Monday 1 April 1661

This day my waiting at the Privy Seal comes in again.

Up early among my workmen. So to the office, and went home to dinner with Sir W. Batten, and after that to the Goat tavern by Charing Cross to meet Dr. Castle, where he and I drank a pint of wine and talked about Privy Seal business. Then to the Privy Seal Office and there found Mr. Moore, but no business yet. Then to Whitefryars, and there saw part of “Rule a wife and have a wife,” which I never saw before, but do not like it.

So to my father, and there finding a discontent between my father and mother about the maid (which my father likes and my mother dislikes), I staid till 10 at night, persuading my mother to understand herself, and that in some high words, which I was sorry for, but she is grown, poor woman, very froward. So leaving them in the same discontent I went away home, it being a brave moonshine, and to bed.

51 Annotations

First Reading

Paul Brewster  •  Link

Rule a Wife and Have a Wife (1624)
a comedy by Fletcher & Massinger

"Set in Seville (Spain). Margarita is a rich heiress of easy virtue who wants to marry a pliant man who will simply serve to protect her reputation while she continues her various affairs. Her companion Altea has a brother, Leon, who hears of her plan and pretends to be a fool until after the marriage, when he drops the disguise, asserts his authority over her, and gains her affection."
... from…

Pauline  •  Link

Fro"ward (?), a. [Fro + -ward. See Fro, and cf. Fromward.]
Not willing to yield or compIy with what is required or is reasonable; perverse; disobedient; peevish; as, a froward child.
Webster Dictionary, 1913

"... I staid till 10 at night, persuading my mother to understand herself...."
What are we to make of this? Urging her to gain a little psychological insight?

"So leaving them in the same discontent..."
All in all, it sounds like Sam's mom has Altzheimer's Disease.

Bradford  •  Link

Pepys dislikes "Have a Wife and Rule a Wife," then comes upon a marital dispute between wife and husband: that darn life imitating art again.

Louis Anthony Scarsdale  •  Link

Pepys says, "I staid till 10 at night, persuading my mother to understand herself"---attempting to make her take heed of the import and consequences of her actions, one supposes.
Perhaps increasing ill-health renders it difficult for her to do so: "she is grown, poor woman, very froward." The L&M "Companion" Glossary cites this passage to explain the last word as signifying "peevish, petty, hard to please." Sam cannot repress his exasperation even while understanding, himself, that his mother may not be able to help it.

Louis  •  Link

Excuse repetition: Pauline pipped me in the clicks between Preview and Post.
Many, many readers of a certain age may empathize with Pepys's uncomfortable position and reaction.

Jesse  •  Link

"..about the maid (which my father likes and my mother dislikes)"

I wonder whether this sort of disagreement is usually more about the maid's appearance rather than the domicile's.

vincent  •  Link

I do believe it's the age old problem. The wench cuts a trim sail and has enticing ways, well endowed, fresh and of course youth. I'm thinking the Mother felt unwanted, unneeded, wasted her best years on the olde P**** L****. He, the Olde man denying that the flesh is weak, or that the wench even passes the test to become an Witch.

Pauline  •  Link

"I do believe it's the age old problem”
Jesse and vincent:
I do believe it’s the *old age* problem.
Something more is going on here. Sam is trying very hard to get his mother to be reasonable and to see her position in the disagreement—he’d hardly focus on his mother like this if his father were the injuring party with his eyes on the maid. Sam is quite moralistic when it comes to other’s behaviour—-and this is his father. Sam gets pushed to “high words,” which he immediately regrets, and in the end nothing is solved. The concern in the past months have been for her health. “She is grown, poor woman, very froward”, indicates a deterioration rather than the recent response to the maid. If he feels “poor woman” because her husband has eyes for the maid, he would be “persuading” his father not his mother.

When an ageing woman is mentally losing it, she grasps to hold on to her lifelong domain, in this case the running of the household. Any maid now doing the actual running of the household will be a terrible threat.

Ruben  •  Link

Altzheimer's Disease.
Mother was 52 at the time. Not old age nowdays, but more than average in those days.
Still, Altzheimer at 52 does not exist.
I think, like Vincent, that “flesh is weak”. Not only father’s but himself…

Pauline  •  Link

"Still, Altzheimer at 52 does not exist."
I'm not sure this is true.
And there are other kinds of dementia. Or we could drag in a particularily unhinging menopause. She has been in ill health for awhile.

vincent  •  Link

'tis conundrum. It never is "wot is" 'tis wot's perceived.

Ruben  •  Link

menopause is a good probable diagnosis.

Mary  •  Link

Altzheimer's disease.

Early-onset Altzheimer's disease certainly does exist and can strike much earlier than 50. However, it seems a bit precipitate to rush to this diagnosis for Margaret Pepys. On the evidence that we have so far, we might just as well say that she is a hypochondriac, always feeling herself to be unwell and hence thoroughly tetchy. As for the maid, she is likely to be under Margaret's feet much more than she is under John's, so possibly Margaret is justified in her irritation ..... she has to live at closer quarters with the maid and this proximity is likely to aggravate any differences between them

Giovanna  •  Link

Does mother necessarily have to be ill?
Could be that she is just fed up and "kicking over the traces" trying to exercise just a little authority.

Pedro.  •  Link

"..about the maid (which my father likes and my mother dislikes)"

Sam says “the” maid, but we seem to have decided that his mother is against a maid in general.
Sam could not possibly fancy this maid could he?

Firenze  •  Link

The question of the maid: I do not think there is any need to read sexual undertones into this at all. For all we know, the maid was a hard-faced, middle-aged drudge. Believe me, there are plenty of grounds for friction between any two women on how a household should be cleaned, provisioned, organised etc.

Mary  •  Link

.... his mother is against a maid in general...

Have we all really made this assumption? I certainly haven't. Perhaps this maid has some irritating personal habit: constantly sniffing or constantly scuffing her feet across the floor rather than picking them up.... either could get on one's nerves hour after hour and day after day.

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

"...persuading my mother to understand herself..."

To understand oneself: "To know one's place, to conduct oneself properly".(OED)

andy  •  Link

Dementia? For standing up to her husband? Blimey.

Sam and his dad seem to be quite peeved to see her being assertive, evidently in breach of contemporary mores. But if her womanly role is limited to the house, how come she can't even rule on her maid?

Pauline  •  Link

"For standing up to her husband? "
Maybe he was standing up to her. We don't know much. This may be the sixth maid she has "disliked" in as many months and Mr. P may be putting his foot down and saying we're going with this one.

There is lots we don't know.

I think this entry reads that Sam is feeling compassion for his mother and that he found her irrational and unreasonable. She was difficult enough to cause him to use "high words" and he ends in writing with compassion (poor woman) for her in his diary.

Pedro.  •  Link

No background info on mother Margaret yet...

But Claire Tomalin says that when Margaret threw her "stone" into the fireplace; "nothing marks the difference in characters more clearly (between Sam and his mother). The tough old woman, incurious, sluttish even, and her neat, purposeful son, intent on understanding, mastering, classifying and teaching."

Rich Merne  •  Link

Kevin, Menopausal Mom, I think possible and your interpretation of "understand herself", to be literally 'conduct herself', is bang on. Mothers, no more than wives or daughters were not allowed out of their box.

Pauline  •  Link

Claire Tomalin also says
She bore eleven children in fourteen years. "...the babies followed one another so fast that she was always either nursing or expecting another one." Only four of these children survived childhood. "Pepys's mother must have been always busy, tired, distracted or grieving for the deaths of his brothers and sisters when he was a child: soon worn out, physically and emotionally."

Pauline  •  Link

"Mothers, no more than wives or daughters were not allowed out of their box."
Except "The" (Theophila Turner).

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

In Defence of Margaret Pepys.

Good grief. Mrs P. doesn't like the maid. Does that really mean that she must be suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia or menopausal symptoms? Yes, Sam has occasionally expressed concern about his mother over the past few months, but do we know how long Mrs Pepys has been putting up with a maid she doesn't like? As Mary has pointed out, Margaret is the one who has to live at close quarters with her. That alone would surely have taken its toll. It would certainly have made her "froward", and Sam's coming along and sticking his oar in would hardly have helped.

In short, I think this matter calls for the application of "Occam's Razor".

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

Rich Merne: "Menopausal Moms"

I simply provided a definition of "to understand oneself". I know nothing of menopausal moms - perhaps another annotater?

Rich Merne  •  Link

Kevin, sorry, I meant Pauline.

Susan  •  Link

Sam very rarely mentions time in his diary, but does so here, so it must have been exceptional: staying on until 10pm was unusual. What also struck me was that Sam found it necessary to intervene in his parent's dispute about the maid. Some men would have just let them get on with their quarrel and gone home early, but we can sense that Sam obviously feels a great responsibility towards his parents, even if we don't agree with his methods. I think Pauline's idea seems likely - the senior Pepys have run through too many maids because Margaret finds fault and Sam is trying to make her see they can't go on like this and is prepared to spend a very long time on this.

Josh  •  Link

Coming Tomorrow: "Pepys's Diary: The Novel."

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

"Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem." (William of Occam: Let's stick to the facts.) What makes this passage about the family "discontent" so interesting is precisely the resonance it has with our own experiences, and its indeterminate nature. It is the kernel of many possible stories.

JWB  •  Link

...a brave moonshine
I like that. Some of his more poetic phrases recall to mind those "poetry machines" written in 70's Basic with random # generators.

helena murphy  •  Link

What appears to be happening here in the Pepys'household is a domestic coup d'etat,with a usurping,cunning, but competent maid supported by the males whose needs she satisfies and gratifies, against an old and ailing mistress. In a well regulated household this would never happen,a good maid would always defer to the lady of the house and would never elevate herself through manipulation of the master. Could anyone imagine such a thing happening at the Sandwiches? Both Pepys and his father appear here in a very shabbly light and evidently still have a great deal to learn from their social betters ,the first rule being that the servants know their place and keep to it.

Pauline  •  Link

"Kevin, sorry, I meant Pauline."
No, Rich, I'm the one with the Altzheimered mother (poor woman) and beleagured father at wit's end, who regretted speaking high on countless occasions and could walk out and embrace the sight of a beautiful moon in relief, leaving all behind unsolved.

Ruben  •  Link

What I like about SP is that he wrote for himself and not for us.
I would not like to read a novel, I prefer this Internet site, that should be called: "The bare Samuel Pepys, exposed by himself" (with comments by the general public).
In any case, the differing interpretations we see about today's entry are a real treasure.
Maybe everyone is right...:the maid was from the trade union, mother was menopausic, father did not respect mother, son was worried about the old lady's health and sorry for the "high words" used, all at the same time.
And may be Kevin and Firenze are right...

Willmarth  •  Link

Or maybe the maid is dislikeable, but works for low wages, and Sam and the father are all for saving the money it would cost to get a more likeable one.

Glyn  •  Link

Facts and figures

Look, this is a pretty ordinary day and Pepys dealt with it in just 173 words. Now, however, we've got 35 entries about it totalling perhaps 10 times that number. If the complete Pepys Diary has (say) a million words does that mean that in 10 years time there will be 10 million words of annotation?

And I wonder what the chances are that these notes and queries will also be read in 350 years time in 2350 AD by people earnestly wondering what on earth was a "language hat" "alzheimers" or a "mom"?

By the way, at the moment there's a brave, nearly full moon almost directly over St Paul's cathedral.

vincent  •  Link

Speculation is name of the game [just following modern journal writers]not wot, it is wot should be?

Laura K  •  Link

"Still, Altzheimer at 52 does not exist."

Not so. Early-onset Alzheimer's Disease can begin as young as 50 or even 45. I'm not diagnosing Sam's mother, we surely don't have enough information, but her age does not exclude this possibility.

Laura K  •  Link


Posted that above re early-onset before finishing all the annotations - didn't realize someone already had gotten to it.

I agree with those who feel there was an abundance of "reading in", embellishments and imaginings involved in today's annots. (Although that makes them no less interesting!)

I don't think we have much evidence of anything at all wrong with the elder Mrs Pepys. That she is "grown froward" is Sam's take; she might just dislike the maid, period, and she might very well have her reasons.

language hat  •  Link

She was 52, people! *I'm* 52, and my wife is a few years older, and if you start muttering about "Alzheimer's" or "old age" to either of us, we'll whack you upside the head! What on earth is all this? Sam has an argument with his mom that leaves her weeping, and people come to the conclusion that the poor old gal is ready for the glue factory? Get a grip! We don't have enough information to judge the merits of their argument, but there's no call for this sort of nonsense. He sided with his dad against his mom, something not unknown in men, and his "persuading my mother to understand herself" was probably much in the vein of
"Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;
You go not till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you."…
But in a less exalted vein, of course. More like "Look, Mom, you've got to quit this nag, nag, nag stuff. Leave the maid alone and go back to being an obedient wife and mother. You're getting mighty froward lately." Good old-fashioned sexism and complacent-son-ism.

Glyn: Great comment!

vera  •  Link

I'm with Language Hat.
come to that so is my mother - she's 87 and if anyone said that her faculties were impaired because she didn't like someone - she'd whack them too!

Just because a woman doesn't comply with the wishes of her menfolk, why does she have a mental problem? Especially when her son (who has a roving eye, never mind any other parts like hands!) is telling her to accept a situation she doesn't like! Lets remember, she is probably spending the most time with this maid, and has more to do with her than anyone else.

No disrespect to Pauline, but when you have a parent with a condition that affects their mentality, you do tend to see it everywhere. I do know what I'm taliking about, my dad had a similar problem

Pauline  •  Link

My dear fellow annotators
Vera, I purposely disclosed where I was coming from as part of the discussion was that we each bring elements of our own lives to reading the diary. (I also felt I was being made rough with and wanted to reply over and above that.) My first reaction to this entry was that I saw a pattern I recognized. Contrary to how I have been read, I offered a reaction to what was going on; absolutely no intention to be definitive or diagnostic. I think there is more evidence in the words of the entry for Mrs. P being difficult or troubled than there is that her husband is out of hand with the servant. Maybe both, maybe neither; we don't know. We parse what we are given and lay out possiblities, but that is all we can do. As we read on, we often gain additional insights. But often we just aren't going to know all the ins and outs of what is going on.

What we bring to a passage such as this with our speculations *sometimes* opens up a more likely scenario of what Sam is doing. It always opens my mind to other possibilities. I am not opposed to such speculation at all. I am very surprised though when people start talking about any such specultion in terms of reaching a decision, conclusion, or, here, diagnosis.

My raising the word Alzheimer's (and it was a bit tongue in check, bringing a 21st Century hot word to the 17th Century world) in talking of Mrs. P at age 52 in no way impugns any of you at age 52 with Alz or Vera's mother at age 87. This too has surprised me.

Patricia  •  Link

April Fools! :o)

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

FROWARD peevish, fretful, surly
---An Universal Etymological English Dictionary. N. Bailey, 1675

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

On the maid debate -- mom stays home all day, so having to deal with someone she doesn't like is a big deal.
Dad has his tailoring business -- probably in one of the street-level rooms -- and has other people to interact with during his days.

Mom's vote counts the most. No matter how irrational or petty, if mom isn't happy, no-one will be happy.

Pepys should known that.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Diary of Ralph Josselin (Private Collection)
1.4.1661 (Monday 1 April 1661)
document 70013010

April. 1. 2. 3.

I sow oats on ley, and other land. lord command a blessing for my hope is in thee.

went towards London on Mr H. account, a sad providence, [PRESUMABLY ON THE 3RD - SDS]

oh lord melt my bowels, accept my praises for my families health, reason, return to them in favour: die.


This tells us the weather was fine.

Ley -- noun
1. a piece of land put down to grass, clover, etc., for a single season or a limited number of years, in contrast to permanent pasture.

Mr. H = one of the Mr. Harlakandens who lived in London must have received bad news or suffered bad health. His mother/sister/aunt/cousin lives in the Manor house, and is a friend of Josselin's.

Onto the bowels question -- this meant something different in the 17th century. American Google hasn't the foggiest idea what I'm asking about. Anyone know?

And presumably he never finished the entry -- or he had suicidal thoughts after his return from London and wrote this entry!?!?

Mark M.  •  Link

@Sarah Re: the bowels question, ChatGPT says in modern English, the prayer could be interpreted as: "Oh Lord, soften my heart with compassion, accept my praises for the well-being, sanity, and prosperity of my family. May reason and blessings be restored to them. Amen."

LKvM  •  Link

I agree with Andy:
"But if her womanly role is limited to the house, how come she can't even rule on her maid?"
She sounds absolutely sick and tired of being bossed around by men who are interfering in her domaine, and terribly frustrated by her powerlessness. I feel very sorry for her (and for most women in that era).

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

On what's up with Sam's mom, Venetian ambassador Francesco Giavarina has nothing to say, and begs to be left out of it ("lasciami fuori da tutto questo"). His colleague in Paris, Alvise Grimani, reports today that two Spanish couriers have dumped another 35,000 crowns at the Spanish embassy in London for throwing at the problem of the king's marriage.

Closer to Sam, the State Papers offer what is still a rarity these days, a letter to Sam; this one is from Phineas Pett, the resident commissioner at the Chatham dockyard, asking for "a warrant to dock the Royal James, or her sheathing cannot be completed".

Another problem, then: The James is one of the fleet's largest and fanciest ships, and putting her in dry dock and nailing worm-repelling copper plates into her hull (chuckin' them barnacles outa the way first) is gonna take some time. She may well be the command ship in that expedition to the Orient on which the clock is running. So what's going on, that warrant should have pretty much written itself long ago. In fact that ship seems to have been at Chatham for months, undergoing repairs - last month she even damaged her mainmast, for chrissakes - and Pett already wrote the Commissioners back on February 18 asking for "timber to sheathe the Royal James". Now Sam is the next cog to turn in that complicated machine. Hmm. We expect that letter will be blinking bright red on top of his desk, whenever he finds the time to check with the Navy Office.

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