Annotations and comments

Mountain Man has posted 23 annotations/comments since 31 March 2021.

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Third Reading

About King's Great Wardrobe

Mountain Man  •  Link

The early (to 1399) history of the Wardrobe administrative office may be found in Tout, T. F. (Thomas Frederick), Chapters in the administrative history of mediaeval England: the wardrobe, the chamber and the small seals. [Manchester]: Manchester University press. 6 vols.

About Monday 11 February 1660/61

Mountain Man  •  Link

Let me add to SDS's comment of Jan. 19, that contemporary scholars, using sophisticated computer analysis, have concluded that Shakespeare's vocabulary and addition of "new" words were not, as claimed by many since the 19th century, astoundingly large, but, compared to his fellow writers, about average for the time. For example:…. It's just that he put an ordinary vocabulary to better use.

About Tuesday 22 January 1660/61

Mountain Man  •  Link

The standard history on the early London guilds or livery companies is still George Unwin's The Guilds and Companies of London (1908), now online at… , although there are many histories of individual companies. Anne Sutton has more recently done splendid work on the early Mercers.

About Sunday 30 December 1660

Mountain Man  •  Link

For the record, Geoffrey Chaucer held a tenement at the Abbey in the former Lady Chapel area beginning in 1399 and so was an Abbey resident. He had been Clerk of the King's Works and so probably had an insider's opportunity to get a nice apartment for his retirement. However, he died in 1400 and was buried in the Abbey, possibly for convenience and/or because he was a resident. He was the first writer buried there, not because he was a well-known writer but because he was a royal bureaucrat.… Like Pepys, Chaucer led an active and well-documented life as a royal administrator, his day job.

About Privy Seal Office

Mountain Man  •  Link

SDS is indeed a saint by sacrificing herself reading so much Tout. As she says, he's a surprisingly good writer, in the style of a century ago and more, but his granular survey of the royal administration is still very heavy lifting. Indeed, Tout himself didn't finish reading the work, since he died before it was completed and the last volume was assembled from his papers by someone else. Anyone else aspiring to a quick read of Tout should be aware that he stops with the year 1399 (I believe) and has little to say about the Privy Seal in Pepys' time. If I remember correctly, the late medieval theory of the issuing of many royal documents was that they were drafted directly from the king's mouth by his clerks of the Signet Seal, these were then put into a polished form by the clerks of the Privy Seal, and then finally passed to the clerks of the chancery, who literally put on the final seal of approval by affixing the Great Seal, under the command of the Chancellor. Henry V personally annotated a petition for his Signet Seal clerks, writing "do hit as hit is axed," thereby anticipating the regional dialect of my native Appalachian mountains.

About Monday 3 December 1660

Mountain Man  •  Link

SDS’s very much overdue correction of our point of view about the use of Latin also leads to a correction of the view sometimes expressed here that Pepys and people like him received a highly intellectual and high-flown, impractical education. This suggestion comes up also with Shakespeare and other well-known people of that time when we’re shown lists of what they read, lists intimidating-looking today with mostly long Latin and French titles. (Greek was not really common.) But actually Latin and French were part of a “practical” education even in the 17C. Pepys needs these languages to carry his very practical job. French was of course the “international” language of its time, like English in ours, spoken by everyone who had to communicate with foreigners to any extent. But Latin was widely used in diplomacy still and in some official documents, and was the language of serious academic endeavors. Incidentally, today Latin is the language for dyslectics. Universities and some high schools often recommend Latin to dyslexic students to fulfill the ever-shrinking requirements for a foreign language. Apparently, it’s regarded as a good vocabulary-builder, is logically organized, is found only in written form, and has no “k.”

About Thursday 16 August 1660

Mountain Man  •  Link

In many places in Europe like Austria, servers and the like are paid decent wages that they can live on and even have formal training. Servers in the US are paid almost nothing, sometimes below minimum wage, and are expected to live on tips, which are supposedly taxed, too. This is not a great system but explains the surprise of European visitors at high expected tips, like high sales taxes added to every purchase.

About Hartgill Baron

Mountain Man  •  Link

The curious arrangement whereby a document is passed for authorization successively from the Signet Seal office to the Privy Seal office and then to the Chancery and the Great Seal dates from the end of the Middle Ages. The history is given in Thomas Frederick Tout's massive Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval England (1920-1933), now online. At each stage fees had to be paid by the beneficiaries to multiple officials like Pepys but extending down to the person who heated the wax for the seal, not to mention the office where the recipient actually got his or her documents with all the seals (the Hanaper). These offices gradually became mostly sinecures and were abolished only in the nineteenth century.

About Friday 13 July 1660

Mountain Man  •  Link

He's going through a process for getting official documents signed that goes back to the Middle Ages. At every stage of the process, many of them wholly unnecessary according to modern standards and common sense, someone has to do the work by hand and then get paid for doing so. However, he's lucky that he knows the system and can get this done in person. Out-of-towners are not so lucky and have the additional expense of paying one of more persons to rush around like Sam does.

About Monday 28 May 1660

Mountain Man  •  Link

Forgive me if I've missed this somewhere else, but when Pepys says he is "trimmed," does that mean he shaves himself or that he is shaved by someone else -- a servant, "boy," or a real barber?

About Monday 2 April 1660

Mountain Man  •  Link

A relevant example of the non-standardized spelling of Pepys' time is the scholarly, unmodernized edition of John Evelyn's diary, published by Oxford. Evelyn was a highly educated and intelligent man, but his spelling is all over the place by modern standards. Just don't misspell Latin! That would get you sneers.

About Rolls Chapel (Chancery)

Mountain Man  •  Link

The House of [Jewish] Converts or "the Rolls" was the headquarters of the Chancery, which took the building over as converted Jews became hard to find. However, the enterprising Chancellors managed to find some Jews to allow to live there for free so the Chancellor could collect the stipends promised by pious Londoners for the upkeep of the converts. These bequests were sometimes hard to collect since the London families understandably didn't like seeing their money go to support a comfortable lifestyle for well-fed and well-dressed Chancery clerks. It was called "the Rolls" because the medieval royal records were usually kept on long rolls of parchment sewn end-to-end. The site is now the main research library of King's College London, and was for many years before the Public Record Office.

About Wednesday 7 March 1659/60

Mountain Man  •  Link

"Custos Rotulorum" for Westminster: The position of Keeper of the Rolls, both nationally and locally, was descended from medieval clerical offices which kept legal records on long, sometimes very long, rolls of parchment sheets stitched together end-to-end. In the central government, the Keeper of the Rolls worked for the Chancellor and was originally the most senior chancery clerk. As the court of chancery grew in importance after the fifteenth century, the office became (as Master of the Rolls) one of the chief judiciary positions in the nation, as it remains today. See…, and, at much greater length, T.F. Tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of Medieval England.

About Tuesday 6 March 1659/60

Mountain Man  •  Link

I believe the most cited reference for the Livery Companies' history is still (mentioned by San Diego Sarah earlier) George Unwin, The Guilds and Companies of London. 4th ed. London: Frank Cass, 1966. Incredibly, the first edition was 1908. Does anyone know of a more recent history? I'd love to find one. For the early, pre-Pepys history of the Mercers, Anne F. Sutton published some terrific studies. But Monk is getting a free lunch from all of them.

About Monday 27 February 1659/60

Mountain Man  •  Link

The lovely vignette of Sam playing on his flageolette and enjoying the good acoustics suggests that he kept it with him much of the time to entertain himself whenever things were slow. We might be justified in imagining him playing it at other, unrecorded times when things slowed down. The poor man had no cellphone to fiddle with endlessly! Life in public spaces today might be more pleasant if we had more flageolette players and fewer empty-headed gabbers.

About Wednesday 22 February 1659/60

Mountain Man  •  Link

Carol D's comment brings up the question of how we use the term "Londoner." If we mean "official citizen of London," i.e. taxpayer, able to hold a civic office, "freedom of the city," etc., then until comparatively recently it's always been only a minority of residents who were "Londoners." Many of the most famous "Londoners," like Chaucer and Shakespeare and Pepys, weren't London citizens but London residents. Or at least I don't think Sam ever became a citizen, did he?

About Sunday 29 January 1659/60

Mountain Man  •  Link

Yes, this is a really lucid explanation. This system had been in place since at least the Middle Ages. The rise of the great Italian banking houses from the 12th century on came through private commercial banks based on international family and commercial connections. They created an international system of facilitating transactions and loans using paper credit. In England, the Bardi and Peruzzi families were prominent bankers. But small-scale credit transactions by English merchants at, for example, the Staple in Calais, were also facilitated by a widely used system of credit on paper.

About Wednesday 18 January 1659/60

Mountain Man  •  Link

This is my first reading of the earlier part of the diary and I find it interesting that Pepys' comrades and drinking pals at this point are rarely the same ones he hangs out with just a few years later, showing his social and economic rise. He leaves most of these lads behind with the common throng.

Second Reading