Saturday 1 March 1661/62

This morning I paid Sir W. Batten 40l., which I have owed him this half year, having borrowed it of him.

Then to the office all the morning, so dined at home, and after dinner comes my uncle Thomas, with whom I had some high words of difference, but ended quietly, though I fear I shall do no good by fair means upon him.

Thence my wife and I by coach, first to see my little picture that is a drawing, and thence to the Opera, and there saw “Romeo and Juliet,” the first time it was ever acted; but it is a play of itself the worst that ever I heard in my life, and the worst acted that ever I saw these people do, and I am resolved to go no more to see the first time of acting, for they were all of them out more or less. Thence home, and after supper and wrote by the post, I settled to what I had long intended, to cast up my accounts with myself, and after much pains to do it and great fear, I do find that I am 500l. in money beforehand in the world, which I was afraid I was not, but I find that I had spent above 250l. this last half year, which troubles me much, but by God’s blessing I am resolved to take up, having furnished myself with all things for a great while, and to-morrow to think upon some rules and obligations upon myself to walk by.

So with my mind eased of a great deal of trouble, though with no great content to find myself above 100l. worse now than I was half a year ago, I went to bed.

28 Annotations

Mary  •  Link

"the first time it ever was acted"

i.e the first time since the post-Restoration reopening of the theatres.

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

At the Opera: Betterton played Romeo and his wife Juliet.

LCrichton  •  Link

I settled to what I had long intended, to cast up my accounts with myself, and after much pains to do it and great fear

It's wonderful to see how we still act in the same way that Sam did - it's always hard to settle down to working out your money situation and I often experience 'much pains and great fear' to do it
Yet how true is the moral of the story , once its done, even if the result isn't great, you find your 'mind eased of a great deal of trouble'. Its better to know the worst, rather than fear it!

daniel  •  Link

"for they were all of them out more or less"

In today's terminology, we call this the dress rehearsal, or le premier; something that the press can get a feeling for the production from but not yet fit for paying audiences.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: "I am resolved to go no more to see the first time of acting, for they were all of them out more or less."

Sounds like Sam's had some bad opening-night experiences...

It also sounds as if theater companies may have had less-stringent quality standards for an opening? As Daniel implies, this sounds more like a pre-Broadway opening on the road than a polished premiere.

Stolzi  •  Link

"my little picture that is a drawing"

That is, in the process: like "trouble is a-brewing."

mary mcintyre  •  Link

"... it is a play of itself the worst that ever I heard in my life"

Is this Sam's general dislike of Shakespeare? Or is this R&J a lesser, later writer's paraphrase/redo?

Mary  •  Link

a different cast list

is proferred in the L&M notes; Harris as Romeo, Betterton as Mercutio, Mrs. Saunderson as Juliet and Price as Paris.

No suggestion that the play might be anything other than the Shakespeare tragedy.

vicenzo  •  Link

I'm surprised that Sam failed to use his two groat catcall, or would that be reserved for when he be a standing in the pit with the mob.
"...bought a catcall there, it cost me two groats.
I guess the performance upset his new musical knowledge, now that he has the rules down pat.
"...thence to the Opera, and there saw 'Romeo and Juliet,'…”

Ann  •  Link

I've got to agree with Sammy here -- I saw R&J several years ago (my hubby took me on Valentine's of all days!). Thought it was horrible and depressing. In Will's defense, it was a touring company, and they spent a lot of time chewing on the scenery. But still, I really didn't like the play at all, and I've seen a lot of Will's other works that I do like.

vicenzo  •  Link

Watch the pennies, the quids will be fine. At least, he still has some little sacks of coin, and not facing a spell in St Brides. [Pecuniae imperare oportet, non servire.]"...So with my mind eased of a great deal of trouble, though with no great content to find myself above 100l. worse now than I was half a year ago..."
He still does tell us where the extra under the counter income is a coming from. Man does live by wage alone? A little fee helps.
250 L in 26 weeks, even in 1940 that was more than a schoolmaster be a making. One can see his life style is beyond the ordinary. According to Eliza Picard, Sam be in the top 0.5% of spenders/earners in the land of 1.3 Mil. families. Extracted from page 250. Restoration London.
Syrus, Maxims . in Saxon 'money is your slave not you its'

ellen  •  Link

"casting up my acccounts"

I belive this expression was slang used to describe regurgitation, particularly after drinking too much, during the late Georgian era.

Jesse  •  Link

"thence to the Opera, and there saw 'Romeo and Juliet,'”

Exactly what I did a couple weeks ago - almost… . Of course back then it was just another play “the worst that ever I heard in my life” and not the de facto classic it’s become.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Sam and Shakepeare
He doesn't really like WS does he? Much more a fan of Beaumont & Fletcher. Wonder if that is to do with the productions? I have seen Ian McKellan (in the 70s) with Francesca Annis at the RSC in R & J and Ian Holm (in the 60s) with Estelle Kohler (also RSC). Scenes from both these productions stay in my mind still: they were exceptional, but then the RSC are are an exceptional company.
The BBC has done documentaries with dramatised sequences of both Henry Purcell's life and the Great Fire (but, after checking the site, neither seem to be available to purchase from the BBC shop. Very remiss)

Mark Ynys-Mon  •  Link

But Romeo and Juliet *isn't* a particularly good play. Sam's quite right.

It has some good poetry in it, but that's not the same as a good plot etc.

Josh  •  Link

Certainly not a patch on anything by Beaumont and Fletcher!

Pauline  •  Link

"...thence to the Opera, and there saw 'Romeo and Juliet'
Vincenzo, “Opera” appears to just mean the building, the Opera in Lincoln’s Inn field. From our knowledge of R&J and from the links provided above, it doesn’t sound like this was a singing version of the play. See today’s annotation at:

vicenzo  •  Link

Opera be a word to mean a singing play.
Extracted by lawers of the times in order to have people prance around on a stage evoking [as by chanting magical words] words to a play. Now that it be legal to say the words and not chant them, now that sin be viable and fit for humans, they then could save money by dropping the orchestra.
In order to make it legal to have play watching, they built the opera house.
Opera [ from Lat. opus work.. It was never Opera seria

steve h  •  Link


Restoration theater companies must have had over 60 plays in the repertory, so it's no surprise that premieres might not be in the best of shape. And since the older plays were essentially new plays for the actors after the Restoration, the performances must have been very uneven and raw at this time. The Fletcher plays, with simpler language and characters, were easier to "get up" and easier to follow.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Gotta get my vote in for Juliet, one of Shakespeare's great characters... But we in Atlanta do have a couple of wonderful permanent Shakespeare companies and they do a terrific job with R&J.

Wonder how Beth liked the play. She likes her French romances so she may have found the plot congenial even if technically it was a poor showing...

Mary  •  Link

"casting up my accounts"

This usage of 'cast up' is first recorded in 1539.

The 'vomit up' sense of the verb is first recorded in 1484 (Caxton).

Humorous use of the whole phrase 'to cast up one's accounts' meaning 'to vomit' is first recorded in 1808 in Anderson's Cumberland Ballads.

Bill  •  Link

"This morning I paid Sir W. Batten 40l., which I have owed him this half year"

Aha! We have noticed (and commented on in the annotations, e.g.,5 Jan 1661/62) that Sam has been acting "more reserved " towards Sir William recently. Perhaps the reason is simply the debt that Sam had incurred, which consciously or unconsciously affected their relationship.

Bill  •  Link

Genest gives the cast, on the authority of Downes, as follows ("English Stage," vol. i., p. 42): Romeo — Harris, Mercutio — Betterton, Juliet — Mrs. Saunderson. The Hon. James Howard turned Shakespeare's tragedy into a tragi-comedy, and apparently introduced a new character, Count Paris's wife, which was taken by Mrs. Holden. But this apparently was produced at a later date, when, according to Downes, Shakespeare's original and Howard's travesty were acted alternately.
---Wheatley, 1899.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘to cast up
2. To vomit. Cf. 25. Obs. or dial. ( to cast up one's accounts is used humorously in this sense.) . .
10. To add up, reckon up, calculate.
. . 1660 S. Pepys Diary 10 Dec. (1970) I. 315 Did go to cast up how my cash stands . .

25. a. To throw up from within; to vomit. to cast the gorge : to vomit violently, or make violent attempts to vomit. Now, only of hawks or other birds (exc. dial.).
. . 1614 W. Raleigh Hist. World i. v. iii. §18. 564 Somwhat, that shall make him cast his gorge . .

38. a. To reckon, calculate, estimate. Obs.
. . 1666 S. Pepys Diary . . ‘

68 meanings are given including:

‘19. To throw off (clothes). Now chiefly dial. (esp. Sc.), except where it has the sense of ‘discard’, = throw off for good or for the season, cease to wear . .
a1889 Old maxim. Cast not a clout till May be out.’

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