Thursday 5 January 1659/60

I went to my office, where the money was again expected from the Excise office, but none brought, but was promised to be sent this afternoon. I dined with Mr. Sheply, at my Lord’s lodgings, upon his turkey-pie. And so to my office again; where the Excise money was brought, and some of it told to soldiers till it was dark.

Then I went home, and after writing a letter to my Lord and told him the news that the Parliament hath this night voted that the members that were discharged from sitting in the years 1648 and 49, were duly discharged; and that there should be writs issued presently for the calling of others in their places, and that Monk and Fairfax were commanded up to town, and that the Prince’s lodgings were to be provided for Monk at Whitehall.

Then my wife and I, it being a great frost, went to Mrs. Jem’s, in expectation to eat a sack-posset, but Mr. Edward not coming it was put off; and so I left my wife playing at cards with her, and went myself with my lanthorn to Mr. Fage, to consult concerning my nose, who told me it was nothing but cold, and after that we did discourse concerning public business; and he told me it is true the City had not time enough to do much, but they are resolved to shake off the soldiers; and that unless there be a free Parliament chosen, he did believe there are half the Common Council will not levy any money by order of this Parliament. From thence I went to my father’s, where I found Mrs. Ramsey and her grandchild, a pretty girl, and staid a while and talked with them and my mother, and then took my leave, only heard of an invitation to go to dinner to-morrow to my cosen Thomas Pepys.

I went back to Mrs. Jem, and took my wife and Mrs. Sheply, and went home.

30 Annotations

First Reading

Susanna  •  Link


Sack-posset is a custard made of cream and wine. From The Cook's Guide: Or, Rare Receipts for Cookery (1654):

To make a Sack posset.

Take a quart of thick cream, boyle it with whole spice, then take sixteen eggs, yolks and whites beaten very well, then heat about three quarters of a pint of sack, and mingle well with your eggs, then stir them well into your cream, and sweeten it, then cover it up close for half an hour or more over a seething pot of water or over very slow embers, in a bason, and it will become like a cheese.…

David Gurliacci  •  Link


". . . where the Excise money was brought, and some of it told to soldiers . . ."

On first reading, that use of the word "told" seemed confusing, even though "bank teller" is common (and Pepys's boss, Downing, is officially a "teller" of the exchequer).

The word "tell" originally meant to "enumerate; count; reckon," according to Webster's New World Dictionary. So Pepys simply means the money was carefully doled out to the soldiers.

Actually, a little flipping through the dictionary shows that use of the word "told" is still around -- in the phrase "all told," meaning "all (being) counted."

Stuart Woodward  •  Link

Lanterns & Frost

I think that Pepys usage of "lanthorn" is just the archaic spelling of "lantern".…

Also when Pepys mentions "a great frost" it was possibly very much colder than the winter temperature in London today.

The seventeenth century was particularly cold and the Thames froze several time with ice up 11 inches thick! Strange weather perhaps but it is worth reading the following link to a chronology of London weather from 1114-1896 to see how much the weather can vary from "the norm".


James_n  •  Link

The reason the Thames froze was not necessarily soley due to colder weather. I think it used to run slower than it does now, making it easier to freeze over. This is because more modern land reclamation around the banks has made the channel more narrow, forcing a faster flow.

Phil  •  Link

I've read before that the slower flow of the Thames was one of the reasons it used to freeze. I heard then that the cause was because the old London Bridge (and maybe others?) had a smaller amount of space for the water to flow through - it had many supports/piers and smaller gaps between them, thus slowing the river down.

The old London Bridge is a fascinating construction:…

Eunice Muir  •  Link

The mid 17th century, the period Pepys Diary was covering, was known as "the Little Ice Age". The winters were notoriously cold and brutal, which incidentally was one of the problems that the Pilgrims had to contend with in the New World.

language hat  •  Link

I'd just like to thank everyone for the great annotations, which materially add to the enjoyment of reading the diary!

Alex Prior  •  Link

I always understood that the 'Little Ice Age' was caused by a volcanic eruption (possibly in Iceland) which had caused enough matter to be deposited in the atmosphere to cause the temperatures in the northern hemishpere to fall slightly but significantly enough to cause the unusual cold weather experienced at the time. I may be worng and I may have even dreamt it, I have no idea which volcano was supposed to have erupted and caused the phenomenon.

David Gurliacci  •  Link

posset-tively enticing

I was wondering how well all those eggs and that cream or milk would keep since it wouldn't be used in the sack-posset -- and then I recalled how cold it was that day.

It seems that sack-posset sometimes was just a drink, at other times (probably depending on the recipe and the preferences of the cook and those who ingested it) it was more like a runny custard. Eggnog apparently has its 18th-century origins in sack-posset.

"Originated in Staffordshire, England, sack posset was a hot wintry drink, popular in ale houses, that was made with egg, milk, and strong ale. It is similar to a European peasant drink called "syllabub" (made by squirting milk, fresh from the cow, into a pail of strong ale) and akin to the Italian zabaglione (a sweet egg-cream dessert flavored with marsala wine and sometimes used as pastry filling), the German biersuppe (a beer-based eggnog, with courants and raisins thrown in for good measure), and the fabled English "egg flip" (hot eggs and cream, spiked with brandy)."


Sack-posset "includes certain spices -- some mace, cinnamon and nutmeg. . . . In the 15th century they would have been purely the preserve of the social elite. By the time we reach the mid-1600s they're becoming more available to the town class."

This same source includes a recipe with modern measurements:…

Another recipe:…

And if you're worried about under-cooked eggs sickening your guests, the American Egg Council, via a newspaper in Topeka, Kansas, comes to your rescue:…

In conclusion, here are some lines from a sack-posset recipe/poem:

"To make a


From famed Barbadoes on the Western Main
Fetch sugar half a pound; fetch sack from Spain
A pint; and from the Eastern Indian Coast, Nutmeg, the glory of our Northern toast.
Each lad and lass snatch up their murdering spoon,
And fall on fiercely like a starved dragoon."…

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

I'm curious to see if anyone has an answer to answer Mr/Ms Prior's question about the Little Ice Age being caused by a volcanic eruption. My own vague recall is that an eruption caused the "the year with no summer" -- 1816 -- (mentioned in the Little Ice Age page referenced by another anotator). That was only year, however, out of a period of centuries. Does any reader have more authoritative information? (By the way, in Maine, they remember as 1816 as "the year there was frost every month and snow in July.")

David Gurliacci  •  Link

Little Ice Age (LIA) causes:

There's a brief discussion of the cause in Scott Mandia's website that Patrice provided in the annotations just above.
Mandia says that volcano eruptions can't account for the hundreds of years of the Little Ice Age, but there's some evidence that they help explain some of the coolest years. Here's the specific page of Mandia's website:…

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

More on the Little Ice Age and its causes:

I just read an interesting article over at the NASA Web site that blames sunspots for such climactic events as the Little Ice Age.

You can find the article here:…

Surprisingly (and, to me anyway, counterintuitively), during the periods of the Sun's cycles when there are fewer sunspots, the atmosphere of the Earth turns colder, while periods of more sunspots mean a hotter climate. Here's a quote from the article:
"For example, between 1645 and 1715 (a period astronomers call the 'Maunder Minimum') the sunspot cycle stopped; the face of the Sun was nearly blank for 70 years. At the same time Europe was hit by an extraordinary cold spell: the Thames River in London froze, glaciers advanced in the Alps, and northern sea ice increased. An earlier centuries-long surge in solar activity (inferred from studies of tree rings) had the opposite effect: Vikings were able to settle the thawed-out coast of Greenland in the 980s, and even grow enough wheat there to export the surplus to Scandinavia."

Oddly, though multiple sunspots are an indication of increased solar activity, which raises temperatures on Earth, single sunspots can have the opposite effect ... presumably because they darken a portion of the Sun's surface and allow less energy to reach Earth.

Looking at one of the graphics in the article referenced above, you can see that the number of sunspots decreased in the early 19th century (though that period has not been classified as a "minimum" event), which may help explain the "year with no summer" that JonTom talks about above.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

I'm not the only one who found the sunspot connection counterintuitive!

Here's a quote from the article Language Hat referenced:
"Another possible explanation concerns the number of sunspots during the year. The year 1816 was one of a weak sunspot maximum. This climate theory related to sunspot numbers suggests an increase in sunspot numbers results in a decrease in energy released by the sun, thus reducing the solar radiation incident upon the Earth and the planetary temperature."

That would make sense, wouldn't it? But, they've gotten it switched around. As the NASA article says, increased sunspots actually translate into hotter temperatures on Earth, while fewer sunspots (except for the single-sunspot phenomenon mentioned above) translate into colder temperatures.

Sunspot activity was low throughout the early 19th century, and it looks like that, along with the volcanic eruptions that Susanna and LH (among others) have talked about, combined to create some cold times for our ancestors all over the world.

Julie Winkler  •  Link

Back to Lanterns:
Regarding the reference to the lanthorn- the term is used to definately refer to a lantern by Shakespeare in his play A Midsummer Night's Dream(… approximately between 1595-1596:
"This man with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,
Presenteth moonshine..."
"This lanthorn doth the horned moon present
Myself the man i'the moon do seem to be"

cgs  •  Link

"... went myself with my lanthorn to..."

a. A transparent case, e.g. of glass, horn, talc, containing and protecting a light. For blind, bull's eye, Chinese, friar's lantern, see those words. Also DARK LANTERN, MAGIC LANTERN.

b. lantern and candle-light: the old cry of the London bellman at night. Hence lantern and candle man: a bellman.
1592 NASHE P. Penilesse C2, It is said, Lawrence Lucifer, that you went vp and downe London crying then like a lanterne and candle man.
1600 HEYWOOD Edw. IV, I. (1613) C, No more calling of lanthorne and candle light.
1602 DEKKER Satiromastix I 2b, Dost roare, bulchin, dost roare? th'ast a good rounciuall voice to cry Lanthorne & Candle-light.

1641 J. JACKSON True Evang. T. I. 25 Others [Nero] staked through, rosined and waxened over their bodies, and so set them lighted up, as torches and lanthornes to passengers.
1664 POWER Exp. Philos. I. 24 The Gloworm..This is that Night Animal with its Lanthorn in its tail. 1

3. a. A lighthouse.
b. The chamber at the top of a lighthouse, in which the light is placed.
c. Some part of a ship.
a. 1601 HOLLAND Pliny I. 110 In truth it [a watch-tower] serueth in right good stead as a Lanthorne.
1615 G. SANDYS Trav. 40 Vpon the shore there is an high Lanterne, large enough at the top to containe about threescore persons, which by night directeth the sailer into the entrance of the Bosphorus.
1705 ADDISON Italy 258 Caprea, where the Lanthorn fix'd on high, Shines like a Moon through the benighted Sky, While by its Beams the wary Sailor steers.

c. 1661 PEPYS Diary 17 Jan., The ‘Soverayne’ a most noble ship:..all went into the lanthorne together.
notice spellings be as said.

Second Reading

Neil Ferguson  •  Link

If today's crop of scientists were out and about the cold would have been put down to a reduction on CO2 in the atmosphere......burn more fossil fuels !

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Some highlights on the source of funds for the Excise Office over the years. More information from:…

In defense of excises on strong drink, Adam Smith wrote: "It has for some time past been the policy of Great Britain to discourage the consumption of spirituous liquors, on account of their supposed tendency to ruin the health and to corrupt the morals of the common people."

Samuel Johnson was less flattering in his 1755 dictionary: “EXCI'SE. n.s. ... A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid.”

Monies raised through excise may be earmarked for redress of specific social costs commonly associated with the product or service being taxed. Tobacco tax revenues, for example, might be spent on government anti-smoking campaigns.

Excise duties or taxes often serve political as well as financial ends. Public safety and health, public morals, environmental protection, and national defense are all rationales for the imposition of an excise.

Excise (often under different names, especially before the 15th century, usually consisting of several separate laws, each referring to the individual item being taxed) has been known to be applied to substances which would in today's world seem rather unusual, such as salt, paper, and coffee. In fact, salt was taxed as early as the 2nd century, and as late as the 20th.

Many different reasons have been given for the taxation of such substances, but have usually – if not explicitly – revolved around the scarcity and high value of the substance, with governments clearly feeling entitled to a share of the profits traders make on these expensive items. Such would the justification of salt tax, paper excise, and even advertisement duty have been

The window tax was introduced after controversy arose around the introduction of income tax, which was considered to be a breach of privacy. The rationale behind this was that the grandeur of a person's house, and hence the number of windows, was a visible sign of their wealth – which could, furthermore, not be hidden as income can. One way people got around this problem was to brick up their windows. In the case of poor people this was a big social problem, as they would often force themselves to live in the dark in order to avoid paying this tax

I wonder what offices were still functioning enough to bring in revenues now.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Monck was to be given the Prince's lodgings at Whitehall -- the Prince is linked to Prince Rupert. Is this correct per L&M?

According to…

In 1657 Prince Rupert quarreled over his inheritance with his elder brother, Charles Louis, who was restored to the Palatinate, and was unable to find suitable military employment with the ending of the Thirty Years War. He returned to England after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. Despite their quarrel of 1654, Rupert was warmly received by the King. He was granted an annual pension.

So why did he have a designated apartment at Whitehall? I could understand the Cromwells keeping a generic "Prince's Apartment" for VIP guests ... but for Rupert? Did they expect him to defect or something? Most of the Royals lived/were detained at St. James' Palace ... ???

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... went to Mrs. Jem’s, in expectation to eat a sack-posset, but Mr. Edward not coming it was put off; ..." Sounds like a party was planned for Jem's brother, Edward Montagu, Viscount Montagu. Since he was born 3 January 1647/48, it could have been a 12th birthday bash. His parents are at Hinchingbrooke ... I wonder why he is in a dangerous place like London? Possibly staying with his Crew grandfather? Maybe we will find out another day ...

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

That should be Edward Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke ... sorry.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"So why did he have a designated apartment at Whitehall? I could understand the Cromwells keeping a generic "Prince's Apartment" for VIP guests ... but for Rupert? Did they expect him to defect or something? Most of the Royals lived/were detained at St. James' Palace ... ???"

I guess the answers to these questions depend on the year; just now we seem to be on a cusp -- where the City and Rump reborn are between the Commonwealth and the Restoration.

I imagine that after he arrived in England in 1642, King Charles' nephew Prince Rupert was given quarters in Whitehall that he retained after this 1680 ground plan of the palace (the legend shows he is #3, after the King and Duke of York).…

As best I can tell from the diary and notes on the site, St. James Palace, used as a barracks in Cromwell's time, was used after the Restoration as a residence for the second rank of administrators, and of the Duke of York in autumns.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"he told me it is true the City had not time enough to do much, but they are resolved to shake off the soldiers"

Troops had occupied the city since the apprentices' riot of 5 December 1659 in favor of a free parliament. (L&M note)

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Sorry Terry, in 1660 Versailles was still a favorite country chateau favored by the royal family for hunting. According to this article about a 2001 book on Versailles, Louis XIV started building it in 1661. And it took several years before he could move in. And more before the whole court moved there.
Magnificent photos.…

I believe Louis XIV and his Regent mama, Anne of Austria, lived at the Louvre, but I can't find a citation for this. Am I right, Stephane?

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... Monk and Fairfax were commanded up to town, ...'

Always opposed to military rule, in 1660 Gen. Thomas, Lord Fairfax raised troops in Yorkshire to support Gen. George Monck. By neutralising Parliamentarian forces in the north, he gave Monck the chance to march south and restore Charles II.…

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