Tuesday 2 July 1661

To Westminster Hall and there walked up and down, it being Term time. Spoke with several, among others my cozen Roger Pepys, who was going up to the Parliament House, and inquired whether I had heard from my father since he went to Brampton, which I had done yesterday, who writes that my uncle is by fits stupid, and like a man that is drunk, and sometimes speechless.

Home, and after my singing master had done, took coach and went to Sir William Davenant’s Opera; this being the fourth day that it hath begun, and the first that I have seen it. To-day was acted the second part of “The Siege of Rhodes.” We staid a very great while for the King and the Queen of Bohemia. And by the breaking of a board over our heads, we had a great deal of dust fell into the ladies’ necks and the men’s hair, which made good sport. The King being come, the scene opened; which indeed is very fine and magnificent, and well acted, all but the Eunuch, who was so much out that he was hissed off the stage.

Home and wrote letters to my Lord at sea, and so to bed.

27 Annotations

First Reading

Bradford  •  Link

"by the breaking of a board over our heads, we had a great deal of dust fell into the ladies' necks and the men's hair, which made good sport.”

So doth humour change from age to age. Imagine the same scene today.

Josh  •  Link

"well acted, all but the Eunuch, who was so much out that he was hissed off the stage."

"out" = did not know his lines, did not deliver them well, or (you've seen it happen) both combined

Louis Anthony Scarsdale  •  Link

"my uncle is by fits stupid, and like a man that is drunk, and sometimes speechless."

Many readers, alas, will probably recognize these alternating states as signs of a massive stroke.

daniel  •  Link

Siege of Rhodes

Davenant's work was first staged in 1655 and is considered the first opera in the English language. Having an all-sung drama was convenient in a time when spoken theatre was out-lawed, as well as innovative. a revival in the latter sixties though, cut the music out almost entirely, so the innovation didn't really catch on.

daniel  •  Link

the Eunuch

Eunuch singers were all the rage in Italy at this time. Spain likewise had an appreciation for their unusual art. France and German speaking countries seemed to receive them more coolly, prefering them heard and not seen. England too was more ambivalent until the great Italian stars of the mid-eighteenth century (Farinelli, Seresino) took the stage by storm.

i wonder if this fellow was of mediocre talent as well as being a discomforting sight for the unaccustomed British audience at this time.

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

Perhaps 'stupid' in this context means 'in a stupor' rather than the more modern meaning of the word?

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

my uncle is by fits stupid, and like a man that is drunk, and sometimes speechless. Home, and after my singing master had done,

A morality play in miniature, showing two of the ages of man....

vicente  •  Link

The Locals being not modern medicos, would not under stand the signs of strokes, even in this 21C, I had a friend that the Policia [and they are exposed to seminars, out lining medical problems] thought he was drunk & he was actually having a massive series of strokes. They took their [*]time before they called an ambulance to the scene.
When people have problems with brain mis-activities, they appear to always go with the low IQ function Output rather than all the possibilities that they may be present.

Ruben  •  Link

You are so right. The poor uncle may had different kind of fits. We do not have enough information or signs to diagnose.
Today I would not dare make a diagnosis "by phone". But this uncle, and SP himself are not with us anymore, so I will try: "fits" was used to describe a short attack of unconsciousness, as in a epileptic attack. Lets assume it was the consequence of a cerebral vascular episode. He had a disarthria (difficulty to speak) or disphasia or aphasia (meaning he could not understand or explain himself). Then the local barber came to his help and took from him a quarter or two of blood from "the proper side" were I presume he was paralized. If the family could pay for it he gave him some nice purgative, to "clean" his bowels by a diahrrea. After this treatments he was left completely dehidrated, reducing his chances of recovery.

Tom Ferguson  •  Link

"... and so to bed." Is this the first time yet?

vicente  •  Link

Davenant http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclo…
Sir William Davenant (February, 1606 - April 7, 1668), also spelled D'Avenant, was an English poet and playwright.
A quote that is apropro:
"For I must go where lazy Peace
Will Hide her drowsy head;
And, for the sport of kings, increase
The number of the dead."
from:The Soldier Going to the Field

Alan Bedford  •  Link

""and so to bed." Is this the first time yet?

No, I believe that the first time Sam’s ‘signature phrase’ appeared was over a year ago.

dirk  •  Link

more about "The Siege of Rhodes"

"(...)in 1656, the first English opera - The Siege of Rhodes - was played before a paying audience at Rutland House in London.

No puritan troops turned up to stop it, and the show proved so popular that Davenant wrote a sequel - The Siege of Rhodes, Part II - as well as two jingoistic dramas promoting Cromwell's foreign policy, The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru and The History of Sir Francis Drake. Cromwell died prematurely in 1657, and it became clear that a restoration of the Stuarts - and with them all the traditional British liberties, including the stage - would soon follow. And so opera in English was born, an illegitimate child of the puritan decade. Like many of his compatriots, following the Restoration, Davenant was much preoccupied with the events of the preceding years, and so began to stage works that reflected the recent political traumas.


Sam saw a performance of the *2nd* part mentioned above.

daniel  •  Link

very well put, Dirk!

as I mentioned, a revival of "siege" had no music implying that the original intent was simply to perform drama during a puritan age. English Opera as an illegitimate child of the times didn't really ever take off. a couple of decades later a form of "semi-opera" became popular which consisted of a spoken drama with a whole lot of show stopping music, much in the vein of today's musicals. All-sung drama didn't really become popular until Italian opera arrived around the time of the first Hanoverian king.

it is nice to see Sam enjoying something rather cutting edge despite the eunuch.

Bradford  •  Link

As Daniel says, "semi-opera" was a gorgeous spectacle; by the time Purcell was producing "The Faery Queen" and "King Arthur" later in the century, the strange convention had arisen where the main characters (think Titania, Oberon, and Arthur) were not permitted to sing, only the less grand characters. Short operas by Blow ("Venus and Adonis") and Purcell ("Dido and Aeneas") overrode this notion; but their example did not catch on. Handel's operas were in Italian, his "dramatic oratorios" in English---indeed, one has to wait till Thomas ("Rule Britannia") Arne's "Artaxerxes," in the late 1700s, before you got opera, in English, sung throughout. But Sam Pepys, like Sam Johnson, might have rated that an "exotic, irrational entertainment."

dirk  •  Link


re - Daniel
Just want to make clear the wording in my previous annotation was not mine. I merely quoted from the site.

PHE  •  Link

And so to bed
First appearance was as early as 15th January 1660 (from a wordsearch on the Wheatly text)

Douglas Robertson  •  Link

The Eunuch--"so much out"--possibly "so much off-key"?

heldmyw  •  Link


Who hasn't wanted to go out of an evening, quaff a couple liters of Rhenish and hiss a eunuch?

It's a rite of passage and a common Friday night amusement here in Detroit.

I mean... when I was a kid... ah. Another time.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"and so to bed." Is this the first time yet?

Not at all. I count three times in January 1659/60, the first on 4 January, and five times in February 1659/60.

Bill  •  Link

Davenant's opera of the "Siege of Rhodes" was published in 1656. The author afterwards wrote a second part, which Pepys saw. The two parts, as altered, and as acted at Lincoln's Inn Fields, were published in 1663.
---Wheatley, 1899.

Beaulind  •  Link

re: the uncle; signs of Alzheimers, perhaps

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"The King being come, the scene opened;"

Throughout the Restoration period, and indeed, until the later 19th century, the main scenic system of the English theatre consisted of wings fronting pairs of large flats, all of which were moved in grooves arranged at intervals on the floor and flies of the stage. During the Restoration period the stage curtain was rarely used to conceal a change of scene; as Pepys indicates here, one pair of large flats was usually drawn aside to reveal another scene arranged behind them on wings backed by another pair of flats. The scenery for the Siege of Rhodes was designed by Jack Webb. According to Downes (p. 20), the 'Scenes and Decorations' at Lincoln's Inn Fields were 'the first that e'er were Introduc'd in England'. It is more accurate to say, however, that the Lincoln's Inn's Fields Theatre was the first public theatre in England in which painted settings were continuously used.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"the Eunuch, who was so much out that he was hissed off the stage."

This part was taken by John Downes, who became prompter at this theatre in 1663, and in 1708 published his invaluable Roscius Anglicanus https://archive.org/stream/rosciu…
in which he admits (p. 34) his failure in this performance and attributes it to the 'August presence' of Charles II. (L&M note)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"went to Sir William Davenant’s Opera; this being the fourth day that it hath begun, and the first that I have seen it."

L&M: Pepys here refers to the new theatre in Portugal Row, Lincoln's Inn Fields, yo wjoch Davenant had transferred the Duke of York's Company from the Salisbury Court Theatre, Whitefriars. Like Thomas Killigrew's Theatre Royal in nearby Vere St, the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre was a converted tennis-court building. Davenant equipped it with a proscenium arch and proscenium doors and used movable scenery on it. These facts partly explain Pepys's application of the term 'opera' to this theatre, for opera at this time was closely associated with the use of painted scenery and stage machines. Pepys's reference is now generally accepted as fixing the date of the opening of this theatre at 28 June 1661. Downes states (p. 20) that the opening was 'in Spring, 1662', but his dating is evidently incorrect, for Pepys mentions another performance at this theatre on 11 September 1661. https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/…

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