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.

24 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.

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