Thursday 27 February 1661/62

This morning came Mr. Berkenshaw to me and in our discourse I, finding that he cries up his rules for most perfect (though I do grant them to be very good, and the best I believe that ever yet were made), and that I could not persuade him to grant wherein they were somewhat lame, we fell to angry words, so that in a pet he flung out of my chamber and I never stopped him, having intended to put him off today, whether this had happened or no, because I think I have all the rules that he hath to give. And so there remains not the practice now to do me good, and it is not for me to continue with him at 5l. per month.

So I settled to put all his rules in fair order in a book, which was my work all the morning till dinner. After dinner to the office till late at night, and so home to write by the post, and so to bed.

31 Annotations

First Reading

andy  •  Link

we fell to angry words

a clash of egos between a 29 year old flying too high for his station and his musical master.

Xjy  •  Link

we fell to angry words
I think Sam was in complete control here. He'd got what he wanted from the music man, and needed to dump him. What better way than to provoke him and get him to flounce out. Puts all the onus on the other guy. Poor Sam deprived of his music by the caprice of a tradesman ;-)
I love the cool way he organizes what he's learnt from B the second B has stormed off in a huff.
Shows decided diplomatic skill in manipulating others. Sam's station is superior enough to the musician's to make this display of bad temper all fall on the musician, leaving Sam appearing innocent and aggrieved.

Ruben  •  Link

for those interested in Birchensha's rules that have the privilege to be in Ireland the 2 of April 2005 see:…
go to the conference and tell us later what was said there.

Philip  •  Link

Berkenshaw's theory and rules were never published. I wonder whether Pepys's rendition, put down this day, may survive in his papers.

Mary  •  Link

Pepys's 'editon' of Berkenshaw.

Never traced, according to L&M.

Ruben  •  Link

see what Robert Louis Stevenson had to say about the relationship between the Music Master and Samuel at:…
a paragraph: " Mr. Berkenshaw was not altogether happy in his pupil. The amateur cannot usually rise into the artist, some leaven of the world still clogging him; and we find Pepys behaving like a pickthank to the man who taught him composition."

Ruben  •  Link

Berkenshaw's book on theory was not published but the manuscripts are still around and cited (to be find somewhere in an English archive).
You can also see:…
for an essay published by Berkenshaw in 1672.
and another one in 1664 :

vicenzo  •  Link

Diplomatique? maybe, Thrifty, Certainly a yes. "...and it is not for me to continue with him at 5l. per month...."

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Sam cracks me up!!

"I could not persuade him to grant wherein they were somewhat lame, we fell to angry words"...

As a musician who's played in many bands, and co-written many songs, all I can say is, 'twas ever thus!

"Dude, c'mon, admit it, music is about *breaking rules,* you know? Your attempts at constraining the Muse are somewhat lame, my man."

Eric Walla  •  Link

Vicenzo strikes the proper note here. Yesterday is all about settling debts and casting up accounts, whereas today we find Sam intending to "put him off" even without argument. I see a good amount of rationalization and mental bookkeeping in Sam's entry: "Hmmm, is what I'm getting from Berkenshaw worth 5l. a month?"

Stolzi  •  Link

"and so there remains not the practice now to do me good"

This construction seems curious. I would guess Sam is thinking "Now that I know his rules, all I really need to do is practice regularly, and why do I need him (at 5 pounds the month!) to listen to me practice?"

But for that, I would have expected "and so there remains only the practice now to do me good."

dirk  •  Link

"and so there remains not the practice now to do me good"

A misread for "but the practice..." ?

Bradford  •  Link

One is still curious about just what these "rules" consisted of. They wouldn't be just the ordinary constraints of counterpoint ("Avoid consecutive fifths"), since they had to do with setting texts.
Perhaps pointers about avoiding long notes on unimportant words, or high ones for sharp syllables (no soprano wants to have to sing a Q# in alt on a word like "stream"), or how to match the mood of a vocal line to the the mood of the words?
All useful to know, but indeed once pointed out, the main thing is to practice putting them into practice. Which Sam thinks he is now fully equipped to do, especially if he can copy down this wisdom in a morning's transcription.

Mary  •  Link

"and so there remains nothing but practice now to do me good"

is the L&M reading.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: "They wouldn't be just the ordinary constraints of counterpoint ('Avoid consecutive fifths'), since they had to do with setting texts."

I dunno about that, B-man. I think Sam and Berkenshaw were simply following the convention of the day in setting popular verse to music ... it gave them something to focus on, and saved them the trouble of writing their own verse. (Other reasons: It could have been homage to the poet, or maybe an indication -- by virtue of which verse they chose to set -- of their literacy, sensitivity, etc.)

In any case, I think the rules may very well have been on the level of avoiding parallel fifths, etc. From what little I've been able to read about B's method, it doesn't look as if it's specifically tied to setting verse to musique.

Mary, thanks for clarifying the troubling passage.

Pauline  •  Link

Mr. Berkenshaw and "setting popular verse to music"
No howling, please, as I step into something I know nothing about. This all makes me think of the chord discipline I did many years ago with a piano teacher. Major, minor, raised 5th, lowered 3rd, augmented something or other--I remember little. So I was thinking a system for the notation of the melody notes and then the accompanying notes that support and give the melody "depth". My subsequent serious piano teacher thought little of Miss Chalupa's teaching this, as it (supposedly) provided her pupils with predictable show-off strumming along with whatever they were putting together at the piano. (It all went over my head.)

Australian Susan  •  Link

Ruben - thanks for the link to RLS's essay - insightful,well-written and entertaining!

Ramona  •  Link

I second Australian Susan, thank you, Reuben, for the marvelous piece by Robt. L. Stevenson. It is refreshing to see Mr. Pepys anew through an acuity of observation by RLS.

Pauline  •  Link

"the marvelous piece by Robt. L. Stevenson"
Here on our site for many months in Background information:…

We amass a lot of good information in Background, but tend to not actively use it. Ideas?

Ruben  •  Link

you are so right!
I think this annotation belongs somewhere else, but I do not know where.
Jews read the Bible a piece at a time. It takes them a year till they go back to Genesis and begin again.
In our case we have Pepys writing almost every day for 10 years! After two years it became nearly impossible to digest and remember all the information cited.

"Backgroud info" is difficult to use because it works like an old, pre digital-memory theme dictionary.

May be that, like in Bible studies we should have some kind of "Digital Concordance Enciclopaedia Pepsiana".
It should include all the words and tipycal phrases ("and so to bed", "the best I ever..."), and in which day they where used by Pepys. This information I think, can be harvested by a scanning computer program, but I have no idea how it is done. May be a little like a Google for Pepys?
More ideas, please!

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: "a Google for Pepys?"

Ruben, there's always the site's search engine, which is actually quite useful.

In addition, you can find another resource here:…

It looks to me as if Kal's resource would provide the keyword/phrase index you're looking for.

Ruben  •  Link

Thank you, Todd!
I never tried Kal's resource and I will fiddle with it a few days to see if it helps me “to be in command” during my search.
About the search engine, now that there is so much information, it is not specific enough. Write “rome” and you get 3 entry answers, only one of them with “rome” in it. Move to “rome” in annotations and you get hundred of answers.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: The site's search engine

Ruben, click the Help link next to the search box. Though I agree that things are getting harder to find as we get more content on the site, you can use Boolean expressions, or look for exact phrases, and that should help focus your results. (Type "rome" in Google and see how many results you get there! :-)

john lauer  •  Link

There is also the site/domain option in google's advanced features that can be exactly what you want on occasion.

Patricia  •  Link

Isn't this just like Sam! He tells the painter how to paint, he supervises his workmen to make sure everything is done to perfection, now he's telling the musician his rules aren't perfect. I don't see this as a clever way of ditching the music teacher, just as Pepys usual obsessive behaviour.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"I could not persuade him to grant wherein they were somewhat lame"

LAME, just plain stupid, un-original, or lifeless.
---Urban Dictionary, 2003.

Tonyel  •  Link

"Pickthank" What a wonderful, expressive word! I shall look for an opportunity to use it.

Dick Wilson  •  Link

Tonyel - I had to look up "Pickthank", and it is marked "archaic" in Mirriam-Webster, but I know what you mean: How can I work this into conversation with some of my more erudite friends?

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Rare but not archaic; OED has:

'pickthank, n. and adj. < . . after to pick a thank . .
A. n. A person who curries favour with another, esp. by informing against someone else; a flatterer, a sycophant; a telltale.
. .1598 Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 1 iii. ii. 25 Smiling pickthanks, and base newes mongers.
. . 1710 L. Milbourne Meas. Resistance to Higher Powers 24 When other pick-thanks might be ready to inform against them . .
. . 1996 Toronto Life (Nexis) Dec. 102–6 And besides, I like this man. Here is no conceited pickthank.

B. adj. Of, characteristic of, or designating a pickthank; flattering, sycophantic; talebearing.
. . 1999 Financial Mail (South Africa) (Nexis) 28 May 132 During their elongated pickthank interview Molefe took the part of the straight guy.’

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