Saturday 15 September 1660

Met very early at our office this morning to pick out the twenty-five ships which are to be first paid off.

After that to Westminster and dined with Mr. Dalton at his office, where we had one great court dish, but our papers not being done we could [not] make an end of our business till Monday next.

Mr. Dalton and I over the water to our landlord Vanly, with whom we agree as to Dalton becoming a tenant. Back to Westminster, where I met with Dr. Castles, who chidd me for some errors in our Privy-Seal business; among the rest, for letting the fees of the six judges pass unpaid, which I know not what to say to, till I speak to Mr. Moore. I was much troubled, for fear of being forced to pay the money myself. Called at my father’s going home, and bespoke mourning for myself, for the death of the Duke of Gloucester. I found my mother pretty well. So home and to bed.

28 Annotations

First Reading

Paul Brewster  •  Link

pick out the 25 ships which are to be first payd off
L&M: "A bill providing £140,000 for the complete disbandment of the army and paying off part of the navy had been passed on 13 September …. The ships were paid as they came into harbour - 17 being still unpaid on 5 December … Pepys’s figures for the 25 ships (£161,132 10s. altogether).”

Paul Brewster  •  Link

for letting the Fees of the six judges pass unpaid
L&M: "The mistake may have been due to the fact that several judges now appointed had also received appointments to the bench under Charles I or the Interregnum."

Pauline  •  Link

"Called at my father's going home, and bespoke mourning for myself…”
So Sam does patronize his father’s tailoring business for some things.

Mary  •  Link

one great court dish

L&M gloss this as 'a dish containing a cut from every meat'.

As for the question of the tailoring, it looks as if Pepys goes to his father for the plain, simple and cheaper suit that will be needed only for the period of mourning, but that for more fashionable and showy outfits he goes elsewhere.

Paul Brewster  •  Link

OED: " a1655 Bp. G. Goodman Crt. James I ... The King caused his carver to cut him out a *court-dish, that is, something of every dish, which he sent him, as part of his reversion."

gordonh  •  Link

"Called at my father's going home, and bespoke mourning”

Maybe this is about style - for some stuff SP patronises fashionable modern tailors, but for mourning clothes, which are usually old-fashioned, he’ll happily use his father, and, given that they’re for the Duke, he’ll want good quality, so that’s not the issue. (In London we’ve got established traditional Savile Row tailors, and new fashionable tailors, catering for different markets)

Matthew  •  Link

"I found my mother pretty well"
Isn't it strange that he mentions the business reason for the visit before the health of his mother, who he previously thought to be seriously ill?

J A Gioia  •  Link

I found my mother pretty well

odd too that he didn't bother to go see her when she was ill unto death, but now finds time to pop over for a suit.

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

I don't think we can necessarily infer that his mother has been ill 'unto death'. 'Very ill' doesn't sound as extreme as that to me - if I'd been up all night being sick I might feel very ill but it wouldn't mean I was dying. I think he might have shown more concern if he thought there was a serious threat to her health.

Barbara  •  Link

The important matters in Sam's day were his duties at the Navy Office and trying to finish off the assignment of his old house to Mr. Dalton. By the time he wrote this entry he would have known from his wife that his mother wasn't seriously ill, and his comment that he found her pretty well when he called in was, I think, just a diary note, not an indication of his feelings.

Eric Walla  •  Link

Exactly, we have diary time on display here ...

Even had Sam not heard about his mother from Elizabeth, even had he in fact gone to see her first thing, the "feeling better" info would have been old news by the time he wrote the entry.

Likewise, other events that may have seemed unimportant in the course of any particular day could be magnified by the time he sits down with pen in hand.

Now on to my question: when he says that they met "very early," how early do we think this would be? (OK, perhaps not the most vital question in the world ...)

Nix  •  Link

"Very early" --

What time does the sun rise in London this time of year? "Not long after sunrise" is probably the standard I'd use (today) for "very early". With no electric light it would have been very inconvenient to get up and get dressed and get out any earlier than that, but "very early" could of course mean some later time.

Mary  •  Link


In 1660 (allowing for the 11 days' adjustment) sunrise at this time of year would have been about 6.20 am.

Nix  •  Link

Then my surmise would be that "very early" meant "before 8:00" -- just a guess.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

court dish; a dish furnished from a table with some part of all the meat that's on it.
---A French and English dictionary. R. Colgrave, 1673.

Al Doman  •  Link

@Nix: what was the state of artificial lighting at that time? Lamps etc.?

There are references to "link boys" - presumably with enough illumination to allow navigation of streets at night.

Al Doman  •  Link

I was wondering what interior artificial lighting might be like. No doubt nowhere near as good as daylight, but if there were interior lamps available that might allow starting one's day before daylight.

meech  •  Link

Remember Sam's comment about Charles II causing problems for his staff because he was such an early riser. I believe he said that Charles arose at 5am daily.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Mourning clothes would come in useful quite often, unfortunately. I don't assume they would be cheap.

Right now the Pepys family have 5 dead children in the family, plus poor Gloucester to pay respects to. Did they mourn children?

Also, why assume John Pepys Snr. is a poor tailor? He can only handle so much work, and if Sam finds he needs faster service, he needs to go elsewhere.

Also as I recall one of the suits he went to Sandwich's tailor for was made of velvet -- which is tricky to deal with. Maybe his dad prefers not to do that type of work any more?

None of which makes John a bad tailor. Just a busy one.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Met very early at our office this morning to pick out the twenty-five ships which are to be first paid off."

Phil tells us sunrise is 5:51 a.m. today; I guess their early meeting was 6 a.m.
I wonder why -- no Parliamentary sitting today.
Maybe the other Commissioners wanted to go hunting, or name your passtime.
Maybe there were services for Gloucester for them as MPs to attend?
Maybe Charles II is holding Court to receive condolences from Ambassadors and people of quality?

By making these decisions early in the day, the Commissioners can tell their clerks what paperwork needs to be prepared, and take off leaving them at work.
When they return, the documents will be ready for signature and seals and whatever else has to happen.

The ships have to be selected, and their current location identified;
Obviously the ships in the worst condition will be the top of the list to be mothballed. These are new Commissioners -- how do they know the ships' conditions? Hopefully the outgoing Commissioners' files were well kept.
The Ports need to be notified of what will happen when;
the Treasury needs to know where to transport how much cash in barrels guarded by soldiers when;
the Captains need to be recalled (in duplicate on different ships -- if one surcomes to pirates, the other hopefully won't) -- if they are in the Mediterranean it can take 6 weeks for the orders to arrive; give them a week to get ready to sail, and another 6 weeks to get home -- that's 3 months. Longer for the Caribbean.
If they are escorting coal ships from Hull, that process will be quicker.
Copies of everything need to go to Coventry (for the Lord High Admiral), and to the Admiralty.
Probably they needed a chart for the wall as a visual reminder of which ship is due where, when, and what happens to it next.

No emails, no phones, no FAX machines, no xerox machines, no ditto machines, no carbon paper, make your own ink, cut your own quill. And no coffee machine or store-bought donuts to sweeten the tasks. Happy Saturday.

Or maybe they just made the list, and sent it over to Coventry for approval when James returns from Dover, and Whitehall will do all the clerk work?

I wonder if James will wait for Mary at Dover, or if he is recalled.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... to Westminster and dined with Mr. Dalton at his office, where we had one great court dish, ..."

Richard Dalton is Serjeant of the wine-cellar to Charles II. That would be the Palace of Whitehall, not Westminster. I guess he went by water, and walked to Whitehall.

Pepys' great court dish was one that had been prepared for the Court which contained lots of meat (not all of them did), but made its way to the servants' quarters instead.
Whitehall had large kitchens which fed hundreds of people daily -- the monarch, the invited guests and courtiers, the staff (not in the Great Hall, as here), and the poor (leftovers afterwards).
The "Top Table" probably had their own kitchen, of course, with the best of everything -- which again was always generously over-supplied.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Yes, mourning dress would seem to be a good idea for anyone involved with the Court, not to mention the king. We know not how much Henry the young (and apparently rather cute) duke of Gloucester was truly known and loved, but Charles isn't taking it well and Francisco Giavarina, the Venetian ambassador, reported on Thursday (24 September, new style) that "the king is distressed and weeps bitterly, for he loved his brother tenderly (...) At present he has withdrawn himself and no one soever is allowed to approach him" (…).

This sudden reversal, of reports that had been unanimously optimistic on the duke being recovered and out of danger, can only have made it even more of a shock. On the same day, literally as Gloucester was succumbing, the king's secretary, Edward Nicholas, was writing near the end of a dispatch to Henry Bennett, secretary to Glou's brother the duke of York, that "the Duke of Gloucester is still ill, but out of danger" (as summarized, at least, in the State Papers). A historical study of London's continual smallpox epidemics (at…) reminds us that "Variola major, which [will be] the only known smallpox type until the beginning of the 20th century, had a CFP [case fatality proportion] of 5% to 25%", so recovery in fact tends to be the norm.

We note in Wikipedia's ghastly page on smallpox, which quite frankly courage failed us to do more than skim, that in a somewhat rare form, malignant-type (a.k.a flat) smallpox, the skin lesions "matured slowly (...) and by the seventh or eighth day, they were flat and appeared to be buried in the skin". Perhaps that could look like recovery, especially to the quacks that seem to operate in Westminster (as of 1660, of course), and the other forms are rather more spectacular. However days 8 to 12 also tend to be when the patient dies (…), and our first reports of the duke's illness filtered out 10 days ago (both in Sam's diary, at…, and in other reports we had noted at…).

We foresee that vaccination, for now only done in China, will be introduced in Europe in 30-odd years and will eradicate that abomination in just another 277 years.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Stephane, Charles II has been exploring the possibility of Henry, Duke of Gloucester marrying the Prince of Condé's niece.
Do you know who that was? American Google tells me about Conde's daughter, but not his niece.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Sarah, indeed American Google displays that famed American efficiency in not wasting time on the sidelines of Condé's genealogy, but they are in full display in his French wiki (…). So, ahem and br-br-hm, he has a sister, Anne Geneviève de Bourbon-Condé (…), whose two daughters died in infancy 10 and 15 years ago, and a brother, Armand de Bourbon-Conti (…), who will only have two sons, and both of them no more than a gleam in his eye as of 1660. We're at risk of overwikipediosis here, and there's beautiful genealogical trees you can play with at other places such as… and…, but they tell the same story.

Apart from Louis II, le Grand Condé, the most famous and closest to Louis XIV, discussed above, the House of Condé as of 1660 also includes a son, Henri-Jules de Bourbon-Condé, who's a prince too of course but our astrologer says he won't formally get the title before 1686, and for now he's 17 and still unmarried.

Perhaps Charles has been exploring the possibility of marrying Henry to a Condé niece if and when one would become available. Or he did his exploring when Anne Geneviève still had a daughter, sometime between 1647 and 1650, in which case he was a precocious and long-term thinker indeed, since Henry would have been 10 at most and the last available niece, Marie Gabrielle d'Orléans, died when she was 3. Given where Charles was in 1650, this would have been a somewhat bold offer to make the House of Condé, though perhaps not so crazy; Charles was holding to Scotland by his fingernails, and had a claim to the throne of France; the Condé were in open revolt against Louis XIV, and had a claim to the throne of France too. All of these royal guerilleros likely went to bed every night not being too sure where they would wake up; imagine the fascinating conversation they could have had.

To make it even spicier, Charles' brother James will soon (from 1651) be in mercenary service to Louis XIV against rebels led largely by Louis II; then he will change sides and actually serve Condé in the Spanish army in 1656-59, the last job he held before becoming duke of York. By 1660 Condé has been pardoned, both families are back on the right side of power, and all this rough-and-tumble common history could surely be leveraged into, well, something.

Or Charles thought there was a Condé niece to be had for his li'l bro in 1660, and imagine his dismay when he checked Wikipedia.

But niece or no niece, those are two families that do know a bit of each other, and if we were Louis XIV we'd make sure to read their mail.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Wikipedia gives me indigestion too, Stephane!
Thank you for sorting this out for us.
Why do people make stuff up? It wastes all of our time. AI seems to be set to make matters worse for years to come.
But I digress -- thank you.

RLB  •  Link

@Terry Foreman: not quite. Oil lamps have existed since pre-history. What Argand invented was arguably the first lamp which was nearly as useful as our modern lamps. I don't doubt that people preferred candles, but oil lamps did exist and were in use. Also, of course, there would have been an actual fire - for both heat and light - in selected rooms.

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