Tuesday 26 February 1660/61

(Shrove Tuesday). I left my wife in bed, being indisposed … [by reason of ceux=là and – L&M] I to Mrs. Turner’s, who I found busy with The. and Joyce making of things ready for fritters, so to Mr. Crew’s and there delivered Cotgrave’s Dictionary to my Lady Jemimah, and then with Mr. Moore to my coz Tom Pepys, but he being out of town I spoke with his lady, though not of the business I went about, which was to borrow 1000l. for my Lord.

Back to Mrs. Turner’s, where several friends, all strangers to me but Mr. Armiger, dined. Very merry and the best fritters that ever I eat in my life. After that looked out at window; saw the flinging at cocks.1

Then Mrs. The. and I, and a gentleman that dined there and his daughter, a perfect handsome young and very tall lady that lately came out of the country, and Mr. Thatcher the Virginall Maister to Bishopsgate Street, and there saw the new Harpsicon made for Mrs. The. We offered 12l., they demanded 14l.. The Master not being at home, we could make no bargain, so parted for to-night. So all by coach to my house, where I found my Valentine with my wife, and here they drank, and then went away. Then I sat and talked with my Valentine and my wife a good while, and then saw her home, and went to Sir W. Batten to the Dolphin, where Mr. Newborne, &c., were, and there after a quart or two of wine, we home, and I to bed … [and yet again some remark is censored out by Rev. Wheatly D.W.] [where (God forgive me) I did please myself by strength of fancy with the young country Segnora that was at dinner with us today. – L&M]

39 Annotations

First Reading

daniel  •  Link


I am a bit confused. is this Mrs. The. our young friend Theophila? surely not. who is this that is so interested in the new "harpsicon"?

Bradford  •  Link

Fill-in for the first omission, anyhow, from "The Shorter Pepys":

I left my wife in bed, being indisposed by reason of ceux-la -- and I to Mrs. Turners, [&c.]

L&M put the French in italics. One senses that Pepys wants to say “that there,” even though in fact he is saying “those, there,” and in the masculine plural of the demonstrative pronoun “celui” to boot.

They also describe “flinging at Cocks” as “The Shrove-Tuesday custom of throwing sticks at a bird tethered by its leg.”

Emilio  •  Link

And here's the second

"I went to bed--where (God forgive me) I did please myself by strength of fancy with the young country Segnora that was at dinner with us today."

Segnora, like ceux-la, is in ital as a foreign word.

Wheatley’s sensibilities are obviously coming in for a beating the last couple days—if only Pepys would learn to censor himself like any respectable man, I hear him whispering from his grave.

Emilio  •  Link

Daniel - yes this is our The.

See Feb 22: "In the evening Mrs. The. and Joyce took us all into the coach home, calling in Bishopsgate Street, thinking to have seen a new Harpsicon that she had a making there." Obviously she is one precocious 9-year-old who knows what she wants--she takes after her mother, whom Tomalin calls "the strongest character among the Pepys clan after Sam himself".

vincent  •  Link

Get your own copy of the dict:
A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues
Proverbs in Cotgrave's 1611 French-English Dictionary
A list of pre-1650 books in the French National Library
Arbeau's Orchesography (1589) (or here), and
John Florio's 1598 & 1611 Italian-English Dictionaries
References to Dance in Sixteen Early Modern Dictionaries
A 1694 French Dictionary (also searchable)
If you'd like a copy of the raw data for this book, or the various search scripts (implemented as Perl CGI scripts), please email me

David A. Smith  •  Link

"(God forgive me) did please myself by strength of fancy"
If there were any doubt that our boy Sam is writing for himself and only for himself, it has been put paid by this little bit that Wheatley elided.

mary  •  Link

Shrove Tuesday fritters

This looks like an earlier version of the pancakes that many households still make on Shrove Tuesday (at least, in England).

Barbara  •  Link

Mary, this Shrove Tuesday we enjoyed pancakes which I might (were I not too modest) have described as "the best that ever I eat in my life".

As the diary continues, and Pepys writes more of his intimate life, the Wheatley version will seem so prudish compared to the L&M one.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"did please myself by strenght of fancy" forgive me if I am being dense but was SP masturbating in bed? if so his wife must have been in deep sleep.

Rich Merne  •  Link

Yes, old Sam was indeed, to give it it's crude term, jerking off, but it appears that she had her own 'chamber', so presumeably wouldn't have heard this one. I think though, that she would have been well aware of his singular(sic) habits anyway. I think that possibly they did sleep together, they used either or. Can anyone throw light on this last bit.

Rich Merne  •  Link

My own correction; possibly when they did sleep together, they used either or chamber etc.

tc  •  Link

...did please myself...

Poor Sam; yesterday he heard the story about the faux doctor Blurton that started his mind down randy avenues. Today spent around so many women: Mrs. Turner, The., Joyce, Lady Jem, Tom Pepys' lady, the young country Segnora, his Valentine even. And his wife is unavailable, out of action, sorry, "being indisposed"; and then a couple of quarts of wine... the pressure just built up so much he had to...take matters into his own hands.

David A. Smith  •  Link

"by strength of fancy with the young country Segnora"
Folks, young Sam is but 28, the missus is indisposed with a bad case of ellipses, and he and Elizabeth may either sleep apart or venture abed at different times. I cannot imagine Elizabeth would have any notion that late at night he might twitch anything other than his pen ...

Barbie  •  Link

What are they throwing at their cocks?

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

"indisposed with a bad case of ellipses"

Excellent! David, you've provided me with a new excuse/catchphrase :-)

Susan  •  Link

THROWING AT COCKS.In the Hogarth picture (see my added link above) it is really not clear just what is going on with the cock in the picture and someone seems to be holding it down, which means he seems likely to get hit by whatever is being thrown! Another "fun" pastime in that age was to hang a goose up by its legs, grease the neck,and get people to ride past it pulling the neck as you went past. The winner, who got to keep the goose, was the person who first pulled the head off.

dirk  •  Link

"What are they throwing at cocks?"

People would throw sticks and stones at a cock that was tied down by its leg. Whoever managed to knock the bird unconscious, was allowed to take it home (and presumably eat it).

Susanna  •  Link


This was an old medieval sport practiced on Shrove Tuesday, and still popular in Pepys day. A Dutch tourist in 1663 will describe the practice as:

"In London one sees in every street, wherever one goes, many apprentice boys running with, under their arms, a cock with a string on its foot, on which is a spike, which they push firmly into the ground between the stones. They always look for an open space and, for a penny, let people throw their cudgel from a good distance at the cock and he who kills the cock gets it."

Why kill the cocks? Because eggs and meat are about to go off the menu.

Other fun traditions of Shrove Tuesday included cock-fighting, football, eating pancakes, tossing dogs in the air, and, under the Stuarts, apprentice riots.

The city of London banned throwing at cocks in 1704. But it continued, just out of town, well into the 1760s.

dirk  •  Link


Re - Susanna

Just one remark: killing the *cock* will not do away with the eggs.

I seem to remember (but I can't find it on the internet) that there was an old legendary story connected with cock-threshing. It was something about a night raid against the Vikings (presumably in King Alfred's time), and the attack was spoiled by some cock's crowing. The Vikings woke and were able to defend themselves. Cock-threshing would be a sort of ritual symbolic revenge against the cock.

I don't think this is based on anything historic, but it's a nice story.

vincent  •  Link

Dirk and Susanna, I like the two versions, but Susanna's version appeals to my sense of making an extra buck [pennies] on the side. Unfortunately the practice also appeals to the mans in humanity; instincts of cruelty to animals or defensless beings.

Grahamt  •  Link

Charging for stoning the cock:
This is like selling £1 lottery tickets for a £10 bottle of whiskey. As long as you sell 11+, you are in profit. Charging a penny-a-throw for a shilling cock would make you a tidy profit as long as the punters were sufficiently drunk to miss a few times.

language hat  •  Link

wants to say "that there," even though in fact he is saying "those, there,"

No, he wants the plural — he’s implying a word like “monthlies” (in today’s French it would be règles, whichh would require the feminine “celles-la,” but I don’t know what 17th-century usage was).

Susanna  •  Link

Yes, the story about the cocks and the Danes is an old one, probably ahistorical, used in the 18th century to justify the continuing practice of cock-threshing. Others in that day held that they tortured poultry in memory of St. Peter's denial of Christ, or because the cock is a symbol of France.

(There is an interesting chapter on Shrovetide traditions in Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.)

And killing the cock won't do away with the eggs; but it will cut down on the number of chickens you have to feed during a period when you're not supposed to be eating either eggs or flesh.

vincent  •  Link

Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Portugal is the rooster: the saxon word, googling, will bring many unmentionables to the screen, use rooster.

This is the story of a barnyard fowl that changed the destiny of a chief Apostle
The legend of the rooster originated in the town of Barcelos, in the Minho region of northwestern Portugal.
Probably many side issues associated with the rooster, one, besides the the wake up call, another the double savings of getting pennies,& a very cheap dinner and the owner saving on grub, even though it was the left overs, scraps, grubs and seeds etc.,even a political one[symbols substituting for deep political thought].

Patricia  •  Link

Mrs. Pepys seems to have regular periods, she was having this problem last January 27th. This must mean she was well-nourished, whatever the deficiencies of their diet by modern standards.

Second Reading

John Pennington  •  Link

"please myself by strength of fancy"

Yeah, I'm going with that from now on. Does it seems a bit unusual for Sam to express what seems like some compunction here? Also, to use a periphrastic term that seems original; and the fact that he thought this worth recording:—was masturbation somewhat infrequent and novel?

Perhaps Elizabeth or Sam had removed to a second bed by reason of her indisposition? It's a bit of a stretch, but is there any direct evidence that they often slept in different beds? This is a case of not enough info. So we have to imagine Sam jerking off (to be crass) in bed right next to her.

On a sidenote, he showed a lot of patience by staying up and discoursing with his Valentine...

Mary K  •  Link

"by strength of fancy"

Sam isn't masturbating, he's doing exactly what he says - exciting himself sufficiently by simple exercise of concentrated imagination to achieve the same result.

Spoiler alert :
On a later occasion he was able to repeat this feat whilst staring at a pretty young woman in church during a Sunday service.

Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

Mary K, 2021: I don't think we can conclude hands were not involved. "Pleasing oneself" in this context generally means masturbating. And even if he is able to bring himself to climax using just his imagination, it's still masturbating.

Anyway, this reminds me of a certain episode in Joyce's Ulysses, which was one of the passages that got the book banned in the US for quite a while. Probably without frequently censoring Sam, Wheatley would not have been able to publish his transcription of the diary in the US, either, 17 years before Ulysses.

LKvM  •  Link

Shrove Tuesday is Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday") where I live, in New Orleans, where it was celebrated on Feb. 13th this year (2024) with the usual great excess.
There are no fritters or pancakes associated with it, only elaborate brioche king cakes, covered with purple, gold, and green icing, from Epiphany (Jan. 6) to Mardi Gras (a movable Tuesday).
The next day, Wednesday, would be the "shrove" day here because that's when the faithful go to church and presumably are shriven, since the priest marks a cross of ashes with his finger on their foreheads.

徽柔  •  Link

"by strength of fancy"
So Pepys was either at masturpation or imagining a romantic(obscene) experience. In my country we call the latter "意淫” , an exact vocabulary for such improper imagination.
Speaking of masturbation , the celebrated Thomas Hobbes once found his student the teenage second Duke of Buckingham at masturbation at the middle of a math class. By God, Hobbes himself was teaching him, and he was masturbating...

徽柔  •  Link

Also , "14l" here means 14 shillings ? Harpsicon are not that expansive.

Dai Aqua  •  Link


I think that he means 14-quid, or pounds, as we would term it nowadays.....

The 'L' in old-school LSD-money was an abbreviation of 'Librae'.

Certainly not 14-bob.... or shillings ... or 'Solidi'

I presume that 12 or even 14 pounds was a sizeable sum of money in 1661 for a substantial piece of kit.

徽柔  •  Link

Thanks Dai Aqua , I blend the 's' in the '40s' Pepys spend on his valentine's gloves days before with the 'l' here.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Dear Dai Aqua and 徽柔 :

A few months ago we had a brief exchange about -- very belatedly -- standardizing how to represent "£" and lbs., since using "pounds" for them both has lead to confusion. It's at at https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/… .

The vote was for using "l" for pounds sterling as "£" is not available on many computers.

This lead to also not using the "/" for shillings as Pepys never does. He uses an "s".

We can't undo 20 years of previous annotations; we can avoid confusing each other going forward.

徽柔  •  Link

Thank you San Diego Sarah~

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