Annotations and comments

Mary K has posted 1,129 annotations/comments since 9 March 2007.


About Friday 4 January 1666/67

Mary K  •  Link

Much as I like the suggestion that Mr. Isaac's Maggot may explain the reference to Isaac's balls in this version of the song, we really need to see text of the earliest citation of the song's existence (1661) to know whether or not that was in the earliest known version. Clearly the reversal of stanza's five and six in the later version indicates some later editing of the text (and not a very happy edit in terms of the thematic flow of the song). It's therefore possible that the reference to Isaac in the 1668 text may indicate a later change, perhaps a contemporary reference to the dancing master's burgeoning reputation after 1675. There is a fairly common tendency for 'contemporary' allusions to be grafted onto existing popular songs/ditties over the years. Modern comedians/satirists often resort to this trick.

About Saturday 4 April 1668

Mary K  •  Link

I suspect that Pembroke actually said, "no an please your Majesty..." An = if (as in the old rhyme "If ifs and ans were pots and pans, there'd be no work for tinkers."

About Catherine of Braganza (Queen)

Mary K  •  Link

I assume that she's so named for her familial house. Cf. Henry Plantagenet, Henry Tudor etc. Her father was the first Braganza ruler of Portugal after the overthrow of the Spanish Hapsburgs and they were doubtless proud of the Braganza name as a result.

About Sunday 28 October 1666

Mary K  •  Link

The most straightforward interpretation of Captain Guy's words is that both Rupert and Holmes had had more than enough of their prospects in the current engagement and decided to take no further part in it - presumably having judged it (whether accurately or not) unprofitable. They didn't just stand aside they went aside. Guy seems to be citing their behaviour as examples of the lack of order and courage that he alleges.

Drunkenness doesn't come into it; they simply don't have the stomach for the situation.

About Wednesday 24 October 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Lack of money may have been the most severe drawback for many who wanted to start post-Fire rebuilding immediately after the 1666 fire. It was not until 1696 that the Guildhall records show evidence of the first buildings insurance company (The Hand-in-Hand Fire and Life Insurance Association) being established in the city. The well-known Sun Insurance company followed in 1710.

About Thursday 18 October 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Mary Knight,( a singer)

Curses! My name being bandied about after 350 years of complete seclusion!

About Tuesday 9 October 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Pepys and his educated contemporaries do not have "poor spelling." They are living at a time when the spelling of individual words in the national lexicon has not yet been "fixed" but remains flexible - though not to the extent that it renders any text incomprehensible. We have to wait for the wider dissemination of authoritative and respected dictionaries for many words to acquire an absolutely 'right' spelling.

About Thursday 20 September 1666

Mary K  •  Link

Shelving practice.

Perhaps Pepys had adopted the practice of Thomas Bodley (1545 - 1613), founder of the Bodlieian Library at Oxford and Sir Henry Savile, Warden of Merton College; they favoured the shelving of books with the spines to the back of the shelf, not spine outwards as is the more general practice. Spine-inwards does have the notional advantage of preserving finely gilded leather spines from exposure to daylight and hence to fading.

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.

About Tuesday 15 January 1666/67

Mary K  •  Link

Candle auctions

And let's not forget the candle-and-pin auction which is still held once a month in Horncastle, Lincolnshire at the Black Swan on South Street. In this ancient variant, a pin is pushed through a candle and the candle lit. At the point where the melting wax causes the pin to fall, the last person to bid wins the auction.