Monday 11 March 1660/61

At the office all the morning, dined at home and my father and Dr. Thos. Pepys with him upon a poor dinner, my wife being abroad. After dinner I went to the theatre, and there saw “Love’s Mistress” done by them, which I do not like in some things as well as their acting in Salsbury Court.

At night home and found my wife come home, and among other things she hath got her teeth new done by La Roche, and are indeed now pretty handsome, and I was much pleased with it. So to bed.

33 Annotations

First Reading

Eric Walla  •  Link

OK, I'll bite. What would Elizabeth have had done to her teeth? A 17th Century teeth cleaning, or something even more drastic?

Glyn  •  Link

"OK, I'll bite" Groan - I have a sinking feeling that won't be the last pun we get today.

But yes, that's exactly correct. She had them whitened, by the enamel being scraped by this high-class, expensive French dentist.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"she hath got her teeth new done" "False teeth could be made of elephant ivory,hippo tusk or ox bone...Implanting teeth from a donor(there was a glut of teeth on the market after the Plague)...was practised....The French were better at false teeth than the English"cf Restoration London-Liza Picard.

Emilio  •  Link

"her teeth new done"

Here are some details - my teeth ache just thinking about it.

"[Elizabeth] had much trouble with her teeth and gums. This operation was probably scaling, done by means of a scraper or 'graver'. The dentist was Peter de la Roche, one of the two 'operators for the teeth' to the royal household, who lived near Strand Bridge. Cf. A. W. Lufkin, Hist. Dentistry, p. 137." (L&M footnote)

William Crosby (Cleveland, Ohio)  •  Link

C'mon let's chew on this a little while more! What would be the dental habits of that day? Would we want to see Elizabeth's smile after a meal of coleworts and bacon? Would we likely see gum scum? Where are our dental historians?

Susan  •  Link

SP gives the reason for the "poor" dinner as being because his wife was out. But surely, they had a cook? Or did Elizabeth cook? Or was it that, without Elizabeth to supervise, the servants did not perform well??

BradW  •  Link

Susan: My guess is Sam was probably just grinding his teeth over the choice of foods permitted during Lent--"poor" in the sense that this is what the poor folks have to eat. Probably set his teeth on edge.....

vincent  •  Link

'dentes niveos' 1st century snowy white teeth.
Thais habet nigros, niveos Laecania dentes.
Quae ratio est? Emptos haec habet, illa suos.
Martial, Epigrammata, V, 43

Thais has black teeth, Lae [has] white[snowy] ones. Whats the difference ?
Lae bought hers,[Thais] are hers.

vincent  •  Link

Glutton for punishment ? he tort he cud fool us by changeing the name of the play:
Loves Maistresse; Or, The Queens Masque (printed 1636) is on the story of Cupid and Psyche as told by Apuleius
as scene and discussed on Saturday 2 March 1660/61

Pedro.  •  Link

Thinks don't change do they!
Elizabeth goes private, and the rest of queue in our hundreds to register with the NHS.

Mary  •  Link

Who does the cooking?

I have the impression from earlier entries that Elizabeth herself is a moderately accomplished cook. Certainly the Pepys have employed a 'contractor' for special dinner-parties, but in general the cooking seems to be a purely domestic concern. Although the presence of Pall and Jane in the house means that Elizabeth probably no longer does quite so much of the day-to-day work, her absence, even if only as supervisor in the kitchen, means poorer fare. It's also possible that neither Jane nor Pall had the ready cash to go shopping for something toothsome this morning.

These London folk do drop in on one another for meals a lot, don't they?

Rich Merne  •  Link

Nice one Pedro. Barber surgeons did a wide variety of work at this time which did include dentistry (sic)but at the middle or lower end of the market. Physicians or surgeons did most of the tooth work and certainly the more sophisticated elements. Dentists (sic), as such did not come into being untill around the 1700s. As to exactly what she had done to her fangs, my guess is cleaning/scraping etc. We'd have heard more about it if she had a 'Paul Revere', or something like that. Anyway, since personal hygiene didn't seem to be a strong point at this time, we can see why Sam was pleased. Maybe he'll do likewise.

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

" wife being abroad.." could be read as 'because my wife is abroad'. If seen like that Elisabeth is probably the more accomplished cook and is at least supervising the preparing of meals.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

Poor Sam, two "poor dinners" in a row!

I wonder whether today's is a reflection on Elizabeth's absence or instead a result of the household trying to keep to a "Lenten" diet and struggling to find good recipes. Sam seems to approach Lent as a (perhaps novel?)social rather than a religious obligation -- with dietary rules suspended when there's a business dinner, and without a recognition of the doctrine of Sundays as feast days (Emilio's post yesterday gets the theology of this doctrine right).

Jackie  •  Link

I think that we're underestimating the whole thorny issue of Lent here and what it meant at the time.

Before the Reformation, everybody would have understood the Lenten rules. However, the reformation did away with a lot of the feat / fasting days. The Puritans in particular seemed to treat a lot of the food rules as heresy, preferring to concentrate on prayer and general fasting, rather than quibbling over what was fish and what was flesh. Note that it's still illegal to eat Christmas Pudding on Christmas Day in Britain - a leftover of the Puritan era.

I suspect that when the King asked his subjects to follow Lent, there would have been a wide range of views as to the desirability of doing this, with some going the whole way, fish only, others cutting back a bit, somre refusing to have anything to do with the whole thing and considerable confusion as to what constituted a Lenten fast.

Katherine Keller  •  Link

Just a little bit of dental history, tangental to the scraping that Elizabeth had done to her teeth.

1) According to the book Blood Red Roses, very few of the bodies recovered from the grave pit at Towton had cavities. (The forensic expert said this was because they ate a diet low in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars.) But they *all* had tartar/calculus buildup, and some even had some pretty bad periodontal disease.

Even though 1461 200+ years before Pepys day, white bread, potatoes, and sugar were still not as common as they would be in, say, the 1720s.

2) In medieval times, aquafortis (aka. Nitric Acid, IIRC) was used to bleach teeth. However, I don't know if this practice carried into Pepys' era.

vincent  •  Link

"...Christmas Pudding on Christmas Day in Britain - a leftover of the Puritan era..." Did not know that, glad there was no pudding spies. My Grans: Pudd:[it was solid, rum et al] was filled with silver coins, one mouthful,[kept the coins for the bank] and one was filled up.

Pedro.  •  Link

Christmas Pudding on Christmas Day in Britain.
Strike I'm glad I don't like it! I bet Vicente's Gran's Pudd did your teeth no good at all!

dirk  •  Link

Futher dentals to chew on...

*False* teeth (in ivory) at the time would often be fixed on a wooden support, with a small spring to enable the victim to open their mouth. This was obviously not very comfortable, and was more of a "thing of beauty" than a real help. It's a known fact that many people used to remove their false teeth for meals, and put them back in afterwards...

dirk  •  Link

Spring is in the air...

This day was the astronomical beginning of spring in 1660/1661.
(Remember the calendar problem!)

Just a note.

Grahamt  •  Link

Aqua Fortis:
Can be any acid. Nitric acid turns organic matter yellow/brown, so wouldn't be used for bleaching teeth! It is also quite poisonous.
Most acids would dissolve the teeth as well as the calculus. Most modern bleaches are strong alkalis, not acids.
I vote for mechanical scraping.

Xjy  •  Link

Rich and poor teeth
As recently as the seventies my dentist (in Wales) told me of the custom of poor women in Cheshire having all their teeth pulled when they got married. This was to avoid having unforeseen dental emergencies to pay for later.
Where I now live (Sweden) teeth and eyes are regarded as cosmetic luxuries, and dentistry and optical aids are correspondingly expensive.
I'm surprised Vince didn't quote the gleaming white teeth one Roman got himself by rubbing them with urine.
I wonder if the alcohol swilled down in Sam's time kept teeth in better nick...

vincent  •  Link

Samuel P. missed another episode of the "our Society" J.Ev: words; to-nights episode was water pressure and AEquilibrium of the Cylinder.Last week was unbreakable glasse with Hammer at one end but the taille could be snapped off with the hand.

The Bishop  •  Link

A bit late to notice this, but this seems to be the first time that Pepys has compared the two companies in their performance of the same play. He saw "The Queen's Mask" (aka, Love's Mistress) performed by Davenant's crew at Salisbury Court on March 2, and now he sees Killigrew's troop perform it on the 11th.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Operator for the Teeth, Charles Allen. 1685

The Operator for the Teeth is the first text-book of dentistry published in the English language. Almost nothing is known of the author. The book is reprinted on the following pages. It is up to you to decide how much has changed during the three centuries following its publication.…

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

When you get to my age (69), one realises that modern dentistry (= crowns and implants, etc.), if one can afford it, is a wonderful boon compared to what went before. A mutual pact of silence is good manners: 'I won't tell you about my last session at the dentist if you don't tell me about yours . . '

eileen d.  •  Link

Terry Foreman, fascinating link to the first dental text book! thanks!

Third Reading

MartinVT  •  Link

"a poor dinner, my wife being abroad"

I read this as an indication that Liz is very much involved in the cookery, but that since today she is out gallivanting and having her pearlies whitened, her special touch is lacking and the meal doesn't measure up to Sam's standard. A few weeks ago (Feb 18…) he wrote, "a very good dinner, only my wife and I, which is not yet very usual" an indication of her cooking skills improving; this further suggests that's the case.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"I wonder whether today's is a reflection on Elizabeth's absence or instead a result of the household trying to keep to a "Lenten" diet and struggling to find good recipes. Sam seems to approach Lent as a (perhaps novel?) social rather than a religious obligation."

Yes, for everyone Lent was a novel experience. Lent is an Anglican/Catholic tradition. The Puritans had tried to abolish all references to pagan gods and popish rituals. As the Bible didn’t mention holidays, they reasoned, so saints’ days and feast days were nothing more than Roman inventions. “They for whom all days are holy can have no holiday,” they liked to say.

The Puritans did loosen up one Anglican tradition. Unlike the Anglicans, they allowed marriage to take place during Lent. And they sometimes observed Fast Day on Good Friday.

So Pepys had Charles II directives to go on -- eat fish! -- and whatever else Mr. Milles came up with. For instance, we know the theaters were open and abstaining from riotous living wasn't being observed, so the idea of copying Jesus' desert days must have been missing from Pepys' understanding of the season.

As for Elizabeth being the cook, I think the teenage Jane Birch and sister Pall were doing their best, with Elizabeth's supervision, which was lacking today so Pepys and company suffered the results.
The incentive for Jane was to be a bad cook, now that Pepys could afford this nice house and new clothes. Hopefully a real cook can be hired soon so she could become a lady's maid.
Pall presumably could cook, but probably didn't want it to be her career. So in the meantime they are doing all the cooking, washing and cleaning, and I'm going to guess it was begrudgingly.

LKvM  •  Link

"Note that it's still illegal to eat Christmas Pudding on Christmas Day in Britain - a leftover of the Puritan era."
Still? Even today, March 11, 2024?

Richard Bachmann  •  Link

From The Guardian (21 December 2010):
Almost every source on the history of Christmas pudding repeats the story that Oliver Cromwell somehow banned the dish. Rubbish. It's true that in 1644 the Long Parliament decreed in a gush of Puritan zeal that Christmas should be a fast day instead of a feast day (and what a difference that unassuming E makes), but Cromwell was then preoccupied with the small matter of the Civil War, so played no part in this legislation. In 1656, some even more fanatical Puritans sought to make celebrating Christmas itself illegal. But this bill got no further than its first reading and was subsequently dropped, and the feast/fast law lapsed at the Restoration.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


One of the first thing the Cavalier Parliament did was repeal all the laws passed during the Interregnum.

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