Tuesday 6 November 1660

In the morning with Sir W. Batten and Pen by water to Westminster, where at my Lord’s I met with Mr. Creed. With him to see my Lord’s picture (now almost done), and thence to Westminster Hall, where we found the Parliament met to-day, and thence meeting with Mr. Chetwind, I took them to the Sun, and did give them a barrel of oysters, and had good discourse; among other things Mr. Chetwind told me how he did fear that this late business of the Duke of York’s would prove fatal to my Lord Chancellor.

From thence Mr. Creed and I to Wilkinson’s, and dined together, and in great haste thence to our office, where we met all, for the sale of two ships by an inch of candle (the first time that ever I saw any of this kind), where I observed how they do invite one another, and at last how they all do cry,1 and we have much to do to tell who did cry last. The ships were the Indian, sold for 1,300l., and the Half-moon, sold for 830l..

Home, and fell a-reading of the tryalls of the late men that were hanged for the King’s death, and found good satisfaction in reading thereof.

At night to bed, and my wife and I did fall out about the dog’s being put down into the cellar, which I had a mind to have done because of his fouling the house, and I would have my will, and so we went to bed and lay all night in a quarrel. This night I was troubled all night with a dream that my wife was dead, which made me that I slept ill all night.

38 Annotations

First Reading

Michael L  •  Link

The ship name "Half Moon" is interesting. That is the English name of the Dutch ship "Halve Maen" that Englishman Henry Hudson commanded when he discovered North America's Hudson River in 1609. (Hudson got into trouble at home for working so hard to further Dutch exploration in the New World.) Hudson's "Half Moon" ended up getting wrecked in Mauritius a few years later under Dutch command, so the one mentioned here cannot be the same one, but it is interesting to see the name appearing later on in English nautical history.

Does anyone know why a ship might have this name? Does it have any particular symbolic meaning? Could this one have been captured from the Dutch?

Emilio  •  Link

Sale by inch of candle

Interesting custom. Here's Ask Jeeves's definition:

Sale by inch of candle: an auction in which persons are allowed to bid only till a small piece of candle burns out.

Emilio  •  Link

Another inch

L&M have more to say about the process in a footnote:

"This was the usual method of auction-sale. A section of wax candle an inch in length was lit for each lot, and the successful bidder was the one who shouted immediately before the candle went out. At 3 September 1662 Pepys has more details."

They don't mention anything about high bid being important, but from the later entry it does seem that the goods go to whoever bids both highest and last. What a scene of chaos it must have been as the candle was guttering and about to go out!

And re: Michael's questions, L&M have another note saying that the ships were both prizes, although they don't say from which country. Perhaps the Half-Moon WAS a Dutch ship named after Hudson's.

Elizabeth Perry  •  Link

<b>"inch of candle"</b>

I think it was even more picturesque -- there was a pin thrust through the candle, and the auction was over when the pin fell out (the wax having been melted down to that point).

Elizabeth Perry  •  Link

<b>"inch of candle" cite<b/>

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase says the pin procedure was used as late as 1893 in England.

Michael L  •  Link

The pin method sounds much more practical to me: You have a single long candle, and when you want to auction, you stick the pin an inch from the top. Otherwise, you need to have a ready supply of inch-long candles. You could slice a big candle into inch-long pieces easily enough, but you still need to have the wick sticking out of the top in order to light it.

Jesse  •  Link

e-bay auctions are quite similiar

Though somewhat longer than an inch of candle there's often the same flurry of bids at the end.

vincent  •  Link

tall ships and half moon the name has been used by USN too.
the original replica has caught many aimagination. See the replica ship Half Moon is a full scale reproduction of the Dutch ship of exploration commanded by Henry Hudson in 1609.
3 Masted Sailing Ship Built In 1989
Sparred Length 95 Feet :LOA 65 Feet
Rig Height 78 Feet:Beam 17.5 Feet
Total Sail Area 2757 Sq Feet
Tons 112 grt

and for those that cruise for the ghosts of H Hudson, check out Croton on H: and Area

David Quidnunc  •  Link

The long and the short of it

In order to avoid getting into hot water for being late, Pepys and Creed had to race back from Wilkinson's. Pepys later swored it was a close shave on the face of it to make the appointment to the King's navy office. Creed believed they were on the razor's edge. But the two blades steeled themselves and smoothly arrived in the nick of time, with Pepys beating Creed by a whisker (Sam, being sharp, took a short cut).

Mary  •  Link

Candle Auction

Within the past year on British TV I have seen recent film of a candle auction being held in the UK, but cannot for the life of me remember the commodity that was being so auctioned; possibly tea? hops? Did anyone else see the programme?

Very short candles, mounted on a wooden board, were used and the winning bidder was he whose bid immediately preceded the death of the flame. Apparently an experienced bidder could time his cry accurately by watching for a little puff of smoke that was emitted fractionally before the flame itself died.

helena murphy  •  Link

I think that any word or phrase with a stellar or planetary meaning would be appropriate for a sailing vessel as in ancient times sailors using the naked eye would have navigated by means of the stars ,just as vast tracts of desert were crossed by traders and travellers relying on the same method.

Peter  •  Link

David Quidnunc should win the Gilette prize!

Eric Walla  •  Link

Oh David, that's absolutely barberous!

On to the dream sequence, for I realize I don't have the foggiest: what would a civilized man of the mid-17th century think of dreams such as this? Would they still be considered portents or warnings? Or do they already think in terms of "I was upset about her, so I dreamt up some nonsense"?

David A. Smith  •  Link

I'd say Pepys bearded Creed.

Rex Gordon  •  Link

Both, no doubt, in a lather.

Glyn  •  Link

Don't Elizabeth and Samuel know how to housetrain their dogs? If this is the puppy that they had in January then it should be ashamed of itself.

(But whenever I mentioned Kop in my own diary, I at least had the courtesy to refer to him by his name rather than as 'the dog'. Perhaps the man is exasperated with him.)

Lord Mayor's show tomorrow - apparently the biggest in 800 years.

Glyn  •  Link

But we can just imagine the scene - Samuel is falling asleep after a busy day when at 2 a.m or so he gets a sharp elbow in his back from Elizabeth because the dog is howling, whining and whimpering in the cellar and can be heard through the entire house.

Peter  •  Link

O.K. then, I think it's agreed that DQ has razed the tone of the annotations and is therefore a sharpsh*t.

Ed LeZotte  •  Link

Why do I remember Samuel calling the dog "Towser"? Is in the past or because I have read ahead?

Doug Atkinson  •  Link

The black dog Elizabeth's brother gave her on February 8th was male. (That's the one he threatened to throw out the window if it messed up the house any more; see Februay 12th.) I can't tell if it's the same dog (I sort of hope not--if it'd been befouling the house for nine months we'd probably have heard about it in the interim). Sam isn't always clear about the identities of humans he deals with, so it wouldn't surprise me if he didn't always record the comings and goings of the household pets. (Especially since they're more Elizabeth's than his.)

dirk  •  Link

"Half Moon"

I have considered the possibility that Hudson's original ship might at one point have been taken from some muslim pirate, and got the name "Half Moon" ("Halve Maen") for that reason. But that seems very unlikely, since the Dutch navy didn't operate in the Mediterranean - and anyway a ship built for the Mediterranean would not have been suitable for the Atlantic, and would probably not be built according to the specs Vincent mentions.

Any other suggestions as to what might be the origin or meaning of the ship's name?

Peter  •  Link

"Half Moon".....probably just this land-lubber's whimsy, but could it evoke the shape of the hull?

StewartMcI  •  Link

"Half Moon" - several ships

Colledge gives four ships in the Royal Navy named "Half Moon" and the relevant one was a 30 gun ship a prize captured 1653 and sold 1659 (probably condemned in that year) and the "Indian" similar a 44 gun ship of 687 tons, captured 1654 and sold 1659 (sic).

But no information on their original nationality, but see below.

The next "Half Moon" was a Turkish prize taken in 1681 and burnt in 1686 ironically by a candle having been left burning in the cook's cabin. The next after that was an Algerian prize captured in 1685.

And yes the RN has always "recycled" ships names.

Shawn  •  Link

On recycling ship names

I remember noticing back during Sam's sea voyage earlier this year that one of the ships he mentions in the fleet was the Swiftsure. Another RN ship also called the Swiftsure took part in the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Trafalgar, changing hands by capture twice during it's service against Napolean's navy some 140 years later.


Linda Camidge  •  Link

Yes, ship names were constantly recycled, and this can easily give rise to confusion

Tom  •  Link

A ship was sold by candle auction in one of the episodes of `The Onedin Line`, if I remember correctly,


Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Halve Maen (English: Half Moon) was a Dutch East India Company vlieboot (similar to a carrack) which sailed into what is now New York Harbor in September 1609. It was commissioned by the Dutch Republic to covertly find a western passage to China. The ship was captained by Henry Hudson, an Englishman in the service of the Dutch Republic....The Halve Maen sailed up Hudson's river as far as the present day location of Albany, New York, where the crew determined the water was too narrow and too shallow for farther progress. Concluding then that the river was also not a passage to the west, Hudson exited the river, naming the natives that dwelled on either side of the Mauritus estuary the Manahata. Leaving the estuary, he sailed north-eastward, never realizing that what are now the islands of Manhattan and Long Island were islands, and crossed the Atlantic to England where he sailed into Dartmouth harbor with the Dutch East India Company ship and crew....In, or a few years after, 1618 the ship was destroyed during an English attack on Jakarta in the Dutch East Indies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Commons considers paying ships -- [ but perhaps insufficiently? ]

Disbanding the Army. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/…

Sir William Doylie reports from the Committee for disbanding the Army, what Progress hath been made in that Service, declaring what Forces they have paid off; what Sums have been paid to every particular Garison, Regiment, Troop, and Company, and for discharging of Ships; as also, what Forces are not paid off; with an Estimate what Money will be necessary to pay off the Land Forces, to the Sixth of November instant, and the Ships to the Seventeenth of September last: And what Money, both certain and casual, the Parliament hath consigned to those Uses, with a Balance between the Charge and the Money consigned....

Bill  •  Link

"for the sale of two ships by an inch of candle (the first time that ever I saw any of this kind), where I observed how they do invite one another, and at last how they all do cry, and we have much to do to tell who did cry last."

This is exactly how eBay works, where, as I write, a Ship is being auctioned for a minimum bid of $10,000,000.

Plus ça change...

Robert Harneis  •  Link

"for the sale of two ships by an inch of candle (the first time that ever I saw any of this kind), where I observed how they do invite one another, and at last how they all do cry, and we have much to do to tell who did cry last."

I have attended a property auction by a French notaire using a set of three candles like birthday cake candles that burn for about a minute each and the auction ends when two are burnt without a bid. It is stil quite common practice. There is an explanation in French on Wiki and a footnote from a learned 19th Century tome explaining all about it. The simplest way to make sure the candle goes out after a minute is to cut the wick at the appropriate place. The Pepys version sounds a lot more dodgy and open to 'interpretation' in favour of one or another bidder.

Tonyel  •  Link

Grazing rights to some land in the Mendip hills in Somerset, UK are still auctioned annually by candle in a local pub. There was a great uproar a few years back when the candle went out almost immediately it was lit and someone got a bargain.

Bill  •  Link

The "half moon" was a naval maneuver that would cause trouble for any enemy ship caught in the middle:

The Fleet being drawn up into a Line of Battle, if a single Privateer attacks the Ship in the Center of the Fleet they must advance, or more properly loof in the Wings, and form a Half-moon, that every Ship may bring his Guns to bear, and every Man have his share in the Glory of the Action.
---The art of sea-fighting. R. Park, 1706.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘ . . II. 5.d. to sell or let by the candle, by inch of candle, etc.: to dispose of by auction in which bids are received so long as a small piece of candle burns, the last bid before the candle goes out securing the article; hence in many fig. and transf. uses. This appears to have been a custom adopted from the French . .
1680 in J. A. Picton City of Liverpool: Select. Munic. Rec. (1883) I. 287 The new marked ground..was lett by inch of candle in the towne hall.
a1682 Sir T. Browne Let. to Friend (1690) 8 Mere pecuniary Matches, or Marriages made by the Candle.
. . 1728 E. Chambers Cycl. (at cited word), There is also a kind of Excommunication by Inch of Candle; wherein, the Time a lighted Candle continues burning, is allow'd the Sinner to come to Repentance, but after which, he remains excommunicated to all Intents and Purposes.’

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"...fell a-reading of the tryalls of the late men that were hanged for the King’s death,..."

L&M note many accounts were published, but this was probably the Pepysian Library's *An exact and most impartial accompt of the trial of nine and twenty regicides* (1660). "Thomason dated his copy 11 October"

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Mr. Chetwind told me how he did fear that this late business of the Duke of York’s would prove fatal to my Lord Chancellor."

L&M: His secret marriage (3 September) with the Chancellor's daughter.

Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

"where I observed how they do invite one another"

Like on Ebay, it is not good strategy to start bidding early during the bidding period. It's like showing your cards. You don't want to be the first bidder. But when it gets down to the last minute, everybody who is interested jumps in. On Ebay, you try to make your final bid in the last second, hoping that time then runs out without someone else outbidding you in the last tenth of a second. This practice is known as sniping.

So I imagine that in the candle auction, "inviting one another" is just a lot of banter going on trying to get someone to start the bidding, "and at last how they all do cry" — as the candle pin is about to drop, or the candle is about to go out, whichever the process is, everybody shouts their bids trying to be the last one.

While this makes for an expeditious auction, it doesn't necessarily get the seller the best price, because some bidders may misjudge the timing and fail to get their final bid in under the wire. So there could have been a few higher bids, if the bidding had continued.

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