Annotations and comments

elgin marble has posted six annotations/comments since 6 February 2023.

The most recent first…


Third Reading

About Tuesday 20 November 1660

elgin marble  •  Link

tennis courts becoming theatres:
Of the two royal entertainements frowned upon during the Protectorate, drama was clearly the more in need of restoration!

At least, Pepys is more forthcoming on the theatre than he is on tennis (can't easily picture him dashing across a real tennis court!) He sees The Merry Wives of Windsor by Killigrew’s company at the Lincoln’s Inn theatre and Othello at The Cockpit in Drury Lane. Our curiosity knows no bounds. But the plays and the performances barely get a mention. Shakespeare even less so, which is almost tantamount to heresy as far as we’re concerned.

But, to be fair, the last thing most people – diarists included – want to do every time they go out to a show is to don the mantle of critic. When I come home late, replete with post-performance food and drink, I’m in no mood to assess the merits of an evening’s entertainment. And the next day, well … life goes on.

I make fuller remarks about tennis and theatre - not to mention Elizabeth's 'black patches' - in the entry for November 22, 1990 in 'Paris Diaries of the 1990s', the online selection of the daily diary entries I made throughout that decade whilst also reading, one day at a time, Pepys' entries:…

About Saturday 13 October 1660

elgin marble  •  Link

By far the most detailed account I've read so far of the part Harrison played in bringing the king to trial, then execution, is in Geoffrey Robinson's The Tyrannicide Brief (2005). It covers Harrison's involvement in events from the Putney Debates, when he was the first to call the king a 'man of blood' who should be prosecuted, to his spirited, cogent and intransigent defence at his own trial.

My own remarks about the similarities/differences between what Pepys described then and our experience today (re: PHE on 14 Oct 2003 and John Matthew IV on 14 Oct 2016) is in this entry for October 13, 1990 in the online selection of diary entries I made throughout the 1990s while at the same time reading one entry of Pepys' diary each day:…

About Friday 25 May 1660

elgin marble  •  Link

‘Infinite the crowd of people’:
I particularly like the poetic ‘Infinite the crowd of people…’ welcoming Charles on his arrival at Dover as he disembarks from a landing craft that Pepys had been in charge of chartering and fitting out. He must’ve been feeling very proud of himself - which may account for his use of hyperbole – unless perhaps inspired by a poem or other literary text he’s familiar with (any suggestions?)

How many, I wonder, would actually have been in the crowd on that beach to greet him and, more to the point, who were they?

Sandwich’s account (Jeaninne 01.05.06) doesn’t mention a crowd at all. Charles’ letter (quoted by tonyt 13.05.07) refers only to ‘a great number of the nobility’ some accompanied, one assumes, by troops. Perhaps also some of the seamen were disembarked (Terry F, 28.08.07).

Pepys, on the other hand (as one might expect of him) also mentions the presence of citizens. But which citizens: just the mayor and other local dignitaries? What of the ordinary local citizens who, having sighted the royal ships in advance, would have headed for the shore to witness the momentous event and cheer ('amid popular rejoicing')? They are a token presence in Benjamin West’s representation of the event (HFTB 07.06.13) but then the artist was working within the Royal Academy’s conventions of history painting, not those of on-the-spot reporting. In reality, wouldn't the common onlookers have been kept well away from the beach (by the soldiers?) if only to guard against a possible attempt on the Prince’s life by his enemies?

To read related speculation about this particular entry, see my own for May 25 in the online selection of the diary entries I made throughout the 1990s while at the same time reading Pepys’. The link to the post in question is as follows:…

About Friday 23 March 1659/60

elgin marble  •  Link

'slightly sinister'?
Shelston, we will learn on Sep 10, 1660 was:
a simple fellow that looks after an employment (that was with me just upon my going to sea last).
Did he have an ulterior motive or was he just showing off?

About Friday 23 March 1659/60

elgin marble  •  Link

Since the beginning of the 2020s, I’ve been serialising online a selection of the diary entries I made throughout the 1990s. Some of them include comment on Pepys’ diary that I was reading then, one day at a time.
On his Mar 23 entry, I wrote this about Shelston and his wife at the Ship Tavern:
As I read of his travel preparations, my sympathies were not with Pepys but with the young couple, drinking in that tavern, expecting him to come, keenly hoping that he would, disappointed that he didn’t. Then, after another drink they hadn’t bargained on paying for, going home, possibly a little drunk, the husband peeved at not being able to make a show of his bride, she now irritated by his vanity. And then the next day and the next, unmet by Samuel Pepys, they lived lives we know nothing of – can know nothing of – she getting older and less radiant, he older too and less eager to show her off, until death parts them, possibly in the Plague, but maybe (if there are ends to rainbows) at an advanced age in the next century. My point is that this couple he didn’t meet intrigues me more than many of the people he works, dines, and drinks with on a daily basis.

To read how this enters the record of events in my diary of the 1990s, see the entry for March 23 in the following post:…

About Sunday 5 February 1659/60

elgin marble  •  Link

My first annotation this, but no stranger am I to the site and grateful to Phil Gyford for having thought it up, set it up and continued to build it up. Bravo Phil!

Back in January 1990, beginning to read Pepys’ diary daily, I soon found myself commenting on it in my own. Since the beginning of the present decade, thirty years on, I’ve been serialising online a selection of the entries I made throughout the 1990s.

This Feb 5 entry of Pepys’ got me thinking then about his allusion to the story of Tobit. Tobit went blind when – unlikely as it seems – hot bird shit fell into his eyes as he was resting outdoors. Pepys interrupted his diary (spoiler for some, sorry) for fear of going blind. As it turned out, he was worrying unnecessarily; it was probably nothing a pair of glasses couldn’t have put right.

Some might see something premonitory, then, in his interest in Tobit (later cured of his blindness). Others might reflect – and this is the point I develop in my diary entry of Feb 5 – that if Pepys hadn’t feared going blind, he might’ve continued writing the diary for a lot longer. But if he had, would we still be reading and appreciating it as much as we do?

Perhaps not; very long diaries, like John Evelyn’s, to give but one example, tend to be less popular than shorter ones like Anne Frank’s, say, or Joe Orton’s. Blindness, for Tobit, fear of it, for Pepys, was an affliction on which – in very different ways – ultimate good fortune was to hinge.

To read how such speculation enters the record of events in my diary of the 1990s: