Sunday 28 July 1661

(Lord’s day). This morning as my wife and I were going to church, comes Mrs. Ramsay to see us, so we sent her to church, and we went too, and came back to dinner, and she dined with us and was wellcome.

To church again in the afternoon, and then come home with us Sir W. Pen, and drank with us, and then went away, and my wife after him to see his daughter that is lately come out of Ireland. I staid at home at my book; she came back again and tells me that whereas I expected she should have been a great beauty, she is a very plain girl.

This evening my wife gives me all my linen, which I have put up, and intend to keep it now in my own custody.

To supper and to bed.

26 Annotations

First Reading

RexLeo  •  Link

Semblance of normalcy after a long time; normal Sunday rest and relaxation - "whereas I expected she should have been a great beauty" - Was P. stupid enough to conjecture about the girl to his wife?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"she is a very plain girl" don't believe it Sam.

Tim Bray  •  Link

Linen? Sam's a sensitive seventeenth-century new-age guy who's gonna manage his own undies?

Bradford  •  Link

Or bedlinens? Or table napkins? Or did the thieves abscond with some of his 17th-century Y-fronts too?

JWB  •  Link

Do you suppose with all his recent time in the saddle that his incision is seeping and poor Sam's embarrassed?

Bob T  •  Link

Sam was talking about table cloths, bed sheets etc. I remember these items being called linen, when I was a kid. They were at that time, quite valuable, and well worth stealing. Sam doesn't trust one of his servants. His sister perhaps?

dirk  •  Link


I'm intrigued by this. Bob T's suggestion doesn't quite fit the picture, I think. If Sam had been worried about the linen being stolen, he would probably have insisted on putting *all* the household linen in a safe place - not just his.

Also the fact that he specifically mentions "my linen" and "in my own custody" suggests personal stuff to me.

Not that this "fait divers" is so terribly important, but I really wonder what this is all about, and why.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Linen" who is going to wash the dirty linen? I don't think it is underwear.

George R. Cunningham  •  Link

Until his rather recent death, my very British (and very Victorian) grandfather referred to his shirts, handkerchiefs, and "small clothes" as his linen......wonder if this is the same usage?

vicente  •  Link

'linens'[flax]when worn out, given to the ragman for a farthing,then became ones nice note paper to rite ones love letters. 'Tis that fine Irish, inner, mostly outer clothing, and on the table for impressing ones up scale guests. 'Tis wot thee put in ye olde box that was once called the Linen closet. As for nicking[stealing], many were dragged to the Sessions and could be hung drawn & quartered for the borrowing of the Missus fine linen [ see the old Bailey ], or if ye had nice legs would be sent to the Colonies to work off 'ye olde debt' to Society. [Just read a Bio of Thomas Paine that explained his early witnessing of the Quarterly Sessions, that may have been why he had his version of justice in the Constitution]
"My linens" veddy expensive only for Hi days and when the Rev. or Curate did come to Visit.…

simatbirch  •  Link

Yes, linen, it's called linen, get over it.

Pauline  •  Link

" wife gives me all my linen..."
I think it's another step away from their life in Axe Yard, where they lived in small apartments with all of their personal things mingled. Now they have many rooms and Sam speaks of her room and his room as well as a room they share for sleeping. The recent remodeling may have given him a "closet"/dressing room of his own and now Elizabeth has sorted his things out for his own "custody". This may also mean that Will will take on some valet responsibilities?

Mary  •  Link

'to keep it now in my own custody'

Sam complained some months ago about the standard of housekeeping and, specifically, that his own linen had not been properly put up (i.e. put away). Methodical in everything, it sounds as if Sam is finally fed up with having his linen stuffed away any old how in the press and is taking matters into his own hands.

Kat  •  Link

I don't know how much this applies to England but in central Europe linen was an essential part of a young girl's dowry, usually decorated with her initials done by herself. This was not just for training her needlework skills - but also for simple legal reasons. When the head of the family died and the household was dissolved it was essential that those items the widow had brought into marriage (and which belonged to her) could easily be identified and handed over to her. So distinguishing between 'his' and 'her' linen was not as unusual as we would think. Maybe Sam is referring to something similar?

Mary  •  Link

Personal linen.

Good point, Kat. Think of The Mill on the Floss and Mrs. Tulliver's despair at the thought of her own linen passing out of the family as a result of their bankruptcy.

Nigel Pond  •  Link

To George's point, I recall my mother (born in 1918 and still going strong) when I was growing up referring to underwear etc as "smalls", table cloths and napkins as "table linen" and sheets etc as "bed linen".

Glyn  •  Link

Pepys has his own chamber with table etc. (and with a bed in it?). He is punctiliously neat and ordered: his younger wife is extremely untidy (one of the things I like about her) and I doubt if Pall is any better. So I imagine that once washed, Sam is going to store things for himself so they won't get creased or disordered.

The only other explanations is that he's worried about sneak thieves walking off with valuable damask tableclothes and so on, which if true seems like an overreaction.

So: on the first explanation, he will make his wife feel guilty about her poor housekeeping skills; on the second explanation, he will make her feel guilty about not keeping the house secure while he's away. And in both cases without an open quarrel - married life, don't you just love it?

vicente  •  Link

Before H[irer]P[urchase]/credit card, it certainly was a tradition for the Premarried young Ladies to fund a supply of linens, bed and table before tripping down the aisle to the sunset.
[pre nuptial agreements too]. It was also true, for most of those that had the Funds to have their own private living area and would knock on the dressing room that separated the sleeping quarters, for the visit de conjugals.[pre viagra]All signs of joining the betters or upward mobility.
'tis the game of life.

Bob T  •  Link

I still don't think that Sam was just engaging in a compulsive behaviour, and putting his stuff away. Recently a tankard and a "cloak" were stolen, and someone queried why only these items were taken. Their selection seems logical if it was an inside job. The tankard could easily be concealed, and the cloak belonged to a servant. They were both easily available, and may not have been missed for a couple of days. Maybe Sam thought as I do, and locked his stuff away.

E  •  Link

"Putting up" an item of clothing usually meant the final stage of getting it ready for wearing -- ironing and shaping (possibly assembling with light stitching) a bonnet or a collar, say. I think the word usage lasted as long as starched bonnets and collars, into the 20th century.

My first reaction was that Pepys could not be doing this, but of course he did know how, he was brought up in a tailor's! I expect he did just his visible linen -- collars or cravats, and possibly in July weather his shirts.

Interesting that he doesn't say why ... a protest at household standards? a wish to experiment with new ways of tying his cravat? a problem with startched items softening quickly in summer humidity since ironing day ?

Michelle Westlake  •  Link

The term 'linen', especially when described as 'my linen' definitely referred to shirts, undershirts etc. See Capt Marryat's 'Children of the New Forest' (admittedly written much later, or descriptions from linen-deprived shipwreck survivors in 'Castaways' (sorry, author forgotten). Items of linen required continual mending and general upkeep. Possibly Sam just wanted quick and easy access to his own gear, or was unhappy with the way it was being maintained. If you want a job done well...

Second Reading

Adam  •  Link

I'm betting Elizabeth has long figured out to describe any woman Sam shows an interest in as plain.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Whatever linen Sam was referring to, as a man of his times, he tended to refer to nearly everything as "my" and "mine". Everything belonged to the man of the house though he might have referred to some of his wife's very intimate clothing as "hers." So there is no way of knowing whether Sam was referring to his own personal linen or household lnen such as sheets and tablecloths. It was ALL his but for a few personal items he would concede to his wife's ownership. Different world. Linens of any type were very expensive then. He would have been much more careful and focused on them than most people would be today. Thieves would hardly steal linens of any type today, though household help might filch the nicer household things.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘linen n. <Old English . . Made of flax. In modern English apprehended chiefly as an attributive use of the n., with the sense: Made of linen.
. . 3. collect. a. Garments or other articles made of linen; often by extension applied to garments normally or originally made of linen, even when other materials are actually used. Often spec. = undergarments, e.g. shirts; also = bed-linen, table-linen. to wash one's dirty linen at home : to say nothing in public about family affairs, disputes, or scandals. to wash one's dirty linen in public : to discuss an essentially private matter, esp. a dispute or scandal, in public.
. . 1600 Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream iv. ii. 35 In any case let Thisby have cleane linnen.
. . 1702 London Gaz. No. 3809/5, A Party of 30 of Paul Diack's Hussars..took away the Linnen that was hanged out to dry upon the Palisades.
. . 1801 M. Edgeworth Forester in Moral Tales I. 162 He..bespoke a suit of clothes. He bought new linen.
. .1867 Trollope Last Chron. Barset II. xliv. 2 There is bad as washing one's dirty linen in public . . ‘

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"my wife after him to see his daughter that is lately come out of Ireland. "

Penn had estates in co. Cork, and was Governor of Kinsale. This was his pnly daughter (Peg). (L&M note)

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... and then come home with us Sir W. Pen, and drank with us, and then went away, and my wife after him to see his daughter that is lately come out of Ireland. I staid at home at my book; she came back again and tells me that whereas I expected she should have been a great beauty, she is a very plain girl."

Peg was born in 1651, so she's 10. Pre-teens can be scrawny, pimply and unattractive. I expect the Admiral had been boasting about his beautiful daughter for months, so there was no way reality could measure up. Caterpillars turn into butterflies, Pepys.

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