Friday 28 June 1661

At home all the morning practising to sing, which is now my great trade, and at noon to my Lady and dined with her. So back and to the office, and there sat till 7 at night, and then Sir W. Pen and I in his coach went to Moorefields, and there walked, and stood and saw the wrestling, which I never saw so much of before, between the north and west countrymen.

So home, and this night had our bed set up in our room that we called the Nursery, where we lay, and I am very much pleased with the room.

31 Annotations

First Reading

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"our room that we called the Nursery"
well,seems like they wanted Kids after all.

David Ross McIrvine  •  Link

While Moor[e]fields will be famous later
for rough sports (e.g. Boxing, cudgel-play, and sword-fighting in the
early 18th century), is it possible that
the wrestling here is especially part of the Bartholomew Fair celebration?

Pepys will mention on Aug 25 1663 that the Lord Mayor has re-instituted an old custom of wrestling as part of a three-day Fair:

It seems this Lord Mayor begins again an old custome, that upon the three first days of Bartholomew Fayre, the first, there is a match of wrestling, which was done, and the Lord Mayor there and Aldermen in Moorefields yesterday: to-day, shooting: and to-morrow, hunting.

And it could be that the North and West countrymen are keeping up this "old custome" already in 1661.

By the way, one of my favorite Bottoms
(he played the weaver in a BBC-TV version of *A Midsummer Night's Dream*) was a North-Countryman AND a wrestler: Brian Glover, who was from Yorkshire, was a professional wrestler before he turned Shakespearean actor. I wonder if he ever did a turn at a Bartholomew Fair match, or acted in Jonson's play of the same name.

RexLeo  •  Link

I wish I had Pepys' office hours. I thought they slaved during those dark ages. Are the hours so relaxed because my Lord is not around?

dirk  •  Link

"I thought they slaved during those dark ages." re - RexLeo

These were not the "dark ages" anymore, but "Early Modern Times" - sufficiently modern anyway to make sure that "normal" people (less well off than Sam) had to work very hard from dawn till dusk to earn meager wages, only a tiny fraction of our Sam's earnings.

Historians have stated on many occasions that poorer people were in a worse position in the 16th/17th c. than they had been in the rigidly organized system of the Middle Ages. Although technically they may have been more free.

daniel  •  Link

charming entry

this one is nice as we have low and high retold in a way that only Sam could. First some vocalises which he claims is his "great trade", than the rough and tumble of a fair.
cheers to you, Sam!

Glyn  •  Link

I'm not sure what Pepys' current working hours are, although he sometimes starts work at dawn which at the moment is about 5 am. And he doesn't have to travel to work since he lives next to the office. But you're right - he can't have done more than 4 or 5 hours work today at the most.

But we do know that City Apprentices were under contract to work until the church bell at St Mary le Bow was rung for curfew and all of the City Gates were closed. That was at 9 o'clock and the apprentices were always cursing the bellringer if ever he was late.

vicente  •  Link

work hours; Less ye ernt the more hrs ye slaved. The Services it was 24/7, the selling off the shoulder was 24/7. The poor maid it was from before madam's last snore til madam's was snoring again. Then there wash day from 1st bell till last bell. But for the learned ones twas mostly life of ones own choosing. It was Law at this time that a workman had one hour for his ale and bait.

Diana Bonebrake  •  Link

We can all agree that Sam is 'decently positioned'.

Mary  •  Link

Sam's working hours - again.

The rule that governs Sam's professional life is that he is there to do a job, not to clock in and out at specified hours irrespective of what business is on hand. When there is much to be done, he works a very long day indeed; when 'business' is slack, he is not constrained to sit in the office until the church-bell tolls for 5p.m. As for the appearance of unexpected business on what had been thought to be a leisurely day, he has young Will Hewer to keep a watching brief for him and keep him informed of any new developments.

Mary  •  Link

"our room that we called the Nursery."

This strikes me as a poignant little remark. Have Sam and Elizabeth now come to the conclusion that they are unlikely to raise a family?

J A Gioia  •  Link

called the Nursery

or it could be a newly redone room in fond hope; one of the objects of all that woodwork and painting that just finished up. now perhaps sam and liz are trying to 'sleep' there to encourage a future tenant?

Mary  •  Link

"called the nursery"

I was taking my cue from the tense of the verb. Not 'call' or even 'have called' but past-perfect 'called', which looks very much done-and-dusted, all over now. Admittedly not definitive, but certainly suggestive.

PHE  •  Link

Sam's attitude to work v. pleasure
WARNING: quote from diary of 20/5/62. Not a plot spoiler.

"I do think it best to enjoy some degree of pleasure now that we have health, money, and opportunity, rather than to leave pleasures to old age or poverty, when we cannot have them so properly." (Was he the first to say that?)

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

"called the Nursery"

Mary, your very sensitive reading has also struck me as quite poignant.

Apropos a theme from several days ago (I've gotten behind) regarding Sam's knowledge of Italian and other languages, and in view of the noted fact that Sam does resort to multi-lingual phrases when he's writing about his sexual activity, I can't resist passing along the otherwise irrelevant comment by a college friend of mine from Florence, Italy, who described his family and others as beginning a sentence in one language and using at least two others before finishing their thought -- a habit of speech he called "upper class Florentine."

JWB  •  Link

" Dr. Williams (who is come to see my wife, whose soare belly is now grown dangerous as she thinks", Sam wrote on Mon. the 24th.

language hat  •  Link

that we called the Nursery:

In the first place, this seems perfectly normal (non-poignant) to me even in terms of present usage; it could be expanded to "the room we decided to call the nursery when we moved into the place." In the second place, the use of verb tenses was quite different in Pepys' day; note "which I never saw so much of before" where we would say "have/had seen" (and of course all the "did do" forms). Best not to read too much into subtle turns of phrase.

Mary House  •  Link

The reference to "nursery" also struck me as poignant. Once again, I miss knowing anything of Elizabeth's feelings or hearing even a bit of her voice. I find this hole in the diary puzzling.

Pauline  •  Link

"...our bed set up in our room that we called the Nursery..."
I read it as language hat has. Called the nursery when they moved in, either in deciding how to use rooms or descriptively as to how it was decorated or set up (duck wallpaper, reflective stars on the ceiling) by the previous residents.

Taking it over now as their bedroom doesn't mean that there aren't other rooms that could be turned into a nursery if needed.

To date at Seething Lane, Sam has talked about Elizabeth's room and his room and it hasn't been clear where the marital bed was. I assume they each have a dressing room/study/parlor/whatever, with the bed in one or the other. Now they have a dedicated bedroom as well.

dirk  •  Link


1: a room for a baby [syn: baby's room]
2: a building with glass walls and roof; for the cultivation and exhibition of plants under controlled conditions [syn: greenhouse, glasshouse]
Source: WordNet - 1.6, - 1997 Princeton University

Is it just possible that Sam’s house had a room that could be said to look remotely like a (tiny?) greenhouse??? It was probably hot in June 1661 - so putting up the bed temporarily in a possibly well ventilated room might have made some sense.

Just speculating/phantasizing…

vicente  •  Link

The matrimonial bed: the poor, had no choice but share the pillow. The Grander [other wise known as betters} may go to the other extreme and and have their own suite of rooms and make the appropiate appointments for conjugating.[archaic not bio-chemical]
Note they[Pepis] started wedded blis in a garret and one maid slepping on a trustle bed, no doubt, now they can emulate and follow the more comfortable norms of the well healed and have his, hers, and theirs[nursery]. The romantics wish for the curl up on couch with a nice bubbly, but I see very little evidence of Sam being the night in shining armour.

dirk  •  Link


To be honest, I wasn't seriously suggesting Sam had anything like a greenhouse in his home, but rather making the point (playfully) that our friendly bunch of annotators have been drawing awfully far reaching conclusions from the simple one-time appearance of the word "nursery" in this entry. - That's the way I feel about this. No offence intended.

Laura K  •  Link

"nursery" and far-reaching conclusions

As is often the case, annotations may say more about our own perspectives than Sam's. Many annotators seem to expect Sam to express some sadness or loss because he and Elizabeth don't have children. (I haven't read ahead, so I don't know if Sam ever does express this.) But that's obviously based on an assumption that a married couple without children wishes they had some and feels sad that they do not.

Since we aren't reading Elizabeth's diary and since Sam hasn't mentioned it, I think it's best not to assume and just go with what Sam actually writes.

vicente  •  Link

Oh! how we do like others to suffer with us and share our [mis]fortunes.
Like so many fables [marriage that is], one has to justify why one is where one is, Life is a variety of different situations that are not nessarily bad or good, but just different.
Each human is tres difference? [there are those that say children make marriage, others that marriage is ruined by the little marvels] {it can make one fine blog}

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: "nursery" and far-reaching conclusions

Laura, I agree that some annotators could be making over-reaching assumptions about what Sam means by his reference to the Nursery, above, but I think it’s also pretty well-known that he and Elizabeth *did* want children. Look at the diary’s first entry (… ), for example, where he says, “My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year, she hath them [i.e., her period] again.” It’s pretty clear from my reading of this that the couple did indeed have “hopes” of raising a family.

Laura K  •  Link

Thanks, Todd. I hadn't remembered that. Since Sam hasn't mentioned wanting or hoping for children often (possibly at all?) since then, I'm not seeing the poignancy or sadness in it. But I do see that the idea isn't completely fabricated either.

Pedro.  •  Link


Claire Tomalin "The Unequalled Self".
(page 120)

She says that after a short time of moving to Seething Lane...
"As for a child of their own: a room was set aside hopefully to become the nursery"

pat stewart cavalier  •  Link

At that time, for most couples marriage automatically meant children whether or not they wanted them. I don't suppose they were ever asked "Do you want children" because there was nothing they could do about it. It was normally a given.

Second Reading

Dick Wilson  •  Link

Pepys never mentions Elizabeth's name. Re-purposing "the Nursery" is a sign that they may be giving up on having children. The diary is recording, bit by bit, the slow crumbling of their marriage. Pepys takes pride in Elizabeth, especially when she is the prettiest girl in the room, but it seems to be somewhat of a pride of possession. The idea of partnership was alien to the age, and to both of them.

Rob  •  Link

@Dick: The diary is recording, bit by bit, the slow crumbling of their marriage.

Even though Sam's comments in his diary do not always reflect "the perfect marriage" whatever that may be, then or now, I am convinced that Sam loved his Elisabeth dearly. There is some genuine and deep grief expressed in his later diary and letters concerning her death.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"wrestling, which I never saw so much of before, between the north and west countrymen."

David Ross McIrvine, thank you for the historical perspective on Bartholomew Fair customs of competitions.

L&M add that exponents of Cornish-Devon wrestling…
and Cumberland-Westmorland wrestling…
often competed in this way in London parks, etc.

Third Reading

LKvM  •  Link

Re Vicente's "Note they[Pepis] started wedded blis in a garret and one maid slepping on a trestle bed, . . ."
I don't believe they had a maid sleeping on a trestle bed in the garret days, since Sam remarks at some point that Elizabeth herself washed his dirty clothes. I believe Jane was added when they were in their first house, at the beginning of the diary.

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