Sunday 23 December 1660

(Lord’s day). In the morning to Church, where our pew all covered with rosemary and baize. A stranger made a dull sermon.

Home and found my wife and maid with much ado had made shift to spit a great turkey sent me this week from Charles Carter, my old colleague, now minister in Huntingdonshire, but not at all roasted, and so I was fain to stay till two o’clock, and after that to church with my wife, and a good sermon there was, and so home.

All the evening at my book, and so to supper and to bed.

43 Annotations

First Reading

Kenneth Blackwell  •  Link

This little unglamorous entry could be summarized as
church--turkey--church--reading--sleep. Latham and Matthews found it
needed only 3 footnotes. Yet the life Pepys gives it supports Bertrand Russell's recommendation: "Pepys's Diary makes the time of Charles II more real and intelligible than any history ever written" (Papers, 1922-24 vol., forthcoming).

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"little unglamorous entry" Indeed,I thought that with the gilted paper he would be ecstatic,but then at this latitude and close to the winter solstice one feels very down and beside he had a hangover.

john lauer  •  Link

"...rosemary and baize" -- a shrub or spice and a (green?) woolen fabric, without further explanation? What, 'seasonal' decoration?

Mary  •  Link

rosemary and baize.

We're talking about the evergreen shrubs here, rosemary and bay; together with holly and ivy they formed the basis of leafy decoration for Christmas, being both colourful and sweetly scented.

Harvey Cohen  •  Link

Elizabeth struggles to cook a large turkey. How common was turkey in 1660? Definitely in England in 1524. The Pilgrim fathers took British domesticated turkeys with them on the Mayflower in 1620.

PHE  •  Link

On the contrary
I recently heard that our turkeys came from North America.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

From a University of Illinois site:

Which came first-the Pilgrim or the turkey?

“Wild turkeys were probably first domesticated by native Mexicans. Spaniards brought tame Mexican turkeys to Europe in 1519, and they reached England by 1524. The Pilgrims actually brought several turkeys to America on the voyage in 1620.”

No source given.

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

Note the opening of the traditional 'Boar's Head Carol', first published in 1521:

The boar's head in hand bear I
Bedecked with bay and rosemary
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio.
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes domino.

2. The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedecked with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico.

3. Our steward hath provided this
In honor of the King of bliss
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio

4. The boar's head in hand bear I
Bedecked with bay and rosemary
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio.

Ruben  •  Link

Definitively the bird called turkey to day in English is an American bird. In Thanksgiving day Americans eat this "turkey" because it is an American native bird. One of the many good things the invaders found in that continent. Bon appetit!
Reading SP you can make the mistake of applying the modern word "turkey" to a bird that may have been a different one.
Find more about this in:…
The American turkey that you find in the supermarket is an engineered variant with a lot of meat but tasteless that ate artificial food everyday of his life.
Real turkeys are in decline. A few years ago someone found the original turkeys in a farm in Tenesee, I think, and now the original variant is making a come back.

JWB  •  Link

"Invaders","artificial food","Tenesee"(sic)..
Mercy! Wild Turkey are doing very well in the good old U.S.of A., thank you.

George  •  Link

I don't think "real" turkeys are in decline any longer. The Wild Turkey is "locally common from Wyoming, Illinois and New York to Mexico and the Gulf Coast". It previously had an even larger range and was once much more abundant, but was heavily hunted - over hunted before the introduction of closed seasons - in the 19th and early-to-mid 20th centuries. Wild turkeys are being re-introduced throughout their former range and beyond: they can now be found as far north and east as New Brunswick in Canada.

language hat  •  Link

"Wild Turkey are doing very well"
When I awoke this morning (in my in-laws' house in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts) I opened the window and saw a half-dozen wild turkeys strutting around in the rain, seeking out whatever goodies might be underneath the snow. I followed them around to the front of the house and saw them make their way across the pond, five flying but one preferring to tiptoe cautiously over the ice. I felt an atavistic impulse to look for a shotgun, but Xmas dinner is already decided (roast beef and Yorkshire pudding) so I let them be. (Just kidding -- I've never fired a gun in my life.) We're hoping the rain doesn't wash away all the snow before tomorrow. And may I take this opportunity to wish all those Pepysians who celebrate it a merry Christmas!

Ruben  •  Link

The supermarket turkey is a modern development of the domesticated turkey.
The domesticated turkeys of 1930 had a different taste and they almost dissapeared.
Wild turkeys have a different story.

Ruben  •  Link

From the Wikipedia:
"The domesticated turkey is descended from one of the North American wild turkey species, probably the Mexican Ocellated Turkey, Agriocharis ocellata."
See also the site of the "Pilgrim Hall Museum" (the invaders museum) at:…

Merry Christmas and Peace to all!

PHE  •  Link

Wow - I'm turkeyed out!
And its not even Christmas yet.
(sorry Phil for the off-subject comment)

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Talking turkey

Turkey comments would really be more valuable on the turkey page, and non-diary comments on the pages for the Pepys discussion group at, where I'm posting my two-cents worth on the turkey thread:…

Nix  •  Link

Wild turkeys --

You can find them -- and hunt them -- in southeastern Arizona as well.

Harvey Cohen  •  Link

Turkey questions not answered. How common was turkey in England in 1660? How big was "great" then? Maybe Elizabeth was following the recipe for cooking wild duck in "The Newe Booke of Cookery," by John Murrell (1615): "Trusse and parboyle it, and then halfe roast it, then carve it ..."

David Quidnunc  •  Link

The Rev. Carter's gift giving

This is all speculation, but there may be a sectarian/political edge to Carter's gift giving. It may have been a Christmas gift, and that may have been fraught with controversy. The puritans disliked the idea of Christmas and Parliament even outlawed it during the Interregnum. In 1660, the King's new government reversed that and, very likely, promoted Christmas, as would those (un-puritan) church ministers who supported the new regime. Celebrating Christmas would have been a somewhat controversial religious and political statement (but probably an overwhelmingly popular one) -- something with a bit of a bite, like the Earth Day celebrations when they began in the 1970s.

Anglican and Catholic religious leaders supported Christmas and Halloween in the United States in the 19th century and were very successful in getting both holidays established (Halloween, in a way, honored All Saints Day). Maybe something similar was going on here -- promoting a holiday for sectarian reasons. Or maybe he was just giving a friend a turkey.

Pauline  •  Link

"...just giving a friend a turkey."

Perhaps Sandwich shook this turkey loose. He's just back from Huntingdonshire. His presence there may have given Carter the idea or the easy shipment opportunity. Or they may have had a conversation about Sam, and Carter felt the tug of the old friendship and wanted to send a turkey.

upper_left_hand_corner  •  Link

Very true, Pauline!

As Freud might have said, sometimes a turkey is just a turkey.

Glyn  •  Link

I'm going to disagree with David Quidnunc about there being any political reasons for any of this, and I'm sure David Gurliacci would back me up: i.e. maybe Sam was just extremely fond of turkey. See David Gurliacci's entry for 7 January earlier this year entitled "Gobble Gobble Gobble":…

This was before the Restoration, so there would be no political subtext concerned with it.

But like everyone else, I'm surprised the English were eating turkeys so early.

vincent  •  Link

Peacock could be the plausible choice of bird for special occasions before the turkey[peru][didon][pavo][truthan]found its way onto the continental table[Romans loved them]

Mary  •  Link

The implausible peacock

According to a food historian (can't remember the name) who was speaking on BBC R4 last week, although peacocks were often elaborately dressed for grand dinners from mediaeval times onwards, they were presented for 'show' rather than for eating, as they taste pretty dreadful. Not having tried one, can't say.

Mickey  •  Link

I'm more interested in the rosemary and bay decorations in the church. I'm about 1/3 of the way through Tomalin's bio and it seems notable to me that the church would be decorated. I got the impression that even at this time Puritanism would have discouraged the use of such decoration, particularly in a church. Did his churches lean (or start to lean) away from such a conservative view by now? Or have we gererally gotten so far into the swing away, what with the King returning and all, that folks felt free to do the things that had been proscribed under Cromwell?

Pauline  •  Link

"...our pew all covered with rosemary and baize."
The gentlemen who have erected this pew, Sam among them, all live and work at the Navy Board, so they are supporters of the King and in powerful enough positions to have things the way they would like them in their pew. Next year the altar?

Laura K  •  Link

wild turkeys are even in nyc

Wild turkeys are often seen in New York City's denser parks. The birds thrive all over New York State, and apparently are not afraid of the big city.

This annotation is very late, but I couldn't access the site for two weeks! I've been suffering from Pepys withdrawal. Today, finally, some relief.

Suzanne  •  Link

After having used Pepys for research, your site pointed me towards Josslin, however when looking for
info' that could explain this entry:
Diary of Ralph Josselin (Private Collection)
23.12.1660 (Tuesday 23 December 1660)
document 70012840
Dec: 23. Reports of strange tempests up and down in the world, great violences likely to be practiced, thus in Italy, Denmark, England. Guernsey. oh lord when you shakes these things, make me wise to provide for that which cannot be shaken(.) this day wet and wintery, god good in his word, my hearts desire is you will not leave me under deceit, but make me plain and upright with thee.

I ended back here and discovered the day of the weeks are not the same, is this an error in the Josslin transcription?

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Or, to be fair to the Rev. Ralph, the digitized diary's correspondence is a bit unsteady.

Bill  •  Link

"where our pew all covered with rosemary and baize"

When rosemary, and bays the Poet's crown,
Are bawl'd in frequent cries through all the town;
Then judge the festival of Christmas near,
Christmas the joyous period of the year.
Now with bright holly all your temples strow,
With laurel green, and sacred misletoe.
---Of walking the Streets by Day. John Gay, 1716
(John Gay wrote "The Beggar's Opera".)

Bill  •  Link

"had made shift to spit a great turkey"

How blest, how envy'd were our life,
Could we but 'scape the poult'rer's knife!
But man, curst man on turkeys preys,
And Christmas shortens all our days;
Sometimes with oysters we combine,
Sometimes assist the sav'ry chine.
From the low peasant to the lord,
The turkey smoaks on ev'ry board.
---Fable XXXVIII. The Turkey and the Ant. John Gay, 1727

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

According to my home-brew book, Izaak Walton wrote: "Turkeys, Carp, Hops, Pickerel, and Beer, Came into England all in one year." (1524). This referred to when the traditional herbs which flavoured ale began to be replaced by hops, as well as the introduction of the turkey, pike and carp.

Incidentally, the boars head is a very old pagan tradition, rebranded by Christianity. At Yule, It was customary to sacrifice a boar to Freyr/Frey, the Norse/Germanic fertility god. Incidentally, here in Pembrokeshire there is a village called Freystrop, a slight corruption of Freyrstorp: "Freyr's village".

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

This was the first Christmas not governed by Puritan concerns in 20 years. Apart from the deprivation of the times, they had also forgotten/were out of the habit of celebrating Christmas in a more Catholic way (the great Anglican fear of the time).

The House of Commons blog has some excellent information about the Puritan years and how they suppressed the celebration:…

Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

"A stranger made a dull sermon"

What was the 17thC system for pulpit rotations? Presumably the regular fellow was on vacation (hah!) or sick, or called somewhere else for church business or some personal exigency. Where did the stranger come from to substitute? Was there a pool of retired priests, or some other source? Or, did priests swap places now and then just for a change of pace? Inquiring minds want to know.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Inquiring minds may be assuming more bureaucracy than I think was possible in those days. I doubt there were any CofE regs about pulpit rotations in December 1660, MartinVT.

Most of the old Bishops had died, and Charles II needed the new ones in place before his February Coronation, or it would not be accepted as authentic.
Recently we read about Pepys witnessing the ordination of those new bishops. I doubt they have had time to agree on any such process yet. The "How To" book on being a Bishop had been destroyed. Most of the Cathedrals had been damaged during the fighting, and used as stables. The organs had been destroyed. The windows and tombs broken, and the colorful painted walls and ceilings whitewashed. The bells were melted down for canons.…

Meanwhile, parish life went on, and the Rev. Ralph wrote about making some guest sermon appearances last summer while he was travelling, and presumably someone was covering his parish duties while he was away. A closer reading of his Diary entries might answer your question.
My guess is that it was the old boy's network at work. If you cover for me, I'll cover for you.

We've also been reading how the Houses of Parliament have been incrementally changing Parish and University assignments, moving out the Puritans/Presbyterians/Non-conformists and replacing them with Royalists familiar with the Book of Common Prayer.
But replacement Church of England clergy are in short supply, not many being ordained for the last 15 years.

Some of the unemployed non-conformists fired preachers will become a great problem as they kept on preaching, with their former parishoners walking miles to hear them in remote valleys or private houses -- but now I'm into SPOILERS.

If you want to skip ahead on this subject, one of the little-known heroes of the revitalization of the Church of England was Rev. Symon Patrick of St. Paul's Covent Garden. But nothing I know aboiut mention details like sermon rotations.…

David G  •  Link

I’m wondering whether the answer to MartinVT’s question is that the minister at St Olave’s Church has been spending his time drafting his magnum opus Christmas sermon and he therefore asked someone else (the “stranger”) to deliver the Sunday morning sermon the day before Christmas so he didn’t have to write two sermons. In fact, maybe the St Olave’s minister was previewing his Christmas sermon at the stranger’s church. We’ll never know, of course.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A very practical and reasonable suggestion, David G.

Mr. Milles decorations were restrained but appropriate. The church must have smelled refreshingly aromatic.

"The Latin name Rosmarinus officinalis means 'dew of the sea', which refers to the fact that it usually thrives best when growing near the ocean.
While the name Rosemary was derived from the name of its genus, there’s a legend that adds another explanation. Accordingly, when the Virgin Mary fled from Egypt, she took shelter next to a rosemary bush. On one occasion, she threw her cape over the plant and all its white flowers became blue. Due to this, the herb was called the Rose of Mary even although its blooms do not look like roses.

"Today, this delightful herb’s pleasant aroma makes it a great addition to perfumes and cosmetics. Some people also use it in aromatherapy, claiming that rosemary essential oil can help improve brain function and ease stress."…

Stress relief -- this was a time that needed some stress relief.

Baize? Presumably that's the green cloth, and Mr. Milles had a large quantity available for whatever reason.
"Colors convey plenty of meanings in the Bible, and green means immortality, resurrection, growth, prosperity, and restoration.
"The color green in the Bible is also associated with fertility."…

Maybe it covered the alter?

James Morgan  •  Link

I see about 16 mentions of eating turkey in the diary, so it seems to be pretty common in the 1660s.

Bill  •  Link

“where our pew all covered with rosemary and baize “

Pepys' pew covered with green felt? I don't think so. The 1716 poem by John Gay, quoted in the annotation above, should be enough to put a blaze to the baize. Which Pepys should have spelled as “bays”, as Gay did. Or even as "baies".

When rosemary, and bays the Poet's crown,
Are bawl'd in frequent cries through all the town;
Then judge the festival of Christmas near,

Why would peddlers be selling green felt for Christmas? They weren't. They were selling sprigs of bay, the herb bay! Why? Because rosemary and bay (like mistletoe) stay green all winter.

This from The Gardener's Chronicle, 1875, page 270:

“Herrick's often quoted poem on the ceremonies of Candlemas Eve commences with--
Down with the Rosemary and so
Down with the Baies and Mistletoe

And in the churchwardens' accounts for St. Margaret's, Westminster, in 1647, is the item--
'Paid for Rosemarie and Baies that was about the church at Christmas, 1s 6d.'”

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