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Ensign Tom has posted 31 annotations/comments since 3 February 2023.

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Third Reading

About Wednesday 14 March 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

“Thence by coach, it raining hard, to Mrs. Jem, where I staid a while, and so home …”

Pepys has had a very busy day as he takes up his duties as secretary to Lord Montagu. The last thing he does on his way home this rainy March evening is stop by to visit Lord Montagu’s young daughter Jemima. He writes that he “staid a while”, which I take to mean this visit was longer than the usual ‘just checking-in’ type of visit he has been paying to Jemima in previous weeks.

This visit with Jemima likely had a special significance for Pepys. After all, he had known her since she was a child and it’s easy to imagine him feeling towards her as an older brother. Sam had just come from seeing Lord Montagu at Sir Henry Wright’s home, and he would have wanted to give Jemima as much information as he safely could about her father’s upcoming diplomatic mission to Holland. I can imagine Sam speaking to Jemima in an upbeat, reassuring manner to help dispel any fears she may have felt about the hazards he and her father might face from fog, foul weather, or Dunkirk privateers during their cross-Channel voyage. Nevertheless, there was still a chance that Sam and Jemima might never see each other again, and this realization would have lent a degree of poignancy to their conversation.

By the standards of his time, Pepys was a mature man, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suppose that he was still young enough to feel a sense of excitement at the prospect of being part of such a momentous enterprise as restoring the House of Stuart to the throne of England. What’s more, he would have felt a thrill of expectation at the thought of boarding ship and going to sea, even if he would be wielding a quill instead of a cutlass.

With these thoughts swirling in his brain (although perhaps I’m letting my imagination get the better of me here), I think Sam would have been tempted to dramatize his role as secretary to Lord Montagu and play the dashing hero while talking to Jemima. He would have wanted to share his sense of adventure with someone, and Jemima was the one person in his circle he might have felt most comfortable doing so. I can imagine him adopting a knowing nautical manner as he told her how he’d be packing his sea-chest that night, just as Hawkins and Drake and, more recently Blake, had packed their sea chests in preparation for their own glorious maritime exploits in years past. If Sam the tailor’s son now tried to cast himself in the role of a salty old English sea-dog, Jemima was old enough to be an attentive and appreciative audience without being so worldly-wise as to roll her eyes and puncture his pretensions.

Pepys was to see Jemima again the next day when they shared a coach to their respective homes; but according to the diary, almost five months would pass until the two met again on August 4th when they would have dinner together alone at Lord Montagu’s residence. No doubt, they would have had a lot of catching up to do.

About Sunday 25 May 1662

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Poking around YouTube, I first found a video on the household use of pumice stone hosted by a full-bearded fellow extolling its use in scrubbing toilets. Investigating further, I found another video on the efficacy of pumice stone in removing unwanted body hair. The viewer was cautioned against using the volcanic abrasive on sensitive skin areas such as the face, but being a man, I tried it anyway. Perhaps it’s one of those skills that require ten thousand hours of practice to master, but my efforts with the pumice stone brought nothing like the “very easy, speedy, and cleanly” results that Pepys reported. In fact, the experience reminded me of nothing so much as mishaps with belt sanders I’ve had over the years. I would conclude that pumice stone probably does a pretty good job of removing tattoos, but facial hair, not so much.

About Wednesday 22 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Re: Shaving habits for men in Pepys' time.

Historian Richard Holmes describing the death of Charles II in his 2008 work, "Marlborough: England's Fragile Genius", writes: "On the morning of 2 February 1685 he [the King] rose after a restless night, and sat down to the barber. 'it being shaving day' -- even monarchs were shaved only two or three times a week."

Holmes' quoted source was the two volume "Memoirs of Thomas, Earl of Ailesbury" published in 1890.

About Tuesday 14 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Thanks for the reference, San Diego Sarah. I don't suppose anyone has ever tried to draw a conceptual reconstruction of the Pepys' home based upon Sam's diary entries. I imagine it would be easier for the Seething Lane home than the one in Axe Yard. As the months and years go by and Sam adds to his furniture, wall hangings, plate collection, paintings and wall murals--in what was basically government housing, I gather--you get some general mental image of what the house was like, but I wonder if anyone has ever tried to tie it all together and illustrate the layout and interior decoration of the home in a manner consistent with the diary.

About Tuesday 13 March 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

“… at which I was troubled, but I could not help it.”

By the time Pepys writes this diary entry, he has already met with the Creed brothers at the Admiralty on the evening of March 13th after having been informed by Lord Montagu earlier that morning that he is to have the secretary’s position while John Creed is to be deputy treasurer to the Fleet. It’s a small point and perhaps not even worth making, but I wonder if Pepys’ “troubled” mind and conflicted emotions at his appointment are the combined effects of his meeting with Lord Montagu and the Creeds and not just with his lordship alone.

The conversation with the Creeds could not have been comfortable for Pepys. No matter how easy and affable the brothers might have been towards him on the surface, the underlying message Pepys received would have been, “There are two of us and only one of you.” Moreover, both Pepys and the Creeds would have known from previous experience that the upcoming mission to Holland would entail spending weeks aboard 17th century sailing vessels where everyone lived cheek-by-jowl with their shipmates and where privacy was almost unknown. Under such conditions, Pepys would have been all too aware that any scuttlebutt about his job performance as secretary to Lord Montagu, for good or ill, would inevitably find its way back to the Creeds for them to exploit for their own benefit as they saw fit.

I also wonder if Pepys was apprehensive that John Creed might use his position as deputy treasurer to the Fleet to tarnish his reputation; for example, by casting doubts about the legitimacy of any of Pepys’ expenses or otherwise spreading rumours that Pepys was guilty of questionable financial practices.

Another reason for the Creeds’ ingratiating manner towards Pepys could be that they themselves might have had skeletons in their closet dating from their earlier service under Lord Montagu, skeletons that they now feared Pepys would unearth as soon as he started familiarizing himself with Lord Montagu’s files. Perhaps the Creeds were worried that among this paperwork Pepys might find evidence that they had sometimes been guilty of shady dealings and ungodly efforts at self-aggrandizement. By being so “very seemingly and willingly glad” that Pepys was now the new secretary, the Creeds might have been trying to placate him and co-opt him into their own way of doing milord’s business, or at least encourage him to keep their peccadillos under his hat and adopt the 17th century policy equivalent of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

No wonder Pepys could not help feeling troubled. He has his new appointment as Lord Montagu’s secretary and the Creeds do not seem to begrudge him his good fortune in the least, but his gut instinct is telling him to be on his guard.

About Monday 12 March 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Sam has a bad head cold that prevents him from sleeping, so he gets up and unwittingly sets about spreading his germs all over the Exchange, Bedell’s the bookseller, Wilkinson’s cookshop, and other places around London before setting off on horseback for Huntsmoor to see Mr. Bowyer and his family, “where I found him and all well”—but probably not for long given Sam’s sniffles. Apparently, Sam is so congested that Mr. Bowyer feels obliged to offer him a spoonful of honey and some nutmeg scrapings as a remedy, which Sam finds has a soothing effect and is certainly less risky and more beneficial than seeing any doctor of the time.

The combined effect of the words nutmeg & honey is to take me back to all those folksy vegetarian restaurants of the 1970s with their sunflower-themed décor, macrame hangings, and affordable menu items based almost entirely on brown rice and beans.

About Monday 27 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

It just means that Pepys didn't include the second "p" when writing "Epping", so a later editor added it to correct the spelling. My experience has been that not every English style manual will explain how to use square brackets, so try doing an online search for "square brackets meaning" or "square brackets usage" for further clarification.

About Saturday 10 March 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Re: “Creed’s proposal for two secretaries …”

Claire Tomalin’s biography is informative on this question. Apparently, John Creed had accompanied Lord Montagu and acted as his secretary in the spring of 1659 when the General-at-Sea sailed to the Baltic on a diplomatic mission. This explains why Pepys, a year later, speaks of “the news of my coming into his [i.e., Creed’s] place” when Mr. Blackborne tells Sam of Creed’s learning that Lord Montagu now wants him as his secretary. Mr. Blackthorne also tells Sam that Creed has suggested to Lord Montagu that he be retained in his secretary’s position in addition to the new fellow Pepys. Sam doesn’t like the sound of this, so he goes directly to see Lord Montagu to clarify the situation even though it means interrupting milord at his dinner at Sir Henry Wright’s home. Lord Montagu’s response to Pepys is reassuring and Sam records that “he seemed not to agree to the motion [i.e., of having two secretaries].” Final confirmation that Sam has the secretary’s post occurs when one of Lord Montagu’s clerks, Will Howe, accompanies him to Westminster and tells Sam what he’ll need to provide himself with for his upcoming sea voyage.

Tomalin explains that Creed’s reputation as a committed Puritan and Republican was not a problem during Lord Montagu’s 1659 mission to the Baltic when the Commonwealth was still in power. But now that King Charles II seems likely to be restored, Lord Montagu realizes he will have “some ‘splainin’ to do” about his own years of loyal service to Oliver Cromwell. The last thing he needs is a well-known Puritan such as John Creed in his entourage. So Creed will have to go and be replaced with Lord Montagu’s loyal and humble kinsman, Sam Pepys, who carries no such religious or political baggage with him.

About Friday 2 March 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

“… and so after some talk with my wife, then to bed.”

I sometimes wonder about Pepys’ bilingual household and how much French and English were spoken within its walls. No doubt an eavesdropper would have heard predominantly English conversations in the Pepys’ home, yet both Sam and his wife Elizabeth spoke French as well. In Elizabeth’s case, it was the result of having been born in Paris of French Huguenot parents. As for Pepys, the source of his French is unknown though biographer Claire Tomalin speculates that the Pepys family may have taken in a French-speaking lodger when Sam and his brother Tom were youths living at home.

In any case, my guess is that more French was spoken in the Pepys home than we might think. For example, whenever Elizabeth lost her temper with Sam for his persistent wandering eyes and hands in the company of other women, I can easily imagine her lapsing into her native French as she vented her anger towards him. Similarly, after the argument was over and husband and wife were on their way to becoming “good friends” again, I can hear Sam murmuring to Elizabeth in French as he consoled and comforted her. There must also have been occasions when Sam and Elizabeth spoke French in front of their servants when they wished to convey information to each other confidentially.

Sam’s seems to have been reasonably fluent in French. He knew “good … French” and “the worst French” when he heard them, as stated in his entries for May 15 and August 24, 1660 respectively, and was also able to enjoy a “French comedy” with Elizabeth, as he records on August 30, 1661. Almost eight years later, on May 5, 1669, he is pleased to note that during a dinner at the Spanish ambassador’s residence he was able to do more than hold his own in the table conversation, “and I made much use of my French and Spanish here, to my great content.” I don’t think it’s too much to conclude that Pepys was able to maintain his French in good working order through daily conversations with his wife.

Elizabeth, however, longed for more opportunities to speak her native language as suggested by her request for a “French mayde” on August 23, 1664, which Sam attributes to his wife having spent the previous day with her mother. Sam grudgingly agreed to the idea, as long as the young woman was qualified and a Protestant.

About Sunday 4 March 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Reading the Diary, my impression is that Pepys took the same critical artistic attitude to the Sunday sermons he heard as to the plays he enjoyed on other days of the week. In both performance venues he looked for good speaking voices, variety of expression, poise and self-confidence, a good appearance, originality of content or skill in making old material new again, and the ability to hold the attention of the audience.

Also important to Pepys at church or the theatre was the chance to see and be seen and to appreciate the charms of the women in attendance. Alas, no orange-girls at Sunday services.

About Friday 24 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

I don’t think we should make too much of the fact that Pepys doesn’t give a description of the countryside he’s riding through on this trip out of London. The main thing to remember about Sam is that from an early age he had an urge to write, as Claire Tomalin points out in her biography of the diarist when she refers to the romance novel he started at the age of twenty but later destroyed. The same youth who had witnessed the public execution of Charles I in 1649 was now, at the Restoration, a young man on the fringe of historic events. I think Pepys realized that keeping a contemporary record of his observations would be invaluable to himself—perhaps he imagined devoting his later years to a Life & Times autobiography—as well as to posterity. He might not be producing a literary masterpiece, but keeping a diary, even in shorthand, at least scratched his itch to write.

Sometimes I detect a certain subversive note in Pepys’ diary, a desire to take the mickey out of the assorted lords and gentry to whom he was now in service. The Great Men around him would no doubt write their own self-glorifying accounts of the end of the Commonwealth and the Return of the King, but who else but the tailor’s son would bother to record what the Duke of York looked like in his nightshirt, or what King Charles had for breakfast on the morning of his return to England, or that one of the King’s spaniels pooped in the bottom of the boat while the royal party was being rowed ashore that May morning of 1660.

So I think that in Pepys’ mind, there was no need to record the scenery of his trip; it would always be there for him to see. But details as to who accompanied him on the trip, where they stopped, what they ate, and what the weather was like, these ephemeral facts were important to write down as a way of capturing the moments on the page before they were lost to memory and to history.

I can’t find the quote right now, but I recall that the other great Samuel, Samuel Johnson, once said to James Boswell that it was important for historians to describe, not only the accomplishments of historical figures, but also their appearance, personal habits, and idiosyncrasies of character so as to bring them fully alive for readers. I’m pretty sure Samuel Pepys would have agreed.

About Tuesday 28 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Re: Matt McIrvin March 1, 2003 above:

“… the royal forests were actually a mixture of different types of land, intended for raising deer; though there was woodland in them, they were never completely wooded.”

If Pepys had taken ship and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to southern New England, he would have found certain areas of the countryside that resembled the Royal Forest he was then passing through, where the First Nations peoples had managed their forest lands for the same purpose of attracting deer. In the spring and fall, the people would set grass fires on their hunting grounds to kill saplings and burn any accumulated brushwood while leaving the mature trees unharmed. The result was a landscape of extensive grassy meadows interspersed with sheltering groves of trees, just the type of natural setting favoured by deer. From William Cronon’s 1983 book, “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England”.

About two centuries later, when Catharine Parr Traill arrived in Upper Canada to make her home with her husband Thomas in the countryside near present day Peterborough, Ontario, she found not a dense primeval forest, but open areas of rolling grassland with scattered stands of oak and pine, “giving a sort of park-like appearance to this portion of the country.” An American farmer explained that, “… these plains were formerly famous hunting-grounds of the Indians, who, to prevent the growth of the timbers, burned them year after year; this, in the process of time, destroyed the young trees, so as to prevent them again from accumulating to the extent they formerly did. Sufficient only was left to form coverts; for the deer resort hither in great herds for the sake of a peculiar tall sort of grass with which these plains abound, called deer-grass, on which they become exceedingly fat at certain seasons of the year.” From Catharine Parr Traill’s 1836 book, “The Backwoods of Canada: Being Letters from the Wife of an Emigrant Officer”.

About Monday 27 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

As far as tours of the stately homes of England go, I recall reading once that the Duke of Marlborough had his old campaign tent and equipage set up on the grounds of Blenheim Palace so that visitors could have some idea of how he lived in the years when he was off to the wars. Of course, the Duke had a well earned reputation for being tight with money, so he charged 6d. admission.

About Monday 27 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

“Up by four o’ clock …” So how does Sam know it’s 4:00 am, and how does he manage to waken so early considering he was up late the night before? He won’t purchase his first watch until May of 1665 and, as a watch is an expensive item, I don’t imagine he would have got the time from his father or his brother John, both of whom are sensibly in bed with sunrise still over two hours away.

It could be that, like Jack Reacher, he is able to set his own internal alarm clock, but my guess is that he has “the lass of the house” with whom he was “playing the fool” the night before to thank for being roused so early. I imagine that she would have been up before sunrise herself tending to the chores of the inn, and I don’t think it’s too much to imagine that the inn would have had a clock by which she would have known when to wake up Sam, who likely would have given her some coins for her trouble.

About Friday 24 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

"I rode to Mr. Pierces, who rose, and ... leaving his wife in bed (with whom Mr. Lucy methought was very free as she lay in bed) ..."

I wonder if Pepys was familiar with the term, "The pot calling the kettle black." According to Wikipedia, the phrase was first known in English from a 1620 translation of "Don Quixote" by a certain Thomas Shelton. There was also a subsequent variation that went, "The pot calls the pan burnt-arse," which I kind of prefer for its earthiness of expression.

About Saturday 7 January 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Sorry, San Diego Sarah! I didn't intend to confuse people. I fully realize that Dr. William Hoare and Richard Hoare are two different people. It's just that I'm sure Patrick O'Brian must have read Pepys' Diary and kept the potential humor of the surname Hoare in mind and looked for an opportunity to use it in his first Aubrey/Maturin novel. Just as I can't help but think that O'Brian was inspired to portray the scenes in his novels where Captain Aubrey and his ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin, take out their instruments and enjoy a musical interlude after a hard day of thrashing the French by the similar scenes of shipboard concerts that Pepys observed and participated in when he and Lord Montagu sailed to Holland in May 1660 as part of the Royal Navy squadron despatched to fetch King Charles back to England.

About Wednesday 22 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

"I saw Major-General Brown ... with his beard overgrown ..."

The fashion for European men in the late 15th and early 16th centuries was to be beardless, at least insofar as the shaving instruments of the time made that possible. There is a famous Holbein portrait of Sir Thomas More showing him with visible stubble on his cheeks and chin, and I recall reading once that More's appearance would have been about as clean-shaven as a man could get in his time.

I also recall reading once that the fashion for men to have facial hair returned when King Francis I of France decided to grow a beard, and King Henry VIII of England decided to grow his own in competition. As can be seen in Elizabethan and early Stuart portraiture, the fashion for beards continued up until the time of the Restoration, when the clean-shaven look became preferred again. I wonder if it was Louis XIV and the French court who set the new trend. In any case, Pepys thought it worth noting that General Browne had let his beard grow in. Could this have been an attempt at a disguise while Browne assessed the state of affairs in London? If so it failed, as Pepys clearly recognized him.

About Saturday 7 January 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

When I came across this reference to “Dr. Whore”, I couldn’t help but think of that scene in Patrick O’Brian’s “Master and Commander” where Captain Jack Aubrey is on the deck of H.M.S. Sophie admonishing Midshipman William Babbington not to neglect his correspondence to his family and instructs him to write a two-page letter to his parents. Captain Jack wants to assure Babbington’s parents that he is safeguarding their son’s parental allowance and so he tells the young midshipman, “‘Give your father my compliments and tell him my bankers are Hoares.’ … ‘Hoares,’ he repeated absently once or twice, ‘my bankers are Hoares,’ and a strangled ugly crowing noise made him turn. Young Ricketts was clinging to the fall of the main burton-tackle in an attempt to control himself, but without much success.”

As it turns out, there actually was and is a famous London banking firm called C. Hoare & Co. founded in 1672.

About Sunday 19 February 1659/60

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Ahoy, Nate! If you do a search for the word "tarpaulin" you will find several references in the Diary to clashes between Gentleman Captains and Tarpaulins in the Restoration Navy. As you might guess, Gentleman Captains tended to be foppish courtiers who knew little to nothing of the sea or nautical matters, but liked the idea of striking a heroic pose on the quarterdeck of one of King Charles' men-of-war while sailing into battle. Or perhaps not sailing into battle if they could find a plausible reason to avoid it.

Tarpaulins, on the other hand, was the pejorative term given to those experienced seamen who had worked their way up through the lower deck ranks and possessed the knowledge and hands-on experience to serve as a sea officer or even command a vessel. However, because of their lack of pedigree and patronage, they were often scorned and their talents left to wither on the vine, so to speak.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that, in Pepys' time, there was a waterproof or water-resistant clothing material called tarpaulin, which usually consisted of tarred or heavily oiled canvas, and was worn by sailors at sea.