Sunday 15 December 1661

(Lord’s day). To church in the morning, where our young Reader begun the first day to read. Sir W. Pen dined with me and we were merry. Again to church and so home, and all alone read till bedtime, and so to prayers and to bed.

I have been troubled this day about a difference between my wife and her maid Nell, who is a simple slut, and I am afeard we shall find her a cross-grained wench. I am now full of study about writing something about our making of strangers strike to us at sea; and so am altogether reading Selden and Grotius, and such other authors to that purpose.

20 Annotations

RexLeo  •  Link

"...a difference between my wife and her maid Nell..."

For a young girl, Liz surprisngly rules with iron fist her domestic kingdom. No chance of survival if you have difference with her.
slut -> dirty, slovenly
cross-grained-> stubborn

daniel  •  Link

"who is a simple slut, and I am afeard we shall find her a cross-grained wench."

the tone of this reprobation seems very harsh to me. Would these words have had a more matter-of-fact feeling in the seventeenth century?

Stolzi  •  Link


\Slut\, n. [OE. slutte; cf. OD. slodde a slut, Icel.
sl["o]ttr a heavy, loglike fellow, slota to droop.]
1. An untidy woman; a slattern.

Sluts are good enough to make a sloven's porridge.
--Old Proverb.

2. A servant girl; a drudge. [Obs.]

Our little girl Susan is a most admirable slut, and
pleases us mightly, doing more service than both the
others. --Pepys.

Bradford  •  Link

In the next century, when "city dramas" of a more realistic cast came into fashion, one could imagine the Pepyses' domestic difficulties put on the boards: "The Cross-Grained Wench" sounds promising. But then, the servant problem is with ye always.

vicenzo  •  Link

For the cross grained one, ya needs a ripsaw to cut down the wench to size.

vicenzo  •  Link

"la difference". My guess is that said slut was up late, and failed to get the fires aburning, 'tis why Sam this week staid a bed awhile , awaitin' til his breathin' out of the white mist had disappeared.

Mary  •  Link

Elizabeth's iron fist?

We're not looking at a 19th Century 'Upstairs, Downstairs' domestic setting here. Servants live closely cheek-by-jowl with the family and Elizabeth must depend on congenial servants for company very often, especially in the evenings. Hardly surprising that she's not prepared to put up with the company of a cross-grained wench.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Servants in household
The term 'family' was still being used at this time to include servants, not just blood or marriage related family. And, of course, we have recently had the example of blood-related family becoming a servant with Pall's position in Sam's household/family. Elizabeth certainly needs company as her husband seems to be out and about without her so often. Sam using the term 'slut' in no way impugns the girl's morals: merely her appearance and/or cleaning.
"Reader" refers to trained lay assistant to the incumbent in the Parish, licenced to read Morning and Evening Prayer and maybe Preach.

LCrichton  •  Link

'writing something about our making of strangers strike to us at sea'
This sounds like an interesting research project for Sam; assume he has been asked to look into this by the office.

Douglas Robertson  •  Link

"assume he has been asked to look into this by the office."

No, it was his idea: see the entry for Nov. 29:

"So home, calling at Paul’s Churchyard for a “Mare Clausum,” [by Selden] having it in my mind to write a little matter, what I can gather, about the business of striking sayle, and present it to the Duke, which I now think will be a good way to make myself known."

Philip  •  Link

"For the cross grained one, ya needs a ripsaw to cut down the wench to size."

No. A ripsaw is for cutting with the grain, not across it. A crosscut saw is for cutting across the grain.

Glyn  •  Link

From the same entry that Douglas Robertson quotes: "but I could say nothing to it, which I was sorry for.”

He is busily turning his weakness into a strength by researching the matter. A lesser person would have just been glad at getting away without their ignorance being exposed.

This is of more than academic interest: Captain Holmes is currently being criticised for doing the wrong thing (see November entries).

JWB  •  Link

Let's get all these people in order now...
1)"difference between my wife and her maid Nell,"
2"...our making of strangers strike to us at sea"

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

Servants in household
I think you make a good point Susan. It seems like in general the class lines between servant and master were more fluid than they became later. I think that we can see this in SP's own career.He began as a sort of upper-servant in the household of his cousin Montagu (interesting that the Montagus don't seem embarrassed by their tradesman cousins). SP is now well on his way to being a prominent civil servant, though he still does errands for Sandwich/Montagu seems to sometimes eat with the servants in the Sandwich household when the Lord and Lady of the house aren't available.

vicenzo  •  Link

I be no carpenter, having failed the test at aged 10:"A crosscut saw is for cutting across the grain." If ya cannot do then preach otherwise leech: that a be me:

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I picture Sam buttoned up in his 'closet' trying to read Selden and Grotius and write out his careful notes on past custom regarding the striking of sail while occasionally hearing crashes, followed by the sounds of our Beth hollering at Nell in French and English while Nell gives it (at least the English) right back...

A desparate attempt to flee for the safety of the office across the way is blocked by a raging Beth, who demands immediate support.

Hmmn...Well, it's not like Nell is a beauty.

LCrichton  •  Link

Thanks to Douglas and Glyn.

Tim  •  Link

With servants sharing the bedroom during winter (See above, some entries ago) and with much of the housework involving the mistress as well as the servant, for compatible relationships between all in the household would have been essential for a smooth runing - It was only in Victorian times that servants and mistresses became separate beings

Bill  •  Link

Well, let's not forget that when Sam's sister came into his house, she came more as a servant than family. And he wanted it that way. " sister Pall’s coming to live with me if she would come and be as a servant"

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