Sunday 21 April 1661

(Lord’s day). In the morning we were troubled to hear it rain as it did, because of the great show tomorrow. After I was ready I walked to my father’s and there found the late maid to be gone and another come by my mother’s choice, which my father do not like, and so great difference there will be between my father and mother about it. Here dined Doctor Thos. Pepys and Dr. Fayrebrother; and all our talk about to-morrow’s show, and our trouble that it is like to be a wet day.

After dinner comes in my coz. Snow and his wife, and I think stay there till the show be over. Then I went home, and all the way is so thronged with people to see the triumphal arches, that I could hardly pass for them.

So home, people being at church, and I got home unseen, and so up to my chamber and saw done these last five or six days’ diarys.

My mind a little troubled about my workmen, which, being foreigners,1 are like to be troubled by a couple of lazy rogues that worked with me the other day, that are citizens, and so my work will be hindered, but I must prevent it if I can.

34 Annotations

First Reading

Paul Brewster  •  Link

L&M footnote: "Men not enrolled as freemen of the city, though quite possibly living within its bounds. Freemen could properly object to their employment as skilled workmen within the city."

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Foreigners" The undocumented workers of the day;if I know SP they were paid less than the citizens.

Judy  •  Link

It's surprising that Mrs. Pepys actually had her way in getting a new maid. Now, maybe, all will be okay with the household with this one. Of course, Sam's father will find fault - but Since the coronation is coming up, Sam will have other things to occupy his mind and keep out of the domestic quibble.

Susan  •  Link

In England the term "using a foreigner" is used when one is having work done for cash in hand (no bookkeeping and thus no VAT). I wonder if it derives from how it was used in Sam's day - using cheap non-Guild labour from out of the City.(who would be betrayed by their accents) Any etymologists know?

Vicente  •  Link

RE: scabs or non union or not papered by Guild: Of course London attracted bodies for heavy labour from any-where that had Hi. unemployment, be it home counties, the dales ,glens, mountain Tops,gullies,valley or over from that Inglish Channel or Irish [Angle ] sea. Look at the population in years 1600 1640 & 1660, It was not all home grown. There were so many continental strifes, wars, religious, political and economic problems, that it made London inspite of its own problems, seem like a nice place to make it in the world. Amsterdam being the other bright light that attracted opportunists.
The bottom line, 'tis the cost of doing business. The enforcement of protective ,monopolistic practices was to upheld by those that have their signed Patents and Certificates of trade, none the less there was most likely a shortage of approved trade skills brought on by the boom in construction, now that Leaders were establishing new growth [no trade papers to tell us the GNP]. So to find an approved carpenter would be tres difficile, especially at normal pay. Note Sam does like to cut cost when it comes to someone supplying a cab.

Mary  •  Link

... and I got home unseen...

I doubt Sam is worried about being caught playing truant from church. More likely he is glad to have got home without running into anyone with whom he might otherwise be expected to pass time being politely sociable. This would have delayed his review of the building work in Seething Lane and also curtailed his time for catching up with the backlog of diary entries.

Susan  •  Link

..."and I got home unseen...
I took that to mean by his household (as they were all at church) - so he could scamper upstairs and have some quiet time to write up the diary without being pestered with a litany of household problems!

andy  •  Link

I'm glad Sam's mum won the argument over her maid.

Mary  •  Link

.. and I got home unseen....

Susan's take could indeed be right, though I might then have expected Sam to refer to 'my people' rather than just 'people'. We'll never know for sure, of course.

Emilio  •  Link

"My mind a little troubled about my workmen"

I'm just relieved he's finally having some trouble; the building work was all seeming a bit unreal to me in the absence of any problems.

Susan  •  Link

Although Sam does not seem to have looked at the actual work much! His concern is that his "foreigners" will be stopped from working and he will then have to renegotiate a contract with the "couple of lazy rogues" and their friends who will want the proper rate for the work. As in so many instances, Sam's first concern is his purse.
Re "people" or "my people", I now think Mary is right and it was the empty streets he was pleased at, because some of his household would still be there not only because of the workmen but also because of the large sum of money still hidden there which he mentioned a few days ago.

Emilio  •  Link

"and [set down] these last five or six days' Diarys"

L&M have a different interpretation for this line. They note that the shorthand actually says 'see', but in light of their reading of the next word as 'down' they figure this must be an error. I do prefer their interpretation (why would Sam say he'd "seen done" the diary entries when he did the writing himself?), but once again short of looking at the actual shorthand we can't know.

Rich Merne  •  Link

Foreign workmen
Is it at all possible that the "lazy rogues"s' work or rate of production is being shown up as a rip-off by foreigners who are trying to 'jump claim'. The "lazy rogues", maybe have become too complacent or cozy with their monopoly or pseudo monopoly of city work. If this is so, I think that the parallels of today are salutary. Value for money may well have been a prime consideration.

David A. Smith  •  Link

"and I got home unseen, and so up to my chamber and [set down]"
I'm with Mary, Sam was trying to get away from church to give himself the precious time to document his diary. This has become an addiction for him. He craves it (for reasons -- of solitude, reflection, ratiocination of recent events -- that he has yet to vocalize, but I anticipate will), but his day is so full that he seldom has private time. I think he pledged himself this peace after church, and to that end scuttled out without catching the eye of anyone whose Sunday idle might have detained him.

Nix  •  Link

"saw done" vs. "set down" --

I don't see a problem with either reading. I have certainly run across the usage of "seeing" something "done" as equivalent to getting it done.

Nigel Pond  •  Link

Susan: "Using a Foreigner"

It could date back to Sam's time, but it is still relevant in the modern context as there are a lot of foreigners (ie non-Brits) working illegally in the UK, cash-in-hand, no income tax, NI deductions, etc etc.

A.Hamilton  •  Link


I wonder whether Sam was employing good craftsmen from one of the shipyards -- I seem to recall he admired work he had seen on some houses during his tour of shipyards. Although technically foreigners, they would be skilled English labor and used to putting in a good day's work under the eye of, e.g., one of the Petts. If so, this might not be a case of Pepys trying to get work done on the cheap, but rather being concerned that less able city workmen might force him to fire his foreigners.

Vicente  •  Link

Meanwhile from the countryside :Ap: 21: A very wet day, god good to us in many outward mercies, heard ....sad discourse in the nation.[what did he mean?].....…

Vicente  •  Link

In England the term "using a foreigner" is used when one is having work done…
It was also called doing “Government work’, {i.e. on the side } Here though, I doth think, it meant not from the Guild, there was so much protectionism, no encroachment, stay the 5 miles away. It was not ‘til modern times that Labour was as catch as catch can. Money does shout.
The question of what a man’s labour is worth, is always being debated, especially by short changing the supplier of that work [if thee can get away with it] {it is better to have parchment and ‘[K]no[w] nufhen’ in times of excess labour than to have skills and no warrant to say so but in times of more work than play then those that get the job done are in the saddle }

Lawrence  •  Link

Today if you speak to workmen on a modern building site, and their working at the weekend for someone private? they call it "doing a foreigner"

Susan  •  Link

Employing foreigners.
I don't know if this still happens in England, but some men who were employed by the Gas Board or Electricity Board used to do gas installations or electrical work in their own time for cash in hand and this was called "doing a foreigner". I can also remember having work done on my car and being asked if I was paying by cash or cheque. If cash it could be "done foreign" i.e. not go through the books and not have the 10% VAT added on. I have also had men appearing on my doorstep and asking if I would like them to "do a foreigner" on my driveway. This referred to using up excess asphalt from another job on my driveway (and thus being paid twice) & not as one might have expected killing someone from abroad outside my front door. Language is strange. Has this usage spread elsewhere? It is not used here in Australia.

Tom Carr  •  Link

"Doing a Foreigner"
Susan, here in New England the equivalent term is "Working under the table", or to "Hire under the table". I do remember my English grandfather using the term "government work". There may also be regional differences in the US that I am not aware of.

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

How did I manage to live in England for fifty years without ever hearing that expression?

Pedro.  •  Link

"Doing a Foreigner"

This term is in common use here in the Midlands of England and used in the sense that Susan mentions.Tradesmen that work for a company who have sole ownership of their skills, doing extra jobs on the side.
This would be opposed to “moonlighting” where someone would supplement their income by taking a second job.
Rich had mentioned “doing a nixer” when Sam’s workmen were missing. I’m not sure but I think this means doing two jobs at the same time.

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

"...found the late maid to be gone..."

Good on ya, Mrs P! I can hardly wait for the next episode of this domestic drama. I fear, however, that the coronation might well distract Sam to such an extent that he fails to keep us informed. Not good timing.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"my workmen, which, being foreigners"

FOREIGNER ... Such persons as are not freemen of a city, or corporation, are also called foreigners, to distinguish them from the members of the same.
---A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. 1763.

Question: How did one show he wasn't a "foreigner" in London? Surely there wasn't an ID card?

william wright  •  Link

"Doing a Foreigner" Being in the building trade for over 55 years I have heard the phrase,
but not often. We use the phrase "doing a homer" this means using someone from the
trade that you want to employ who works for someone else. These people will work for
you at a reduced rate therefore taking trade away from the guvnor. If caught it usually
meant the sack.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

This foreigner word is a puzzle.

The building belongs to the Navy. The recently-departed plasterers and painters were Navy employees, and someone had found the official accounting entry which covered the payment. So I had assumed these carpenters were also Navy employees, and the work approved by Treasurer Slingsby.

If this was correct, I would think all the carpenters were technically "foreigners" and not members of the City of London guild, but obviously that's not the case. I am kerfuffled.

I recently broke my right arm, and find typing really hard. If someone can find those account's link, maybe we can find out who paid for the staircase? That might give us some clues.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A later thought: Last month we assumed Pepys' fund-raising was for costumes and parties for the Coronation. Now we find the Navy/victualers paying for part of the event at least, and him wearing a coat he bought 6 months ago.
The fund-raising could have been for the staircase????!!!!

Eric the Bish  •  Link

“… my work will be hindered but I must prevent it if I can.”

“”Prevent” here meaning “enable” the work to go forward without difficulty. The meaning is seen in the Book of Commpn Prayer collect which starts "Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings, …". The word "prevent" there means "to go before" or "to precede." In that context, it's asking for God's guidance and protection to lead or go before us in all our actions or undertakings ensuring that we are directed and protected by divine grace. Here it will be by Pepys’ skills as a diplomatic wheeler dealer!

Alison ONeill  •  Link

Hope your bone mends quickly, Sarah! And I hope it's not your dominant hand that's affected.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Thanks, Alison -- and yes, I am right-handed and typing hurts like ^%$$! A month to go before the cast comes off.

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