Saturday 24 August 1661

At the office all the morning and did business; by and by we are called to Sir W. Batten’s to see the strange creature that Captain Holmes hath brought with him from Guiny; it is a great baboon, but so much like a man in most things, that though they say there is a species of them, yet I cannot believe but that it is a monster got of a man and she-baboon. I do believe that it already understands much English, and I am of the mind it might be taught to speak or make signs.

Hence the Comptroller and I to Sir Rd. Ford’s and viewed the house again, and are come to a complete end with him to give him 200l. per an. for it.

Home and there met Capt. Isham inquiring for me to take his leave of me, he being upon his voyage to Portugal, and for my letters to my Lord which are not ready. But I took him to the Mitre and gave him a glass of sack, and so adieu, and then straight to the Opera, and there saw “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” done with scenes very well, but above all, Betterton1 did the prince’s part beyond imagination.

Hence homeward, and met with Mr. Spong and took him to the Sampson in Paul’s churchyard, and there staid till late, and it rained hard, so we were fain to get home wet, and so to bed.

41 Annotations

First Reading

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"and I am of the mind it might be taught to speak or make signs"
It probably was a chimpazee,the ape most closely related to man;SP was way ahead of the times!

Australian Susan  •  Link

The strange Ape
Maybe a gorilla? They look more like humans than chimps do, but maybe they were not discovered until the 19th century. Food for thought: the famous gorilla, Ko-Ko, has a higher IQ than the Port Arthur killer, Martin Bryant.
Sam talks of "signs". Was there a developed sign language for the deaf in those days? Or does he just mean obvious signs like for "yes" and "no"?

Sjoerd  •  Link

A chimp seems more likely then a Gorilla. I have seen somewhere that Sam's other boss Downing was very much "into" sign language. Don't know if it was just as an amusement or in aid of his spying activities. So probably some form of sign language was not so unheard of (pardon the pun).

ellen  •  Link

Why not a baboon? I believe they are thought to be the most intelligent of the apelike animals.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...yet I cannot believe but that it is a monster got of a man and she- baboon..." Sam Pepys, near-miss 17th century sci-fi writer...Damn...Oh, well then we'd never have gotten the Diary.

David Ross McIrvine  •  Link

Some material on Sir Robert Holmes from
a BBC page at…

"After the Glorious Restoration of Charles II in 1660, he took service with the Royal African Company and was placed in charge of the squadron sailing for West Africa. Spoils from his harassment of the Dutch off West Africa's Guinea Coast included the first Baboon brought to England, which Pepys describes in his diary in 1661. He also brought Guinea gold to the United Kingdom; the English Guinea coin is named after his exploits."

This is the Sir Robert Holmes in the
annotations section under people with
a great link by vincent.

BTW, I've seen it speculated that it was
a chimp or gorilla it brought back. Maybe same mentions if its buttocks are red elsewhere (and with the Fall TErm about to begin, I can't resist suggesting that rudimentary intelligence and red hindquarters might still be descriptors of another lower primate--say a first-year faculty member?)

David Ross McIrvine  •  Link

Baboons as brainy as Ko Ko

Thinking of our debate on how the
brains of Ko Ko compare to the average baboon's, I can't resist this limerick from Ezra Pound:

"There once was a brainy baboon
Who always breathed down a bassoon
For he said, ''It appears
That in billions of years
I shall certainly hit on a tune.''

vicente  •  Link

baboon + dwg:…
Guinea baboon from West Africa.…

I trust it was not this animal, Charles II of London would have enjoyed the science of this version of primate. Would have been a very popular entertainer. "...sharing 98.4% of their genetic makeup. Their similarity to humans has long been recognized by the indigenous people who have resided with bonobos for thousands of years. Their legends tell of a bonobo saving a man's life, how the bonobos showed man what food was available in the forest and how bonobos have tried to become human...." P.S. The sexual activities would have been condemned by the Cromwell crowd.

john lauer  •  Link

"got of a man and she-baboon";
"it already understands much English,"

How could Sam, an astute observer, believe any of this?

vicente  •  Link

This statement lends me to believe that they had seen Baboons before. "...I cannot believe but that it is a monster got of a man and she- baboon. I do believe that it already understands much English,..." So why not a Lowland.Just because the Ladds at FRS have not documented it, it does not mean that one did not come to London town.

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Baboon thoughts
My first thought was the same as Ellen's - why not a baboon? But then I thought of a couple of reasons why it seems unlikely. First, although intelligent, baboons are reputedly vicious and dangerous, and would be less likely to be kept as a domestic pet than a chimp. Second, Sam seems to have had some concept of what a baboon should look like, and thought this creature looked more like a human, speculating that it is the offspring of a man and a baboon.

BTW, since Australian Susan mentioned Koko, I would suggest that not all reports on Koko be taken at face value. Ms. Patterson, Koko's "mentor", is more adept as a publicist than as a scientist, and I think it is fair to say that primatologists do not take the claims about Koko's behavior too seriously. Apologies for straying off topic.

JWB  •  Link

Sam et al.,the sailors at least, surely would have known baboons indigenous to Gibralter and N.Africa. He does specify "great baboon" which could indicate he marked the difference.

Linda  •  Link

Not a question about baboons but-when did Shakespeare die? I was wondering how contemporary he was with Pepys

DrCari  •  Link

Regarding Koko:

Unless I am mistaken Koko is an Orangutan not a Baboon. The Primate Research Center where Koko resides is local to my area.
She continues to provide important insights into the formation of language skills. Koko recently underwent a minor surgical procedure. The impending procedure was explained to her and she signed (in ASL) a desire to meet the Stanford Medical Center clinicians who would be treating her. She was permitted to greet all of them prior to surgery, however when given a professional card by a female physician, she promptly ate it.

Mary  •  Link

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

L&M have an interesting footnote here. This version of Shakespeare's play had been adapted by Davenant. He had cut the original severely and changed some of the diction for the worse. The cast list included two women: Mrs. Davenport as Gertrude and Mrs. Sanderson as Ophelia.

Hamlet was played by Betterton, whose interpretation is said to have been derived via Davenant from Joseph Taylor, an actor who played with Shakespeare's King's Men shortly after Shakespeare himself had died.

Kevin Sheerstone  •  Link

Shakespeare died in 1616 and Sam was born in 1633, so not coeval. Interesting point though: Sam makes frequent comments on Shakespeare's works throughout the diary in a way that might be frowned on today, but to Sam "Shakespeare" was not a "subject", as it is today; he was simply a playwright of recent memory, and as such he was fair game for criticism, much as G.B Shaw (say) is now. Some like him - some don't.

Australian Susan  •  Link

"Barbary Ape"
This is the common name for the macaque monkey living around Gibralter. See…
However, these creatures, and any large monkey, were referred to as Baboons in the 17th and 18th centuries before proper classification of primates took place.
I know of someone in the 20th century in Southampton who had as a pet what they always called "our baboon" [called Charley]. It was actually a barbary macaque from Gibralter, brought back after Naval service in the 1st WW.Having read all these entries,
I think what Sam saw was a bonobo - they are the gentler type of chimp. Speaking of primates, whatever happened to Sam's monkey??

David Ross McIrvine  •  Link

"The cast list included two women: Mrs. Davenport as Gertrude and Mrs. Sanderson as Ophelia."

Mary observes a fact crucial in several
regards: D'Avenant was going to give the
people what they wanted--in these
circumstances, women actors (we used
to say "actresses") and "improved" Shakespeare.

But there have been times we should remember with pride, when males again
played the women of Shakespeare.

I wonder, therefore, if either Mrs. Davenport or Mrs. Sanderson was as pretty as my cousin, Brian McIrvine, who
played Gertrude (and many other mature
female roles) at Eichstatt POW camp
in 1944:…

That's Brian as Gertrude on the right, and various other British officers, including Michael Goodliffe, with him.


where Michael Goodliffe remembers:

"A very interesting side of our prison theatre was the attitude of the audiences. At first they would be easy to please, but we soon found that unless the presentation of female roles was intelligently tackled, any serious productions were impossible. Two or three clever actors solved this problem, so that our audiences accepted them exactly as the Elizabethans accepted their boy-actors."

Maurie Beck  •  Link


It sounds like Britain was just beginning to hit its stride in the seventeeth century with scientific expeditions. We recently saw evidence of a Cassowary from Northern Australian/New Guinea and now one of the great apes from Africa. From the description, it's impossible to say whether it was a gorilla, chimp, or bonobo. Humans are much more closely related to chimps and other great apes than the great apes are to baboons and other primates. However, only humans have fully developed language.

Ramona Higer  •  Link

Time and again the plays Mr. Pepys is attending were written and produced much earlier, the theatre and all to do with it having been closed during Cromwell's era. I often wonder, since a generation of playwrites were lost, how obscured Shakespeare's plays might have been had the theatre evolved and thrived w/o the interregnum

Dana Haviland  •  Link

Apologies to Dr Cari, but Koko is a 30 year old lowland gorilla. Everything else you write is correct, inclusive of the eating of business cards.

Rex Gordon  •  Link

Re: Two Women in the Cast

One of the most delightful performances I've ever seen in a Shakespeare play was Edward Gero as Mistress Quickly (Merry Wives) at the Sheakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC some years ago. The same company also cast a distinguished American actress, Pat Carroll, as Falstaff in 1st Henry IV and Merry Wives. Those of you who visit DC should make the Shakespeare Theatre a must-see ... this troupe is one of the best in the world, IMHO the equal of the RSC.

vicente  •  Link

speculation and 'uman nature. "..Speaking of primates, whatever happened to Sam's monkey??
Liza was in a pet
there be the grinder
with sign, wanted pet
clothes be fowled, so pet ye go.
Pets were, I should imagine, they be for the moment of pleasure.. Eliza Picard P180 [Rest: London] that in Elizas P’s painting, there be a pug.
then it further states that math calculation of Cats and Dogs be ten and two, for every house which she questions, but as she says it means there be lots of Cats and dogs, hence the expression no doubt ‘it is raining C…………..’

Ruben  •  Link

Re: Two Women in the Cast

Shakespeare wrote for male performers. If he knew that one day a female would play the parts of the females, maybe he would have written subtly different words.
I think it is the same problem as when a pianoforte plays XVI century music.
Or a women sings Orfeo.

Brian  •  Link

". . . for my letters to my Lord which are not ready." Sam writes this line, and then spends the afternoon at a play? Ah well, I guess it's pleasure before business, and not vice-versa.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: "However, only humans have fully developed language."

Tell that to the cetaceans, Maurie! :-)

Australian Susan  •  Link

Shakespeare in the interregnum
Was Shakespeare still acted in Oxford? This was a Royalist stronghold and the Court who lived there (during the Civil Wars) had time to have elaborate portraits painted. Did they also have plays put on?

David Ross McIrvine  •  Link

Hamlet was a role that was inherited
in (nearly) unbroken succession: Betterton was, according to Olivier,
the "third Hamlet," with D'Avenant
providing his link (across the Interregnum) to the "second Hamlet." From…

"Sir Laurence Olivier described, in On Acting, how the role of Hamlet has passed from actor to actor since Richard Burbage played the first Hamlet and then coached the second, Joseph Taylor. After the reopening of the theatres in 1660, William D'Avenant, who had seen Taylor's performance, directed Thomas Betterton. David Garrick studied and learned from some of the older members of Betterton's company, and Edmund Kean from the survivors of Garrick's and so on by direct tuition or through observation via Henry Irving, Olivier and Steven Berkoff to George Dillon!"

Pedro.  •  Link

"and it rained hard, so we were fain to get home wet."

On this day Sat 24 Aug 1661 the Rev. Josselyn writes..

"gathered in all corn, my harvest good to god be praise"

Must have been a brave Harvest Moon, but a different story in 2004:…

Joe W.  •  Link

Obviously, some of you guys did not research on History of Sign Langauge. Sign Language was invented around 1500's. And also, some of you guys did not read WHOLE Samuel Peyp's book carefully! In the diary, Peyps mentioned Sir George Downing used sign langauge with deaf children and he told a story about Great Fire of London. Sir George told deaf children that he was going to Martha's Vineyard. In Fact, Martha's Vineyard was former Deaf/Hearing Colonist during 1660's. Unfortunately, America History does not mention about History of disabilities in the past. How Arrogant Historians.

Sjoerd was a amusement! Like Arrogant.

vera  •  Link

Joe W. Pleae check some of your comments - they may be construed as offensive!-
A) A lot of us do not have access to the whole of the diary - thats why we come here.
B) Please do not make personal comments about other annotators!

Pedro  •  Link

"Captain Holmes hath brought with him from Guiny; it is a great baboon"

Did the baboon come from Guiny, and did in fact Holmes ever go to Guiny?

From the new background on Guiny, started by Terry, it seems the term Guiny was used loosely. The position seems to have changed over the years. See background on Guiny...…

On his first West African adventure Holmes went to the Gambia and the main objective was to search for gold mines there. He had sailed to the Gambia with Prince Rupert's fleet on their flight from Blake. Rupert had sailed 150 miles up the river Gambia to Elephant Island, and apart from seeing Unicorns, Rupert he brought away intelligence of a mountain of gold.

On his return Holmes sailed south as far as Sierra Leone before turning for England.

(Summary from Ollard's Man of War)

Michael Robinson  •  Link

I do believe that it already understands much English, and I am of the mind it might be taught to speak or make signs.

A direct anticipation of one of the ideas of Lord Monboddo, Origin and Progres of Language (1773)

James Boswell - Life of Johnson Vol_05 Page 13
"We talked of the Ouran-Outang, and of Lord Monboddo's thinking that he might be taught to speak. Dr. Johnson treated this with ridicule. Mr. Crosbie said, that Lord Monboddo believed the existence of every thing possible; in short, that all which is in posse might be found in esse. JOHNSON. 'But, Sir, it is as possible that the Ouran-Outang does not speak, as that he speaks. However, I shall not contest the point. I should have thought it not possible to find a Monboddo; yet he exists.' "…

Second Reading

Sjoerd Spoelstra  •  Link

Reading the above I must say Joe W. has a case. I could be quite arrogant in 2004. I am more pedantic now then arrogant.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"". . . for my letters to my Lord which are not ready." Sam writes this line, and then spends the afternoon at a play? Ah well, I guess it's pleasure before business, and not vice-versa."
Brian, before the play there is this: "I took him to the Mitre and gave him a glass of sack, and so adieu,..."

Bill  •  Link

Pedro, above and in the encyclopedia entry for Robert Holmes, gives a good summary (From Ollard's biography "Man of War") of Holmes' expedition to the River Gambia to look for gold. But Ollard makes a point that should be noted. This expedition rescued Holmes from possible obscurity to a position of naval prominence. And someone that Pepys would tussle with for the rest of both their careers.

"For Holmes himself the voyage was the turning point of his career. Before it he was an unknown ex-Cavalier, said to be a good man in a tight corner, whose abilities Rupert was known to value. He returned a commander of proved abilities. ... When any further expedition should be sent his knowledge and conduct would make him the obvious choice to command it."

Freotheric  •  Link

If the "great baboon" brought back by Captain Holmes was indeed a bonobo, it must have been a very hardy fellow to have survived a journey of 2500 miles in captivity, for the African traders can only have captured one south of the Congo – and extraordinarily lucky then to have survived another 3000 miles at sea in the conditions aboard an English ship. Was John Evelyn aware of the creature's existence? Or do any other diarists or letter-writers mention it?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"the strange creature that Captain Holmes hath brought with him from Guiny; it is a great baboon"

Holmes had in July returned from W. Africa. L&M say the creature was presumably a chimpanzee or gorilla. Stories about miscegenation were common. (L&M)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

" I am of the mind it might be taught to speak or make signs."

History of sign language
The recorded history of sign language in Western societies starts in the 17th century, as a visual language or method of communication.…

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

John, Lord Crewe, to Sandwich
Written from: Lincoln's Inn Fields
Date: 24 August 1661
Shelfmark: MS. Carte 73, fol(s). 579
Document type: Holograph. With seal of arms.

Expresses the sorrow with which the writer, in common with all Lord Sandwich's other friends, heard of his illness at Alicante. Happily all suspense was soon removed by the arrival of better news.

Lord Chancellor [Clarendon] shewed an especial concern, and is assuredly a real friend.

Adds family news, and is able to tell his lordship's yet unseen daughter's name, "before she be christened". Her grandmother [Lady Crewe] desires it should be Sarah, which was Lady Bingham's name ...

Carte Calendar Volume 32, June - December 1661
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Edward Edwards, 2005
Shelfmark: MS. Carte Calendar 32
Extent: 464 pages…


Pepys would have mentioned a baby being born to My Lady -- but we do know the Crew family has a new grand-daughter. I think Carte misunderstood the letter.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Also fron the Carte Collection:

George Montagu to Sandwich
Date: 24 August 1661
Shelfmark: MS. Carte 73, fol(s). 581
Document type: Holograph

Assures him that in spite of distance Lord Hinchingbrooke sympathized with him, in illness and in recovery; and is now about to set out for France.

There is news of some commotion there, about Montauban - "the Protestants' rising & killing the priests; expelling all of the Romish Religion". But the king has sent Saint Luc against them ...


Although not mentioned in the Diary, the House of Commons says Sandwich had a half-brother named George Montagu MP. His son is going to France with Hinchingbrooke and Sidney for education.

Montauban -- The largest town of Tarn-et-Garonne, Montauban lies north of Toulouse in the west of the Occitanie region. Bisected by the river Tarn, this enchanting town burned down twice in the 17th century, so much of what we see today could not be known by Sandwich.…

The inhabitants were Protestant in the17th century:
"In 1560 the bishops and magistrates embraced Protestantism, expelled the monks, and demolished the cathedral. Ten years later it became one of the 4 Huguenot strongholds under the Peace of St.-Germain, and formed a small independent republic. It was the headquarters of the Huguenot rebellion of 1621, and successfully withstood an 86-day siege by Louis XIII.

"Because Montauban was a Protestant town, it resisted and held its position against the royal power, refusing to give allegiance to the Catholic King. To scare off the King's opponents and speed up the end of the siege, 400 cannonballs were fired, but Montauban resisted and the royal army was vanquished. St. Jacques church is still marked by the cannonballs, and every year in September, the city celebrates "les 400 coups" (the 400 shots), which has become a common phrase in French.

"Montauban did not submit to royal authority until after the fall of La Rochelle in 1629, when its fortifications were destroyed by Cardinal Richelieu.
"The Protestants suffered persecution later in the century, as Louis XIV began to persecute Protestants by sending troops to their homes (dragonnades) and then in 1685 revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had granted the community tolerance."…

The Wellcome Collection has a letter described as:
"Letter from the Sieur Saint-Luc (Marquis d'Espinay Saint-Luc) to M. Satur, consul at Montauban, recommending Dr. Rochas as possessing secret remedies against the plague. Date : 17th century"
François II d'Espinay, Marquis of Saint-Luc (1603 or 1608, died 1670) is confirmed in his Wiki bio as the some-time governor of Montauban:…

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