Friday 31 May 1661

I went to my father’s thinking to have met with my cozen John Holcroft, but he came not, but to my great grief I found my father and mother in a great deal of discontent one with another, and indeed my mother is grown now so pettish that I know not how my father is able to bear with it. I did talk to her so as did not indeed become me, but I could not help it, she being so unsufferably foolish and simple, so that my father, poor man, is become a very unhappy man.

There I dined, and so home and to the office all the afternoon till 9 at night, and then home and to supper and to bed.

Great talk now how the Parliament intend to make a collection of free gifts to the King through the Kingdom; but I think it will not come to much.

53 Annotations

First Reading

Bob T  •  Link

Looks more and more as though Sam's Mother is slipping into a senile dementia. How old is she at this time?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"she being so insufferably foolish" It is a shame we don't hear from sister Pall,then we would know if SP is being objective;I think if his mother was senile ,which I don't think she is,SP would say so.

Pauline  •  Link

" grown now ..."
In these entries about the discontent Sam finds his parents in, always the sense that his mother is becoming different than she was, a deterioration.

Alan Bedford  •  Link

" How old is she at this time?"

Someone with a copy of Tomalin's book may have better information, but according to the diary intro, little is known of Sam's mother. We do know that Sam's father was born in 1601, so it's reasonable to guess that Mrs. P is in her 50's...

dirk  •  Link

"it's reasonable to guess that Mrs. P is in her 50's...”

Would have been “old age” in the 17th c. - so some form of dementia seems not unlikely.

vicente  •  Link

Guess: maybe borne between 1600 to 1612?, ideal married at 16: put's her in her mid 50's at the very most 60, much doubt, older.Last childe in 41/2: I Still doubt Dimentia , many ladies go off the rails in the 50's, destroy their best items. Take a look of how many "widows" there are, not all the men are dead, just dissappeared. It is one of the least noticed diseases, empty nest, no grand children and the old man still leering at the wenches. Women at this time of life retreat into themselves and become known as witches [to burnt at the stake?].
It is a terrible problem, work hard all ones life, then to have no 'ormones left for the olde geezer, who is a smiling at that beboossoomed server at the dinner table. Suffer pains,[unwanted] the looks vanished, no Beverly Hills[Brazil] retouch artists to rejuvinate wrinkles and sags.
And Men can never understand, they still can have a warm water bottle to keep their aches and pains massaged, as long as they have the doe rae mee.

[tis better to be an old mans darling than a young mans slave.}
No one likes a moaner period.
maybe a little of Will S. "your misery increase with your age!" Coriollanus Act 5 Sc. 2

Pauline  •  Link

"that beboossoomed server at the dinner table"
Vincent, you're seeing this a little differently than Sam does: "an ugly wench that lived there lately, the most ill-favoured slut that ever I saw in my life"

Australian Susan  •  Link

Sam says his parents married in 1626. His mother dies in 1667.
Sam, leading an active, involved life, meeting many people and forever up and down, here and there, finds it hard to think himself into a small domestic world (such as his mother has) where minute occurences become huge problems, because the scale is different. If Sam lived the circumscribed life his mother did: confined to the house, local market and local church, I am sure he too would get disproportionally upset over seemingly trivial domestic issues. But if Sam's father still has a roving eye for the maids, I think it is hard of Sam to be so dismissive of what he denigrates as "pettishness".

vicente  •  Link

Sam's young, Pop is passed his best. Beggars can't be choosers.Different Pond.

Xjy  •  Link

Dealing with pettishness
None of them reflects a second on any underlying reasons for anything. It's all taken at face value as far as private life seems to go. If you feel bad you slam out at whoever's nearest. It's just like sitcom life -- petrified characters with immutably predictable responses. Let 'em tear each other to pieces, if that's what makes 'em happy... Boorish father, nagging mother, embarrassed careerist son. Everyone trying to get away with things and ending up with red faces.

Pedro.  •  Link

"father and mother in a great deal of discontent one with another"

Again this discussion comes up, and again we see Sam take the side of his father. I would tend to agree with "Ossie Sue".
Tomalin describes the mother as "tough old woman" and I think she would not be denied her say! No doubt we may learn more in forthcoming entries, but it might be interesting if Sam agreed with Mrs.P for a change.

daniel  •  Link

Sam's Mum.

the poor thing had like fourteen children-four surviving. maybe that was typical for the time but my paternal grandmother just up and died after so much trouble and pain. maybe Mother Pepys is just regretting that she didn't

Bill Gremillion  •  Link

Can anyone say "change of life"?
That would explain it.

JWB  •  Link

Institutional dimentia
"... the Parliament intend to make a collection of free gifts..."

JWB  •  Link

Sorry for spelling error, seem to be suffering from it a bit myself.

Bob T  •  Link

The dreaded menapause madness. I hadn't thought of that. So perhaps Sam's Father is going through the "it's all your fault" scenes. I personally found Teacher's Highland Cream to be of great help :-)

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"17th Century dementia" sorry Dirk but your reasoning is like saying that in the 17th Century peoples hair turned white earlier because they lived shorter lives.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

I think one can only feel compassion for both of Sam's parents -- mother being driven to great anger and dissatisfaction by age & physical change & irritation at Sam's father & a feeling of being caged in as Susan suggests; father bearing the brunt of it. Sam perhaps lacks a clear understanidng of what's going on and simply reacts against the instigator, as he sees it, of the household uproar. Sad for him.

DiPhi  •  Link

Menopause seems possible. When my mom went through it, my father and brother were the only ones at home, and they thought she was just going crazy. They sounded much like Sam when they talked about her. Did women go through menopause at the same age in Sam's time as they do now, or would it have happened earlier or later?

Bob T  •  Link

Did women go through menopause at the same age in Sam's time as they do now, or would it have happened earlier or later?

You really need a medical historian to answer this question, and the answer would be quite complicated.

A long time ago, in a world far away, I was taught that the age a woman went into menopause, was determined by the age of her menarche. The earlier the first menstrual cycle, the later the onset of menopause; there was a counter argument of course. If Sam’s Mother is in her fifties, then it is possible that she has more testosterone than she knows how to handle. We’ll never know; maybe she was ticked off by something else.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Menopause is a state of mind! At least that is what I have decided. Japanese women just don't really have it and in the Islander communities near Australia (Vanuatu, Tahitit, etc.) menopause is a cause for rejoicing - it means you can have unrestricted sex with no pregnancies! Great opportunities for making hooey! Some of the websites I have visited about menopause seem to be inhabited by women who spend their whole time watching and listening to their bodies and being obsessed by them. I do wonder if we are putting 21st century constructs on poor Mrs P. Would she have had any concept of what we refer to as menopause these days? Or would her husband and son?

Kyle  •  Link

For those readers who have ever dealt with a "difficult" older person of any sex, Pepys's family drama will be familiar. For those who have not done so, count your blessings and brace yourselves: your turn will come. And there is no guarantee that all of us may not, in time, become "difficult" ourselves.

Firenze  •  Link

'Dementia' is thrown about too readily: I have seen it close quarters, and it is not about pettishness. Nor does the menopause send a woman mad - albeit it does raise the 'whatthehell' factor a bit.

Here is a woman with a life of incessant drudgery, constant childbearing/rearing, frequent bereavements, ill health (she suffered from the stone as well), limited social contacts - and you wonder she's grumpy?

I had grandmothers like her. A hard life makes a sour disposition.

upper_left_hand_corner  •  Link

Thanks, Firenze, a perfect summary of the situation.

Occam's razor to the rescue.

vicente  •  Link

" a state of mind" yes 'tis true, but how to help to get the right state ? biofeedback, hashshish, Gin, pills, better blood flow, each mind has unique set of problems.
unfortunately tolerance and understanding are harded to come by , as The Law of reaction does control and one has to break that cycle and it takes effort[great]. Nobody can stand any moaning and groaning. As Seneca the Younger is quoted as remarking.
"Humanus est deridere vitam quam deplare. " De Tranquillite Animi III, 8
Or laugh at life ;don't cry over it,
else Laugh and world will laugh with you, Cry and you will cry alone.

dirk  •  Link

"17th Century peoples hair turned white earlier because they lived shorter lives" - Re A. De Araujo

Wel yes actually. That *is* what I'm saying. To be quite honest I can't prove this with any text or site references (I'll try to find some - there must be some etchings/paintings around that may give us some visual idea of this). I'm just saying this from my background in 16th/17th c history of daily life, but people grew physically older at a faster rate at the time.

I'm no medic, but I think - because of less efficient body care, medical care etc. - the ageing process (basically the slowdown of cell renewal) started at an earlier age than now.

A person of 50 would physically have looked a lot older: few teeth left, wrinkled face, white hair and "old age" illnesses, etc.

smith  •  Link

"A person of 50 would physically have looked a lot older: few teeth left, wrinkled face, white hair and "old age" illnesses, etc.”

The preservation of our modern teeth into our 50’s may be attributable to better dental care, but the preservation of our skin and hair color is more likely due to better face creams and hair dyes. Speaking from experience…

Pauline  •  Link

"A person of 50 would physically have looked a lot older”
I don’t know, do you think the preservatives in so much of modern food has anything to do with it?

Today I believe it would be fairly easy to compare “the look of ageing” between peoples based on quality of life issues such as nutrition, good water, level of stress in life, climate, etc. Our world contains a very wide spectrum of conditions under which we grow old.

Glyn  •  Link

A Grumbling Woman

A grumbling woman must always be disregarded because:

- the young ones are silly fluffies
- the ones with children have had their brains addled by giving birth
- the childless ones are bitter and abnormal
- the next lot are menopausal and hysterical
- and the oldest ones are probably demented.

A sarcastic comment from the Guardian columnist Michelle Hanson that coincidentally has appeared in her latest article (but is this necessarily wrong?)

vicente  •  Link

"..A person of 50 would physically have looked a lot older: few teeth left, wrinkled face..." tis said better by the Bard. "as you want it?"
"..And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms. .....

His youthful hose well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything...."…
To-day, one does not have to face the elements, no damp,cold, hea[r]tless freezing,stuffy, airless, gut moaning rumbling hunger,smoake filled noses filling blowing black rags with nasal black . Now one has, overfed days,bedrugged mind[legal and illegal],mind numbing brainwashing entertainment, drip fed ideas through the IV of the Goglebox,rest on chaise lounge as ever fanciful, as any Kaiser did 2000 years past, have arteries reamed by roter- router whenever the huffing got grufffing. Ah Life 'tis great when one passes the Biblical marker, and one can enjoy the benefits if the Ponzi schemes of Government betting, and actuary tables.
"Tis why they call it the Goldern Years, ye get rid of all the gold before the gran kids get it.

Grahamt  •  Link

"A person of 50 would physically have looked a lot older: ... white hair..."
As a 54 year old with white hair, beard and moustache (but with some of my own teeth and few wrinkles) I don't see that as a good indicator that people looked older in the 17th century. Skin wrinkling may have been more common as more time was spent in the weather, and I bet they kept their teeth longer as there was much less sugar in the diet than now. The skulls dug up from the plague pits show very few dental caries compared with modern equivalent aged Londoners.
Be careful also about saying life was shorter: average lifetimes might have been shorter because of infant mortality, but if you survived childhood, the plague, and war(s) you probably had a similar lifespan to today. Even Sam with his stones lived to a good age. Life expectancy plummeted during the industrial era and only recovered to Pepysian levels in the last 50 years.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Stress and hard living age a person. Think of all those Oxfam adverts showing women who are 35, but look 65 living in famine situations. Also, by comparing photos, I think my father aged more than the chronological years during WW2 - as well as being on active service from Sept 1939, he was not demobbed until January '46 because he was liberating camps. That was very stressful.
Life Expectancy
Infant mortality declined with the industrial age, the birth rate didn't, which led to population growth, but as GrahamT points out, the length of life shortened for those working in the grim pre-work safety law conditions of industrialising England.

dirk  •  Link

"Be careful also about saying life was shorter" Re - Graham

Referring to the 17th & 18th c.:

"Analysis of the skeletal remains of adolescents and adults suggested a mean age of death of 58 years. (...) Another approach was to calculate the age of death from plaques on coffins. This survey which included infants and children gave a lower mean age of death of 46 years."


vicente  •  Link

average/ mean, are only useful for the gambolers of actuaries to see how much they get from you and predict the profits of weekly collections. Life, is but a steeple chase, a matter of luck if someone is around to put pieces together again for the next hurdle of life. For Example Breast Cancer, life expectancy depends on where one lives and how much you have in the kitty. See the latest results of Lancet and American Journels on the subject. 'Tis scary. For Me, I have been just plain fortunate that my statistics have been dosed up with lots of luck and good Genes , so that it is possible for me to have 20 to 30 years more of procrastination.
The other major contributor to long life besides the modern sciences to equalised those good genes, is to have a low stress life [but keep all parts active, do not let them, those parts rust from lack of use],where ever possible that includes the weather. There is an interesting article on why the female of the species live longer [the independant news]. The no. one item on the list is scrubbing floors.[now ladies don't yell] 'tis one of the many reasons women live longer than men. Simply put, always have tasks to perform, mental and physical, but always in moderation [yours],e.g. wine is good for blood flow but too much can let one fall off the pavement and if you survive that,then your liver can rot, of course if you have cash,you can replaced the liver too. enough!

Laura K  •  Link

We have absolutely no evidence to point to Sam's mother being demented or in menopause.

Menopause may or may not be a cultural construct (it would be interesting to know through an actual study - not anectodally - but that's definitely OT!) - but in any case it doesn't drive women mad. We do know that, historically, women have been labelled mad for a variety of reasons, including plain old nonconformity.

Sam's parents are not getting along, and Sam sides with his father, perceiving his mother to be petty and bad-tempered. That's all we know.

I am fascinated by how quickly readers jump to extreme conclusions with little or no evidence!

language hat  •  Link

Thank you, Laura.
I couldn't agree more.

vicente  •  Link

Attitude of the mere male in the 17C houshold from SP 'imself"...My wife seemed very pretty to-day, it being the first time I had given her leave to wear a black patch..."
by your leave, the master has spoken.

vicente  •  Link

From Liza Lizard P 96/97/98: For the woman, it was not the life of riley "Menopause, at about 50,[Laslett,op. cit A contemporary midwife , Jane Sharp in "The Midwives Book", London 1671, put the start of menapause at age 50] was thought as the beginning old age. The few women who survived so long no doubt suffered from that post-menopausal growth hair, and skin blemishes, well known to be part of the normal appearance of witches...."

vicente  •  Link

"...Great talk now how the Parliament intend to make a collection of free gifts to the King through the Kingdom; but I think it will not come to much..."
Bill for a free Gift to the King.{finally gets to the HoL june 19th}
The House was adjourned into a Committee of the whole House, to take into Consideration the Bill for a free and voluntary Present for His Majesty.
The House being resumed;
The Lord Chamberlain reported, That the Committee of the whole House have considered of this Bill, and have filled up Two Blanks, with Amendments, which are offered to the Consideration of the House.
The said Amendments, being read Twice, were confirmed.
Hodie 3avice lecta est Billa, "An Act for a free and voluntary Present to His Majesty."
The Question being put, "Whether this Bill, with these Alterations, shall pass as a Law?"
It was Resolved in the Affirmative

From: British History Online
Source: House of Lords Journal Volume 11: 19 June 1661. House of Lords Journal Volume 11, ().
Date: 28/06/2004

Copyright 2003 University of London & History of Parliament Trust

dirk  •  Link

Life expectancy

John Graunt (1620-1674) - a contemporary of SP - noted:
"we shall in the next place come to the more absolute Standard (...) which is the proportion of the aged, viz. 15757 to the Total 229250. That is of about 1. to 15. or 7. per Cent. Onely the question is, what number of Years the Searchers call Aged, which I conceive must be the same, that David calls so, viz. 70. For no man can be said to die properly of Age, who is much less: it follows from hence, that if in any other Country more then seven of the 100 live beyond 70, such Country is to be esteemed more healthfull then this of our City."

Summarizing: in 17th c. London only 7 percent of the people reached the age of 70 or over.

vicente  •  Link

But in the country side 'twas better. And in Welsh hills there are records of the Locals reaching the magic number[100].
Another writer {a Later one, Timothy Nourse [*]}, wrote an essay which included the foll:" Of all the Cities perhaps in Europe, there is not a more nasty and more unpleasant Place." from Coal by Barbara Freese
So why did they come and stay ? * Nourse Timothy, Campania Foelix 1700

Patricia  •  Link

Late coming to this, but nobody mentioned how annoying it is for women at this time of life to have the husband idle around the house, getting in the way and spoiling one's routine. Pepys Sr. must be slowing down in his work, since Samuel mentions his dad's failing eyesight, etc.

Linda Camidge  •  Link

I think one factor not yet mentioned is that at least one of Samuel's parents is likely to have been highly intelligent. If this applied to his mother, her life once her child-rearing was over might well have been so dull as to engender much discontent.

pat Stewart Cavalier  •  Link

Menopause can come on between the late 30s and the 50s, and has varying effects on different women. Same as most things in life.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"my mother is grown now so pettish"

To take PET, To be in a PET, To be offended, to snuff at, to be angry.
PETTISH, apt to take Pet, or be angry, forward, peevish.
---An Universal Etymological English Dictionary. N. Bailey, 1675.

When a woman is "pettish", it never seems to be a man's fault. The more things change...

Louise Hudson  •  Link

I wish Sam would have given more detail as to what the problem was between his parents so we could apply a little 21st century psychology to it. He takes the typical male attitude (commom even today) that it must be his mother's fault and that his father should be pitied for having to put up with her. Until well into the 20th century this is what people did, even doctors. The woman was seen to be cranky and the man as reasonable when the woman may well have had a lot to be cranky about and unable to express herself, having been told all her life to be quiet, allow the men to run things and not to complain. I can work out a probable scenario of what is happening in that household and it may have nothing to do with menopause--another thing that has been used to attack women who have been powerless their whole lives and have plenty to complain about. She's stuck and she knows it, but she has no tools to understand it or express it. And now she has a son who also blames her for burdening his father. . Oh, for a good dose of consciousness-raising! But she is living in the wrong century for that.

GrannieAnnie  •  Link

Mrs P's problem: no one has used the words "clinical depression" which often manifests itself as anger (especially in men.) Her loss of so many children alone would be ample reason to be depressed and angry as well as seeing her youthfulness dwindle away with much of her life's work carried to the graveyard. And today the doc would surely check for underactive thyroid. Add to that perhaps the hot flashes of menopause were disrupting her sleep leaving her worn to a frazzle. Nursing all those children could have resulted in tooth loss (the saying a tooth lost for each pregnancy was apparently true) which could lead then to malnutrition , only eating foods she could gum. She might have had intestinal parasites causing anemia and fatigue. Or she might have used toxic white lead to give herself a nice pale complection while unwittingly slowly poisoning herself. My guess is she had something biochemically wrong going on, poor thing.

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

To judge if some one is 'old' or not I think one must ask the question: "What is the average life expectancy for those how have lived to be 25." (Pick your own threshold age.) IMHO the threshold age should be at least after childhood diseases are past although for males it perhaps should be later as males tend to engage in dangerous activities until they are 25 or so. I would expect that the differences between then and now would be evident but not as great as most people might think - except somewhat for females because of the dangers of childbirth and pregnancy.

MarkS  •  Link

I found the statistic that if a man or woman lived to be 30 in 17th century England, their average life expectancy was 59.

No antibiotics or modern pharmaceuticals, and no modern surgery, meant that many conditions that are not life-threatening today were life-threatening then.

Gillian Bagwell  •  Link

Regarding old age and "only 7 percent of the people reached the age of 70 or over" - Life expectancy is a completely different thing from the age at which someone is old. If you take the average age of a baby and an 80-year-old who die, their life expectancy is 40. That doesn't mean that someone who is 40 is old.

In Sam's time, and for much of history, lots of babies died, women died frequently in childbirth, and people died of illnesses and injuries that wouldn't be fatal today.

According to LIza Picard's "Restoration London" (page 77), "The life expectancy of a baby born in England in the decade 1660-70 was 35 years. But this did not mean that everyone born in 1660 could expect to die in 1695. Of all those babies, about a quarter would die before their tenth birthday, particularly in their first year. Accidents, diseases, and epidemics thinned out the survivors. A woman who had married at the usual age of 26, and come safely through two confinements, would celebrate her thirtieth birthday in 1690. With so many risks behind her, she could look forward to another 30 years: she was exactly middle-aged, though she did not know it. Six years later, the most dangerous decade of her life was behind her; women were four times more likely to die in the first decade of marriage than men. If she lived to see her fortieth birthday, she had 24 years ahead. She had long passed the milestone of 35. If she was the one in ten of her coevals who hung on for another 20 years, she could reasonably expect to see 72. By then the age differential that still applies was still in place. There were more old women than men."

As for what's wrong with Sam's mother, I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong but that he doesn't like how she's behaving. This is a man who treats his wife like a child, expects her to wait patiently at home while he's out tomcatting around and generally having a good time, and thinks she's being unreasonable if she objects to anything he does. I enjoy Sam and his diary, but I sure wouldn't want to be married to him or to have to live my life in conformation to how he thinks women should act!

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re ‘pettish’, OED has:

‘pettish, adj. Of a person or his or her behaviour: subject to fits of offended ill humour; childishly bad-tempered and petulant; peevish, sulky . .
. . 1570 P. Levens Manipulus Vocabulorum sig. Miiv/2, Petish, effrænis..iracundus.
. . a1641 R. Montagu Acts & Monuments (1642) iv. 272 He became pettish, wayward, frantick, bloudy.
1666 S. Pepys Diary 6 Aug. (1972) VII. 236, I checked her, which made her mighty pettish . . ’

Terry Foreman  •  Link

vicente says ""...Great talk now how the Parliament intend to make a collection of free gifts to the King through the Kingdom; but I think it will not come to much..." Bill for a free Gift to the King.{finally gets to the HoL june 19th}"

L&M say it passed Commons in July. Pepys will be asked to subscribe 3 months from now. It is noted that gifts are coming in at a slow rate:… and…

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Talking about Wales -- it's been raining a lot there too. The House of Lords outdoes themselves today by:
"Ordered, That his Majesty be humbly moved to issue out a Proclamation for the observing of a publick Day of Humiliation throughout all England and Wales, and the Town of Berwick upon Tweed, in respect of the immoderate Rain and Waters; and to beseech God to divert the Judgments threatened thereby; and that the Lords Concurrence be desired herein: And Mr. Lowther is to carry up the Order."

If you were doubting that the most educated people in England were still a superstitious lot, there's some proof that they were. On the other hand, had they known about the Gulf Stream and El Nino years, etc., perhaps they would have avoided this inconvenience.

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