Monday 3 February 1661/62

After musique practice I went to the office, and there with the two Sir Williams all the morning about business, and at noon I dined with Sir W. Batten with many friends more, it being his wedding-day, and among other froliques, it being their third year, they had three pyes, whereof the middlemost was made of an ovall form, in an ovall hole within the other two, which made much mirth, and was called the middle piece; and above all the rest, we had great striving to steal a spooneful out of it; and I remember Mrs. Mills, the minister’s wife, did steal one for me and did give it me; and to end all, Mrs. Shippman did fill the pye full of white wine, it holding at least a pint and a half, and did drink it off for a health to Sir William and my Lady, it being the greatest draft that ever I did see a woman drink in my life.

Before we had dined came Sir G. Carteret, and we went all three to the office and did business there till night, and then to Sir W. Batten again, and I went along with my lady and the rest of the gentlewomen to Major Holmes’s, and there we had a fine supper, among others, excellent lobsters, which I never eat at this time of the year before. The Major bath good lodgings at the Trinity House. Here we staid, and at last home, and, being in my chamber, we do hear great noise of mirth at Sir William Batten’s, tearing the ribbands from my Lady and him. —[As if they were a newly-married couple.]— So I to bed.

3 Feb 2005, 11:03 p.m. - Pedro.

"it being the greatest draft that ever I did see a woman drink in my life. " Sam, you ought to see the "ladettes" that are abroad in the Kingdom today!

3 Feb 2005, 11:10 p.m. - A. De Araujo

"and the rest of the gentlewomen to Major Holmes's" Taking the chickens to the fox's den!

3 Feb 2005, 11:38 p.m. - Bradford

Anyone care to draw a Venn diagram showing the layout of these three pies, one of which seems to be lodged in a hole inside the other two? A culinary Moebius strip, or Klein bottle. There's no need to ask for a definition of "the middle piece" among such a worldly group as our commentators. But of what must the piecrust have been constructed, to hold this half-bottle of wine? And how could one drink it off without a great deal of the leftover filling clogging up milady's windpipe?

3 Feb 2005, 11:54 p.m. - Charlezzz

A posting in the Patrick O'Brian Gunroom about a month ago included these comments: "Now, I never saw a woman drinking even a single pint of wine, white, red, or rose-colored from a pie. And I wonder indeed at the minister's wife and her capers: can somebody tell us what kind of Freudian shenanigans were going on, without violating the decency in wch the Gunroom conducts its conversation?"

4 Feb 2005, 12:32 a.m. - Mark Ynys-Mon

Good Lord! Mrs Shippman must have been pissed after that (and old too, or Sam would undoubtedly have taken advantage).

4 Feb 2005, 12:42 a.m. - William Flesch

Surely it's "The Major hath" not "bath"

4 Feb 2005, 12:55 a.m. - vicenzo

"major bath " just be a freudian slip? he don't 'alf smell nice for the ladies

4 Feb 2005, 1:46 a.m. - Todd Bernhardt

Wonder if Mrs. Shippman had to "fertilize the garden" later that afternoon...?

4 Feb 2005, 3:51 a.m. - AussieAnnie

White wine - a cheeky little chablis?, more like fermented grape juice from France. How unpalatable, considering the wonderful wines now available from Australia & New Zealand. I think I would have preferred the beer/ale. Obviously Mrs Shippman's decendants are all backpacking in Sydney at the moment, they certainly take after her!

4 Feb 2005, 5:09 a.m. - Australian Susan

"Pyes" Would these have been sweet or savoury pies? And what would have been around at this time (late winter) to put in them? Carrots? Honey? Salt pork? Nuts? This is a lovely entry, isn't it? Sam has a wonderful gift for observation and recording the little details - even the celebratory squeals and giggles from next door late at night!

4 Feb 2005, 5:37 a.m. - Pauline

"...and I remember Mrs. Mills, the minister's wife, did steal…” There’s a drunken haze to this remembering; and a minister’s wife, no less. I can’t for the life of me understand this pie whose middle third elicits such merriment AND holds a pint of a half of white wine, “the greatest draft that ever I did see a woman drink in my life”. We, as well as Sam, have been bored this past week and ready for this moment. But can we waken and understand it?

4 Feb 2005, 7:58 a.m. - Mary

of what was the pie-crust constructed? I believe that at this date, the pie-crust (or one of the pie-crusts) could well have been a hard-paste crust (essentially flour and water with only a little fat to help it bind together) that was not itself intended for eating, just made to encase the meaty contents. The lid would be lifted off and the contents spooned out. Serving much the same function as modern casserole dishes, but more decorative. It's a pity that Sam didn't attempt a sketch of this culinary elaboration ... I find it very hard to picture.

4 Feb 2005, 8:05 a.m. - Mary

Major Holmes. Apparently (per L&M) this is the same person as the Captain Holmes who has aroused Pepys's jealousy in the past. No explanation is offered for the way in which Pepys sometimes denotes him 'Captain' and at other times 'Major'.

4 Feb 2005, 9:50 a.m. - Ruben

three pyes I think Pepys is describing 3 concentric pie-crust of the kind described by Mary. Each one prepared separately, and then filled with meat and then put the one over the other. By the way the drinking lady,...something!

4 Feb 2005, 10:15 a.m. - Ruben

three pyes one on top of the other like a wedding cake.

4 Feb 2005, 10:21 a.m. - LCrichton

After all the recent abstinence he seems to have had a wonderful time for his return to the world of socialising, eating and drinking... and no guilty thoughts afterwards, unlike on other occasions. Perhaps he felt that he deserved a wee party because he has been so restrained and hard working recently?

4 Feb 2005, 10:27 a.m. - Australian Susan

Sorry, Ruben, I don't see how "they had three pyes, whereof the middlemost was made of an ovall form, in an ovall hole within the other two," can be construed as "one on top of the other like a wedding cake". Have a look at Bradford's post. Sam's description makes this dish sound more like something from the Fanny Hill Cookbook [which exists!] than a decorous wedding cake. Especially with the way they all behave around it! (Or have I just been here too long?) [Exits left to take cold shower]

4 Feb 2005, 11 a.m. - Ruben

three pyes To Australian Susan: One of the attributes of a Moebius strip is that you cannot fill it. The Klein bottle can be filled (from a topological point of view) but in Pepys days that is something that you would not have thougth about (except if the cook was Leonardo). If you look in the background info you will find the history of pies, that suggest that nothing really strange like a Klein bottle was on the table but regular pies of those days. from the BBC site: "The whole thing was made into a huge pie, sometimes weighing as much as 220lb (100kg) and held together with iron clamps. The pastry used was either puft past or short past - the forerunners of modern puff pastry and shortcrust pastry. They tended to be oblong or square ...they were banned during the rule of Oliver Cromwell and, by the time they re-emerged, had altered their shape and content to become the more familiar pie known now." I see no reason why not to compare Pepys 3 pies to a wedding cake. I can also compare it to a pyramid, a minced meat pyramid, were the first pie is bigger than the second and over them ("the middlemost") is "on top and inside". Well, my modesty does not permit me to explain more as why this last "meat" produced so much mirth.

4 Feb 2005, 1:22 p.m. - A. De Araujo

Dialog SP: Major Holmes,sir,I brought these ladies here so perhaps you could leave my Elisabeth alone. Holmes: Relax Mr Pepys,I am interested in women allright but I am mostly interested in gold; as a matter of fact I don't think I will ever get married.

4 Feb 2005, 1:44 p.m. - Wim van der Meij I have visualized the (by now infamous) pie, and I put my version of it on my website. Please have a look; I'll take it off again soon.

4 Feb 2005, 2:28 p.m. - Todd Bernhardt

Nice work, Wim! Given the occasion, and that the shape caused "much mirth," fighting over spoonfuls, etc., your visualization makes as much sense to me as any other I've been able to think of!

4 Feb 2005, 2:55 p.m. - Pauline

"I put my version of it on my website" Ah, Wim, a new twist on being invited in to see "my etchings."

4 Feb 2005, 4:44 p.m. - Glyn

Mary: "No explanation is offered for the way in which Pepys sometimes denotes him "Captain" and at other times "Major".” Sometimes acting as a land officer: sometimes as a naval officer? Perhaps when he is thinking of him in naval or cavalry matters he is a Captain, when he is acting in an army capacity he is a “Major”, and that would include when he is going about on Montagu’s day-to-day affairs, rather than for the naval office. At this period in time it wasn’t unusual for people to do both, e.g. Prince Rupert was a noted cavalry leader and then an Admiral, and Montagu himself commanded land troops before becoming an Admiral.

4 Feb 2005, 4:54 p.m. - Glyn

I agree with LChrichton about this being a refreshing entry after a lot of dull ones. But just how thin are the walls in this building if Sam and Elizabeth can hear great noises of mirth from the Battens next door - just how noisy is it to tear a ribbon?! And aren't the Battens a little old for this sort of thing?

4 Feb 2005, 6:25 p.m. - Rex Gordon

"... tearing the ribbands ..." Glyn - It was a pretty noisy affair, this untying of ribbons. After a wedding day's feasting and drinking, the entire company would put the bride and bridegroom to bed, and the tearing of their ribbons was a symbolic undressing. No doubt it was accompanied by many ribald remarks and a lot of loud laughter. Per L&M in the Companion, the removal of garters also figured in the fun: "In the 'flinging of the stockings' the bridesmaids flung the bridegroom's stockings backwards over their shoulders, and the bridesmen's the bride's. If a stocking thrown by a man hit the bride or one thrown by a woman hit the bridegroom it was a sign that the thrower would soon be married. After the flinging a sack posset was served to the bridegroom - the sack to make him lusty and the sugar to make him kind. These games were sometimes played at wedding anniversaries (like the Battens' in today's entry), or at parties as sheer romps." Modern urban apartment dwellers certainly have had many a loud, laughter-filled party going on in the next flat, or the one above. Plus ca change ...

4 Feb 2005, 11:31 p.m. - Bradford

Cheers to Wim for his brave rendering of this physical conundrum (which was all that was meant by Klein or Moebius: perhaps one should have said "Escheresque"?). All right, we'll spell it out. Cast your minds back to the byplay between Hamlet, on the one hand, and Rosencranz and Guildenstern on the other: HAM. Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours? GUILD. Faith, her privates we. HAM. In the secret parts of Fortune? O most true! She is a strumpet. "Hamlet," II.2.238-9. After that, even the most innocent of commentators will find interpreting "the middle piece" a piece of cake---or pie.

5 Feb 2005, 12:40 a.m. - Clement

Wim's Diagram We're fortunate that Wheatley never undertook that exercise or we'd have nothing but ellipsis for the entire diary entry. And I'm suddenly scandalized by Mrs. Mills offer to Sam!

5 Feb 2005, 2:27 a.m. - Australian Susan

Thanks, Wim! That's how I'd imagined it - just didn't want to spell it out.... Definitely one for the Fanny Hill Cookbook(see ) Re Clement's post: Where was Mr Mills in all this?? Offering spoonfuls of pie to Elizabeth??!

5 Feb 2005, 12:29 p.m. - Robert Gertz

Lady Batten remains a most interesting character... And apparently, judging by the squeals of joy, Sir Will B appreciates her.

6 Feb 2005, 3:06 a.m. - dirk

"excellent lobsters, which I never eat at this time of the year before" Is there any reason why it might seem strange to Sam to eat lobster this time of the year? Would there be a "seasonal" reason (cf. mussels)? (For our Australian annotators: remember Sam lived on the northern hemisphere.)

6 Feb 2005, 3:14 a.m. - vicenzo

lobsters had to eaten fresh, 'twas why it be such a cheap dish for many years, in fact the only real use, was to fertilise ones garden. Oh! how things do change.

6 Feb 2005, 3:20 a.m. - dirk

White wine - re AussieAnnie Probably a German white wine (Rhine), as these were very popular at the time. Not necessarily poor quality, but certainly very sweet. As to pouring the wine "in the pie", maybe we should read "the pie form" (metal?): maybe the pies were served in the metal holders in which they had been in the oven - it seems unlikely that a mere crust, however thick and hard, would have been able to hold any considerable quantity of wine...

6 Feb 2005, 12:19 p.m. - Australian Susan

Pie Crust In those days, this was a much more robust substance than we have nowadays and not really meant to be eaten - it was a way to cook broken meats, a container, a shell. So I think the redoubtable lady did drink out of the pastry case, once scraped clean of the filling. It was only when pastry became more delicate and a food item in its own right, that metal containers or pottery ones to contain the pie were introduced, as the pastry was more fragile. Bon appetit!

16 Nov 2014, 3:52 p.m. - Bill

"it being their third year, they had three pyes" Note that last month, Sir William Pen celebrated his 18th wedding anniversary with 18 mince pies. That would be quite a tower (or topological puzzle).

18 Mar 2021, 11:29 p.m. - Terry Foreman

"we do hear great noise of mirth at Sir William Batten’s, tearing the ribbands from my Lady and him." L&M: Cf.