Sunday 27 January 1660/61

(Lord’s day). Before I rose, letters come to me from Portsmouth, telling me that the Princess is now well, and my Lord Sandwich set sail with the Queen and her yesterday from thence for France. To church, leaving my wife sick … [of her menses – L&M] at home, a poor dull sermon of a stranger. Home, and at dinner was very angry at my people’s eating a fine pudding (made me by Slater, the cook, last Thursday) without my wife’s leave. To church again, a good sermon of Mr. Mills, and after sermon Sir W. Pen and I an hour in the garden talking, and he did answer me to many things, I asked Mr. Coventry’s opinion of me, and Sir W. Batten’s of my Lord Sandwich, which do both please me. Then to Sir W. Batten’s, where very merry, and here I met the Comptroller and his lady and daughter (the first time I ever saw them) and Mrs. Turner, who and her husband supped with us here (I having fetched my wife thither), and after supper we fell to oysters, and then Mr. Turner went and fetched some strong waters, and so being very merry we parted, and home to bed.

This day the parson read a proclamation at church, for the keeping of Wednesday next, the 30th of January, a fast for the murther of the late King.

31 Annotations

First Reading

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

I guess this solves the mystery of the cook! (Hint: It was Slater.)

I trust someone w/access to L&M will fill us in on the bowdlerization of Elizabeth's sickness...

Bradford  •  Link

3-word omission:

"To church, leaving my wife now sick of her menses at home."

"menses" is in italics in "The Shorter Pepys," indicating (one would assume) it is underlined in the ms.---but how would that work, in shorthand? Any clue in the complete L&M about this aspect of transcription?

Emilio  •  Link


This from the Reader's Guide to the complete edition: "Italics are all editorial, but (in e.g. headings to entries) often follow indications given in the MS. (by e.g. the use of larger writing)." So presumably the word is larger than everything else around it; there seems no other reason why the word "menses" should be set apart. Judging from the reproduction of the first page of the diary in Tomalin's book, the shorthand probably looked irregular enough on its own that he would have stayed away from using stray marks such as underlining.

vincent  •  Link

Simple latin for monthly mensis saxonated

vincent  •  Link

Leftovers it seems? especially for SP [his favourite Tappioca pudding maybe?] "...Home, and at dinner was very angry at my people

vincent  •  Link

I'm a bit confused! Who supplied the seating and food? The strong waters I do understand? I do think the neighbours did supply the table and chairs, he dragging the wifey to the gossip, and 'er being proper poorly too[Cad Sir].

Mary  •  Link


I take it that the supper was enjoyed at Sir W. Batten's dwelling, which is 'here' in the sense that is within the Navy Office property at Seething Lane.

Emilio  •  Link


It's also 'here' in the straightforward sense of being the last place mentioned, as earlier in the same sentence: "To Sir W. Batten's . . . and here I met. . . ." It's a bit awkward to use 'thither' to indicate the same place as the second 'here', but that does make clear that they can't be at their own house.

julio  •  Link

Strong waters
I suppose it means some kind of spirits. Is the term still in use in present day english?

Mary  •  Link

Strong waters.

One hears occasional references to 'strong drink' these days, but I haven't heard 'strong waters' cited; not, at least, in southeastern England.

Mary  •  Link


Menses is surely nominative plural of mensis; cf. the modern English use of 'monthlies' to refer to the same, boring phenomenon.

Mary  •  Link

Slater the chef.

If Slater is up to making a fine pudding, then he is clearly more experienced in the kitchen than a mere, temporary hand. Sugar and spices were all comparatively expensive and not to be trusted to the rank novice. He may have worked previously in the kitchen of a large household; this sounds like something fancier than tavern-fare.

Nigel Pond  •  Link

To Mary: Yes that was my reading -- menses is simply a plural.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"a fine pudding" although it is possible that it was a tapioca pudding,it is highly unlikely,since tapioca is originally from the New World tropics and I doubt that it would have been in wide use in England at the time.

Susanna  •  Link

A Fine Pudding

Yes, I think it unlikely to have been tapioca. According to this site (… ) it might have been either sweet or savory, or even some version of a trifle.

Carolina  •  Link

Pudding, as Vincent said earlier, usually made of the innards (offal,organ meat) this makes absolute sense to me. There is black pudding (made of blood and fat), steak and kidney pudding, self explanatory, and probably other puddings I don't know, but sweet? I don't think so somehow.

Does anyone know how they bought their meat in those days ? Did they buy half a pig and have to use it all up, making sausages etc. or could they specify a joint of meat like a leg or what?

Glyn  •  Link

The Pepys recording of Elizabeth's menstrual cycle seems more and more an act of quiet desperation - hoping against hope when it is delayed then being knocked down each month as they realize that she still isn't pregnant. Or am I reading to much into this.

dirk  •  Link

"how they bought their meat"

Very much the way we still buy it, but without any of the "fineries". You were not expected to buy the whole animal: it was the butcher's role as an intermediary to divide the animal up into its edible parts, make the sausages, offal puddings etc. "Delicatessen" and meat preparations were not available (you would have to make them yourself), and you would still have to do some cutting yourself too before your piece of meat would look like the ones we're used to find at the butcher's today.

vincent  •  Link

RE: 'menses':If I used my specs: then I would have read the dict: which doth say bothe in Latin and Saxon, it doth say plural: but in modern English ones uses the adverbial surely { I do believe] then it is menstra but as the event not spoken of only occurs once a month then it should be in the singular!surely? enough said
So sorry about the "tapioca" that is what I hated as a kid and it was if it came from the fifth century anyway, cold and unappetizing.
Re : latin is that what is googled up
What is in my noodle is amo, amas I love a lass .

Barbara  •  Link

Glyn: It doesn't seem to me that Pepys had hopes of his wife's pregnancy dashed each month, but she obviously had a bad time and considerable pain, which would have concerned him. She felt better later in the day, and presumably enjoyed the supper party.

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

Here is an excellent website of 17th century recipes -… - which seems to indicate that puddings could be either savoury or sweet.

Conrad Z. Risher  •  Link

"Strong waters", though certainly not much used today, was not uncommon at the beginning of the last century. Q.v., "There was a proper consumption of strong waters all along the line; one man invariably went on the stage highly stimulated, claiming that his particular interpretation of the part required it"(Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise. New York: Scribner, c1920;, 1999.

vincent  •  Link

not ale but herbs strong waters see culpeper and it ain't whisky…
Culpeper (1616-1654)
The influence of his teacher was apparent in his interest in medical botany that would be the driving force behind his famous publication, the Herbal (1652, originally titled The English Physitian). He joined the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War.
"The Common White Saxifrage: It is very effectual to cleanse the reins and bladder, and to dissolve the stone engendered in them... The distilled water of the whole herb, root and flowers, is most familiar to be taken. It provokes also women's courses, and frees and cleanses the stomach and lungs from thick and tough phlegm that trouble them. There are not many better medicines to break the stone than this." (Culpeper's Complete Herbal)…

Kevin Peter  •  Link

In Germany, they have some clear highly-alcoholic liquors known as "Fruit water" or "Cherry water". These are highly-distilled fruit juices, although there is no more than a hint of fruit taste by the time the distillation process is finished. They are as clear as water, so I could imagine such alcoholic drinks being known as "strong waters"

Grahamt  •  Link

Strong Water:
eau de vie, akvavit, whisk(e)y (uisgebeatha) all mean "water of life" in their respective languages, and vodka means "bit of water". An entry in Edward Phillips' dictionary of 1706: "Geneva, a kind of strong Water so called." Now called gin.

Second Reading

Edith Lank  •  Link

I have wondered if, in reading Pepys, one might translate "merry" as "drunk."

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘menses, n. With pl. concord. The menstrual discharge; menstruation.
1597 J. Gerard Herball i. 72 The seede of Darnell giuen in white or rhenish wine, prouoketh the flowers or menses.
1607 E. Topsell Hist. Fovre-footed Beastes 555 A very profitable..for the bringing forth of those Womens menses or fluxes which are stopped.
1661 S. Pepys Diary 27 Jan. (1970) II. 24 My wife now sick of her menses at home.’

‘merry, adj. . . II.4.c. Boisterous or cheerful due to alcohol; slightly drunk, tipsy . .
. .1575–6 in J. Raine Depositions Courts Durham (1845) 288 The said Sr Richerd will be mery with drinke ther, but not dronken.
1681 N. Luttrell Diary in Brief Hist. Relation State Affairs (1857) I. 134 Mr. Verdon..returning home pretty merry, took occasion to murder a man on the road.
1719 in T. D'Urfey Wit & Mirth III. 7 Drunk, which the vulgar call merry.
. . 1931 M. Allingham Police at Funeral xxiv. 304 When the hostelries opened, George and Beveridge became genuinely merry, but not actually drunk . . ‘

‘Merry’ is the state one intends to get into, ‘drunk’ is a mistake.

John Matthew IV  •  Link


That gives a whole new meaning to "Robin Hood and his Merry Men"!

Third Reading

nineveh  •  Link

Maxime de la Falaise writes of puddings in the seventeenth century: "Now to the traditional English beef, bread and beer was added the incomparable English pudding...made with milk, eggs, flour, butter, sugar, suet, marrow, raisins and other fruits." (Seven Centuries of English Cooking, p. 65) It sounds quite rich and sweet, and if this is what Sam was talking about, even without spices it would have cost more than the usual family fare with the sugar and dried fruits. Sam is a man who seems to enjoy dining well, so he was probably disappointed as well as angry that the pudding was gone!

Louise Hudson  •  Link

I suspect Elizabeth was suffering from endometriosis. She’s had continuous menstrual problems, according to Pepys. That would explain her menstrual pain and her inability to get pregnant. The condition was unidentified in the 1600s. There are treatments for it now, unheard of then.

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