Saturday 6 July 1661

Waked this morning with news, brought me by a messenger on purpose, that my uncle Robert is dead, and died yesterday; so I rose sorry in some respect, glad in my expectations in another respect. So I made myself ready, went and told my uncle Wight, my Lady, and some others thereof, and bought me a pair of boots in St. Martin’s, and got myself ready, and then to the Post House and set out about eleven and twelve o’clock, taking the messenger with me that came to me, and so we rode and got well by nine o’clock to Brampton, where I found my father well. My uncle’s corps in a coffin standing upon joynt-stools in the chimney in the hall; but it begun to smell, and so I caused it to be set forth in the yard all night, and watched by two men. My aunt I found in bed in a most nasty ugly pickle, made me sick to see it. My father and I lay together tonight, I greedy to see the will, but did not ask to see it till to-morrow.

33 Annotations

First Reading

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"sorry in some respect,glad in my expectations in another respect" he doesn't lie to himself!

daniel  •  Link

" a nasty ugly pickle"

it is interesting to read this expression being used in this time but what does Sam mean by it here? i use "to be in a pickle" to mean to be in quite a predicament. is that how others use it? a viewpoint from the right side of the pond?

Terry  •  Link

Daniel: If "the right side of the pond" means Britain, then yes, I use "to be in a pickle" in exactly the same way as you.

Alan Bedford  •  Link

" coffin standing upon joynt-stools in the chimney in the hall"

In seventeenth-century usage, "chimney" would mean a large fireplace (from the French cheminee) as well as the flue.

A "joint stool" is built and assembled using pegs, without glue or nails. They were fairly common in the 17th century. Here are pictures:…

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...most nasty ugly pickle, made me sick to see it..." Obviously Sam was not pleased with Auntie's behavior. Drunk (pickled) perhaps? Certainly not in a condition to handle things as our Sam would think proper...(ie no hot dinner of good venison pasty awaiting him and Dad on their arrival) Though in fairness to the poor lady she was probably distracted to see the vultures gathering, ready to cast her out into the street, including that nice, brightly attentive nephew her deceased hubs had put such store in...

Louis  •  Link

"My aunt I found in bed in a most nasty ugly pickle, made me sick to see it."

L&M Companion, Large Glossary:
PICKLE, to be in a:
to be in a state, a mess: 1573, a proverbial phrase that P usually intensifies (with e.g. "ugly," &c.)

---citing this passage. As will be apparent almost immediately, this seems to refer to Pepys's aunt being in a really disagreeable state of mind.

Bradford  •  Link

"I greedy to see the will."

Well aren't we all.

If this were a novel, what would you expect to happen next?

Jbailey  •  Link

I wonder if the aunt is "in a pickle" because she knows she will not inherit the estate.

Anyone know what inheritance laws were like in the 17th Century? Will the aunt be left destitute?

vicente  •  Link

Many cannot handle tragedy. This being, she burying a second husband and there not being any legitimate issue to console her. It appears that he had many holdings, there is a will, once available on the Webb but has been withdrawn. Needs a Maudlin visit [Magdalene Coll:] to get the gory details. A pickle, steeped in brine no doubt. Some others would call this situation, a bit of a stew;{ I.E. in rather little bit of a mess, cannot put on the stiff upper lip, not up to receiving "the down from the city gents".}. Of course Sammy is saddle sore, thirsty,hungry for a bite to eat, after 75 miles or there about in the saddle for nine hours , spending his time breaking in new boots too.
I'm sure he had a quick quaff, and change of nags every couple of hours, the old nag would not make it. Even tho it is not very hilly, there are some climbs that would make ye puff.

vicente  •  Link

Sam's the last trip: a mare from Mr.Gartwayt's stable, early start, foul weather , and rode to Ware, baited at Puckeridge and rested at Foulmer.…
trip route?
5 London, Waltham, Hoddesdon, Ware, [Wadesmill,Puckeridge]Royston, Huntingdon,[not Stilton][ not yet a Toll road, many post houses etc.,]…

vicente  •  Link

An Important Bill in the works that will affect S. Pepes , then there is a penal laws Bill against priests, confirmed. Then on monday the Unelected ones, best turn up in the best finery Monday, also the Elected ones were also warned to be on their best behaviour.
"....Bill for regulating the Navy...."
From: British History Online
Source: House of Lords Journal Volume 11: 6 July 1661. House of Lords Journal Volume 11, ().
Date: 07/07/2004
Copyright 2003 University of London & History of Parliament Trust

Pedro.  •  Link

"and so I caused it to be set forth in the yard all night, and watched by two men"

Many years before Burke and Hare, but were "body-snatchers" abroad in these times?

Tom Ferguson  •  Link

"... I greedy to see the will, but did not ask to see it till to- morrow."

A mixture of tenses, presumably this was written some time later. From notes or from memory?

Xjy  •  Link

Vulture Sam
Love is a flower that withers and dies
Love is like a Rose.
But Property, Property sticks,
And Property, Property grows...

He's much more excited about his prospects for improvement and status (land land land) than he is sad about the passing of a relative he had little living contact with. Property relations determining degree of closeness, or vice versa? What do you do with relatives when their significance for care in old age or inheritance disappears? Send them Xmas cards, that's what :-) if you can be bothered.

Ruben  •  Link

What about a dog or other animal?
Then, may be, to watch him, was part of the honour given to Uncle Robert.

BradW  •  Link

"and so I caused it to be set forth in the yard all night, and watched by two men"

were "body-snatchers" abroad in these times?

Let’s not forget the reason for “wakes” in those centuries—there were a few genuine “resurrections” (cases where people were mistaken pronounced dead prematurely), and plenty of rumors and wild stories. See Paul Theroux’s thrilling non-fiction “The Great Train Robbery” for an account of how a Victorian obsession with mistaken death proclamations played into one of the greatest crimes of the 19th Century.

Stolzi  •  Link

Sitting up with the body

Pedro, this was the custom as recently as the middle of last century, when my uncle was buried from the family farmhouse in Georgia. We didn't all sit up, but a couple of men did.

(Nowadays when bodies repose at funeral homes, there will also be someone there, awake, I believe.)

Nix  •  Link

17th Century inheritance laws --

I know a (very) little bit, from law school 30 years ago:

The widow would have "dower" rights in the estate, meaning that she is entitled to a portion of the income from the real estate owned by the deceased. The aunt knew from the day of marriage that she would not inherit, because women could not own property on their own.

If there is no valid will, the rest of the estate passes by "inheritance" -- the law specifies the priority of various relatives to receive it. Technically, the term "heir" applies only to those who receive property by operation of the law, and not by will.

If there is a will, the recipients are called "devisees" (those who receive a devise -- a gift of real estate) and "legatees" (those who receive a legacy -- a gift of personal property).

To make it more complicated, some forms of property can pass ONLY by inheritance, so go to the "heirs at law" even if there is a valid will purporting to give it to someone else. The documentation of the history of a particular piece of property is therefore critical, and of course there was endless controversy and litigation over the technicalities of wills and deeds -- especially if the estate was large enough. For readers of Dickens, the name "Jarndyce" sort of sums it all up.

Nix  •  Link

... and for readers of tabloids, substitute the name "Anna Nicole".

JWB  •  Link

"...made me sick to see it."
I take this to be literal truth. Taken after the half jocular(to modern ears) "pickle" phrase, I think his meaning distorted. Who among us hasn't known that nausea? I've seen one will in my family from about this time in which the surviving wife was stipulated to be cared for by the eldest son, was given exclusive use of a patch ground(not title to), I suppose the kitchen garden, and some cows, even calling the cows by name.

Mary  •  Link


The watch held over Uncle Robert's corpse would have been dictated on various grounds; ceremonial and cultural (as detailed above) and also practical. Foxes would be a probable cause for concern at this time of year; cubs, well grown and hungry, are just starting to learn how to hunt with the dog-fox and the vixen rather than waiting for food to be brought back to the earth.

Ruben  •  Link

"he had little living contact with" (uncle Robert).
This is not sure. When a boy SP probably lodged at this uncle house, near his school.

Ruben  •  Link

From an annotation from Pauline on Sun 9 May 2004, 12:42 am
Pepys, Robert..."In Aug. 1630 he married Anne, widow of Richard Trice, at All Saints, Huntingdon, and then or soon after moved to the house at Brampton which [Sam} was ultimately to inherit and where it is likely that he lived when attending Huntingdon school c. 1642-c.1644...
The first of four paragraphs in the L&M Companions"

David Tiley  •  Link

Seems a very literal interpretation of the pickle and sick words to me.

It is probably a touch acerbic, but possibly not lacking in compassion. Her "pickle" could surely have been her extremity of grief caused by the death of a husband and not just the problem of her future. And Pepys' own "sickness" could have something of empathy and pity. He is face to face here with the emotional realities of death.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"My aunt I found in bed in a most nasty ugly pickle"

3. Condition, state. Shakespeare.
---A Dictionary Of The English Language. Samuel Johnson, 1756.

The word seems to have had a neutral meaning for this other Sam. Our Sam used the word "pickle" on 26 September 1660 and there are more annotations there.…

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Whatever was meant by "in a nasty, ugly pickle," Sam seems pretty cold-hearted. His aunt has just lost her husband, and all he can say is that her state made him sick! That and the will, of course. Sam's character is deteriorating in my estimation. He doesn't mention his father's reaction. I wonder if he was as cold to his father who has lost a brother.

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

I don't think you can necessarily interpret "made me sick" in the modern sense as implying disgust. I interpreted it as his Aunt being in a terrible mess, and he being very disturbed at the sight of it, perhaps more like "sick to one's stomach" today.

john  •  Link

A corpse in the garden would be fair game for many scavengers (pigs, canids, birds).

Weavethe hawk  •  Link

I think Sasha is close to the mark. He probably found her in bed, looking pretty rough, and maybe smelling not too sweet.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED offers:

‘pickle . . II. Extended uses. 4. a. A (usually disagreeable) condition or situation; a plight, a predicament. Now colloq.
. . a1616 Shakespeare Tempest (1623) v. i. 284 Alo. How cam'st thou in this pickle? Tri. I hauve bin in such a pickle since I saw you last, That [etc.].
. . 1672 H. Herbert Narr. in Camden Misc. (1990) XXX. 323 Their superiours..were in the same pickle.
1711 R. Steele Spectator No. 302. ⁋11, I am ashamed to be caught in this Pickle.
1742 H. Fielding Joseph Andrews II. iv. ix. 242 She was ashamed to be seen in such a Pickle . . ‘

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

On this day in far-off Boston, Mass., a small boy from Hampshire first landed in his Promised Lane. He grew up to be Judge Samuel Sewell of Salem Witch trials fame. He lived long enough to apologize for that miscarriage of justice.

Sam Sewell kept a Diary for 60-odd years, and also wrote down his life story for his son. This except comes from that letter which is part of the Introduction:

"I remember being at Bishop Stoke and Badesly, April 23, 1661, the day of the Coronation of Charles II the Thunder and Lightening of it.

"Quickly after my Mother went to Winchester with 5 small Children, Hannah, Samuel, John, Stephen and Jane; and John Nash and Mary Hobs her Servants, there to be in a readiness for the Pool Waggons.

"At this place her near Relations, especially my very worthy and pious Uncle
Mr. Stephen Dummer took leave with Tears. Capt. Dummer of Swathling treated us with Raisins and Almonds.

"My Mother lodged in Pumpyard, London, waiting for the going of the Ship, the Prudent Mary, Capt. Isaac Woodgreen, Commander. Went by water to Gravesend where the Ship lay.
Took in Sheep at Dover.

"Passengers in the Ship at the same time were Major Brown, a young brisk Merchant and a considerable Freighter; Mr. Gilbert and his wife, He was Minister at Topsfield; Madam Bradstreet, then Gardener; Mrs Martha, Mr. Pitkin’s Sister, who died lately at Windsor, and many others.

"We were about 8 weeks at Sea, where we had nothing to see but Water and the Sky; so that I began to fear I should never get to Shore again; only I thought the Capt. and Mariners would not have ventured themselves if they had not hopes of getting to Land again.

"Capt. Woodgreen arrived here [BOSTON, MASS.] on Saturday. I was overjoyed to see Land again, especially being so near it as in the Narrows. 'Twas so late by that time we got to the Castle, that our men held a discourse with them whether they should fire or no, and reckoned 't was agreed not to do it.
But presently after the Castle fired; which much displeased the Ship's Company; and then they fired.

"On the Lord’s day my Mother kept aboard; but I went ashore, the Boat
grounded, and I was carried out in arms July 6, 1661."

Vol. I. -- 1674-1700.…

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