Saturday 4 February 1659/60

In the morning at my lute an hour, and so to my office, where I staid expecting to have Mr. Squib come to me, but he did not. At noon walking in the Hall I found Mr. Swan and got him and Captain Stone together, and there advised about Mr. Downing’s business. So to Will’s, and sat there till three o’clock and then to Mr. Swan’s, where I found his wife in very genteel mourning for her father, and took him out by water to the Counsellor at the Temple, Mr. Stephens, and from thence to Gray’s Inn, thinking to speak with Solicitor Ellis, but found him not, so we met with an acquaintance of his in the walks, and went and drank, where I ate some bread and butter, having ate nothing all day, while they were by chance discoursing of Marriot, the great eater, so that I was, I remember, ashamed to eat what I would have done. Here Swan shewed us a ballad to the tune of Mardike which was most incomparably wrote in a printed hand, which I borrowed of him, but the song proved but silly, and so I did not write it out. Thence we went and leaving Swan at his master’s, my Lord Widdrington, I met with Spicer, Washington, and D. Vines in Lincoln’s Inn Court, and they were buying of a hanging jack to roast birds on of a fellow that was there selling of some. I was fain to slip from there and went to Mrs. Crew’s to her and advised about a maid to come and be with Mrs. Jem while her maid is sick, but she could spare none. Thence to Sir Harry Wright’s, but my lady not being within I spoke to Mrs. Carter about it, who will get one against Monday. So with a link boy to Scott’s, where Mrs. Ann was in a heat, but I spoke not to her, but told Mrs. Jem what I had done, and after that went home and wrote letters into the country by the post, and then played awhile on my lute, and so done, to supper and then to bed.

All the news to-day is, that the Parliament this morning voted the House to be made up four hundred forthwith.

This day my wife killed her turkeys that Mr. Sheply gave her, that came out of Zealand with my Lord, and could not get her m’d Jane by no means at any time to kill anything.

84 Annotations

First Reading

Warren Keith Wright  •  Link

So discussing gluttony dampens Sam's appetite: a useful trick---but will it work for the rest of the 7 Deadlies?

Meanwhile, Mrs. Pepys is shown to be ever more a woman of parts. (A housewife's lot has never been an easy one; in her small rural town, my grandmother [b. 1901] dispatched her own chickens likewise, through the late 1970s.) Though Pepys need not remind himself that his wife's name was Elizabeth, according to Phil's Search she has never yet been designated as such in the Diary itself. He must have expected Posterity to do a little research.

language hat  •  Link

"buying of a hanging jack":

jack (OED 8):
A machine for turning the spit in roasting meat; either wound up like a clock or actuated by the draught of heated air up the chimney (smoke-jack).

1587 Lanc. Wills (Chetham Soc.) II. 190 The iacke whiche turneth the broche. 1615 J. Stephens Satyr. Ess. 285 The winding up of a iacke is better then musicke to his eares in Lent. 1660 Pepys Diary 23 Oct., After supper we looked over..his wooden jack in his chimney, which goes with the smoke, which indeed is very pretty. 1778 Mad. D'Arblay Diary Sept., Our roasting is not magnificent, for we have no jack. 1840 Dickens Barn. Rudge xxix, Hugh..sent it twirling round like a roasting jack.

language hat  •  Link

"the song proved but silly":
Besides its modern meaning, "silly" had also the following senses (OED):

2 Weak, feeble, frail; insignificant, trifling
3 Unlearned, unsophisticated, simple, rustic, ignorant.

Roger Miller  •  Link


This is the tune 'Mardike' from Playford's Dancing master or Plaine and Easie Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances 1657.…

Fred Coleman  •  Link

"Marriot the great eater": Thanks to Latham & Matthews, we learn that this is a reference to one Ben Marriott, of Gray's Inn (d. 1653), a by-word for gluttony and the subject of several coarse pamphlets, e.g. "The great eater of Grayes-Inne, or The life of Mr. Marriott the cormorant".

sqk  •  Link

I just started the diarys this week and have caught up.. a few times earlier it was said that someone was "abroad"
what did this mean? I know they were still local because one time it referred to Mrs Pepys.

the site is fantastic
thank you.

Pauline  •  Link

"Abroad" meaning away from one's home.

Django Cat  •  Link

So Mrs Ann is still fed up with Sam about the flock bed.

I wonder if Montague has brought these Turkeys from Denmark, or is this a different Zealand?

Marriot 'the great eater' sounds a fascinating charactor. Does anybody else know anything about him?

James Casey  •  Link

Isn't Zealand in The Netherlands?

Conventionally spelled 'ee' these days, but it's definitely there...

Roger Miller  •  Link

Cormorant (see annotation above on 'Marriot the great eater')…

The allusion is to the way these birds swallow large fish.

I work in Wandsworth near the Thames and now the quality of the water in the river has been much improved I see cormorants quite frequently.

Andrea  •  Link

Zeeland is a province at the coast of the the Netherlands. You would pass it on the way to Antwerp or Rotterdam, which I presume were quite big trade cities.

mwyler  •  Link

I'm loving this site! Thanks to all involved........As my grasp of 17th century British history is a bit shaky, does anyone know of an online historical timeline that can be consulted while reading the diary??

steve h  •  Link

link boys

One of the persistent (and very low paying) jobs in London from the 17th century to the 19th. Link boys figure in Restoration comedies and in Dickens as well. A poem in praise of Dr. Johnson, a hunded years later, indicates the fee for having someone light the way:
"Where, like a farthing link-boy, Jenyns stands,
And the dim torch drops from his feeble hands."
Of course, that's 100 years later, given inflation ... Indeed, there may not have been any coin smaller than a farthing in 1660 (weren't groats no longer used?) I wonder how much a farthing could buy in 1660? It might be interesting, as the Diary is so much about getting and spending, to have an idea of the cost of items. For example, how much would Sam's morning draught cost?

steve h  •  Link


As I did a little research, I discovered a great site that indicates the coins in circulation in 1660 (or any other period in English history) and their relative values…

Farthings (1/4 penny) were indeed the smallest coins at the time.

Andrea  •  Link

Money in 1660
Thanks Steve - great link...

The Bank of England publishes a Retail Price Index (I think every month). They state that £1 in 1660 had the same spending power as £75.39 today.

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

"The House to be made up four hundred forthwith"
Does anyone know if that means that the Rump was planning on recalling four hundred of the excluded members, or to call for four hundred new by elections?

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

"Mrs. Ann was in a heat"
Any speculation as to whether this "heat" was literal or figurative (given that in our recent encounters with Mrs. Ann, she has had a fever from ague or has been in a dudgeon as Mr.Pepys).

gerry healy  •  Link

According to Latham and Matthews Zeeland is in Denmark,Montagu's fleet having returned from there in August 1659.

D Menchaca  •  Link

As to Parliament vote: The Rump Parliament, knowing that public sentiment seemed to be heading toward reinstatement of the monarchy, may have been trying to limit the number of previous members who could reclaim their seats under a regime change. Probably, they were also trying to keep their own seats (and heads) by picking who could vote in case there was an election.

Love this project. Thanks to Phil for it.

SQK  •  Link



R Leask  •  Link

There was no king at the time of writing. Richard Cromwell, son of Oliver, had been removed the previous year.


"Rump Parliament and Long Parliament (1659-1660)
On 6 May 1659 the military officers carried out a coup by declaring that they have invited the members of the Parliament who "continued sitting till the 20th of April, 1653, to return to the exercise and discharge of their trust", and they "gently" persuade Speaker Lenthall to accept the invitation. The Rump Parliament convened on 7 May 1659 and issued a declaration establishing "commonwealth without a king, single person, or house of lords," thus effectively terminating Richard's protectorship. However, in a few months it became clear that the Rump was unable to govern. On 13 Oct 1659, it was dissolved by the army under General Lambert and substituted with the 23-member Committee of Safety. However, Sir Arthur Haselrig appealed to other Army generals to support the Rump against Lambert, and General George Monck, commander-in-chief in Scotland, declared that he was ready to uphold Parliament's authority. Lambert marched north against Monck in November 1659, but most of his army deserted. The Rump was reestablished again on 26 Dec 1659."

I have edited this slightly to avoid 'spoilers'

Nix  •  Link

"Hanging jack to roast birds on" --

Sounds like the direct ancestor of the Ronco Rotisserie. Was the "fellow that was there selling of some" named Popeil?

(Yanks who watch TV after midnight should get this reference -- don't know if our British friends will.)

wiggy  •  Link

Greedy Gullets

Long of neck and long of beak, cormorants (like gannets) are indeed proverbial in England for their greed - not because they eat large fish, but because of the way they tip back their heads to gulp them down whole.

Pauline  •  Link

“…about a maid to come and be with Mrs. Jem while her maid is sick…”
Now we know for sure that Mrs. Ann is Mrs. Jem’s maid, not her 7-year-old sister Anne. Pepys goes first to Mrs. Crew for an interim maid. Mrs. Jem’s mother was a Crew, so this could be Mrs. Jem’s grandmother or aunt. Then he goes to Sir Harry Wright’s (do we know who he is?) and talks to Mrs. Carter (possibly a housekeeper-type?) who will get one “against” Monday.

Mrs. Ann had ague (malaria or malaria-like, with fits of fever and sweats). Pepys has had bedding sent down for her from “my lord” Montague, Mrs. Jem’s father. As Dai B points out, this could be special bedding because of the sweating fevers, flock bedding. She took Pepsy to task for its quality, but he soothed her down. (Or she was in a fever and thought it was flock and he brought her fever down so she could see it was down.)

Today he finds her in a fever and gives the information about the replacement maid to Mrs. Jem.

Pauline  •  Link

Seve and Andrea, thanks for the great cites/sites.
£1 in 1660 had the same spending power as $123.89 has today in this far time zone. That’s fourpence and a penny and a half penny for a latte in 1660, right? How is that said?

steve h  •  Link

A problem with general monetary equivalence figures is that the cost of living is qualitatively different, so that while we can get a rough idea of them in general, the ratios in cost between, for example, a tankard of ale and taking a ride on the Thames from Westminster to Tower Hill and buying a pair of shoes are all relatively different from what they would be today. I'd love it if someone could find a source for the prices of everyday things in this period. How much did Sam's books cost him, for example? How much was the tab for his bread-and-butter or for a dish of sardines?

Michiel van der Leeuw  •  Link

Turkeys from Zealand

it is very possible that this turkey came from the the Dutch province of Zeeland. The inhabitants (Zeeuwen) have always had a lot of trade with England, but also with the East- and West Indies, so they might well have im- and exported turkeys.

A short google-search has revealed that there does not seem to be any study of turkeykeeping in the Netherlands. So there's work to be done!

EIS  •  Link

Parliament's vote regarding the House
General Monck's arrival into London, which is well described in preceding entries, led to a reversal of Pride's Purge of 1648. The following description of the purge is taken from:

'On 6th December 1648, troops commanded by Colonel Thomas Pride arrested 45 MPs and prevented another 186 from taking their seats in the House of Commons. The excluded MPs were mostly Presbyterians who were regarded as antagonistic to the Army and who favoured a negotiated settlement with the King ... By removing the MPs who still favoured a negotiated settlement, the Purge effectively cleared the way for [King Charles I's] trial and execution the following month.'

Simply stated, there wasn't a new election at this point. Merely the return of the 'secluded' MPs, who had been ousted 12 years earlier.

Also, regarding the confusion about Denmark/Netherlands, both has a 'Zeeland/Sjaeland'. Copenhagen in on the island of Sjaeland to the west of the Swedish peninsula and the Dutch province of 'Zeeland' is on the coast to the south of Holland.

Andrea  •  Link


Found this English folk belief of the 1600's

“If you would get rid of the ague, go by night alone to a crossroads, and just as the clock is striking midnight turn round three times and drive a large nail into the ground up to the head. Walk backwards from the nail before the clock has finished the twelth stroke. The auge will leave you, but will go to the person next to step on the nail.”

Maybe something for Mrs. Ann…

Jackie  •  Link

There's an interesting reference to jacks in the story of when the future Charles II was on the run (a few years before this diary entry) attempting to escape from the country.

Some Royalist supporters were attempting to move him around disguised as a servant and when staying over at a country house, the cook ordered him to wind the jack and when he revealed himself as unable to do this, berated him and asked what sort of imbecile couldn't wind a jack? He managed to get around it by suggesting that his family were so poor that they rarely roasted meat and didn't have a jack.

However, the distinct impression was given that everybody was expected to be at least broadly familiar with a jack.

language hat  •  Link

It's true that the island of Sjaelland in Denmark is sometimes called "Zealand" in English, but this is far more likely to refer to the Dutch province; unless Latham and Matthews have a good reason for their claim that Denmark is referred to, it strikes me as a serious blunder.

I second steve h's call for a site that shows period prices; as he says, "modern equivalents" aren't worth much.

michael f vincent  •  Link

re money : the pound was called the "unite" according to Bignal. Did not know that. Thanks Steve h. and 290 years later I got a "huffer" for a farthing, and for penny could go to the loo. SP could keep a household going on 50L (or a pound a week) How many Pounds does it take now in London town to live in a one room rented from an AOP today.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

RE: A problem with ... monetary ...

I don't know if this will be of some assistance to steve h (and anyone else trying to determine prices for the mid-1600s) or just be more frustrating, but here's two websites.

For prices of some things in 1625 and in 1630 (I have no idea how fast prices changed back then):…

For an online currency calculator from 1660 to now, for what it's worth:

Other sources must be out there.

Roger Miller  •  Link

Prices in the 17th Century

I found this inventory of Michael Harte, bookseller of Exeter, 1615…

It's mostly a list of books but there are some household items.

Here's a sample:

1 Redd Capp 1 Rideing hood xviii d

1 old pr of Tongs & a fleshook ix d

1 Galleaver with a Flask &
Titch box & a Dagg without lock
or Snappance vi s viii d

The figures are all in roman numerals and the prices are in shillings (s) and pence (d). There were 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound.

Here's a link to a site that explains about about coinage in the UK pre 1971.…

michael f vincent  •  Link

David Quidnunc
thanks for the source :

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Who can blame Jane?

The spooky thing about headless turkeys and chickens is that they can move around for a bit -- even run around briefly -- after the beheading.
My mother used to watch my grandmother chop the heads off, but she remembers the running around occurring "just for seconds." And I'm sure everybody has heard the phrase, "Running around like a chicken with it's head cut off." (It gets 873 citations -- I thought there'd be more.)

Then the plucking commences. I suppose the feathers were used for beds.

Human bodies can also twitch after death, but something about birds gives them a longer or more common "twilight" period. Aren't you glad you know that?

And you're welcome, Michael Vincent.

Andrea  •  Link

more currencies

I know a bit more about the earlier period - so in 1600 a labourer would earn around £12 a year. A pound of butter would be sixpence and the building costs of one of the most spectacular Jacobean buildings (Hatfield House) was £38,000.

There must be a source for this kind of stuff….

this is another link, but still —— not quite the right one…

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: Headless Chickens

David Q, you've posted a lot of good info and links here ... now, it's time for me to return the favor.

You say: "Human bodies can also twitch after death, but something about birds gives them a longer or more common 'twilight' period."

Apparently, it's something to do with the the fact that the brain stem extends a bit down a bird's neck ... in other words, cutting off the head does not necessarily remove all of the brain from a chicken's body.

And *sometimes*, cutting the head off makes no difference at all, as those of us familiar with the story of "Mike the Headless Chicken" no doubt know:

Aren't you glad you know that? :^)

JR  •  Link

Black Crested Cormorants winter in central Texas and are likely to eat every single fish in farm and ranch "stock tanks" (ponds).

Susanna  •  Link

Some Prices, c. 1660

According to Liza Picard's Restoration London, for a penny you could buy a pound of the cheapest sorts of cheese, or a loaf of bread (price controlled in the city of London). For tuppence you could buy a flounder. A pound of butter or a pint of cream cost a groat (4 pence). You could buy a pound of brown sugar for fivepence, or a pound of bacon for nine pence. A chicken cost a shilling, as did a pint of oysters or half a pound of pepper. Clothes were more expensive; a pair of stockings cost 5 shillings, a pair of silk stockings 15 shillings, the silver lace on Pepys' coat cost 19 shillings per 4 ounces of lace, and a pair of man's boots cost about 1 pound, 10 shillings.

Eunice Muir  •  Link

Estimating the costs of then versus today

The best way to estimate what something cost is to know how many hours of labour were needed to pay for things. Clothes znd shoes were very expensive because they were hand made and very labour intensive and the fabric was expensive, especially if it had been shipped from overseas. Servants, were cheap, as there was a plentiful supply. Food was probably fairly cheap, but certainly not processed as we have it today. e.g. If you bought a chicken you had to kill and pluck it. There was no refrigeration and no supermarkets.

Many things which we take for granted today are vastly cheaper than they were back then, as they are produced by machines. Things that were labour intensive would have cost far less then than they do today. In contrast, many things we take for granted were either not available or very expensive.

Again, if a man earned 50 pounds a year, you need to estimate what each servant was paid, how much his rent cost, his food, his candles, etc.

language hat  •  Link

"1 Galleaver with a Flask & Titch box
& a Dagg without lock or Snappance vi s viii d"

Wow. I have no idea what a "galleaver" or "snappance" might be. A dag(g) is a kind of pistol, and a "touch box" holds priming powder:

dag, sb.2
A kind of heavy pistol or hand-gun formerly in use.
1587 Harrison England ii. xvi. (1877) i. 283 To ride with a case of dags at his sadle bow. 1642 Laud Wks. (1853) III. 461, I heard a great crack, as loud as the report of a small dag.

touch-box. [for touch-powder box: see touch-powder.] A box for `touch-powder' or priming-powder, formerly forming part of a musketeer's equipment.
1549 Acts Privy Council (1890) II. 348 Flaskes, cviij; touche boxes, c. 1564 Wills & Inv. N.C. (Surtees) I. 226 One dagg wth flask and tutchbockes v s. 1598 Barret Theor. Warres iii. i. 34 To haue his touchboxe fastened by the string..and to prime his peece with touch-powder.

luigi  •  Link

Turkeys are native to the Americas and were domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico. They were taken to Spain in 1500, and introduced from there to England in 1524. Barnaby George wrote one of the first books on Livestock (Four Books on Husbandry) in 1578 where he remarks that "Turkey cocks we have not long had among us, for before the year of our Lord, 1530 , they were not seen with us."

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Chicken prices, per head

Apparently prices did change, comparing the information on the website I mentioned above for 1625 in Southampton with that Restoration London book that Susanna's found. In my price list, TWO normal chickens could be bought for 6d; in the book Susanna found, where ONE would go for a shilling (20d, right?) in 1660 London. That's almost a sevenfold difference. It looks like we have to be careful about price guesswork (and get that book Susanna has).

And Todd's link to Mike, the Headless Chicken is priceless.

Incidentally, today is a record for number of annotations -- it even beats out 1 January. Interesting & informative, too. Something to cluck about.

tamara  •  Link

for a bit of more recent perspective:

when I took the bus (the 9, the 73, or the 27, if you're a London bus connoisseur) to school from Kensington to Hammersmith (at least a couple of miles) around 1961, my fare was a "tuppenny half"--i.e., a child's half an adult fare, tuppence (half of four old pence). In 1971, when the switch was made to decimal currency, one new penny was deemed worth about two and a half old pence. We didn't have groats or farthings anymore then, but we did have threepenny bits (which were twelve-sided), sixpences, and ha'pennies (pronounced "HAYP'ny"; half a penny). In case nobody answered that question from somebody above, four pennies and a penny and a halfpenny would come to: fivepence ha'penny. Thus the words of the song "Christmas is coming": "Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do, if you haven't got a ha'penny, God bless you."

Stan  •  Link

chicken prices per head

David, 'one would go for a shilling (20d right?)' is not correct, a shilling is 12d making it a fourfold difference.

Grahamt  •  Link

A bit about British money...
I am surprised that a farthing was the smallest monetary unit of the time. The King James Bible talks of the Widow's mite, so one assumes the congregation were at least familiar with mites. A mite was half a farthing or 1/8th penny.
(1/96th of a shilling)
For those who don't know pre-decimalisation British currency, a quick conversion table:
The basic units were l.s.d or pounds, shillings and pence, but named coins of other denominations were common, e.g. a groat (until 1662)
4 farthings = 1d (penny)
4d = 1 groat
12d = 3 groats = 1s (shilling)
5s = 1 crown (half-a-crown = 2s 6d)
20s = 4 crowns = 1l or £1 (pound)
A sovereign was a gold coin worth 22s 6d until the reign of Charles I, later £1.
A Guinea was a coin introduced in 1663 and worth £1, then 21s from 1750.
So, we are now in the period after the sovereign had gone (in both senses of “sovereign”!) and before the Guinea is introduced.
The sovereign coin still exists, but is solid gold and worth considerably more than its £1 face value. It also exists as a “sov” in London slang for a pound.

Glyn  •  Link

Glad that Grahamt has made everything so simple. You know, back in 1972 a lot of British people didn't want to switch to decimal coinage (100 pennies = 1 pound) because they thought it was too complicated.

Derek  •  Link

“Widow’s Mite”.
Thanks to Grahamt for his interesting & useful post on English coinage. I think, though, that the farthing was the smallest known English monetary unit. The OED suggests that there was a small medieval Flemish coin known as a “mite”.

As for the biblical reference, the original Widow’s mite appears in Greek as a “lepton”
(see e.g.… for more information on biblical coinage)
This is then translated in the Latin Vulgate as “minutum” – signifying something of little value. The story of the Widow’s mite occurs in both St Mark and St Luke. The earliest English translation - by Wycliffe in 1384 – says in St Mark’s version that

“sche keste two mynutis, that is, a ferthing”

but in his translation of St Luke Wycliffe somewhat confusingly refers to the widow giving “twei ferthingis” (two farthings). (Farthing = fourthing = one quarter of one penny)

Tyndale in 1525 introduces the term “mite” on both occasions and this is continued by subsequent translators. His version of St Mark reads:

“..and she threw in two mytes which make a farthynge.”

I read this as meaning two coins of minimal value, rather than referring specifically to the Flemish coin. With “mite”, the translators are trying to find a means of conveying (insignificant) value to their readers, which is further qualified by reference to a common coin, the farthing.

Roger Miller  •  Link

Snaphance, Snaphaunce, Snaphaan

An early flintlock invented in the Spanish Netherlands (Holland) simultaneously with the miquelet in Spain. The action is similar to later flintlocks except that the pan cover is manually operated. Dating from the 16th century the system may derive its name from a Dutch word meaning "chicken thief". The inventors employed in this occupation could not afford wheel locks and would have been betrayed by the lighted match of a matchlock. A similar requirement for an inexpensive, fire-less system led to the miquelet in…

Still don't know what a Galleaver is though. Possibly some kind of firearm?

Derek  •  Link

Luigi’s note on the turkey and its introduction to Europe clarifies both its origin and the misleading nature of its English name. But it’s a most interesting bird from an etymological point of view. While English speakers attribute its origins to the Near-East (Turkey), Francophones assume it’s from India (Dinde=d’Inde). In Portuguese it’s known as ?Per? (Peru), in Dutch as Kalkoen (from Calcutta), while the Lebanese refer to it as “Dik al-albache” (or the Abyssinian cock). And to cap it all, the Turks themselves know it as “Hindi”!

(I’m grateful to Jorge Tavares da Silva, La Cuisine Portugaise de Tradition Populaire, 1998, Guide des Connaisseurs, Belgium, for this delightfully digressive information.)

Tina  •  Link

Pre-decimal currency was more popular not just because we were a load of Luddites (and always think things were better then!), but because anything done to base 12 give more flexibility for calculation.
This is becoming a really good site - Thanks Phil, and everyone else for all the interesting links you're posting

Michiel van der Leeuw  •  Link

Dutch Snaphaan

The word could mean "chicken thief" in Dutch, but that does'nt make much sense, does it? "Haan" is the Dutch word for "Cock", also in the sense of a part of the firing mechanism. If you look at the cock on a musket, you might see a resemblance to a crowing cock.

Snaphaan therefore means "a cock that goes snap"

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

Charles II and the Roasting Jack
Jackie's fun story about Prince Charles (as he was) and the jacks sounds an awful lot like King Alfred and the burnt cakes, doesn't it? I'm guessing they're probably both about as reliable, too. (For those who don't know what I'm talking about, there's an old, apocryphal story that when Alfred the Great was on the run from the Danes, he sheltered incognito with a cowherd, and the good wife berated him for letting her cakes burn when he was supposed to watch them.)

Grahamt  •  Link

Re: Widow's Mite
I can't argue with Derek's scholarly explanation of the Widow's mite. I had heard of the mite as half a farthing at school, (50's/60's). To check my facts before writing the above I had looked in the Shorter OED and found as the first definition:

1 Hist. Orig., a Flemish copper coin of very small value. Later, any very small unit of currency; specifically, half a farthing. LME.

...and it was that last phrase which I used as my reference. Maybe the OED took Tyndale literally, but Late Middle English (LME) would suggest around 1300-1500, so it appears that a mite was half a farthing before Tyndale's translation.

tamara  •  Link

more currency trivia:

the guinea (worth £1/1s.) was traditionally the monetary unit used for auctions—the auction house’s commission was the shilling above the pound.

Jackie  •  Link

Oddly enough, the story about the jack and his inability to use it appears to have come from Charles himself, and we're not a million miles away from at least one of the people who eventually heard the story of his escape and wrote down parts of it. It seems that Charles was rather fond of talking about his series of narrow escapes.

There is some plausibility here - Charles did disguise himself as a servant and in those days, Royalty were absolutely not expected to know anything about the practical, manual skills (in fact it was frowned upon as unbecoming for anybody of Royal status to soil his hands with any such activities), so acting like a servant was extraordinarily difficult for Charles, as he really did not have a clue how such basic things as what a groom does after he's led a horse into a stable (and out of sight of his master). As has been pointed out in a review of a book on the subject of Charles' escape - nowadays the most aloof dictator left on his own to make a sudden dash for the border when things go pear-shaped will probably have a reasonable idea as to how to put petrol into his car and change a flat tyre if need be, but in those days, Royalty was absolutely not expected to know the equivalent survival skills. If they wanted to ride, grooms would saddle and bridle the horse and bring it to the Royal personage.

As for what servants did in the kitchens to ensure that the food appeared on their employers tables, he'd probably never even considered it until then!

gerry  •  Link

Just to round out Grahamt's description of pre decimal English money, there was also a florin coin worth 2 shillings commonly called a 2 bob bit. I've no idea where "bob" comes from but the 10 shilling note was also called a 10 bob note.

Nix  •  Link

More on currency --

I recall reading somewhere that luxury goods were commonly priced in guineas rather than pounds. Can anyone confirm this -- and tell us why?

language hat  •  Link

Money terms (OED):

mite [Du.] 1 a Originally, a Flemish copper coin of very small value; according to some early Flemish writers, worth 1/3 of a Flemish penny, though other, chiefly smaller, values are also mentioned. In Eng. use mainly as a proverbial expression for an extremely small unit of money value. In books of commercial arithmetic in 16-17th c. it commonly appears as the lowest denomination of English money of account, usually 1/24 d, but sometimes 1/64 d, and sometimes 1/12 d; it is, however, unlikely that the word was ever in Eng. mercantile use. From the 14th c. mite has been the usual rendering (though the Wyclif versions have 'mynutis') of L. minu?tum (Vulg.), Gr. lepto?n in Mark xii. 43, where two ‘mites’ are stated to make a ‘farthing’ (Gr. kodra?ntes, L. quadrans); hence the word was popularly taken as equivalent to ‘half-farthing’.
1377 Langl. P. Pl. B. xiii. 196 Haued nou3t… the pore widwe [more] for a peire of mytes,than alle tho that offreden in-to gazafilacium? 1483 Caxton Dialogues 51 A peny, a halfpeny, A ferdyng, a myte. 1600 Hyll Arithm. iii. i. Pp vij, Four Mites is the aliquot part of a peny, viz. 1/6, for 6. times 4 is 24. and so many mites marchants assigne to 1. peny. 1674 Jeake Arith. (1696) 77 That is 16 Mites in one Farthing. 1706 Phillips (ed. Kersey), Mite, an ancient small Coin, about a third part of our Farthing. 1778 Eng. Gazetteer (ed. 2) s.v. Littleborough, Notts., Many little coins like flatted peas, called mites, are also found here. 1807 Southey Espriella’s Lett. I. 243 It will soon entirely disappear, just as the mite or half farthing has disappeared before it.
N.b.: “unlikely that the word was ever in Eng. mercantile use”

bob sb.8 slang. [Origin unknown; in OFr. bobe was a coin, apparently about 1 1/2 pence (deniers) of the 14th c.: see Godef. But its survival in English slang is very unlikely.] [Webster’s suggests the nickname for Robert as a possibility, which makes sense to me — LH] A shilling.
1789 Sessions’ Papers June 550/1 Bulls and half bulls are crowns and half crowns, in coiner’s language, and a bob is a shilling. 1812 J. H. Vaux Flash Dict., Bob, or Bobstick, a shilling. 1837 Dickens Pickw. (1847) 351/2 Will you take three bob?

Roger: Thanks for the “snaphance” info!

Pauline  •  Link

Richard, the Chicken with Its Head on Backwards
You know, Mrs. Pepys may have killed those chickens by wringing their necks. Any takers?

Bonny  •  Link

I'm seconding the notion that Latham and Matthews made a mistake that many of my American compatriots make today. When I came back to the U.S. from living in the Netherlands, the common response when this came up in conversation was "I really like Danish pastry." I guess it's not too hard for people who have no experience of either place to get the Danish and the Dutch (from two small northern European countries) mixed up.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Turkeys from Danish Zealand, I think

Edward Montagu, in command of the fleet, was sent to Denmark in the spring of 1659, returned directly in August and retired to Hinchingbrooke, where he stayed put. I don't know the last time he was in the Netherlands. Given that these gobblers "came out of Zealand with my Lord" the case for Denmark's Zealand sounds good.

michael f vincent  •  Link

re: street names for money:
theres the tanner,(6d) Quid (20s)
guineas were very useful to get a little bit more.
39 guineas(419s) sounds cheaper than 40 quid (40L, 400s) It also gave great class distintion. The hoi poloi v posh

Bert Winther  •  Link

I wish to thank Roger Miller for the derivation of the word “Snappance”. In this time period (around the1660s) there were several wars between Sweden and Denmark. In the province of Scania (now in southern Sweden) the Danish resistance fighters were called “Snapphanar” (singular form: “Snapphane”). These guerillas (to use a modern term) were peasants who kept up the fight even after a peaceful settlement had been reached and some groups degenerated into criminal bands (chicken theft probably was only a minor infraction in those days).
Derek’s note on various names for “turkey” also was very interesting. In Swedish the name is “kalkon”, very similar to the Dutch term. I now live in the US but was born in Sweden and am constantly reminded of the similarities between Dutch, English and the Scandinavian languages. The Dutch word “Haan” was discussed by Michiel van der Leeuw above. The Swedish equivalent is “hane”, meaning “cock” in the sense of a trigger mechanism as well as a male chicken. In Swedish, the word also is a general term for “male”. Regarding Pauline’s comment: the time-honored way of killing a chicken is beheading by the use of an axe (it brings back memories from my childhood).

Grahamt  •  Link

Two bob bit:
This was a Victorian invention and was called a Florin. It was an early attempt at decimalisation (10Fl = £1)
To bring two threads together:
The Dutch currency pre-Euro was the Florin (or Guilder)
The Danish currency was the Crown (Krone) both coins used pre-decimalisation in Britain.
…and Zealand/Sjaelland is in Denmark (… the capital, Copehhagen is in Zealand)
…and Zeeland in Holland. (… )
Pepys (or Latham and Matthews ) is/are using the modern spelling of the Danish island, not the Dutch province.

Grahamt  •  Link

Re: "time-honored way of killing a chicken "
I worked on a chicken farm in my teens and never used an axe to kill a chicken. "Necking" was the way I was taught by the old boys who had done it all their lives. The usual way was to just pull on the head until the neck snapped, for tough old birds and turkeys, the bird was slung over the back and head and feet pulled forward using the back as leverage to snap the neck.
In the slaughter houses, though, the birds were hung up by their feet, stunned and their throats slit while their hearts still pumped to remove the blood from the flesh.
I didn't eat chicken or eggs for about 20 years after leaving that job.

nick sweeney  •  Link

"I recall reading somewhere that luxury goods were commonly priced in guineas rather than pounds. Can anyone confirm this – and tell us why?”

That’s quite true: my father’s bespoke suits in the 1950s were priced in guineas, as were his shoes. And there’s the remnant of this distinction in the fact that British (and, I think, Irish) racehorses are still traded in guineas.

As for the reasoning: I think there’s something to be said for the class-based argument on this site, which says that professions and professional services charged guineas, while trades charged in pounds:…

Where does this stem from? Well, I think it’s the fact that until 1817, there were no gold sovereigns, only guineas. (And these weren’t stabilised at 21/- until 1717.) Being made of gold, the guinea represented a greater concentration of wealth than silver coinage, and so was the means of exchange for and between the wealthy; because of this, the guinea remained the ‘coin of account’ — the ‘Benjamin’ of English currency, if you like — even after 1813, when the coin itself ceased to be minted:…

Glyn  •  Link

So Sam returns home to find out the two teenage girls have been quarrelling over which of them was going to kill the turkeys - basically he's a wimp for not doing it himself.

I don't know whether they were killed with an axe or by wringing their necks, but I imagine it would have been a two-person job. These birds were a lot leaner, muscular and meaner than the ones we buy today.

Presumably Sam, Elizabeth and Jane are all town-people rather than country folk, so might not have had much practice at killing animals themselves.

This might be very slightly relevant. The Pilgrim Fathers almost starved to death in their first winter in America, which was about 40 years earlier. Although the winter was harsh they had plenty of food (wild game, shellfish etc) but they were mainly urban people and were unused to living off the land - at least, so I have been told.

Roger Miller  •  Link

Snaphance, Snaphaunce, Snaphaan again

I came across this really neat animation of a 'spitting hen' in action.…

The same site has animations of other forms of early firing mechanisms.

I suppose that by 1660 Monk's army would have been armed with flintlocks.

l'etranger  •  Link

Re: turkey in foreign languages

turkey in Malay is 'ayam belanda', which literally means 'dutch chicken', most probably because the dutch must have introduced the bird when they colonized Malacca. But it also proves that the turkey wins the 'Most Geographically Confused Animal' prize hands down. :-)

This must be a waaay late posting, but I just came across this site, and I'm going through it an entry a day, hence the late response. But it's worth it, and keep up the good work :-)

Dirk Vandeputte  •  Link

Ref SNAPHAAN - sorry for the late reaction, but I have just discovered this page while exploring this site.

Dutch is my native language, and I remember this word being used (it is out of fashion now) for surplus roosters on a chicken farm. These birds were destined for early slaughter, and being young they tended to be very boisterous.

Maybe this sheds some new light on this hazy subject?!

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"The great eater of Grayes-Inne, or The life of Mr. Marriott the cormorant"

Around 1652, an untitled satirical print was published by an anonymous artist depicting “the great Eater, Marriot the Lawyer.” The woodcut contains four lines of text:

Here to your view’s presented the great Eater, / Marriot the Lawyer, Grayes-Innes Cormorant; / Who for his Gutt is become a meer Cheater: / Those that well feed him, Councell shall not want.

The figure has been identified as John (or William) Marriot, a lawyer who gained a reputation for the food he consumed.

At least five pamphlets and two woodcuts were published in the 1650s referring to John Marriot, the Great Eater including The Great Eater of Grayes Inn. His life by G. F. (1652); The English Mountebank (1652); A Letter to Mr. Marriot, Wherein His Name is Redeemed from the Detraction of G. F. (1652); The Great Eater of Greys Inn, or the Life of Mr. Marriot, the Cormorant (1652); and The Trappan Trapl, or the Relation of a Cunning Knave named John Marriot (1657).…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

On the great Eater of Grays-Inn.
Poems on several occasions written by Charles Cotton ...
Cotton, Charles, 1630-1687.
London: Printed for Tho. Bassett ...; Will. Hinsman and Tho. Fox..., 1689.…

The English mountebank: or, a physical dispensatory, wherein is prescribed, many strange and excellent receits of Mr Marriot,: the great eater of Grays-Inn: with the manner how he makes his cordial broaths, pills, purgatious [sic], julips, and vomits, to keep his body in temper, and free from surfeits. With sundry directions, 1 How to make his cordial broath. 2 His pills to appease hunger. 3 His strange purgation; never before practised by any doctor in England. 4 The manner and reason, why he swallows bullets & stones. 5 How he orders his bak'd meat, or rare dish on Sundays. 6 How to make his new fashion fish-broath. 7 How to make his sallet, for cooling of the bloud. 8 How to make his new dish, called a frigazee: the operation whereof, expells all sadness and melancholy.
Marriott, John, d. 1653.
London: Printed for George Horton, 1652.…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"All the news to-day is, that the Parliament this morning voted the House to be made up four hundred forthwith."

The full total of the house, elected by the constituencies of 1640, would have been 507. The Rump, in this vote, preferred the English and Welsh constituencies of the revolutionary constitution of 1653… which even Richard Cromwell had abandoned and which almost everybody wanted to forget. (L&M note)

Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

About those turkeys. I can't find anything previously about Mr. Sheply's bringing them to Mrs. Pepys. There is mention, however, on Jan. 19, that Pepys, Sheply, and Moore dined upon a turkey that day with Mrs. Jem. So maybe that one came from the same flock. In any event, the killing of multiple turkeys will yield a great quantity of meat — what's Mrs. P. planning to do with all that, in the absence of a freezer? Inquiring minds want to know.

Matt Newton  •  Link

Martin VT
Do we know how many were killed?
"All" could be from 3 or more.

MartinVT  •  Link

I agree, we've got at least 3 dead turkeys today. And note the emphasis he places on Jane's refusal to do the deed: "could not get her m’d Jane by no means at any time to kill anything."
-- could not
-- by no means
-- at any time
-- anything

john  •  Link

As a child, I often witnessed my maternal grandmother dispatching chickens on the farm. I can understand Jane's refusal.

Ensign Tom  •  Link

"... in the absence of a freezer?" Yes, refrigeration in the 17th century was a definite problem, mainly because there wasn't any. Though I may be wrong on that point as I seem to recall Sam referring to sipping iced drinks during one of his promenades in the city with the ice being cut in blocks from the frozen Thames in winter and stored in underground cellars for future use during the warmer months.

In any case, there was one occasion when some country friend sent Sam a haunch of venison to enjoy. Unfortunately, the meat was olfactorily past its best before date so Sam regifted it to someone else. I recall at least two occasions in the Diary where Sam mentions sitting down to eat and being served a "stinking" venison pasty.

As for despatching the turkeys, I think the only neck I would be grabbing in Jane's situation would be the neck of Sam's lute to use as a club to bash the birds into submission. The wild turkeys that show up in my backyard from time to time in flocks of a dozen or so are sizable birds and have formidable looking beaks and clawed feet. At a distance in the early morning ground mist they look like so many carnivorous theropods from the late Cretaceous. I wouldn't want to get much closer than a lute's length to any of them.

Ensign Tom  •  Link

Forgot to mention that Sam sometimes refers to dining on "powdered beef" in taverns, the powder being salt used as a preservative in lieu of refrigeration. During one spell of hot, humid weather Sam refers to it being too hot to serve meat as it spoils before it can be cooked.

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