Friday 6 January 1659/60

This morning Mr. Sheply and I did eat our breakfast at Mrs. Harper’s, (my brother John being with me) upon a cold turkey-pie and a goose. From thence I went to my office, where we paid money to the soldiers till one o’clock, at which time we made an end, and I went home and took my wife and went to my cosen, Thomas Pepys, and found them just sat down to dinner, which was very good; only the venison pasty was palpable beef, which was not handsome. After dinner I took my leave, leaving my wife with my cozen Stradwick, and went to Westminster to Mr. Vines, where George and I fiddled a good while, Dick and his wife (who was lately brought to bed) and her sister being there, but Mr. Hudson not coming according to his promise, I went away, and calling at my house on the wench, I took her and the lanthorn with me to my cosen Stradwick, where, after a good supper, there being there my father, mother, brothers, and sister, my cosen Scott and his wife, Mr. Drawwater and his wife, and her brother, Mr. Stradwick, we had a brave cake brought us, and in the choosing, Pall was Queen and Mr. Stradwick was King. After that my wife and I bid adieu and came home, it being still a great frost.

51 Annotations

First Reading

Warren Keith Wright  •  Link

QUEEN and KING: January 5th was Twelfth Night (whence the title of Shakespeare's comedy), eve of the twelth day following Christmas. A special cake was baked for the occasion, containing tokens---sometimes a coin or trinket, but most often a bean. Apparently this cake contained one for each sex, so that there was both a Bean-King and a Bean-Queen. (Cf. "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.")

Nicholas Laughlin  •  Link

And the cake, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, was known as a Twelfth-cake.

Twelfth-day, of course, is the feast of the Epiphany, the discovery of the infant Christ by the Magi.

David Gurliacci  •  Link

Twelfth Night is alien to Americans,

probably as much as Thanksgiving is alien to anyone not from the U.S. or Canada. I hear it is practiced in most of the rest of the (Christian) world, though.

Is it celebrated by nearly everyone in the U.K., or is it like Halloween (Oct. 31) or New Year's Eve in the U.S., where many people just opt out? Actually, immigrants from Latin America have a version of it here. A school teacher in Connecticut told me she has a day off from school today because so many of her Latino students are celebrating the holiday.

I'd be interested to know from anyone in the U.K. if the following is accurate -- and how much of it applied to Pepys's time:

"When the cake is served, men are given pieces from the bean side, and women from the pea. Those who find the pea and bean are declared the Queen and King of the feast. They are then asked to give very silly tasks to the other guests. . . . Spiced ale, hot cider, ginger snaps and rich fruit cake are the traditional foods of Twelfth Night in England. The practice of celebrating this day did come over to America with the colonists of Virginia who held balls and parties and weddings on the 6th of January. But it is all but forgotten as a holiday now."


(I read somewhere it was also popular in colonial Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.)

And do people wish each other a happy Twelfth Night? Either way,

Have a Happy Twelfth Night!

Simon Fodden  •  Link

Twelfth Night may be alien to Americans, but they sing "The 12 Days of Christmas", and any Christian can tell you about epiphany, I suppose.

As well, it happens that Jan. 6 is "little Christmas" for those in the Orthodox churches, because of their retention of the old calendar.

M. Stolzenbach  •  Link

Simon's not quite right. There was "old Christmas" among the US settlers on Jan. 6. But the old calendar has fallen further behind as the centuries pass, and Orthodox Christmas (in Moscow for instance) now is Jan. 7 (Gregorian).

However most Orthodox in the US celebrate on Dec. 25 (Gregorian)as their neighbors do.

On Jan. 6 the Orthodox celebrate Theophany and the Great Blessing of Waters, in commemoration of Christ's Baptism in the Jordan.

David Gurliacci  •  Link

"a brave cake"

brave--"making a fine show: colorful; excellent, splendid." --Merriam Webster's online dictionary

This use of the word appears in the line "That brave vibration, each way free," in "Upon Julia's Clothes," that very sensuous six-line poem by the Rev. Robert Herrick, who, like Pepys, celebrated sex, sack and Twelfth Night. Herrick was 68, obscure and living in London (I think) on Twelfth Night, 1660. Puritans had fired him from his job as "dean prior" in Devonshire (if they only knew he had pagan leanings!), but King Charles would restore him to it in 1662.

"Upon Julia's Clothes" is here:…

He compared sack to sex in this poem about giving up the drink:…

And here's Herrick's "Twelfth Night":…

Pepys would've liked him. Does anyone know if he ever read Herrick?

Phil  •  Link

I can't speak for everyone in the UK, but as far as I know Twelfth Night is no longer celebrated here. The only time I've ever heard it referred to in practice is the date by which Christmas decorations should be taken down; if your tree and/or decorations are still on display by twelfth night it's bad luck! However, it could well be that those more religious than myself do mark the occasion in some other way.

PHE  •  Link

Twelth night (Epiphany) is still very much celebrated in France, but not on a large scale. They buy from the bakery a 'gallette des rois' (cake of the kings). This is circular with a hole in the middle (like a large doughnut)and comes with a small metal token (crown?) inserted in the cake and a cardboard crown on top. Whoever gets the token in their piece of cake becomes 'king' and must wear the crown for the rest of the meal.

Last December, I was in the Republic of Georgia which is Orthodox Christian. They have a very festive time as they celebrate Christmas on both 25th December and on the Orthodox date (around 6th Jan) as well as New Year in between.

Martin  •  Link

I'm from the UK too, and live in London. I have to say I have never heard of the 12th night or know of anybody that celebrates it, personally or in the media. Maybe we should start though, sounds fun!

Andy Thomas  •  Link

Twelfth night is certainly significant in our familiy as the date for the removal of the Christmas tree and decorations - not before, not after - and looking at the municipal tip (which had so many trees it had to close temporarily)it is significant for many other familiies as well.

Colman Reilly  •  Link

Used to be known as Women's Christmas in Ireland. It was celebrated in my mother's childhood (1940s-1950s), and still is to some extent I believe. I think the women would get the day off and get together and go visiting. We still normally make some nod in it's direction even now - maybe supper with the last of the Christmas smoked salmon and cake.

Alison Scott  •  Link

Twelfth night draws the festivities to a close, as people have said. I don't think it's actively unusual to celebrate it, but it's not common either (I'm in London, by the way). My parents went to a Twelfth night party this year, for example. The specific celebrations described are no longer practiced.

David Young  •  Link

Twelfth Night certainly is celebrated by Christians in the UK as the feast of the Epiphany i.e. the coming of the Magi. Sadly, however, the Christmas story for most Britons seems to end when the January sales begin!
(The emphasis place upon the Epiphany is a feature of the Western Church. In the Eastern church this day is more celebrated as the day of the baptism of Christ)

Alan Bedford  •  Link

Here in the U.S., the tradition of the King Cake is still seen around Epiphany in New Orleans, where the cake is ring-shaped and is made of what I would describe as a sweet roll dough, with nuts and dried fruit pieces. It contains a small, usually plastic, figure of the Christ Child. Probably comes from the French tradition in that area.
I imagine many more folks eat the "gallette de Roi" than actually observe Epiphany.

Phil Walker  •  Link

Twelfth Night is actually an 'Established Church' calendar festival, so it isn't celebrated in the States because most people aren't Episcopalians (Anglicans) or Catholics. Similarly in the UK, but more people aren't anything over here :) (in terms of church attendance, I mean)

The period in which Pepys was writing was around the time of the return of King Charles II, and the re-establishment of the Anglican Church which had suffered not a small measure of repression.

So people would have been celebrating Twelfth Night at this time, but possibly it wasn't officially allowed? I don't know that much about the history of the time.

The rise of Independent, Baptist and Presbyterian churches (my church doesn't celebrate Twelfth Night, or Advent, come to that) and the decline of the Anglican Church have led to the loss (if you see it that way) of these festivals in later centuries. Of course, growing secularisation may have a little to do with it, too.

So go along to your local Anglican church if you want to find out more about Epiphany - the vicar there should be able to answer your questions!

Paul Miller  •  Link

"and calling at my house on the wench,"
The origin of wench is Anglo-Saxon; wencel, meaning child. It probably derives from the Old German winchan, to stagger or totter. Originally, it was applied to either sex, as was 'maid' and even 'girl'; to Chaucer, a 'yonge-girl' could easily be a boy, and a 'knave-girl' certainly was.

Tari Elensar  •  Link

La Fête des Rois is still celebrated a little in Quebec, where you can also get a Galette des Rois at the patisserie. Only yesterday an old cabbie was telling me about the beans thing. As an anglo-Quebec family we never did these things ourselves.

Fred Turner  •  Link

The Latin American (and Spanish) equivalent of Twelfth Night is "Día de los Reyes Magos”, which celebrates the discovery by the Magi of the baby Jesus, as mentioned above. The day is widely celebrated, and in most of Latin America and Spain is more important than Christmas in terms of the receipt of gifts (i.e. Christmas is still a mostly religious holiday, relatively unspoiled by the commercialism of “Santa Claus”). Children receive their gifts from (and write letters to) the Magi, as Jesus received gifts from them upon His birth.

In Mexico, the Día de Reyes is traditionally celebrated with a Rosca de Reyes, a large, doughnut-shaped sweet bread with dried fruits on it, into which are inserted one or more small plastic dolls. The person(s) who get a doll in their piece of cake have to provide tamales on the Día de la Candelaria, February 2nd, which is the Day of the Purification of Mary (40 days after giving birth to Jesus) in the Catholic Church.

The story of Día de la Candelaria is told here (in Spanish):…

Michael Konold  •  Link

I heard about the Feast of the Epiphany yesterday on All Things Considered on NPR. Evidently, as stated above, it is still very much celebrated in the US by Latinos in East L.A. You can read some information and see pictures of nacimientos at:…

And the radio story is available at:…

(Note that on the All Things Considered page, there is actually a story about as well.)

M. Stolzenbach  •  Link

For those who speak Spanish, a little story... we were in Uruguay a good many years ago. The local satire magazine published a photo of the then-young Prince Charles, and a caption - he was saying, "Ahhhh, los reyes son los padres."

David Gurliacci  •  Link

You know your brain's too full of Pepy's when . . .

. . . you go outside and the first thing you think of when you slip and nearly fall on the ice is, "Oh, this must've been why Pepys had that lanthorn!"

Well, one reason, anyway. It will be interesting to see if he has it in the spring and summer. I wonder, were the streets cobblestoned? I bet the shoes and boots they had then didn't grip the ground well.

A broken leg back then was a good candidate for amputation, I think.

crouchback  •  Link

as mentioned in an earlier post, twelfth night is indeed known in new orleans and celebrated as the beginning of carnival. the phorty phunny phellows, a small krewe, notes the occasion by riding the st. charles streetcar line in costume on that night every year.

David Gurliacci  •  Link

". . . calling at my house on the wench, I took her . . . with me to my cosen . . ."

Pepys seems to be referring to Jane, his servant girl, who he takes to the Twelfth Night party. (Who else would be at his home? His wife would be with the Stradwicks.) It would be a nice night out for Jane (although if she's smart, she'll be deferential and on her best behavior). Pepys doesn't mention that Jane came back home with him and his wife.

Contrast this with Montagu, who didn't even know for some time that Pepys was married -- and that Mrs. Pepys was living upstairs with him in Montagu's own house (according to the excerpt of Tomalin's book read Monday on the BBC). Of course, Montagu had a number of servants, and Pepys had one.

Why invite the servant girl? The invitation might have been just a nice gesture on the part of Pepys or his wife; it might have been because (like Thanksgiving for North Americans or like Christmas for Christians) it's considered a shame for someone not to be celebrating with others on that night, and so invitations are more readily extended; or it might have been because there were fewer women at the party than men and it would be more fun to have a bit more competition on the pea side of the cake. Probably the reason was some combination of all of this.

In his listing of the guests at the evening party, he omits Mrs. Stradwick, who must have been there, along with himself, his wife and Jane.

ToastyKen  •  Link

Is there a difference between "cosen" and "cozen"?

language hat  •  Link

No. Spelling was pretty variable in the 17th century, and besides Pepys was writing in phonetic shorthand, so we can't tell what spelling he would have used had he written out the word.

By the way, "cousin" (in whatever spelling) was used to refer to any collateral relative, not just what we consider a cousin.

Susanna  •  Link

Cobblestone Streets

Yes, most of London's streets were paved with cobblestones. Sidewalks were rare, and the streets were often not very safe to walk on. Evelyn claimed "So many of the fair sex and their offspring perished by mischance... from the ruggedness of the uneven streets." There's a fuller discription of the condition of London's streets in Liza Picard's "Restoration London."

Phil  •  Link

I recently read Henry Mayhew's excellent 'London Labour and the London Poor,' and while it was written 200 years or so after Pepys' time it shows that even then streets were far from what we expect today. Even main thoroughfares were muddy and dirty enough that many people earned a (very minimal) living by sweeping crossings from one pavement/sidewalk to another for the better off (and better dressed). So I dread to think what they were like in Pepys' time.

Grahamt  •  Link

Just a little more about the Galette des Roi in France. This varies in type in different regions of France. The one I am familiar with that is available almost everywhere, is about 10-12 inches (25-30cm) diameter and about 1-2 inches(2.5-5 cm) thick with choux pastry on top and frangipan inside. The token inside is usually a ceramic figure (often plastic nowadays) called the "f

language hat  •  Link

Taking the wench:
Bryant says he took her to light his way in the streets at night.
(Phil: Bryant has a good description of Jane's character and duties; if you'll add a hyperlink and page for her, I'll type it in.)

BIR  •  Link

"only the venison pasty was palpable beef, which was not handsome": I take it Pepys is here criticizing his hosts for serving plain cow meat and claiming it is more desirable venison. If that's the right reading, this is an amusing example of looking a gift deer in the mouth.

Bert Winther  •  Link

It was interesting to read about Epiphany and its celebration or absence of celebration in different parts of the Christian world. The 6:th of January is a major holiday in Scandinavia.
I now live in the US but was born and raised in Sweden where Lutheran traditions still dominate public life. The day is referred to as 13th Day of Christmas but most people today have no idea of its significance (i.e., Epiphany). They are just happy to get another holiday. However, in Sweden (and probably in the rest of Scandinavia as well) the day doesn’t mean the end of Christmas. Celebrations continue until January 13 (the 20th Day of Christmas) when according to old customs the tree and all other Christmas decorations are removed. In modern times, this last day of Christmas has been securalized and is associated with partying and ballroom dances (“Knutsbaler”). The official year-end holidays are limited to December 25, December 26, January 1, and January 6. Most businesses and government offices are closed also on December 24 and December 31.

Ross Tomkins  •  Link

In her marvellous book The Cookery of England (whose cod-antique title continues "...being a Collection of Recipes for Traditional Dishes of All Kinds from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Day, with Notes on their Social and Culinary Background") Elizabeth Ayrton gives a recipe for Twelfth Night Cake. I've combined ingredients and method to make this note shorter.

Cream 1/2lb butter and 1/2lb caster sugar and stir in well the 4 well-beaten eggs and the 3 tblsps of brandy. Stir in the 1/2 lb flour and spices [pinch of nutmeg, pinch of cinnamon] gradually, then add the fruit [1/2lb each of currants, raisons, sultanas] and the nuts [2 oz blanched chopped almonds]. Beat well. Bake in cake tin lined with buttered paper for 3 hours at 300 degrees F.

Ayrton's book is almost certainly out of print but I bet could be found easily and cheaply on abebooks or something like that. Originally published 1974, Penguin 1977

vincent  •  Link

Judith Scott [nee Pepys] sister to Elizabeth Straidwick [nee Pepys]: Drawwater's wife is Stradwick's sister
{had 5 brothers; 3 still living: one Samuel 1628-? a clergyman in Dublin another brother Richard( 1622-1678? ) went to Boston (Mass) then Asden Essex England who may have married a Mary Skott(Scott) in 1650}
this Judy was the youngest daughter of
Sir Richard Pepys who was a cousin? of the famous diarist, but apparently not on intimate terms with him. Sir Richard had a distinguished career as a jurist, enjoying the favor of the Puritans. In his last years Sir Richard was Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, dying in Dublin on 2 Jan. 1658-59

gleened from :

Laimelde  •  Link

Venison was palpable beef
I dont think his host was serving beef and trying to pass it off as venison. Rather, I assumed the venison was perhaps old or not cooked quite right, and therefore tough, like beef. And certainly not too appealing, or handsome.

Antoine Firmin II  •  Link

The King Cake is still very much a part of local New Orleans and South Louisiana culture, from 12th Night all the way to Mardi Gras. Ours is usually a Brioche-type dough, ring or crown-shaped, covered in colored sugars and containing a small plastic "baby" white or black. In our family, though, the homemade cake contained a whole pecan. Whoever gets the pecan or baby is "king" and has to buy the next cake!

Mark Cheak  •  Link

In reference to Old Christmas and its celebration in the United States, there is a town in North Carolina which continues the celebration of Christmas on January 5th as this was the "old" date by the Julian calendar when the 11 days were removed in England and her colonies in 1752 by jumping from September 2 to September 14. Because the Eve of Epiphany was the same day, by the late 1800's Old Christmas in much of the Appalachian Mountains had slipped to January 6th, so that Old Christmas Eve and the Eve of Epiphany were the same night. Ironically by the Julian Calendar they were correct in moving it forward a day. At Midnight, tradition is that the animals will all begin praying in their own languages as they did when the Magi arrived. My father (from the Appalachian mountains of Virginia) is 72 today and recalls it from his childhood, while my sister, who is married to a Puerto Rican Catholic, is well-versed on the Day of Epiphany. We were just now comparing all the similarities. But the Twelthcake is not a part of it that my father can recall.

Second Reading

Lex Lector  •  Link

12th.Night; the twelve days of Christmas etc: a recent book review in the "Guardian Saturday Review" suggested that it was only in the Victorian era that we began to be encouraged to remove the Christmas decorations on 12th. Night - to gee us up and get us back to work. Prior to that the decorations hung about to brighten the drear days and no doubt to shimmer in the candle-light (for those who could afford candles!) of an evening until the days began to lengthen...I was performing in an Epiphany festival in Puglia, Italy a couple of years ago: big festival; church processions; fairs, bonfires in the streets, special deep-fried cakes &c. The children look forward to a visit from "Befana" - she's a witch, all sooty from dropping in via the chimney, who will leave sweets in a sock for "good" children, coal (or dark sweets - liquorice, or treacle toffee, maybe) for the bad. Surely all this stuff is agro-pagan pre-christian feasting: hope and fear and forgetting in the dark days after the solstice?

Autumnbreeze Movies  •  Link

Twelfth Night (6 January) is called Trzech Króli (Three Kings) in Poland and, as in the UK, that's when christmas trees come down or else it'll be bad luck.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Venison was palpable beef"

L&M note venison was often simulated.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Diary of Ralph Josselin (Private Collection)
6.1.1660 (Friday 6 January 1660)
document 70012190
6. Country full of Reports. that the secluded members arm to enforce their admission, the city for a full and free Parliament. Lambert marching in haste to London, lord we are yours, save us

Third Reading

Andrew  •  Link

I have just had today here in catalonia the traditional cake ( a roscon) for twelfth night, day of the Kings. Each cake contains a plastic bean and a king! Though the humour being the King in the cake was a small figurine of Elvis Presley ( that King). Some traditions continue ..

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

by Robert Herrick

NOW, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where bean's the king of the sport here;
Beside we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.

Begin then to choose,
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day queen for the night here.

Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the king and queen here.

Next crown a bowl full
With gentle lamb's wool:
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Give then to the king
And queen wassailing:
And though with ale ye be whet here,
Yet part from hence
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.

Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol II.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 145-146.


And David Gurliacci is correct. Rev. Robert Herrick was living in London and writing poetry designed to please the returning royalists in the new year of 1659/60.

Note that sugar, ginger and nutmeg are important ingredients. Much of Pepys' future will be spent making sure England's supply of these imports keep arriving from the Orient and the Caribbean.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

David also asked if Pepys knew Herrick -- Herrick isn't mentioned in the Diary, and since he spent most of the rest of his life in rural Devonshire, and Pepys never went there, I think we can assume they did not meet.

A quick way to find out if Pepys knew someone like Herrick is to type his name in the SEARCH box top right. It takes you to a page which asks you where you would like to search for the information:
The Diary (Pepys' words),
the Encyclopedia (the tap-through words in blue in the Diary so we don't have to repeat everything),
the Annotations (our musings things),
the Letters (Pepys and John Evelyn became correspondents),
or the In-Depth Articles (really interesting deep dives on subjects like Pepys' house on Seething Lane).

Poke around -- it'll enrich your enjoyment of the site.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"only the venison pasty was palpable beef, which was not handsome."

Pepys loved his venison pie -- and to find out that cousin Thomas' cook had substituted old beef must have been a great disappointment.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

I am an American and was raised Roman Catholic. I don’t remember any mention of 12th night in my neighborhood or in my church. I heard about it from my husband, who is British. When I was a child we took down the Christmas decorations on New Year’s Day or the day after, at the latest. It was supposed to be “bad luck” to leave them up any longer. We did hear and sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, but I thought it was a throwback to an earlier time.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Renouncing Charles II.
A Bill for taking and subscribing an Oath by every Member that now sits, or hereafter shall fit, in Parliament, for renouncing the Title of Charles Stewart, and of every other single Person, to the Crown or Government of these Nations, was this Day read the Second time.

Resolved, That the Debate upon this Bill be adjourned until To-morrow Morning.


That's the last item of today's Parliamentary notes: they have a long way to go mentally between now and April. How much will change in four months.

Jeremy Cherfas  •  Link

Somewhat surprised to find no mention among all the cakes, decorations &c of the ancient practice of wassailing, usually carried out on 12th night. In apple-growing areas of England and Wales I believe the tradition is being revived, blessing the orchards to ensure a bountiful crop.…

Francois  •  Link

12th Night is also known as women's Christmas in Ireland ( Nollaig na mBan in Irish) Where women gather in each other's houses or go out together to celebrate after doing all the hard work over the predceeding 11 days

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.