Saturday 15 December 1660

All day at home looking upon my workmen, only at noon Mr. Moore came and brought me some things to sign for the Privy Seal and dined with me. We had three eels that my wife and I bought this morning of a man, that cried them about, for our dinner, and that was all I did to-day.

10 Annotations

First Reading

Paul Miller  •  Link

"We had three eels that my wife and I bought this morning of a man, that cried them about"

Hearken for a good meal
Clerk of the Privy Seal
I'm making great deals
On some fresh eels.

David Quidnunc  •  Link

In other news today ...
IN PARLIAMENT: Milton no longer needs to hide
"On June 16 of 1660, Parliament voted to arrest John Milton. The poet and former Secretary to Cromwell went into hiding until on December 15, 1660 Parliament voted to release Milton from the charge of the Sergeant at Arms."…

"Milton ... left his house and lay hid for three months till the Act of Oblivion. His books, or some of them, were, indeed, burnt by the hangman; and, exactly on what charge is unknown, in the early winter he was in the custody of the sergeant-at-arms. It is characteristic again, no doubt, that he exacted a reduction of the fees (as exorbitant) on his liberation (15 December) by an order of the House."…

Today's entry in the diary of the Rev. Ralph Josselin, Essex (40 miles NE of London):
"A wintery day indeed, a rime frost, then sniuzling cold thawing, afterwards a windy rain cold, then blustering high winds."…

If I were Pepys, I wouldn't want to go out either ...

Charlezzzzz  •  Link

'All day at home looking upon my workmen.' Pepys spends a lot of his time doing this. I wonder (maybe he tells us) whether these were people he paid himself, or were they craftsmen who were supposed to be working on the King's ships in one of the shipyards? Every year or so we here in the States have a small scandal when somebody holding a political office uses tax-supported workmen for some personal work about the house. In Sam's day, sometimes the King's very wood, purchased to build a ship, was turned into some office-holder's new roof.

vincent  •  Link

It was called government work, or maintaining one's skill set: Idle hands, devils hands.

Alan Bedford  •  Link

"I wonder... whether these were people he paid himself..."

The Navy shipyards were operated by the Pett family (hence Peter Pett's position on the Navy Board.) I'd be inclined to doubt that Pett's workers would be detailed to do mere home improvements (other than for the Pett family.

On the other hand, Sam and Elizabeth live in a Navy-owned house. Some of the work on his home is being paid for from the Navy budget. I'd guess that's the structural work such as the new doorways, etc. The interior decoration is probably Sam's responsibility. I imagine that both the structural and decorating work is being done by outside contractors.

In either case, we've seen that Sam is a bean-counter, and takes pains to assure that he receives fair labor (or more) for wages paid.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

"and that was all I did to-day."

Love it.

Second Reading

Annie B  •  Link

I'm with you Todd, I loved this last sentence!

Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

Indications that Sam is paying the workmen out of his own pocket:
-- He always refers to them as "my workmen".
-- He keeps a close eye on them, "looking upon my workmen" often in this and previous projects.
-- Sometimes their "laziness does much trouble" him — if the Navy were paying, maybe it wouldn't matter so much.
-- The improvements are all designed to suit his needs and preferences (a door to the rooftop, a new entry door, wainscoting, etc., not necessary maintenance to keep the house in good repair.
-- He gets Navy permission for certain changes, such as the rooftop access, but there is never mention that the Navy board agreed to pay for something or reimburse him.

On the other hand, so far he never mentions the cost of these improvement, which you'd expect him to do given his careful guardianship of his monetary wealth.

Small spoiler: It will be around two years before Sam is fully content with the house; until then workmen will be there, on and off, for a number of additional projects.

Elisabeth  •  Link

Eels bought of a man that cried them about.

I just finished Charlie Taverner’s fascinating book “Street Food: Hawkers and the History of London” (Oxford University Press, 2023). I recommend it to anyone interested in the lives of people who sold food in the streets of London from the late 16th to the early 20th centuries.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The cost of the workmen was at least partly covered by the Navy:

L&M: "William Brewer's bills ... for 'divers painted workes' at the Navy Office and at several lodgings there including Pepys's, ... amount to over £50. Pepys’ house was clear of the painters by Christmas Day.”…

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