Annotations and comments

James Louder has posted 10 annotations/comments since 21 April 2014.

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Second Reading

About Saturday 13 July 1667

James Louder  •  Link

"...Yesterday Sir Thomas Crew told me that Lacy lies a-dying of the pox, and yet hath his whore by him, whom he will have to look on, he says, though he can do no more."

By chance I let my cursor hover on the word pox (highlighted) and was astonished to see a note-box pop up with an elaborate description of smallpox. Surely, that is not what ailed Lacy. The Pox 'tout court' is syphilis, a distinction surely not lost on Pepys, in an age when the two diseases were both epidemic and dreaded. Lacy's alleged quip about his impotence makes no sense otherwise.

About Thursday 23 November 1665

James Louder  •  Link

"And a very pretty creature it is."

Let me suggest to those disturbed by the seemingly impersonal and (to modern sensibility) derogatory use of the neuter, that you have failed to reckon with the frenchified diction that was fashionable in Restoration times. "C'est donc une créature fort jolie." We need read nothing more into it.

About Sunday 4 September 1664

James Louder  •  Link

If I may amend a couple of Michael Robinson's remarks of ten years ago:

MUSIC: Pricksong (var. pricke song, prick song) is nothing other than music written out in mensural notation, as distinct from the equal note-values of plainsong (chant). If Pepys could read a single part then ipso facto he could read pricksong and carry a voice in a part-song--as we infer that he could and often did. His satisfaction at young Tom's ability to sing at sight suggests that Sam is glad to have someone who can keep up with him.

Pepys would have read tablature for his lute--as did all lutenists. As for his beloved viol, viol parts were often written in tablature, but by no means always. John Dowland's famous "Lachrymae, or Seven Teares etc." (1605) has all the viol parts in staff notation. Music for the lyra viol, a solo instrument meant for polyphonic music was usually printed in tablature. But music for the division viol, used for improvising variations, normally was written in staff notation. In the case of the virginals, the English seem to have written keyboard music in staff notation right from the beginning.

Sam also wrote some tunes of his own, copied out music, and was generally as conversant as an amateur with little formal training can be. His musical perplexity was with descanting and thorough-base, because for those one needs to know the rules of composition--quite a different kettle of fish.


MRS. FERRABOSCO: This lady's relationship to the putative Dark Lady, Emilia Lanier (née Bassano) turns on her exact parentage and age. One thing seems clear: since she was *Mrs.* Ferrabosco, she must have been a widow. A married woman would not have been looking for a place as a lady's maid/companion.

Emilia Lanier was married to her first cousin once-removed, Alphonse Lanier. Alfonso Ferrabosco the Younger had married A. Lanier's sister, Ellen, so he was Emilia's brother-in-law by marriage. A. Ferrabosco and Ellen had three sons: Alfonso III, Henry, and John--all musicians, like their father and grandfather. Alfonso III's date of death is given various as 1552 or 1562. If the second date is accurate and he left behind a young widow, then she could be the singing gentlewoman.

Henry died in Jamaica in 1658, apparently on military service. If he left a wife behind in England, she too could be the too-gallant Mrs. Ferrabosco. However, Henry had a daughter named Elizabeth, who was indeed Emilia Lanier's grand-niece by marriage. She would fit the bill if Pepys is mistaken about her marital status, i.e. not a widow but a maiden lady.

The third brother, John, lived until 1682, so his wife, Anne, isn't a candidate.

About Timothy Alsop

James Louder  •  Link

The pop-up note on Alsop says dead in 1666--but here we are in '64. Is Pepys mistaken to report Alsop's death? Did he recover to live another two years?

About Wednesday 18 November 1663

James Louder  •  Link

I see that, after all, I put the wrong construction yesterday on Sam's being "not unwilling" for Mr. Moore to sign his letter to Sandwich. Sam's double negative was simply a mistake, a slip, a typo (as we should say).

From the kitchen wafts the aroma of crow pie, and so to dine...

About Tuesday 17 November 1663

James Louder  •  Link

"[Mr. Moore]...did offer to take the same words and send them as from, him with his hand to him, which I am not unwilling should come (if they are at all fit to go) from any body but myself, and so, he being gone, I did take a copy of it to keep by me in shorthand, and sealed them up to send to-morrow by my Will."

@ Bradford, Paul Chapin-- If one lets the double negative do its work then no confusion arises. The two negatives cancel out : not unwilling = willing. Willing, in the sense of glad. To paraphrase...

"Moore offered to send my words over his own signature, which I would be glad [if he did]--anybody's signature, but mine!"

Moore doesn't depart with the letter because Sam wants to copy it for his own records, which he quickly does in shorthand. Will is to take Sam's original draft to Moore the next day.

About Thursday 12 November 1663

James Louder  •  Link

Stan B...Allow me to strike a light in the philological darkness, with a the help of the OED.

The word 'divers,' like so many others, came into Middle English from Old French, derived in turn from Latin 'diversus' = turned away, set apart (pplp. of 'divertere'), a sense we still retain in the verb, 'to divert.' The OED's first citation of the modern sense (='several') dates to 1340.

Of its many synonyms (sundry, several, various, different) all but the first followed the same trajectory: Latin --> French --> English. 'Sundry' alone is truly English, derived from the Old English 'syndrig' = separate (900), appearing in the sense of 'several' in Middle English (1260).

The word 'divers' is now considered archaic, but we still speak of 'diversity.' Sam's use of it, instead of the good old English 'sundry'--now also an archaism--may simply exemplify the frenchified diction that was fashionable at the time. 'Divers' is still current and common in French.

About Thursday 16 July 1663

James Louder  •  Link

Anyone puzzled by Sam's repairing to the (wood)carver's shop to see "about my Viall head" should know that where the violin family typically has a simple, elegant scroll on the instrument's peg-head, the viols still cultivated in the 17th century often had a little carved figure: the head of a maiden, a sage, a warrior, a dolphin...and many other motifs, much like the figureheads of ships. If you Google "viol" or better yet, search on YouTube, you may see and hear these instruments, which have been revived in our time. Today's luthiers take pride in carving these things themselves, but here we read that in Sam's day it must have been common to send the unfinished instrument out to a professional carver to have this detail added.

About Thursday 16 July 1663

James Louder  •  Link

@JWB Sorry, but I can't make your numbers come out. Wikipedia gives the English deal as 8.75 cubic feet. That is equivalent to 105 board feet in today's measure. (1bf = 12 x 12 x1 inches). That being so, Sam bought 4.2 million(!) board feet of lumber for £1540. Taking the 2005 equivalent of £118,225 (same conversion as yours) that comes out to 2.8 p ( 3.5¢ US) per board foot. If you know some place where I can get pine at that price, I'll take a truckload!

About Varnish

James Louder  •  Link

Many thanks to Bill for this very interesting quotation. However, I would like to correct an important detail, if I may. "Lake" here does not refer to the class of pigments know as "lakes" or "dye lakes." It means "Lac" or, as we would say, shellac. Lac is a natural resin secreted by one of a number of South-Asian insects, most commonly the true lac bug (Kerria lacca), which infests certain trees. The lac harvesters cut the infested branches, scrape off the resin, and grind it into coarse pellets about the size of lentils. In this state it is known as "seed-lac" or "seed-shellak"--"seed Lake" in the text above. A first stage of refinement involves melting and straining the lac granules to remove bits of bark and insect parts. The melted lac is then either cast into pucks (button-lac, button-shellac); or spread out in thin sheets which are then broken up into flakes--"shell Lake" here. Or shellac, as we would say.

Alcohol--"spirits of wine"--is the only solvent for shellac. It must be very high strength to create a good varnish--about 190 proof. The gunpowder method for proofing alcohol is new to me--and very clever it is. The alcohol would have to be very close to pure, or the residual water would wet the powder, which then would not burn. Alcohol of this purity was not available until the early 16th century and not readily available until the 17th. Prior to spirit-varnishes, woodwork was finished with wax or with drying oils, such a linseed oil--still used today.

A final detail: pigments called "lakes" are vegetable dyes combined with some kind of fixative, called a mordant (from the French "mordre"= to bite) that will soften the fibres of the fabric being dyed. Lac was originally used as a dyestuff, so the word "lake" for these pigments derives from the same word that gave us "shellac" The "shell" part also derives from French: "écaille"=a shell, a flake.