Sunday 25 May 1662

(Lord’s day). To trimming myself, which I have this week done every morning, with a pumice stone,1 which I learnt of Mr. Marsh, when I was last at Portsmouth; and I find it very easy, speedy, and cleanly, and shall continue the practice of it. To church, and heard a good sermon of Mr. Woodcocke’s at our church; only in his latter prayer for a woman in childbed, he prayed that God would deliver her from the hereditary curse of child-bearing, which seemed a pretty strange expression. Dined at home, and Mr. Creed with me. This day I had the first dish of pease I have had this year. After discourse he and I abroad, and walked up and down, and looked into many churches, among others Mr. Baxter’s at Blackfryers. Then to the Wardrobe, where I found my Lord takes physic, so I did not see him, but with Captn. Ferrers in Mr. George Montagu’s coach to Charing Cross; and there at the Triumph tavern he showed me some Portugall ladys, which are come to town before the Queen. They are not handsome, and their farthingales a strange dress. Many ladies and persons of quality come to see them. I find nothing in them that is pleasing; and I see they have learnt to kiss and look freely up and down already, and I do believe will soon forget the recluse practice of their own country. They complain much for lack of good water to drink. So to the Wardrobe back on foot and supped with my Lady, and so home, and after a walk upon the leads with my wife, to prayers and bed.

The King’s guards and some City companies do walk up and down the town these five or six days; which makes me think, and they do say, there are some plots in laying. God keep us.

40 Annotations

Australian Susan  •  Link

"hereditary curse"
The curse put upon woman in the Garden of Eden before expulsion by God. Genesis 3: 16 "To the woman he said, I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;in pain you shall bring forth your children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (NRSV). This was because the serpent had tempted Eve who had eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge ofGood and Evil (note - the Bible does not say it's an apple). Eve had persuaded Adam to eat also, they became self-aware and hid from God who knew what they had been doing. This is Original Sin from which Jesus freed us by being the New Adam free from sin. Babies need to be baptised in order to free them from the taint of original sin. At least, that's the conventional theology.
Now, Sam would have known all this, so I am not sure why he would have exclaimed at this "pretty strange expression". Women were thought to be "cursed" by child-bearing - it was always the woman's "fault" if she became pregnant inconveniently. One improvement: Sam talks matter-of-factly about menstruation - the medieval idea of "uncleanness" associated with this seems not to be part of Sam's world view. Women used to be thought to turn milk sour, cause flowers to wither and other such things when having a period.

Bradford  •  Link

Well, gents, who's for a shave? It's "easy, speedy, and cleanly," when you use a Pepys Pumice Stone! Available at all reputable chemists'.

At one time in the States there was a bar soap called Lava, which purported to include such an ingredient, suitable for getting grease and grime off the hands of working folk. But volcanic ash seems more likely to furnish one's face with the equivalent of the Dorian Gray Treatment: "Gives your skin the look and feel of fine old leather!"

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"a hoop worn beneath a skirt to extend it horizontally,worn by European women in the 16th and 17th centuries"

maureen  •  Link

The farthingale, a key feature of Tudor dress, would have seemed very old fashioned to Pepys and his contempraries - in England it did not long survive the start of the seventeenth century. Lots more information at - - which includes full instructions on how to make one for yourself!

daniel  •  Link

'it's "easy, speedy, and cleanly," ‘

when I first read Pepys, this phrase stuck in my mind for some reason. So informative yet odd-the stone is cleanly?

Spoiler: gentlemen of all sorts with soon be cleaning there faces free of hair and the fashion will stick until well into the nineteenth century!

Australian Susan  •  Link

Pumice & Shaving
Rubbing your face with a pumice stone may be all right in the summer as Sam is now, but surely, come November, he will end up with a wind-chapped red scaly mess! No mention of any emollients used afterwards either. We will have to watch out for complaints come the winter chills.

Australian Susan  •  Link

"first dishe of pease"
We forget, with our ubiquitous frozen peas, the joys of the first new fresh peas of the season, eaten with little new Jersey potatoes, seasoned with mint from the garden and as accompaniments for tender spring lamb. Yum.

Pauline  •  Link

"deliver her from the hereditary curse of child-bearing"
I find it a very strange expression too. A little too late for this woman in child bed. And Sam and Elizabeth don't likely see child-bearing as a curse.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Oh yer! ye did nay sit on your tuffet, shelling pod after pod to get 3 peas's at a time to fill a ladle spoon of peas then put them thru a strainer to get rid of those luverly woorms. "joys of the first new fresh peas" Selective memory, be great, for those that had a merry maid to do that little chore. Bah! Humbug.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

"...They complain much for lack of good water to drink...." 'Tis the waters that every one in new country doth always complain about. They be not used to the stronger water flavoured by fermented barley, and they yet to have the killer of water taste by in importing that new fangled 'T' leaf from the home land.
[Water to which by being boiled,will kill those friendly germs that help with the digestion].

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

"...I see they have learnt to kiss and look freely up and down already, and I do believe will soon forget the recluse practice of their own country..." The constraints of not being watched by familiar faces, doth release many inhibitions and allow one to behave as one doth wish.

john lauer  •  Link

Lava soap is common (to this day) in auto shop washrooms, and in other serious decontamination areas, such as my kitchen.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

lava soap, pumice, was used to degreen the green gook off of the hands that had a hards days night deshooting Tomatoe plants, so that one would get 2lb juicy red toms.[the good old days]

Douglas Robertson  •  Link

"The hereditary curse of child-bearing"

Presumably Woodcock merely meant to express the hope that her labor should be an easy and painless one and thoughtlessly selected the passage from Genesis as the most superficially pertinent text. Surely Pepys is right to find it strange that Woodcock would beseech God to free this particular woman from a "curse" (i.e., childbirth itself) from which, according to the Bible, no woman since Eve can be exempted. It's a bit like praying for a fellow postlapsarian's worldly immortality.

Ruben  •  Link

"first dishe of pease"
As a kid, I loved to seat in the kitchen an open the pods. Many opened by themself from a small pressure of my fingers.
I strain my memory but do not remember any worms.
Yes I remember that the maid was happy with my help. I had permission to eat raw the small not developed peas at the corner of the pods.
My memories of fresh peas belong to the month of October. Thank you Susan.

Mary  •  Link

"lack of good water to drink"

Lisbon's water supply came largely from the mountains and was brought into the city by aqueducts. It probably tasted (and was) of better quality than London water at the time, which had been brought by carrier, transported through elm and then leaden pipes, stored in cisterns or been hauled up from wells of sometimes doubtful cleanliness.

Xjy  •  Link

"first dish of pease"
I didn't think of fresh green peas at all here. Dried yellow peas came to mind. Sam's moving up in the world so he doesn't have to eat such plain fare any more, the way he would have previously. Pease pudding. Still a staple in Sweden -- "pea soup" ie thick (semi-fluid) yellow pea soup, always followed by pancakes with lingonberry jam and whipped cream. Always on a Thursday.

Pedro  •  Link

"...I see they have learnt to kiss and look freely up and down already”

Davidson says…

“At least the ease with which they begun to adopt the hitherto unknown custom of kissing at meeting, and found the courage to raise their eyes, showed that there was more adaptability about Catherine’s ladies than they have been credited with.”

And this practice would turn full circle, with the English reluctant to kiss.

Ruben  •  Link

"...I see they have learnt to kiss and look freely up and down already"

May be someone can tell us what was Pepys intention here.
1) Maybe a kiss was just “I kiss your hand” ? Maybe in Portugal no one kissed a Woman’s hand?
2) An adult woman looking intentionally for more than a split second to a man’s eyes is today considered an impudical challenge in some countries.
A lady will not do that.
The lady can be stoned, flagellated, etc. just because of it.
Can anybody comment on past mores?

J A Gioia  •  Link


the *hand* soap - as it was known in me youth. it did (does) contain a good deal of pumice, and had (has) a volcano on the wrapper. lava is also the italian word for wash, which makes the product the only pun that i'm aware of ever to be sold in stores.

Tom Burns  •  Link

Pumice stone

The only modern usage for this of which I am aware is for the removal of callouses and dead skin from the feet and heels.

Rex Gordon  •  Link

"... deliver her ..."

If children were "delivered" in Sam's day, as the common expression has it today, perhaps Sam is commenting on Mr Woodcocke's unintentional punning.

Rex Gordon  •  Link

"... Mr Baxter's at Blackfryers ..."

This church was St Anne's, of which John Gibbon was Rector. Richard Baxter was employed as a preacher to deliver a weekly Sunday sermon. On this day he preached his farewell sermon before resigning under the Act of Uniformity. (L&M footnote)

A.De Araujo  •  Link

"joys of the first fresh peas" "juice red toms" "pancakes with lingonberry jam" Marcel Proust and his madeleines!
Ah Memories!.. Ah the wirings of the brain!...

A. Hamilton  •  Link

very easy, speedy, and cleanly

Enter man's unending quest for a smooth shave. In my lifetime whole battleships have been scrapped to produce a keener blade.

Araucaria  •  Link

Re shaving with pumice:

Pumice is just volcanic glass that hardened with a foam of bubbles still in it. The non-bubbly version is obsidian, which can be flaked to a keener edge than any surgical scalpel. I suppose that in pumice you could get quite a sharp edge on some of the little bubbles.

I wonder where they were getting their pumice from -- Italy? Iceland?

In any case, Pepys has always spoken of trimming, not shaving. Did they actually attempt to get a completely smooth face, or was it sufficient to remove obvious hair and never mind the scratchy texture?

Ant  •  Link

"pretty strange expression"
seems an oddly slangy 21st century usage ...

BradW  •  Link

I find nothing in them that is pleasing

And this from an avid observer of ladies' looks, our boy Sam!

Might it just be that the ladies sent along were chosen by the Portugese for that very feature, so as not to outshine young Catherine? Sort of like how movie directors today cast supporting actresses with an eye toward the romantic lead's looks?

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Fashion and stubble; long and short whiskers, I doth think the pumice be used to sharpen his cutting edge, pumice be use to polish bone. Derbyshire, there be volcanic rock and also jolly old Norway, home to the English invaders.
pumice:from the Latin pumex-icis
pumiceus, adj. soft stone
lavabrum ; bath ;lavo lavare lautum [lavatum lotum ] to wash soak etc.
lavatio -onis: washing,bath, bathing gear, {? bikini bi cinnis two ashes?]
pumico -are; to smooth with pumice stone.
Romans shaved sometimes, depending on fashion of the Kaiser, there needed to be a way of keeping ones cutting edge sharp, 'twas easier than having sandstone.
Romans used it for building materials.

Australian Susan  •  Link

In this context it is in the sense of relief - when one is finally delivered of the child, there is relief from the pain of labour: what the minister is praying for is for either early menopause or a considerate husband who either refrains from intercourse or practice coitus interruptus.
"pease": old nursery rhyme (probably from Sam's era)
'pease pudding hot,
pease pudding cold,
pease pudding in the pot nine days old'
Yes, the good old days.
Anyone out there had an Adelaide Pie Floater? (meat[sic] pie on a bed of virulent green, mushy peas with tomato sauce on top). Usually eaten during or after 'the footy'. Probably accompanied by lager.

Nostrildamus  •  Link

I have, and jolly tasty they are.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"The King’s guards and some City companies do walk up and down the town these five or six days; which makes me think, and they do say, there are some plots in laying."

There were rumours of a plot by the sectaries; especially in St Giles Cripplegate, and All Hallows. (L&M note)

Bill  •  Link

Farthingales had gone out of fashion in England during the reign of Charles I., and therefore their use by the Portuguese ladies astonished the English. Evelyn also remarks in his Diary on this ugly custom (May 30th, 1662).
---Wheatley, 1899.

[May] 30 The Queene arivd, with a traine of Portugueze Ladys in their mostrous fardingals or Guard-Infantas: Their complexions olivaster, & sufficiently unagreable: Her majestie in the same habit, her foretop long & turned aside very strangely: She was yet of the handsomest Countenance of all the rest, & tho low of stature pretily shaped, languishing & excellent Eyes, her teeth wronging her mouth by stiking a little too far out: for the rest sweete & lovely enough: This day was solemnly kept the Anniversary of his Majesties Birth, & restauration: Dr. Alestree preaching in the Chapell:…

Louise Hudson  •  Link

"To church, and heard a good sermon of Mr. Woodcocke’s at our church; only in his latter prayer for a woman in childbed, he prayed that God would deliver her from the hereditary curse of child-bearing . . ."

Of course, being a man, Mr. Woodcocke himself would never think that he (or any man) was able to deliver his wife from the "hereditary curse of childbearing." It was apparently all God's doing and had nothing to do with human males.

john  •  Link

This whole business of using a pumice stone to remove hair (and, no doubt, upper layers of dermis -- at a time of sepsis) continues to intrigue and perplex me. Yet the OED has this entry under pumice, v. : 1647 R. Stapylton Juvenal, Sat. viii. 154 note, The Italians to this day have the fashion of pumicing their skin to get off the haire.

Tim  •  Link

Pumice is a very common method of removing stains etc from hands. Using it instead of shaving seems to be step too far. (of course, living in a volcanic region, I can pick up pumice from any sea shore - the sea water does wear off the really rough bits of the stone)

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘pumice stone 1. A piece of pumice; = pumice n. 1b.
. . 1662 S. Pepys Diary 25 May (1970) III. 91 Trimming myself..with a pumice stone.’

‘pumice 1.b. As a count noun: a piece of this substance, esp. as used as an abrasive; = pumice stone n. 1.
. . 1501 in J. B. Paul Accts. Treasurer Scotl. (1900) II. 63 For foure pumyses to him,..xij d.
. . 1991 Best 27 June 12/3 A pumice is also ideal for dealing with tough skin on the heels or soles of feet.’

Lex Lector  •  Link

Has any of us (males, mainly, probably) tried pumice for shaving? I'd give it a go. I started using oil 2 years ago, experimentally, after hearing of it's use historically: works a treat! cheap; portable...the Adelaide Pie: England's Pea & Pie Stall on Barnsley Market, South Yorkshire (in the 70's) sold Albert Hurst's excellent pork pies floating on a studge of mushy peas. Some liked to add a smatter of mint sauce. Albert Hurst also made the best black puddings ever - they won prizes in Germany and Belgium - a family tradition ended (I think, but have not returned to Barnsley for a few years) when Albert died. This has little to do with the Diary, which I love: Phil; hero, genius: I - intermittent follower these 5 years - thank you very very much.

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