Tuesday 5 February 1660/61

Washing-day. My wife and I by water to Westminster. She to her mother’s and I to Westminster Hall, where I found a full term, and here I went to Will’s, and there found Shaw and Ashwell and another Bragrave (who knew my mother wash-maid to my Lady Veere), who by cursing and swearing made me weary of his company and so I went away. Into the Hall and there saw my Lord Treasurer (who was sworn to-day at the Exchequer, with a great company of Lords and persons of honour to attend him) go up to the Treasury Offices, and take possession thereof; and also saw the heads of Cromwell, Bradshaw, and Ireton, set up upon the further end of the Hall.

Then at Mrs. Michell’s in the Hall met my wife and Shaw, and she and I and Captain Murford to the Dog, and there I gave them some wine, and after some mirth and talk (Mr. Langley coming in afterwards) I went by coach to the play-house at the Theatre, our coach in King Street breaking, and so took another. Here we saw Argalus and Parthenia, which I lately saw, but though pleasant for the dancing and singing, I do not find good for any wit or design therein.

That done home by coach and to supper, being very hungry for want of dinner, and so to bed.

33 Annotations

First Reading

Glyn  •  Link

Then at Mrs. Michell's in the Hall

Mistress Michell is his mother-in-law, Elizabeth’s mother.

Glyn  •  Link

At least think she is, but it may be coincidentally another Mrs Michell with a booth selling things in the Hall.

Pauline  •  Link

"...Bragrave (who knew my mother wash-maid to my Lady Veere)..."
It was many years ago, and Sam may be chagrined to have it brought up. And why would Bragrave bring it up -- except to be stinging? (Unless he is remembering that he knew her when she was wash-maid, not just that she was.)

I think this Mrs. Michell at the Hall is not Mrs. St. Michels the mother-in-law. Sounds like he arranged to meet his wife at a stall in the Hall.

(Washing-day) And Elizabeth is free, free, free. Poor Pall??

Barbara  •  Link

I believe this Mrs Michell to be a bookseller with a stall in Westminster Hall. Pepys, as far as I remember, never met up with his mother in law. Elizabeth always went to see her alone.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"by cursing and swering made me weary" I wonder what were the actual curses at the time? m.....f.....,sob?

dirk  •  Link


Over the last year "washing" is mentioned only three times in Sam's diary: on Dec 11th and Nov. 20th. and Jan 16th last year (that's all I've been able to find). This seems like rather a lot of washing over the last few months, compared to 17th c custom. Clothes went for months, or even an entire year, without any but a superficial cleaning (brushing) usually.

(It's very likely that Sam didn't always note down the "washing-day" in his diary - so our picture here is probably incomplete.)

There is also the entry for July 17th, but there the phrase "washing the house" was used - which is of course not the same meaning of the word.

Emilio  •  Link

"my Lord Treasurer (who was sworn to-day at the Exchequer"

This is the Earl of Southampton according to an L&M footnote. He's been acting as Lord Treasurer since August, but is only now getting around to the technicality of being sworn in to office. I'm sure he'll have no problem collecting any back-pay.

Emilio  •  Link

"Cromwell, Bradshaw, and Ireton"

They're back . . . and they've come to stay. "The heads were now set on poles on top of the south end with Bradshaw's in the middle, above the very part of the hall where he had presided in 1649 over the regicide court: Merc. Pub., 7 February, p. 80. They remained there as late as 1684 or 1688." (L&M footnote)

vincent  •  Link

Sam goes to the "theare-tar"[our coach] with the [we saw] missus. Left the wash with the 'under stairs mob" to besoapped ,scrubbed and then mangled, then when 'He' gets home he demands to be 'fed'.[poor sis:]
This is the second 'seeing' of the play I bet it was seats this time not standing in the crowd in the pit interfacing with the likes of the beauties looking for a future partnership.

Ian  •  Link

"which I lately saw, but though pleasant for the dancing and singing, I do not find good for any wit or design therein."

So, a good performance of a mediocre play. At least it was entertaining.

David Duff  •  Link

I assume this Earl of Southampton must be the son of Shakespeare's rival for the 'dark lady of the sonnets'. Please put me right if I'm wrong.

John Glancy  •  Link

Why did Sam never meet his Ma-in-law?this seems somewhat strange.

Bardi  •  Link

Granted, London was a tiny portion of today's City, but isn't it amazing how Sam bumps into so many people, travels about so much - and all without benefit of telephone, cellphone, pc's, reliable snail mail, tubes or busses. Sort of a 17th century Aussie walk-about.

Brian McMullen  •  Link

It is not clear to me that Elizabeth went to the theatre with Sam. He used the singular (I) to ride the coach, then uses the plural (our) when the coach breaks down and, finally, the plural (we) to see the play. Additionally, there were other people at the pub who may have gone with him.

If Elizabeth did go is this the first time she accompanies Sam to the theatre?

Ruben  •  Link

Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley, 4th earl of 1607-67, son of the 3d earl (Shakespeare’s friend or something). At first an opponent of the court party in the events leading up to the English civil war, he later joined the royalists and served Charles I as an intimate adviser. He negotiated for Charles with Parliament in 1643 and 1645. After the king’s execution (1649) he retired. At the Restoration (1660), Southampton became lord high treasurer. He counseled leniency toward the regicides. He disapproved of the immorality and ostentation of Charles II and his court and soon retired from active politics.

David Duff  •  Link

Ruben, thanks and in view of "He disapproved of the immorality and ostentation ...", it looks like another example of 'like father, UN-like son'!

Ruben  •  Link

to David Duff: the 3d earl is more interesting, because of the sonnets connection.
An old, recently found portrait seems to be his first. you can see it at:

vincent  •  Link

"wifey to the play " "...she[met my wife and Shaw, ] and I and Captain Murford to the Dog.." he did not send her home by cab or a farthing lanthorn either?. He was not that unfeeling for his missus surely? It does appear to be the first remote reference to the possibility of having the wife along .[ I.m sure she did not want to be home with that shambles of soaking bedsheets etc., until they were 'ung up in the garden, it being nice and warm evening.

helena murphy  •  Link

Southampton was the uncle of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper,the latter who through the family connection was offered the subordinate post of Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Restoration Government.Later known as Lord Shaftsbury ,he was one of the most eloquent,brilliant, and capable politicians of Charles'reign.

vincent  •  Link

Southampton the 4th"... 1607-67, English nobleman; son of the 3d earl. At first an opponent of the court party in the events .....
At the Restoration (1660), Southampton became lord high treasurer. He counseled leniency toward the regicides. He disapproved of the immorality and ostentation of Charles II and his court and soon retired from active politics...."
later portrait of 3rd earl at
a pic of papa later in life:

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

I think Barbara above is correct: "Mrs Michell to be a bookseller with a stall in Westminster Hall." Phil perhaps missed this link to Anne Michell, just such a bookseller: http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclo…

Gillian Bagwell  •  Link

Washing: It's a little misleading to say that clothes went for months or years without being cleaned other than by brushing, as Dirk says. That is somewhat true of outer clothing, especially delicate fabrics, which couldn't be submerged. But "linen"--shirts, chemises, bed linen, table linen, all the white stuff--could be washed regularly, though it was a big job, which is no doubt why Sam mentions it.

Here's the process, according to Liza Picard's "Restoration London":

Laundry was collected in buck baskets, the kind of huge basket that Falstaff hid in in "Merry Wives of Windsor." When it was laundry time, the laundry was arranged across buck sticks jammed across a barrel-shaped buck tub, with the dirtiest things at the bottom. Ley, or lye, made from wood ash and human urine, was poured over the laundry, which was left to soak. After a while, the lye was drained from a spigot at the foot of the tub into a smaller tub, the underbuck, and poured in again at the top, or stronger or hot lye might be used.

Once the laundry was "reasonably clean," it was rinsed in cold water. The process "involved energetic stirrings and shakings and rearrangement of the buck sticks, and anyone who has handled just one wet bath towel may be able to imagine the weight of all this linen. Any remaining dirty patches were dealt with by beating and scrubbing."

Then everything was twisted and wrung out and hung or laid out to dry. Street vendors sold clotheslines. In the summer, it could be laid over bushes, especially aromatic bushes such as rosemary. If I may be forgiven for jumping ahead in the diary just a bit, on May 21, 1662, Sam wrote, "And in the Privy-garden saw the finest smocks and linnen petticoats of my Lady Castlemaine’s, laced with rich lace at the bottom, that ever I saw; and did me good to look upon them."

In the winter clothes had to be hung wherever they could be. The kitchen might risk getting the clothes dirty again. Some houses had galleries. Dutch and Swiss houses had drying lofts. In England, the top story was usually servants' quarters, so all that heavy wet laundry "had to be carried through those tall houses and up the stairs. No wonder there was no cooking done on washing days."

I have read that great households who could afford to have enormous amounts of linen only did laundry occasionally, even sending it out sometimes, but most people couldn't have done that.

Picard's book gives much more information on this and other matters of daily life, and she also has books on Elizabethan, eighteenth-century, and Victorian London.

Phil Gyford  •  Link

I've added a link to Mrs Michell.

Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

Sam knows everybody, it seems. Ever notice that more often than not, when he pops into a tavern or coffeehouse, he runs into people he knows, seemingly by chance rather than appointment?

Today, at Will's, there were Shaw and Ashgrave, not to mention the bothersome Bragrave. Later at the Dog, (Sam not alone but with Liz and Capt. Murford) Mr. Langley appears.
Scrolling back a couple of months:
Jan. 28: with [Mr. Brigden] to an ale-house, where I met Mr. Davenport
Jan. 11: and from thence to the Coffeehouse, where I met Captain Morrice
Jan. 2: After dinner I to Westminster by water, and there found my brother Spicer at the Leg with all the rest of the Exchequer men (most of whom I now do not know)
Dec. 1: calling upon Mr. Pinkney, the goldsmith, he took us to the tavern, and gave us a pint of wine, and there fell into our company old Mr. Flower and another gentleman

Quite often, as well, he mentions that he "lit upon good company" at an alehouse or coffeehouse — they might be people he knows, or people he adds to his Rolodex.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

You're right, MartinVT. I believe their circle of acquaintances was much larger than ours today. They spent more time in public locations; they did business in person, not on the phone or by email; they belonged to clubs and churches; plus the lack of welfare state means that they fundamentally understood that helping each other was essential, and the bigger your circle of well-wishers the better.
TV radically changed our way of entertaining ourselves. I leave it to you to judge which was the richer lifestyle.

I like the way Pepys visits his sick colleagues and sits chatting with them for hours. No TV or newspapers or computers would make recouperation a very dull non-event, and it was a great opportunity for him to get to know the life stories and character of his colleagues.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"(It's very likely that Sam didn't always note down the "washing-day" in his diary - so our picture here is probably incomplete.)"

I suspect there was an every-few-weeks/as needed wash, and twice a year BIG wash (probably in the early spring and as late as they dared in the autumn).

Gillian did an excellent job above explaining what a production this was, and that Pepys mentions this women's work at all tells us how it upset his household routine.

For the most comprehensive review of 17th century laundry see the Old and Interesting blog:

"Outdoor drying and bleaching: Sun on the bleaching ground

"When Sunlight Soap was named in the 1880s, spreading laundry in the sun was the best way of whitening it. For centuries this had worked to counteract yellowing from storage, from soaking in urine, or from certain soap ingredients.

"Bleaching and drying both used to be mainly outdoor activities, and they were closely related. The stretch of grass set aside for these jobs was called a bleaching-green or drying-ground. Whether you were spreading off-white linen on the ground to bleach in the sun, or just putting your laundry there to dry, or if you were hanging it on a breezy line, you wanted a:
"grassy corner well open to the sun, ... sheltered from high winds ... the attentions of wandering poultry ... and the incursions of pigs, puppies and calves ... they not only soil the clothes, but will tear and even eat them" -- Katherine Purdon, Laundry at Home, 1902, quoted by Pamela Sambrook in The Country House Servant, 1999

A drying area could be communal, shared by a whole village or neighbourhood; it could be private ground by a large house, or owned by a cloth manufacturer. Domestic bleaching could last just one day or go on for a few days.
"Before the 19th century and the arrival of modern chemicals, it was sometimes done by professionals called whitsters. Whitsters visited large, prosperous households at intervals to "spring-clean" the linen. They might also work on their own premises.

"Household and personal linen was spread on the grass, soaked with buckets of lye at intervals, and eventually rinsed and dried. There were variations, like using plain water and no lye, and the process might last for 3 days.

"As well as using grass, you could spread laundry on hedges and bushes. Drying frames with wooden poles rather than ropes were another possibility.
"If you had poles, rope and pins/pegs you could have a clothes line. Until the 20th century clothes pins were quite simple pieces of wood: split twigs bound with wire or twine like these made by English Romanies, or plainly-cut wood like the Germans used.

"For more on old laundry methods see:
History of Laundry: washing and drying
Laundry from 1800
History of Ironing
Great wash and washdays
Bluing white laundry
Washing bats and beetles
Ashes, lye and bucking
Washing dollies"


MartinVT  •  Link

The Dutch word "bleek" refers (among other things) to the past practice of communal drying, and especially the bleaching of linen by means of sunshine. See Dutch Wikipedia article, which can be viewed in English translation, at least on Chrome: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ble…. Here and there in the Netherlands the term survives as a geographic term, or as a family name originating with the Dutch whitsters. Clearly "bleach" and "bleek" are related.

The English Wikipedia has an entry for "bleachfield" with similar information. But "bleach" by itself doesn't seem to have ever meant "bleachfield", as "bleek" does in Dutch.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Here we saw Argalus and Parthenia, which I lately saw, but though pleasant for the dancing and singing, I do not find good for any wit or design therein."

I think Pepys took Elizabeth to see "Argalus and Parthenia" because of the singing and dancing, although he thought it unwitty and plot-deficient. And he took her out for a liquid lunch with friends today. (I wonder why he didn't spring for a pasty while they were there?) But he was being a good husband today, all-in-all.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... and I to Westminster Hall, where I found a full term, ..."

Many minor legal proceedings were heard in Westminster Hall (with the echo it must have been difficult to hear testimony).
England's legal system is divided into 4 "terms" so the judges and legal beagles have regular non-Court time for their office work. Bill tells us, the Hillary term usually ends on February 12. Today is only the 5th.

I wonder if they adjourned early in 1661, or if Pepys is referring to something other than the law courts? Ideas anyone.

LKvM  •  Link

I wonder if there were also community "tenting grounds" for drying laundered sheets on frames set up like very large sandwich boards. The sheets would be stretched on the frames and held there by by "tenterhooks."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"I wonder if they adjourned early in 1661, or if Pepys is referring to something other than the law courts? Ideas anyone."

It occurs to me that the people organizing the Coronation would want to clean and refurbish Westminster Hall for the occassion. But we know, thanks to the chatty Venetian Representative, that it has been delayed. The Hillary Term was probably shortened months ago to allow for this activity, and so no trials have been scheduled.
Mrs. Michell and the other stall holders will have to clear out as well, but their timing can be more flexible.

Other ideas, anyone?

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Bravo Sam, my Lord Treasurer's swearing-in, where you casually just happen to wander, was precisely the place to be seen today. Mercurius Politicus (in Thos. Rugge his summation, pp. 146-147) relates it drew "most and the chiefest of the nobility in coatches, about 60 in number". Which is a lot of coatches; back in September the Spanish ambassador extraordinary's super-flash grand entry had set a benchmark at about 50 (https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/…).

Mercurius has this report: "(...) his commission beeing' read, his Lordship took his oath and then went to his place upon the bench where, after some motiones heard, he removed into the Exchequer Chamber and there sate upon erroures [huh?] and received the keyes of the Receipt. Thence hee went to the Receipt side, viewed the officers, and returned backe into the Exchequer Court where, haveinge sate with the Barons, hee also tooke a viewe of the severall officers belonging' to the Kings Rememberancer, the Treasurer's] Rememberancer, and the other houses of record". And maybe, in the crowd, glimpsed the Clerk of the Acts, looking pretty.

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