Friday 17 May 1661

All the morning at home. At noon Lieutenant Lambert came to me, and he and I to the Exchange, and thence to an ordinary over against it, where to our dinner we had a fellow play well upon the bagpipes and whistle like a bird exceeding well, and I had a fancy to learn to whistle as he do, and did promise to come some other day and give him an angell to teach me. To the office, and sat there all the afternoon till 9 at night. So home to my musique, and my wife and I sat singing in my chamber a good while together, and then to bed.

48 Annotations

First Reading

daniel  •  Link

well, what an edifying musical day!

but what is an "angell" in his context?

Glyn  •  Link

A gold coin: there were three "angels" to a pound. So-called because the front showed the archangel Michael slaying a dragon. Here's what it looked like (front and back):……

It was supposed to have gone out of circulations 20 years earlier, so either Sam was using it as a slang term for 6-7 shillings, or else the coin was still in circulation.

Australian Susan  •  Link

One third of a pound (six and eightpence) was known in medieval times as a mark, but did not necessarily exist as a coin. Presumably Sam is using it as a term for six and eightpence (a tidy sum for a lad to earn) much as the term sovereign is still sometimes used for a pound when we no longer have gold sovereigns. I would think that all the gold angels were used for warmongering in the 1640s as happened to a lot of royal gold plate - which was turned into coin for international trade.

Glyn  •  Link

"over against" meant "opposite" in the usage of the time, and he has used the phrase at least seven times in the Diary so far but, in contrast, has not used the world "opposite" at all.

(Perhaps this is the same Ordinary with music that he visited on Tuesday 7th and Monday 13th.)

"but over against Somerset House, hearing the noise of guns, we landed" - 2 February 1660

"Thence I went to a tavern over against Mr. Pierce's" - 21 March 1660

"my Lord dropt anchor over against Dover Castle" - 11 May 1660

"From thence to the great church, that stands in a fine great market-place, over against the Stadt-house," - 18 May 1660

"The gun over against my cabin I fired myself" - 22 May 1660

"the ladies out of the windows, one of which over against us I took much notice of, and spoke of her" - 22 April 1661

daniel  •  Link

good to know, thanks, Glyn, Susan

dirk  •  Link

"my wife and I sat singing in my chamber a good while together"

Don't you long for those good old days without television? A homely scene, "and then to bed" of course.

vicente  •  Link

All one needs to bring people to-gether is have a power outrage that lasts for a few hours, doth do wonders for civilisation.

vicente  •  Link

against vs facing (opposite) my take was "nearby", but this reads better, using opposite[facing].

Australian Susan  •  Link

Yes! Power outages in our house promote much piano playing and singing by candlelight - only problem then is to get the wax drips off the piano.....

Xjy  •  Link

Hm, after all these years I finally know why the basic unit for fines when I was at college was six shillings and eightpence.
γηράσκω δ' αἰεὶ πολλὰ διδασκόμενος
I age a-learnin' lots...
Thanks, Oz Su and Glyn!

J A Gioia  •  Link

we had a fellow play well upon the bagpipes

one suspects the pipes were of the light, trilling variety more common to italy, rather than the full-throated martial reeds of scotland. hard to imagine one of those blasting while people are trying to eat.

it is a joy to read how music captivates sam, and how it is appreciated and heard in his time. i think we have a clue above as to what drew sam and liz together in the first place. they make beautiful music together.

JWB  •  Link

"over against"
Common here in Midwest U.S., usually made with a languid fly swatting motion of right hand.

Hic Retearius  •  Link

Martial reeds and parlour pipes.

In a small room, as Gioia tells us, the genuine highland pipes that provide a sound designed to carry for a mile are deafening. In a large hall with a high ceiling and occupied by diners, the sound is not overwhelming but delightful.

Little known these days seems to be the existence of what this poster knew in younger days as "parlour pipes". These were highland pipes but they were designed to be played indoors in smaller rooms presumably for musical purposes and not for stirring the Highland blood in battle. The sound was muted. Could that have been what Sam had been listening to? Can anyone comment if supposedly Highland "parlour pipes" were not Scottish at all but would actually have been the Northumbrian pipes mentioned above by Toni?


Do others have difficulty with seeing only some Greek characters in Xiy's post? One could say of the jumble that appears here: "Graecum est; non potest legi."!! [English idiom: "It's all Greek to me!"]

Pauline  •  Link

"Do others have difficulty with seeing only some Greek characters in Xiy

vicente  •  Link

errata 'tis why its called Greek, those lost squares a kind of trojan 'orse maybe for us illiteri.

dirk  •  Link

Smallpipes, or "All you ever wanted to know about pipes, but were afraid to ask..."

Originating from the border region of Northumberland/Scotland the Scottish Smallpipes represent the perfect alternative to their louder mouth-blown cousin , the Great Highland Bagpipe.

For the solo piper they are the complete indoor bagpipe of low volume with an extremely pleasing tone (...) and can be used as the perfect practice set for players of the Great Highland Bagpipe (...). Smallpipes are pleasingly tolerant of alternative fingerings, e.g. closed fingering can be employed. Combine this with the comparatively low playing pressure and you have what could be considered to be the ideal instrument for the novice piper, those unable to manage the higher playing pressure of the Great Highland Bagpipe as well as a solo set with a difference for the more accomplished players.

Unlike a practice chanter this is a complete instrument with an authentic sound. Being operated by bellows strapped around the waist means that the air system is dry and that maintenance is therefore very low with reeds lasting for years and bags that do not need replacing or re-dressing. (...)



dirk  •  Link

"a fellow play well upon the bagpipes and whistle like a bird"

If this fellows systematically plays the bagpipes and whistles at the same time, I guess he would need to be playing smallpipes - as these are operated by a bellows, so that the piper doesn't have to interrupt his whistling to inflate the bag.

Pedro.  •  Link


Hand cooing is whistling using your hands. If you get good at it you can even whistle songs. The concept is quite simple. You put both hands together in the shape of a ball, with your thumbs positioned close together, so that you can blow into your hands with your lips. Hand Cooing sounds (47.6 Kbytes) very much like the pan pipes.
(From site below, and you can hear it as well!)

Hic Retearius  •  Link


That's exactly the impression one receives from the mess here. The unaccented characters are readable. The "square font things" are the default delivered up by a flummoxed application; they indicate "unprintable character". Perhaps our character sets are just adequate for math. and physics and were not intended for the actual language of Ατηενα and Αχηιλλεσ!


Dirk, many thanks. Perhaps there is (or was) a version for little ones just starting out that uses a mouth piece.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Northumbrian pipes are always played with the bag being operated by the lower arm (the bag is strapped around you and you pump one arm up and down to inflate it. You need to keep this up rhythmically to ensure a stready flow through the bag as the air comes out via the chanter which has holes like a recorder - the drones are at the top and offer a continuo. The Highland bagpipes were always designed for use outdoors and were banned in the Higlands after 1746 and the decisive Battles of Culloden as they were regarded as a weapon of war. They are deafening inside and even overcome professional music practice room soundproofing - as I know!

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

If you want to hear Northumbrian bagpipes beautifully played, listen out for the music of Troy Donockley. I saw him on stage with Maddy Prior, doing a fantastic version of 'Finlandia' on the Northumbrian pipes - made the hair stand up on the back of your neck.…

vicente  •  Link

Pedro: multi obrigado, or sumert like thart.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Does anyone know if the Lord Mayor of Newcastle still has an offical bagpiper?

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

Greek to me...

I think the problem arises from trying to render ancient Greek using a modern Greek character set, as Hic Retearius suggests. I believe the quotation is: "I grow old ever learning many things", (Solon). I think I prefer xjy's translation.

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

Australian Susan - The Lord Mayor's Piper...

Yes, it seems the Lord Mayor still has his own piper (Northumbrian pipes):…

Lucky man.

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

Over against...
In Dutch 'opposite' is: "tegenover", which is the exact translation of the words Sam is using, but with the words in another sequence. Could be this is a germanic remnant.

dirk  •  Link

Over against

English *is* after all a Germanic language. And "opposite", having a Latin root, is stricto sensu a word of foreign origin - maybe it sounded somewhat "learned" in Sam's time, and "over against" was the more commonly used form? Language Hat?

Australian Susan  •  Link

Kevin - many thanks! The website Kevin lists contains a picture of Northumbrian pipes, which were probably what Sam was listening to. At one time the Newcastle Lord mayor had a 16 year old schoolgirl as his official piper (in the 80s) - I heard her on the radio and she was an excellent player.On the website it also says that the pipes currently used by the official piper were provided by the local brewery (makers of the incomparable Newcastle Brown Ale) - ongoing links between music and alcohol - general conviviality!

language hat  •  Link

And "opposite", having a Latin root, is… a word of foreign origin

English had been full of foreign words for centuries before Sam’s time, and “opposite” in particular was already a familiar word in Chaucer’s day. But “over against” was (and is) more colloquial. English has many arrows in its quiver.

Second Reading

Holly Minogue  •  Link

Question, I thought there was 240d in 1l, if an angell was one third of a pound then wouldn't that make 80d, which divided by 12d (one shilling) is 6.66 etcetera. Why is the amount rounded to six and eight pence, or what am I missing?

Bryan  •  Link

Why is the amount rounded to six and eight pence, or what am I missing?

Six and eight pence = six shillings and eight pence, which is the exact amount. Two thirds (0.66) of a shilling (12d) is 8 pence.

Mary K  •  Link

80d. when divided by 12 (to find shillings) gives 6s. with 8 pence left over. i.e. 6s.8d. or 6/8d whichever way you prefer to write it.

When I was at primary school (in pre-decimalisation days) one was expected to learn and know that one-third of a pound was 6/8d, two-thirds of a pound was 13/4d. just as one knew that one-eighth of a pound was 2/6d. Simples!

Mary K  •  Link


I'm afraid that the combination of a bagpiper with a 17th century version of Ronnie Ronalde would have put me right off my lunch.

Al Doman  •  Link

@ Mary K: your modern sensibilities showing through :)

Back in the day there was no recorded music, it was all live. Music lovers could not retreat to iPods etc. There was probably not one person on the planet at that time - not even professional musicians - who had been exposed to as wide a variety of music, performed by world-class musicians, as frequently, as a typical Western 30 year old today.

Our man has a decent ear for music; if he enjoyed today's entertainment it was probably good by the standards of the day, if not by ours. If one had been living at that time, chances are one would have "cut one's teeth" on music like that, appreciated the chance to hear it performed well, and shown one's appreciation so the musician would be encouraged to do it next time.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

'over . . 2. b. Preceding a preposition. †over about: surrounding; over against . . : surrounding (obs.); adjacent to, facing, opposite. .
. . 1526 Bible (Tyndale) Mark xiii. f. lxiiii, As he sate on mounte olivete over ayenst the temple.
. . 1622 J. Brinsley Consol. Gram. School 67 Hauing the Latin set ouer-against the Greek.
. . 1710 R. Steele Tatler No. 261. ⁋1 The Wheat-Sheaf over-against Tom's Coffee-house.'

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"To the office, and sat there all the afternoon till 9 at night."

The Houses of Parliament sit in the morning, so Batten and Mennes need to be away from the office. The Navy Board therefore moved their meetings to the afternoon -- and in this case they had so much business it ran overtime!

I wonder what was under discussion ... a fleet bound for Portugal????

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The House of Commons puts another nail in the coffin of the recent past:

Solemn League and Covenant.
The Question being put, Whether the main Question, that the Instrument or Writing, called, The Solemn League and Covenant, be burned by the Hand of the Common Hangman, shall be put at this Time;

The House was divided thereupon:

And the Noes went forth.

The Lord St. John, Tellers for the Yeas: 228.
The Lord Visc. Falkland, With the Yeas,
Secretary Morris, Tellers for the Noes: 103.
Sir Robert Barnam, With the Noes,
So it passed in the Affirmative:

And the Question being put, That the Instrument or Writing, called, The Solemn League and Covenant, be burned by the Hand of the Common Hangman;

Resolved, upon the Question, That the Instrument or Writing, called, The Solemn League and Covenant, be burned by the Hand of the Common Hangman.

Resolved, upon the Question, That the Concurrence of the Lords be desired to this Vote.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

And in the House of Lords -- the sounds like the Committee John Evelyn mentioned being appointed to:

Bill for mending Streets and Highways.
Hodie 1a vice lecta est Billa, "An Act for amending and keeping clean the Streets and Highways, in and about the City of Westm. and other Cities and Towns."


Happy to see the Earl of Sandwich in his chair today.

Alter Kacker  •  Link

At the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, it appears that there are local variants of bagpipes in pretty much every country and region from Portugal to Pakistan.


A Scottish friend once told me, “The sweetest sound in rhe world is a bagpipe … fading in the distance.”


“The definition of a true gentleman is someone who can play the bagpipe … and doesn’t.”

Christopher Hudson  •  Link

Until today (like Xjy in 2004) I never realized the significance of 6s.8d. as being perhaps derived from an angel, and wondered why record companies had chosen such an odd sum as the price of a single. (Only the Woolworths cover versions were cheaper, at 4s. flat).

Keith Knight  •  Link

Australian Susan mentioned in 2004 that the Lord Mayor of Newcastle had a schoolgirl piper in the 80s. That was Kathryn Tickell, who is still playing, recording and touring. Very much the go-to person if you want to hear Northumbrian pipes.

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