieu [God's house]" and which could have been expected to now be cleansed and repurposed to Naval matters, but where "his Majesty's employment has slackened" (all this in a State Paper, No. 65 at…).

I have here proof of sedition at the slacker Victual Office... Oh, the cabal we could devise, by connecting dots and spreading the rumor, if we were, say, a disgruntled supplier, sea-captain or competitor.

About Friday 18 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

'Tis the Season, when half the coaches of London are full of Account Books, as the worm-eaten tomes are pulled from dusty shelves, and the Captains' lies therein inspected to judge their skill at hiding their Rake-Offs. Today Mr. W. Jessop also has this "Receipt (...) for the use of the Committee of Accounts, of two books of contracts made by the Navy Commissioners between 1664 and 1667" (State Papers, at… of course). They would seem to be the books found perused by Col. Thomson. A Wm. Jessop reappears in the State Papers (same volume, p. 652) as "keeper of the writings in the Duchy Office", implying that the ships' books weren't held by the Navy Office (though we had seen reference to its having a full collection), but in grander and even safer hands in the Duke of York's chambers. If so, it didn't take long for Thomson to find these many "errors".

Let's have a thought for Sam's fellow bureaucrat William Jessop, forever pickled in history with heavy books of contracts under his arm as he clambers onto a coach... Unless, the Receipt being "by W. Jessop", he just signed it off, remaining safe at his desk amid the archives, wishing the bearer good luck (and, to himself, that the three-ring binder would be soon invented).

About Saturday 5 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

On the phanaticks, their more or less overt huddlings and the nervousness all this ferment currently inspires, we had seen on November 27 this letter from a Mr. Ralph Grey, of Newcastle, to "Henry Brabant" (State Papers at…): "I entreat you to buy me a sword to walk in town with, for if the fanatics hold on, it will not be safe to be without one. They are mighty high since you went to London, and had a fast last Wednesday", at which "upwards of 500 were present".

Additional problem to always keep in mind, in any case, while in the city bustle (for instance, if you're a government official with a pretty new coach): "persons marched off to them who have received the Sacrament according to the Church of England", and perhaps they had more than Bibles in their hands. Mr. Grey, however, isn't just any bystander: In 1667 he was the sheriff of Newcastle, and Brabant was its mayor (list at…. You'd think an ex-sheriff would have or could buy his own sword, though).

About Thursday 3 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Earlier in the day, as Sam sat down to "The Unfortunate Lovers", Billy the coachman was joining the brasero set outside the theater where the other coachmen were stamping their feet and passing 'round the sack bottle against the cold. They whistle appreciatively at his beautiful green livery and toast it as the unwitting homage it seems to mother Ireland.

"So who's the new master?" "Any fun?" "Any scandal already?"

"Hey guys, I just got there. Some quill-pusher. Dull as a lead guinea. He tiptoes around his wife. Works in the Navy Office on Seething".

The words "Navy Office" bring a torrent of well-wishing and inquiries. "He can get that paper they give you to not get pressed? He can get my uncle's pension paid? He can get me to Virginia? You got a pass to enter the yards?" &c., &c.

In comes waltzing the smiling, affable man from the Benevolent Society for Coachmen's Needs. As always, he has a flask of much better sack, and in his faint Dutch accent offers "a good barber for your tooth-ache, a Hindoo balm for your bottom-sores, a free loan for your old Ma, your letters writ'n and sent to Kilkenny, a nice girl for your solace", in return for "jolly anecdotes, worthless discarded papers, a few seconds' perusal of house keys", &c., &c. Billy takes a swig of the free booze, wishes him good evening like the others, and nods to himself, pensively.

About Thursday 3 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Meanwhile, Sam wallows in self-satisfaction, the new coach smell, and Bess' lovingly arranged floral cushions. His own coach! His own bloody coach! He can go anywhere (well, almost, a stern mental image of My Wife corrects him). He can make it turn left, or turn right, at will (hmm, but not here of course, have to follow the ruts). He can, er, stretch his legs like this!

The coach enters one of the newly finished, straightened and paved sections of Fleet Street. Sam thumps the roof with his cane (no gentleman without a cane, if only as an ostensible roof-thumper). "Coachman! Faster! Let's make my baby's wheels throw sparks!"

Up above, bundled against the bitter cold in his leprechaun suit, the coachman does what he can and cracks his whip for effect. "Aye, m'lord. But, not with these horses, b'yer leave, m'lord, as we discussed".

The coach plods along. A cat, snoozing in the middle of the street, eyes its approach, licks a paw, stretches, and dodders away, sticking its tongue at the horses. A hackney zooms past, spraying mud, its daredevil driver yelling "Make way!" Soon the Pepyses are back in the twisting, muddy, rubble-strewn labyrinth that surrounds Seething Lane. The horses, smelling their new home, crawl slightly faster.

About Thursday 3 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Today the Treasury commissioners signed off on no less than twenty two warrants for Dennis Gauden, awarding him a total of £12,000 for victualling (record at…). Serious moolah, and perhaps a nick-of-time result of Sam's hard work yesterday.

If so, the bureaucracy moved unusually fast, but 'twas about time, as we find, in a letter from Chatham to the Navy Coms, some Evidence that victualling was becoming a problem area indeed: Of the crew kept on the freshly docked Golden Hand, it is written: "Pray order the victualling of the 20 men, and fish instead of oatmeal, as the men would not eat it" (…). Yes, the ship is docked, but they're not going to work very hard on a lunch of oatmeal. And, the ship being docked, they don't have to eat the menu and can walk off the H.M.S. Oatmeal anytime.

About Wednesday 2 December 1668

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Sam is thus an important cog in the fast-complicating geopolitics of Barbary. Still, couldn't this have waited until the next regular meeting with the duke? Did he need to be rushed with the news just now, while unfolding his dinner napkin?

Sam, having whispered his Important Secret News to His Royal Highness in full view of the entire Court, has made his Intricate Bows, brushed the Persian carpets with his hat and left. The duke chuckles and leans toward the King: "Hey, gossip-master, didn't Pepys just act a bit showy just now? Any idea why?"

"Hmpf?" the King says, around a mouthful of pheasant. "Hmm, the man just got his own wheels", he adds, after a glance at the "Daily List of New Coaches" which Williamson just placed in front of him. "He's coach-drunk".

"Oooh, he's not going to think he's one of Us, is he?", the Queen asks. "Send him the taxman if so!"

"We do that when they also start to put diamonds on their wives, dearie", the King says, stuffing some pineapple in the Queen's mouth. "Don't worry".