Monday 25 February 1660/61

Sir Wm. Pen and I to my Lord Sandwich’s by coach in the morning to see him, but he takes physic to-day and so we could not see him. So he went away, and I with Luellin to Mr. Mount’s chamber at the Cockpit, where he did lie of old, and there we drank, and from thence to W. Symons where we found him abroad, but she, like a good lady, within, and there we did eat some nettle porrige, which was made on purpose to-day for some of their coming, and was very good. With her we sat a good while, merry in discourse, and so away, Luellin and I to my Lord’s, and there dined. He told me one of the prettiest stories, how Mr. Blurton, his friend that was with him at my house three or four days ago, did go with him the same day from my house to the Fleet tavern by Guildhall, and there (by some pretence) got the mistress of the house into their company, and by and by Luellin calling him Doctor she thought that he really was so, and did privately discover her disease to him, which was only some ordinary infirmity belonging to women, and he proffering her physic, she desired him to come some day and bring it, which he did.

After dinner by water to the office, and there Sir W. Pen and I met and did business all the afternoon, and then I got him to my house and eat a lobster together, and so to bed.

36 Annotations

First Reading

Eeyore  •  Link

Nettle porridge!

StewartMcI  •  Link

Tender young nettles have long been an appreciated green vegetable in the Winter when there was less variety available. Probably boiled and then thickened with oats or some other grain to make a gruel or thin porri(d)ge.

A bit like young kale (or kail) which contra Dr. Johnson is mainly fed to cattle in Scotland, but in England is sold by Saintsbury's to the chattering classes.

Emilio  •  Link

"some of their [friends] coming"

L&M fill in what was probably the missing word.

daniel  •  Link

My goodness!

does sam's "prettiest story" really recount what i think it does? ribald maybe but "pretty"?

Emilio  •  Link

"got the mistress of the house . . ."

But wait, there's more. Wheatley cut out a fairly long passage here without marking it--here's the L&M version in full:

". . . and there (by some pretence) got the mistress of the house[, a very pretty woman,] into their company. And by and by, Luellin calling him Doctor, she thought that he really was so, and did privately discover her disease to him--which was only some ordinary infirmity belonging to women. And he proffering her physic--she desired him to come some day and bring it, which he did[; and withal hath the sight of her thing below, and did handle it--and he swears the next time that he will do more.]"

It's thus a bit more innocent than you might have thought; Sam and co. really are like a group of overgrown schoolboys sometimes. It's nice to have the confirmation, though, that that really was Luellin visiting a few days ago.

Don  •  Link

Thanks for adding the text. I read the diary several years ago and distinctly remember there was more to that entry than was given here.

ray  •  Link

What was the condition of gynecological medicine at this time?

vincent  •  Link

the 5th ' boozer' the connection "...Mr. Blurton, his friend that was with him at my house three or four days ago,..."
"...By and by comes little Luellin and friend to see me, and then my coz Stradwick..."…

dirk  •  Link

"nettle porridge"

According to…
what Sam ate was...

Nettle Pudding
To 1 gallon of young Nettle tops, thoroughly washed, add 2 good-sized leeks or onions, 2 heads of broccoli or small cabbage, or Brussels sprouts, and 1/4 lb. of rice. Clean the vegetables well; chop the broccoli and leeks and mix with the Nettles. Place all together in a muslin bag, alternately with the rice, and tie tightly. Boil in salted water, long enough to cook the vegetables, the time varying according to the tenderness or other vise of the greens. Serve with gravy or melted butter. These quantities are sufficient for six persons.

Pepys refers to Nettle pudding in his Diary, February, 1661: 'We did eat some Nettle porridge, which was very good.'

See also Culpeper's herbal for 17th c. discussion of medicinal properties of nettles:…

dirk  •  Link


February seems to be physic month. Taken yours lately? (Apparently you can take a day off from work for this elementary self torture!)

Rich Merne  •  Link

Emilio, Thanks for the infill information, (bothersome that it wasn't shown in the entry). Disgusting and low trick in any case. Heaven knows what the poor woman had but amazingly the guy was prepared to risk full sex(sic). Did they have no appreciation of contagion?? Rich Merne

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Physics" Winter time, not many fruits and vegetables,that leads to constipation thence desperate measures like nettle porridge and physics!...

Rich Merne  •  Link

Anybody know of any Pepysian reference to the historical character, Moll Cutpurse (Mary Frith) who died about a year prior o the restoration. She lived in Fleet Street.

Judy  •  Link

A gallon of young nettle tops... in February? They must be just breaking the surface - with luck. Is there a botanist/horticulualist who can explain this very early cropping?

Glyn  •  Link

No references in the Pepys diaries.

Although I know that Luellin would, today, be charged with sexual assault and be facing either prison or community service, I reluctantly admire him having the effrontery to get away with this. The woman wasn't a naive young newcomer to the town, but a streetwise landlady of a tough, waterside (or nearly so) tavern: she must have had lots of experience of sailors trying to cheat her. Yet she falls for a stranger with a confident and well-spoken attitude. I imagine she partly conned herself, by thinking that she was getting something for nothing (i.e. medical advice for free). Notice how, he didn't come to her but made her open the conversation, so that she thought it was all her idea.

Nettle porridge - I'm surprised the green shoots are growing already. Normally it would take another month for that to happen - has it been a warm winter?

vincent  •  Link

Remember, early in January the weather was spring like, giving false data to the early spring plants. happens many times.

Susan  •  Link

It was Blurton, not Luellin who was the pretend Dr. Luellin just went along with it, by calling his friend "Doctor" and then told Pepys all about it. Although Blurton boasts of what he has done and states he is going to do more than fondle the poor woman next time - maybe it was just talk.
Might the nettles be dried ones? It does seem very early for fresh nettle tops.

Don  •  Link

"Nettle porridge - I'm surprised the green shoots are growing already.” They are still using the old calendar. Their dates lag about 3 weeks behind our modern calendar, so it was about the beginning of spring back in Pepys time.

mary  •  Link

Reinforcing Vincent and Don's comments.

Although Pepys has referred to wet and cold weather, he has made no mention or any great frost or significant snowfall, so it looks as if the mild winter is continuing through January and February (March for us). Nettle-tops are not out of the question, just very unusual at this time of year. Perhaps it was the timing as much as the recipe that excited Sam's comments on the nettle porridge.

J A Gioia  •  Link

a simple enough mistake

my mother had two uncles, one a surgeon the other a lawyer. story goes, a society lady at a dinner party mistook the attorney for the doctor, was having this pain could he have a look? the lawyer obliged with a few deft and fairly intimate touches said it seemed serious and when he next saw his brother, the surgeon, he would mention it.

through the ages, the lure of free medical advice is irresistable.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

Sam's comments about the nettle porridge:

As a sufferer from the Stone, Pepys very likely welcomed the chance to consume some nettle porridge for its supposed medicinal value. Culpeper, the 17th century guide to herbs cited above, says the extract of nettle juice or seed, "provoketh Urine, and expelleth the Gravel and Stone in the Reins or Bladder often proved to be effectual in many that have taken it. "

mary  •  Link

Pepys and nettel porridge.

Assuming that Culpepper's advice was generally known, Sam may have become quite a connoisseur of nettle porridge over the years.

Glyn  •  Link

Oh Susannah

Would people please check if this name is really called the Fleet or if this is a spelling error? It may instead be the FLEECE Tavern, which was near the Exchange. See entry under "Places/Taverns/Fleece (Cornhill).

If so, then the Landlady's name is Susannah Hinton, and she has (or will soon have) several children.

mary  •  Link


Well spotted. L&M give the name of the tavern as the Fleece, so the landlady is, presumably, Glyn's pretty Susannah Hinton.

Stephenie Crowley  •  Link

Hanky-panky dressed as medical advice continues well into the 20th Century -- see Robert Service poem, "Bessie's Boil" -- she goes to hospital and, sequentially, shows several men dressed in white her embarrassing boil. They send her from one to another; the last man explains he can't give a medical opinion, as they are "only the painters, a-paintin' the walls..."!!

Phil  •  Link

Good call on the Fleet/Fleece error, Glyn and Mary - I've changed the link to link to the Fleece tavern now.

Second Reading

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

I suspect that it lagged far behind other areas and, remember, no germ theory; bleeding was popular as was expertise in the four humors.

IIRC in the mid 19th century Physicians were arguing strongly that bloomers would be very injurious to women's health.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Galenic medicine and mental illness in the Diary of the Rev. Ralph Josselin

25. Mr R.H. in great agony of heart sent down for me, weeping, apprehending himself lost for ever. I feared his head most. got a physician who let him blood, advised him to alter his course of diet(,) he promised it, I lay with him that night. god gave him rest, and I hope in time perfect health.…

Galenic medicine in the Encyclopedia

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Meanwhile, at Whitehall, Charles II was scurrying around:

Anne Palmer was born on February 25, 1661, and Lady Barbara Villiers Palmer claimed she was conceived on the night of Charles II’s return to London in May 1660. Her enemies were quick to suggest the baby belonged either her husband, Roger Palmer, or her other lover, Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield.

Roger Palmer acknowledged Anne as his daughter, giving her his name. This was changed to Fitzroy when Charles II later decided to acknowledge Anne as his.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"What was the condition of gynecological medicine at this time?"

Primitive, Ray.

Wealthy women, including Queen Henrietta Maria, employed the Chamberlen family of male gynecologists who used top secret tools to assist with birthing for at least 3 generations. The mothers were blindfolded throughout the process so they couldn't see the tools, which were carried in and out of the birthing chamber in a very large chest, and while they were in use, an assistant banged drums and made strange noises so no one could guess what was going on.…

Most women still used midwives.

'"A writer in the "Dictionary of National Biography" censures Dr. Peter Chamberlen for having used secret processes in his work as a physician, and thus indulges in a criticism that is essentially unfair. On this point; Dr. Aveling speaks with judgment: "At that time the possession of a nostrum was not looked upon as degrading or derogatory to its owner; and the custom of not publishing secret modes of practice was very common. Only a little more than 100 years since, Smellie writes, "I have heard a gentleman of eminence in one of the branches of medicine affirm that he never knew one person of our profession who did not pretend to be in possession of some secret or another."

'When the forceps were invented, the age delighted in mystery. All that can be fairly said against the Chamberlen family is that they were no better than their neighbors when they failed to recognize the obligation imposed upon all members of our noble profession to immediately publish any new method of alleviating human suffering, which, by their industry or genius, they were able to discover.

'Living in the 17th century, Dr. Peter Chamberlen was of the Puritan period, and shared its limitations on the one hand; its strength of purpose on the other.

'In some respects, Chamberlen was ahead of his time -- in political, social and religious proposals; but in other respects, he was not one whit above his more ordinary contemporaries. It is evident that the Chamberlen family endeavored to improve the instruments to which they owed so much of their professional fame. He did not pretend to be the inventor of the forceps, but claimed to be an expert practitioner of midwifery. On the evidence, Dr. Aveling has concluded that Peter the Elder was the inventor, and from him the instruments passed from hand to hand in the family.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


'Peter the elder was born in France, came to England with his father like other Huguenot refugees. In the words of Dr. Aveling, he "rewarded our country for its shelter, by bestowing upon us the priceless and beneficent bounty of his skill and genius."

'In this connection it may be added, that our Dr. Chamberlen brought up his sons, Hugh and Paul, in his own profession, and they both achieved a material prosperity ...'…

But I think you're asking about treatments for 'the clap' or female gyne problems -- it would be easy to fall into the hands of Dr. Alexander Bendo who in the 1670's could be found some afternoons making a 'snake oil' presentation on Tower Hill:…

徽柔  •  Link

Women in 17th century England really faced a horrible society totally lacking of gynaecological knowledge...
There were talks about how Rochester disguised himself as a physician who can cure infertility of women and raped his patients. I am not sure whether those rumors were real.
When reading the biography of James Stewart the duke of Richmond and Lennox there was also record of his wife Mary Villiers went to see a doctor for her infertility .But surely her physician possessed some skills as she later gave birth to a boy and a girl after more than a decade of having no offspring.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Fortunate Mrs Hinton! She could have fallen under the clyster of a real doctor, who would have pumped her full of mercury, then prescribed an intensive course of bleeding, if not fumigation for the whole tavern. And still conceivably made medical errors, such as miscalculating her horoscope.

MartinVT  •  Link

Glyn 2004 wrote: "I imagine she partly conned herself, by thinking that she was getting something for nothing (i.e. medical advice for free)."

All cons involve conning oneself. To be conned, the person being conned needs to establish confidence. or trust, in the person doing the conning.

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