Annotations and comments

Mary K has posted 1041 annotations/comments since 9 March 2007.

The most recent…


About Friday 7 September 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Annual laundry occasions.

It was only very wealthy households that allegedly saved up all their laundry for a huge, annual orgy of a wash-day. The (again alleged) purpose was to demonstrate to others that they were so wealthy that they had enough stores of linen to be able to afford such a practice. I've always had some doubts about this possible canard.

About Friday 24 August 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Closets then and now

Nowadays we think of a closet as a small, enclosed space used for storing goods of some description, whether clothes, cleaning materials or whatever.

In the 17th century a closet was distinguished primarily by its function as a room kept solely for the use of one person; his private "office" so to speak. It would normally be a room of smaller dimensions than the rooms of the house that afforded common access but in a large house or building could be of fairly generous size, and the Seething Lane property was a substantial building. Pepys has refurbished this new closet so that it will be large enough to hold the numerous presses that have been commissioned for shelving his books. We know that these presses take up a good amount of space (as is seen in the Pepys Library in Cambridge) so this room must have been a good deal more spacious than his old closet. I don't know the dimensions of the Pepys Library offhand, but if memory serves me right it could easily be at least 20 feet long, though its width is less.

About Monday 9 July 1660

Mary K  •  Link


All that pounding of almonds and loaf-sugar would have made for some sore muscles. Again, I am reminded of Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book (1857).
"To stir butter and sugar together is the hardest part of cake-making. Have this done by a manservant."

About Sunday 19 August 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Reeves's pictures on glass

Forerunners of the Magic Lantern Show that entertained many a Victorian family?

About Friday 10 August 1666

Mary K  •  Link

As for cunning men.....

Perhaps Pepys could also bear in mind Bacon's aphorism that "all rising to great place is by a winding stair."

About Wednesday 25 July 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Mrs. Burroughs undressed

I take it that this means that Mrs. Burroughs was looking very ordinary today: just workaday clothes, hair undressed, not at all as appealing as when she's all primped and dolled up for company.

About Monday 25 June 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Just possibly kumquats ( if stock had been obtained as a curiosity from a traveller to far eastern lands) but hardly "most likely." Kumquats were largely unknown in Europe before the middle of the nineteenth century.

About Friday 25 May 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Whatever mileage is postulated, isn't it more likely that the Pepys's followed their normal pattern for similar evening outings and engaged a cab?

About Friday 25 May 1666

Mary K  •  Link

the air of Hackney ...

...would indeed have been refreshing after the air of London. It was a countrified district most notable for the smallholdings that supplied fresh produce to the city. Since Tudor times Hackney had been favoured as a location for substantial country houses and in Pepys time, although most of the aristocrats had moved on, the merchant class had taken to the area. The village boasted a notable tavern (The Mermaid), a bowling green and other country pleasures.

About Sunday 20 May 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Samuel's own coach.

He doesn't have a coach of his own at this date so that particular question doesn't arise.