Friday 4 October 1661

By coach to White Hall with Sir W. Pen. So to Mr. Montagu, where his man, Mons. Eschar, makes a great complaint against the English, that they did help the Spaniards against the French the other day; and that their Embassador do demand justice of our King, and that he do resolve to be gone for France the next week; which I, and all that I met with, are very glad of. Thence to Paternoster Row, where my Will did receive the 50l. I borrowed yesterday. I to the Wardrobe to dinner, and there staid most of the afternoon very merry with the ladies. Then Captain Ferrers and I to the Theatre, and there came too late, so we staid and saw a bit of “Victoria,” which pleased me worse than it did the other day. So we staid not to see it out, but went out and drank a bottle or two of China ale, and so home, where I found my wife vexed at her people for grumbling to eat Suffolk cheese, which I also am vexed at. So to bed.

31 Annotations

First Reading

Pedro.  •  Link

"Mons. Eschar, makes a great complaint against the English"

Mons. Eschar, that insolent French chap, he's at it again..
"Here I met with Mr. Mage, and discoursing of musique Mons. Eschar spoke so much against the English and in praise of the French that made him mad, and so he went away"…

Pedro.  •  Link

"where I found my wife vexed at her people for gumbling to eat Suffolk cheese, which I also am vexed at"

There is a saying- "Hunger will break through stone walls and anything but Suffolk cheese�"

1650 - Start of the trade in Cheshire cheese to London by boat following cattle disease in Suffolk in the 1640s. Until then large amounts of Suffolk cheese went to London ordered especially by the Navy. Port records show the growth in Cheshire Cheese landings from 1650. This was a full milk cheese - as originally was Suffolk - but cheaper. Production of Suffolk cheese declined in the wake of cattle disease. Suffolk farmers then switched to making butter for the lucrative London market and made poorer tasting skimmed milk cheeses. After this period, Cheshire Cheese would have been sold at a premium to the now inferior Suffolk Cheese.…

RexLeo  •  Link

"...Thence to Paternoster Row, where my Will did receive the 50l. I borrowed yesterday."

What we have here may be an old fashioned "Cash Flow" problem that Sam may be trying to overcome with borrowings. His limited time in office in the recent past must have hit his customary "fees" (and not much of Privy Seal either) and he has been pretty free with spending the money on his pet passions. I suppose Sam is in no danger of being driven into bankruptcy as his net worth is considerably larger than his recent borrowings and is inherently a cautious soul.

JWB  •  Link

In my mind's eye...
I can see a Thurber dog with caption: Vexed by Suffolk cheese.

Glyn  •  Link

The Navy was a big buyer of Suffolk cheese, which doubtless is how Pepys "acquired" it (see the Cheese link), and I can see why the Navy would buy it - it sounds as if not only would it have kept for long periods but they could probably have used it as spare planking in emergencies! The fact that it tasted terrible was secondary. No doubt the servants would have preferred meat like their master and mistress, and being given this stuff was adding insult to injury.

Concerning China ale. This seems to have been a sort of fizzy, carbonated drink flavoured with sarsaparilla or china-root. Sounds revolting.

I doubt if it was very strong, or the flavour would have been hidden by the alcohol: he's certainly sober when he goes to bed, which has recently been unusual.You'll notice that this was in bottles, which would preserve the drink for longer than barrrels would, even small ones.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Lousy sinkin' Suffolk cheese...T'ain't nothin' like our good ole Cheddar... Grousing below stairs.

Somehow I picture Beth lecturing Jane, etc... "Attendez!...Girls, back when Mr. Pepys and I lived in a beggardly garret at the Montagues' we'd have thanked the good Lord on bended knee for such an abundance of cheese...Would we not, Mr. Pepys?" Stern look at Sam for immediate support... "Indeed, Mrs. Pepys. Such a blessing of the Almighty would have carried us over many a hard week then."

daniel  •  Link

what would a china ale be?

vicente  •  Link

Economy time, boss gets grocery monies, so lads and lasses scrimp, back to basics. If it is good for the Tarpaulins, it be good enough for ye. Essex cheese be too deer tho it be near.[Essex. from ewes]

dirk  •  Link

China ale

Ale flavoured with China-root (Wikipedia)

Isaac Newton's Trinity College notebook (1659) mentions under his "Otiose & frustra expensa":
China Ale 8d

dirk  •  Link


Following the storyline of this entry, would Will have been with Sam in the coach from the beginning? Will appears "out of thin air" in Paternoster Row.

dirk  •  Link

Navy cheese

Cheese was a very important part of the sailor's diet, so it should at least last a reasonable number of weeks.

(In Elisabethan times every "mess" of 4 seamen was allowed 14 ounces of cheese each wednesday and saturday as a standard ration - this was probably still the case in Sam's time.)

vicente  •  Link

Will? Unfortunately we only get to hear of the juicy 'better' parts of the days events.
Catarina [house of Joao Pires E Filhos, nice chilled] goes down in history as a nice white Portuguese wine, with nice soft cheese.

Robert Gertz  •  Link


It is interesting that Will H had to "receive" Pepys' loan money. Hint of a slightly disreputable deal here.

By the way, Sam'l...I seem to recall you having a certain vow in force regarding theater visits?

Mary  •  Link

Disreputable deal?

I see no hint of that. Doubtless Will had to sign a receipt for monies received, but this doesn't make him a 'receiver' in the modern, pejorative sense.

Nix  •  Link

China ale --

If it is "a fizzy carbonated drink flavoured with sarsaparilla or china-root" as Glyn and Dirk indicate, it sounds like what we now (at least in U.S.) drink as root beer. I don't know if they have it in U.K., but I can assure you it's not revolting at all.

vicente  •  Link

Will is in to-days terms a P.A.[Personal Assistant or in some cases dogs body]who is trusted to do EveryThing, pay the bills, pick up the contracts and checks, even pay the bills or the waiter when on a trip [save the special 'alf, those mere details that make life run smooth] pick up this and do that. So necessary to that busy person who has to be here and there participating in this coffee and that liquor. If compatible [except for the brass] become a truly trusted friend.
[very popular position amongst the monied elite]

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: "a truly trusted friend"

Vincente brings up a good point here ... it's going to be interesting to see, over the course of the diary, the progression of the relationship between Sam and Will, knowing how deep their friendship was later in life (if I recall correctly, Pepys essentially spent his waning years as a guest of Will's, who did very well as a result of their business and personal relationship).

Glyn  •  Link

Of course this is a Friday, so it may be a meat-free day anyway.

JWB  •  Link

"China Ale"
Sarsaparilla was thought to be a specific v. syphilis, thus the running joke in old time westerns about ordering a "sassparilla" in a saloon. Ferrers being infected wouldn't be out of character.

Pedro.  •  Link

Would Cina Ale have Sarsaparilla as we know it?

The Chinese brewed an ale since 23BC called "samshu" brewed from wheat.
S. glabra from China.
"Sarsaparilla vine should not be confused with the large sasparilla and sassafras trees (the root and bark of which were once used to flavor root beer). Sarsaparilla has been used as an ingredient in root beer and other beverages for its foaming properties-not for its flavoring properties.…

Katherine  •  Link

Oh, irony of ironies, I'm getting quite the chuckle over the fact that the low-fat skim milk Suffolk cheese would probably outsell full millk Cheshire in today's market.

(Still, I'd take the blandish Suffolk any day over the modern abomination known as "cheese food" any day.)

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"grumbling to eat Suffolk cheese"

In Aukward Plenty slovenly I Dine:
And nappy Ale supplies the want of Wine.
No nice Disserts my learned Palate please.
To fill up Chinks—a Slice of Suffolk-Cheese.
---Miscellanies in Verse and Prose. R. Pack, 1719.

Bill  •  Link

(Dang, nobody liked Suffolk cheese!)

Fine ladies, when they write,
Nor scold nor keep a splutter;
Their verses give delight,
As soft and sweet as butter.

But Satan never saw
Such haggard lines as these;
They stick athwart my maw,
As bad as Suffolk cheese.
---The works of dr. Jonathan Swift. 1765.

Bill  •  Link

Suffolk-bang Cheese.—There are cases in which dairy-farmers skim the milk before they begin to make cheese. These cheeses arc remarkable for their hardness, because cascine, independently of the butter, is an exceedingly hard substance; and these cheeses are sometimes brought into the market, and they are so hard that they are the subject of many a joke. Of such are the Suffolk-bang cheeses made by frugal housewives in that county, who first take the butter and send it to market, and then make their cheese. It is said of it in derision that "dogs bark at it, pigs grunt at it, but neither of them can bite it."
---Cassell's dictionary of cookery. 1883.

Bill  •  Link

To make China-Ale, and several other Sorts
To six Gallons of Ale, take a Quarter of a Pound or more of China-root thin sliced, and a Quarter of a Pound of Coriander-Seed bruised; hang these in a Tiffany or coarse Linnen-bag in the Vessel, till it has done working, and let it stand fourteen Days before you bottle it; tho' the common Sort vended about Town, is nothing more (at best) than Ten Shilling Beer, put up in small stone Bottles, with a little Spice, Lemmon-peel, and Raisins or Sugar.
---The London and country brewer. W. Ellis, 1737.

Tim  •  Link

- Did Lady Batten's enthusiasm persuade Sam to give 'Victoria' another go? - But, no - Lady B's still a fool... Cheese very much an essential food for the servants, sailors and poor- Meat expensive and rare - meatless Fridays no hardship since most other days were meatless. And Sam himself a couple of days ago dined on bread and cheese.

Cara  •  Link

Thanks for the recipe Bill, I'm fascinated by the food and drink of the time. We have a TV programme in UK (not sure where you are) where a group of historians lived the daily lives of a farming community in the Stuart age 'Tales from the Green Valley'…
it's interesting but I have to say, I'm never tempted by the dishes!! I think you can get it on YouTube if you have a mind...

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

'Suffolk cheese n.
. . 1661 S. Pepys Diary 4 Oct. (1970) II. 191, I find my wife vexed at her people for grumbling to eate Suffolk cheese.
1797 A. Young Gen. View Agric. Suffolk 203 Cheese 5d., but Suffolk 3½d. and 4d.'

jimmigee  •  Link

I recently heard cheese referred to as "dairy crack!"

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Mons. Eschar, makes a great complaint against the English, that they did help the Spaniards against the French the other day; and that their Embassador do demand justice of our King, and that he do resolve to be gone for France the next week; which I, and all that I met with, are very glad of."

For the dispute… and… D'Estrades left on 8 October, and returned on the following 14 January. Nothing came of the French demand that Charles should dismiss the Spanish ambassador from the couuntry and punish the Londoners alleged to have taken part in the affray. But the Spanish king was forced to withdraws his ambassador from London, and to give not only an apology for this incident but [also] a promise to yield precedence to the French in thew future. The two monarchies did not reach an agreement about rules of precedence until 1761. In England the incident led to a ruling by Charles II that in future only British subjects should take part in state entries: CSPD 1661-2, p. 104. (L&M note)

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Sarsaparilla vine should not be confused with the large sasparilla and sassafras trees (the root and bark of which were once used to flavor root beer)."

CORRECT -- Sassafras is sometimes called the USA's only native spice.

Sassafras became such a hot commodity by the mid-1600s, it was the second biggest American export to Europe (tobacco was first).

In the early 17th century, European settlers caught on to the potential in the plant from North America where Indians had been using it for a variety of medicinal purposes. According to the paper, "Sassafras and its Role in Early America, 1562-1662," author B.W. Higinbotham says sassafras "has probably had more to do with the making of early American history than any other plant,"

In the early 1600’s it was believed Sassafras was a wonder drug that could cure just about anything from slowing old age, relieve pain, remove kidney stones, and prevent colds.

Amazing Pepys never tried it, considering his stone and frequent colds.…

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