Saturday 26 April 1662

Sir George and I, and his clerk Mr. Stephens, and Mr. Holt our guide, over to Gosport; and so rode to Southampton. In our way, besides my Lord Southampton’s parks and lands, which in one view we could see 6,000l. per annum, we observed a little church-yard, where the graves are accustomed to be all sowed with sage.1 At Southampton we went to the Mayor’s and there dined, and had sturgeon of their own catching the last week, which do not happen in twenty years, and it was well ordered. They brought us also some caveare, which I attempted to order, but all to no purpose, for they had neither given it salt enough, nor are the seedes of the roe broke, but are all in berryes. The towne is one most gallant street, and is walled round with stone, &c., and Bevis’s picture upon one of the gates; many old walls of religious houses, and the key, well worth seeing. After dinner to horse again, being in nothing troubled but the badness of my hat, which I borrowed to save my beaver. Home by night and wrote letters to London, and so with Sir W. Pen to the Dock to bed.

29 Annotations

First Reading

Josh  •  Link

With only a bad chapeau to spoil one's felicity. . . .

The footnote given above says the graves were strewn with this greenery, which suggests it was cut; but Pepys says it was "sowed with sage," which would result in live plants, keeping the plot green and fragrant, unless at this time "sow" and "strew" might have been interchangeable.
(Here in mid-South America, raw grave-plots are heaped with funeral flowers, which are allowed to decay until sod is laid down.)

Can some gourmand expand upon Pepys's attempt to "order" the caviare he was brought, to "no purpose"?

Pauline  •  Link

from Defoe's Hampshire, 1724
"Whatever the fable of Bevis of Southampton, and the gyants in the woods thereabouts may be deriv'd from, I found the people mighty willing to have those things pass for true; and at the north gate of the town, the only entrance from the land side, they have the figures of two eminent champions, who might pass for gyants, if they were alive now, but they can tell us very little of their history, but what is all fabulous like the rest, so I say no more of them."…

Sjoerd  •  Link

"Bevis of Southampton" was a legendary hero and the story of him fighting a giant called Ascapart was the subject of popular ballads and childrens'stories. The story apparently influenced Bunyan's Pilgims Progress and it appears in Shakespeare

"As Bevis of
Southampton fell upon Ascapart." Shakespeare: 2 Henry VI., act ii. 3

Pauline  •  Link

"...They brought us also some caveare, which I attempted to order, but all to no purpose..."
Maybe they brought it out to show that the sturgeon had carried it, but when Sam asked to have some was told that it hadn't been "washed" and salted so wasn't prepared for serving. If I remember, my dad used to wash it with borax to separate the eggs from the membrane. Breaking the seeds might mean breaking them away from the clusters the membrane holds them in--into individual roe. I don't think he means crushing the seeds. "[T]hey had neither given it salt enough" may, alternatively, indicate that it wasn't prepared well and hasn't stayed fresh and edible since the sturgeon was caught last week.

"which do not happen in twenty years"
Anyone understand this? Does it just mean that a sturgeon isn't big enough to serve until it is 20 years old?

Australian Susan  •  Link

I agree with Josh that what the note is describing seems different from what Sam is describing. Here is another description of the Welsh custom:
"But now the customary beautiful Easter Eve Idyll had fairly begun and people kept arriving from all parts with flowers to dress the graves. Children were coming from the town and from neighbouring villages with baskets of flowers and knives to cut holes in the turf. The roads were lively with people coming and going and the churchyard a busy scene with women and children and a few men moving about among the tombstones and kneeling down besides the green mounds, flowering the graves....More and more people kept coming into the churchyard as they finished their day's work. The sun went down in glory behind the dingle, but still the work of love went on through the twilight and into the dusk until the moon rose full and splendid. The figures continued to move about among the the graves and to bend over the green mounds in the calm clear moonlight and warm air of the balmy evening." from Francis Kilvert's Diary, Clyro, Wales, 16 April, 1870. Kilvert's Diary has been compared to Sam's.

john lauer  •  Link

"not happen in twenty years"

Apparently the sturgeon has been rare, "near extinction", for much of the last millennium, at least in England, so the meaning may well be that none had been seen or caught for decades.

Pedro  •  Link

"Pepys tells of a churchyard near Gosport where all the graves were planted with Sage because of the belief that Sage could soothe grief."…

Pedro  •  Link

"and had sturgeon of their own catching the last week."

The Sturgeon is occasionally taken on the East coast, and frequently brought to the London market from various localities. When caught in the Thames, within the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor, it is considered a Royal Fish ; the term being intended to imply that it ought to be sent to the King, and it is said that the Sturgeon was exclusively reserved for the table of Henry the First of England.

William Yarrell (1836) in "A History of British Fishes"…

Australian Susan  •  Link

More on decorating graves:
"Palm Sunday is called "Flowering Sunday" in Wales, and then the graves present a very beautiful appearance, but still, traces of the old time customs and superstitions are to be observed. The small uninscribed stones at the heads and feet of the poor peoples' graves are whitewashed, and the earth upon and around them is carefully sanded. Few of the people of to-day know that this custom dates back to the times when there was a strong and all-prevailing belief in the power of elves, fairies, and witches. In recent years, it is becoming the custom in some places to trim and clear the graves for "Flowering Sunday" and to send floral tributes on Easter Day.…

In medieval times this dramatic celebration was restricted more
and more to a procession around the church. The crucifix in the
churchyard was festively decorated with flowers. There the
procession came to a halt. While the clergy sang the hymns and
antiphons, the congregation dispersed among the tombs, each
family kneeling at the grave of relatives. The celebrant
sprinkled holy water over the graveyard, the procession formed
again and entered the church. In France and England the custom of
decorating graves and visiting the cemeteries on Palm Sunday is
still retained."…

Mary  •  Link


Since 'salvia' means 'salvation', perhaps this was an additional reason for the herb being grown on the graves.

Britney Spears  •  Link

That line about 'Bevis of Southampton' appears nowhere in Shakespeare's 2 Henry VI, or any of his other plays.

Professor David Ross McIrvine  •  Link

2 Henry VI., act ii. 3

Horner is quarelling with Peter in this scene.

Quarto version (entered 12 March 1594 in
Stationer's Register) of line 88 reads:

"with downright blowes, as Beuys of Southampton fell vpon Askapart."

Here, the 1623 Folio reads merely "with a downright blow."

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

vino vs wine: tsh, that saxon accent; 'tis a touch of confusion then there be B vs V; oh! my little grey cells try in' so hard to get La Jolla and Hospitale.
Oh! well! on with the motley Lingua blahs.

Scav  •  Link

We'll let L&M (our sages) chime in on the sage too:
"A country custom long surviving in, e.g., Wales: see J. Brand, Pop. Antiq. (ed. Hazlitt), i. 240-1. Jerusalem or Bethlehem sage (longwort) has white spots on the leaves which were said to have been caused by the Virgin's tears."

And, provided MN and the UK have the same plant, is the very thing itself:…

David A. Smith  •  Link

"my Lord Southampton's parks and lands, which in one view we could see 6,000l. per annum”
Folks, consider the astonishing insight embedded in this remark! To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, “some men see fields and say ‘how lovely,’ I dream of yields that never were and say, ‘how much?’”

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I agree with David Smith, the "6000 (lbs) per annum" was a cute summing up...Though I think Sam, who after all, does have a terrific eye for beauty-landscape as well as women, was enjoying making a shrewd, slightly cynical, man-of-the-world remark here.

Pauline  •  Link

"...a shrewd, slightly cynical, man-of-the-world remark..."
Or was just practicing that stance in his diary. I'm sure the information comes from Sir George or Mr Holt.

john lauer  •  Link

Act II, iii: "...with a downright blow!"
survives in the Cambridge edition, Doubleday, 1936. Horner then dies by Peter’s hand.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Soon all that land ends up being sold for debts incurred, shame Southampton did not appreciate its value.
I would like to know ? did Sam pick up the horse in Gosport or take a ferry with the nag or a wherry across , he needing a guide too, to go to Southampton?
What be normal to Sam, is now a curiosity item.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Hmmn...No mention of whether the fleas preferred Admiral Sir Will Penn.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...a shrewd, slightly cynical, man-of-the-world remark..."
Or was just practicing that stance in his diary. I'm sure the information comes from Sir George or Mr Holt.”

I’d bet he said it to Beth before writing it down. It sounds like he spent some time getting it to the “off the cuff” point.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Robert Gertz - it is 6000 pounds sterling money, not pounds avoir dupois!
Sage and the Virgin. According to folklore, when the Holy Family were fleeing Herod's troops (see Matthew 2), the Virgin begged the rose bush, the clove bush and the sage bush to provide enough foliage to hide them. Rose and clove refused, but the sage hid them. This is why the rose has thorns, the clove has a foul-smelling flower and the sage has profuse bushy growth. Maybe it is also why the sage has white spots - tears of joy from the Virgin?

Australian Susan  •  Link

Sam and the horses - I guess they hired them at Gosport at the ferry terminal.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Robert Gertz - it is 6000 pounds sterling money, not pounds avoir dupois!

Aware of that midear, just don't have a neat slashed L to indicate it.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"The towne is one most gallant street, and is walled round with stone, &c., and Bevis’s picture upon one of the gates"

This was Bargate… on which, note L&M, were then displayed paintings of Sir Bevis of Hampton and the Giant Ascapart, figures derived from a legend of about the 10th century, whose popularity in the 14th century was reflected in the metrical Romance of 'Beves of Hamtoun'.…

A statue of Beves sits over one of the city gates in Southhampton. The opposite side of the gate once had two wood panels depicting Beves' battle with Ascopard. Unfortunately, although tourist signs remain which refer to Ascopard, the panels have been removed from public display.…

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

As the old rhyme goes:
(From Richard Gordon's Doctor In The House.)

Caviar comes from the virgin sturgeon;
Virgin sturgeon - very fine fish.
Virgin sturgeon needs no urgin':
That's why caviar's a very rare dish.

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