Annotations and comments

Cassidy has posted seven annotations/comments since 2 November 2016.

The most recent first…


Second Reading

About Thursday 22 September 1664

Cassidy  •  Link

I believe the 1-in-3 figure for maternal deaths is a statistic that's been passed down verbally but has no real grounding in fact. According to Catherine Scholten in "Childbearing in American Society 1650-1850", fewer than 20% of women died in childbirth in 17th century Plymouth, Mass. (That's 20% total, not a 20% likelihood of dying per each child born.) Martha Ballard, a late 18th century midwife, left a meticulous diary showing that about 4% of the mothers at births she attended died, and records from the Dublin Maternal Hospital in the late 18th and early 19th century show an average 1% mortality rate.

You were much more likely to die in childbirth if you gave birth in a general hospital in the late 18th century or later, since doctors might go from dissecting a body directly to the delivery room, without washing their hands.

About Sunday 17 April 1664

Cassidy  •  Link

Stays are actually considered to be pretty comfortable. It's hard to wrap a modern brain around because we grow up "knowing" that corsetry is Bad, but 'tis true. (At least, when they fit. I suspect Bess goes to a reputable staymaker.)

A woman in a boned bodice could still fall asleep in church - but her stays would hold her upright instead of slumping, so maybe it would be less obvious.

About Friday 25 March 1664

Cassidy  •  Link

"he finds him to have been so negligent, that he used to trust his servants with cutting out of clothes, never hardly cutting out anything himself"

Then and now, the cutting-out was one of the most important parts of the tailoring profession, both because of the expense of the fabric and because it's crucial to the fit of the garment. The sewing itself was often done by young apprentices with varying amounts of experience, who would eventually graduate up to specialized tasks. Tom allowing his servants to cut out the pieces he's making for customers really is extremely negligent and irresponsible, and perhaps is why he's so in debt.

About Friday 27 November 1663

Cassidy  •  Link

I agree with Sasha. Wives in the "household manager" position were supervising maids and performing, essentially, skilled labor - not scrubbing alongside them.

She is most likely "poor" because she's ill.

About Saturday 21 November 1663

Cassidy  •  Link

The original meaning of "parti-colored" was half one color and half another, the stereotypical "medieval jester" outfit (although it was not only jesters who dressed that way). By this point, it was in no way fashionable to have your left side blue and your right side red, so it's not likely to mean that here. India was producing cottons and silks, but I suspect this gown is silk, as Pepys would likely have noted calico as it was a great luxury in the 17th century.

Probably this is a silk gown with a bodice of one color and sleeves + petticoat of another, as can be seen in this portrait of the Marquise de Longueville:…

About Saturday 7 November 1663

Cassidy  •  Link

The adjectival use of "scurvy" is also associated with sailors (specifically, pirates) today, isn't it? I.e. "scurvy dogs".

About Sunday 1 November 1663

Cassidy  •  Link

Sam's gown was probably a wrapping gown/morning gown - this was starting to become a symbol of intellectual pursuits, and it was the done thing to have your portrait painted in one to show you were a thinker and of comfortable means. See the 1689 Kneller portrait of Sir Isaac Newton:…

I suspect the written aspect of math, and maybe larger numbers, must be part of the lessons. Does anyone know when doing the household accounts became the wife's job? I'm more familiar with the later 18th century, when it seems to have been expected for a woman of this social level to be in charge of that, which would seem to be impossible here if Mrs. P is unable to do larger sums.