Monday 30 June 1662

Up betimes, and to my office, where I found Griffen’s girl making it clean, but, God forgive me! what a mind I had to her, but did not meddle with her. She being gone, I fell upon boring holes for me to see from my closet into the great office, without going forth, wherein I please myself much.

So settled to business, and at noon with my wife to the Wardrobe, and there dined, and staid talking all the afternoon with my Lord, and about four o’clock took coach with my wife and Lady, and went toward my house, calling at my Lady Carteret’s, who was within by chance (she keeping altogether at Deptford for a month or two), and so we sat with her a little. Among other things told my Lady how my Lady Fanshaw is fallen out with her only for speaking in behalf of the French, which my Lady wonders at, they having been formerly like sisters, but we see there is no true lasting friendship in the world.

Thence to my house, where I took great pride to lead her through the Court by the hand, she being very fine, and her page carrying up her train.

She staid a little at my house, and then walked through the garden, and took water, and went first on board the King’s pleasure boat, which pleased her much. Then to Greenwich Park; and with much ado she was able to walk up to the top of the hill, and so down again, and took boat, and so through bridge to Blackfryers, and home, she being much pleased with the ramble in every particular of it. So we supped with her, and then walked home, and to bed.


This I take to be as bad a juncture as ever I observed. The King and his new Queen minding their pleasures at Hampton Court. All people discontented; some that the King do not gratify them enough; and the others, Fanatiques of all sorts, that the King do take away their liberty of conscience; and the height of the Bishops, who I fear will ruin all again. They do much cry up the manner of Sir H. Vane’s death, and he deserves it. They clamour against the chimney-money, and say they will not pay it without force. And in the mean time, like to have war abroad; and Portugall to assist, when we have not money to pay for any ordinary layings-out at home.

Myself all in dirt about building of my house and Sir W. Batten’s a story higher. Into a good way, fallen on minding my business and saving money, which God encrease; and I do take great delight in it, and see the benefit of it. In a longing mind of going to see Brampton, but cannot get three days time, do what I can.

In very good health, my wife and myself.

53 Annotations

First Reading

Bradford  •  Link

"I fell upon boring holes for me to see from my closet into the great office, without going forth, wherein I please myself much."

And which will of course be invisible to anyone sitting therein. What excuse can be given once they are noticed? Mice?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"wherein I please myself much"
Was he masturbating or just watching the Girl? Why is he watching her throug a hole?

dirk  •  Link

"I fell upon boring holes for me to see from my closet into the great office, without going forth"

This may have been more innocent than it looks. If Sam really wanted to spy, drilling holes and hoping thy would remain undiscovered would have been a dangerous and potentially job threatening thing to do. Maybe this was more like an "intercom" - an easy way to see if he was needed - and possibly a very common thing to do?

And btw he mentions the girl before he mentions the holes, so he probably didn't spy on her through one of the holes, but saw het "in the flesh" so to speak...

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

nutin changes, when the eye doth spy a shapely calf, at least he doth keep his carnal thoughts, venal? "...what a mind I had to her..."
Hole in the wall it be innocent , it be "Wiiilll, bring me the contract on Oslo Spruce." or see who be sneaking in from a round in the Quad, chatting up a Sir.

Pauline  •  Link

"...I fell upon boring holes..."
I think he may mean he fell upon the idea of having holes bored, and pleased himself much with the idea, with Griffin's girl in mind.

Or did he actually have at hand a drill and take it up and bore the holes?

Pauline  •  Link

"... I took great pride to lead her through the Court..."
I take it that the "lady" and the "she" for the rest of this outing refers to Lady Sandwich--that Lady Carteret stayed at home and is the one who was like a sister to Lady Fanshaw but now has had a falling out with over Freedom Fries.

Mary  •  Link

"I took great pride to lead her through the Court by the hand"

What a pretty vignette, with Sam basking in the glory of his relationship with Milady. She was conferring honour on him by allowing him to take her by the hand in a place where they might be observed by others, not least by the Penns and Battens and their households.

Pedro  •  Link

"And in the mean time, like to have war abroad; and Portugall to assist, when we have not money to pay for any ordinary layings-out at home."

A view that will last across the centuries.

pjk  •  Link

the great office
Can any of the historians out there make clear what went on in the great office. Would 'office' have a similar meaning to today? I have a vision of Sam making holes in the wall so that he can keep an overseers eye on rows clerks but is this scene likely?

Pedro  •  Link

"wherein I please myself much"

The closet would be a private room for the use of Sam alone? They would not be noticed on his side?
There is more than one hole. Could they be made to look like knots in the wood so they could be taken in and out? Wherein he steps back and admires his craftsmanship, not bad for a box wallah?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Probably the holes were not secret at all but merely a new efficiency...And a safeguard allowing him to see what Sir John and the Sirs W were up to while he's occupied with paperwork in his own office. Griffen's girl had left before he started.

Very sweet to see him parading and then rambling with dear Lady Jem but must have been a bit hard on Beth following along in the train...

The King and Queen minding their pleasures, eh?...England's as well as Sam's honeymoon with the Restoration has already begun fading.

Harry  •  Link

he mentions the girl before he mentions the holes, so he probably didn't spy on her through one of the holes

Perhaps he got the idea of drilling the holes after seing the girl (two birds with one stone!)

I am puzzled by the “OBSERVATIONS”. Was this title in capital letters in the original? Is this the first time Sam sets such comments apart in the text in this way? In themselves they are not much different from comments he has been making throughout the diary, reflexions on the state of the Kingdom and his personal situation.

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

Harry: Sam has been making these kinds of observation at the end of each year. Today marks the end of half a year. Apparently this is a significant enough date to reflect on more than he usually does.

Jeannine  •  Link

A few thoughts on the holes, the office and the "politics" surrounding all.
I am reading a book by Percival Hunt called "Samuel Pepys in the Diary" and it's a great little companion that seems to pull together different subjects and clarify them (book review to come when I'm done). In the section called "A Principal Officer" Hunt explores Sam's interactions with the senior officers that he works with and "pulls" together a picture that highlights Sam's thoughts on each man and and also helps to sort out the politics, etc. Interesting to note, Sam is 35 years younger then the oldest man he works with (Carteret) and 12 years younger that the youngest man he works with (Pett). These men have maturity, wealth, distinction and experience that Sam does not have. What Sam does have is drive to succeed and adapt himself to do so. He is becoming keenly aware of the motives of others around him and carefully carving out his path to help him navigate through the politics in order to establish himself and justify himself to his senior officers and hopefully the Duke and King. As his awareness level increases so does his understanding that he needs to be keenly aware of what is going on around him. What better way to observe the world when other don't know they are being watched. As we've seen with Sam, he could man handle some poor girl just about anywhere he wants, and making holes for that wouldn't be worth the effort, but adding another dimension to his learning (the art of observation) could be well worth the effort and have a larger payoff in the future.

Jeannine  •  Link

"The King and the Queen minding their pleasures at Hampton Court".
The King and Queen are still on their 'honeymoon', which will be over soon enough with a return to Whitehall and back to business as usual, but for now, the King is busy elsewhere. With all of the intense issues Pepys is concerned about, no small wonder he has such disgust with Charles II..... but as Strickland in her "Lives of the Queens of England" says of this time..."The new and brilliant scenes in which the convent-bred queen was now required to play the leading part were at first strange and fatiguing to her, and she took far more delight in the practice of her devotional exercises than in all the seductive gaieties which surrounded her. She heard mass daily and but for the earnest persuasions of the [Portuguese] ambassador, who it will be remembered was her godather, she would have spent more time in her chapel than was at all compatible with her duties as a wife and queen. It required all the influence of this prudent counsellor to induce her to go into public as often as she was required, or to tolerate the freedom of manners in that dissipated court, where infidelity and licentiousness walked openly unveiled. Catherine was wedded to the most witty and fascinating prince in the world, consitutionally good-humored, but without religion or moral principles, brave, reckless, and devoted to pleasure, requiring constant excitement and frequent change. The simplicity of his young queen's character, her freshness, innocence, and confiding fondness for himself, pleased him; the naivete of her manners amused him, and, as a new toy, she was prized and cherished for the first six weeks of the marriage. Nothing in fact, could exceed the lover-like devotion of his behavior for his royal bride for that period, which was spent in all sorts of pleasure and amusements that he could devise for her entertainment. Sylan sports, excursions in the fields, the parks, or on the Thames, occupied the court by day, while the evenings were devoted to comedies, music and balls, in which the king, his brother , and the lords and ladies joined, the king excelling them all in the air and grace of his dancing, which the queen applauded, to his great delight, while he continued to treat her with every possible demonstration of tenderness and respect." Charles is obviously busy with gaieties and can't let the issues of the Navy, budgets, etc. cut into his fun for the moment.......

David A. Smith  •  Link

"to see from my closet into the great office"
I think the explanation is simple: since his office is likely public, Sam wants a means of checking who may be calling on him before he has to admit of being present. The 17th century equivalent of the fluty secretarial "excuse me, I'll seen if he's in."

David A. Smith  •  Link

"what a mind I had to her, but did not meddle"
Observe the subtle shift in his erotic musings: where once Sam might have concealed his feelings, here he admits to lust and congratulates himself on "not meddling."
One step further on the road to perdition, my lad ....

David A. Smith  •  Link

"This I take to be as bad a juncture as ever I observed."
Aside from Sam's blunt assessment, I hear tones of worry. Charles II was brought back to be not only a king but a leader, and at his Restoration was widely hailed. By now Sam thinks Charles II has squandered the people's goodwill (the 17th century equivalent of political capital) to little purpose ... and the future looks risky as well. The Puritans may yet mount a comeback, bad for the country, very bad for Sam. Here's clearly worried, so closes by giving thanks for his own family's health.

Pauline  •  Link

boring holes
I still don't think he actually bored any holes.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: boring holes

I dunno, Pauline, the language seems to me to indicate that he does get boring (and you thought Sam was *never* boring). AFAIK, "fell upon" indicates action. Language hat (or others), could you confirm or deny?

Also interesting is the fact that Sam's current commitment to minding his business seems to extend beyond wine to women...

Pauline  •  Link

re: boring holes
To me, "fell to" would more clearly indicate going into action. "Fell upon" strikes me as coming up with an idea or plan. And it is all a part of the sentence that begins with the girl leaving and ends with "wherein I please myself much." The last sounding to me like pleasing himself with the idea and its possibilities.

This sentence goes very quickly to gratification, and then that is the end of the topic. If he actually bored the holes we might expect some information as to tool, etc. and an indication of time lapsing, rather than the thought-swiftness of this sentence. Plus it doesn't seem reasonable to me that he would just suddenly decide to bore some holes in his closet wall. Holes big enough to allow him to monitor what is going on in the big office would more likely be cut, like windows. Even if he is seriously thinking about a means to watch over activity and arrivals in the big office, I don't think he has bored the holes himself this day.

Bradford  •  Link

"I fell upon boring holes for me to see from my closet into the great office, without going forth"

This phrasing denotes doing it himself, right then.
David A.'s suggestion seems the best: a way to check who's come in. After all, if it's just a way to spy on his fellow workers, they can easily return the compliment---or hang a picture.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"I fell upon boring holes"
To fall upon (a) to attack
(b) to attempt, to have recourse to
(c) to rush against

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

Boring a hole? be it just a thought or be it an action? Sam has not shown us his wood working skills before, and it does require a brace and large bit , and a starter drill bit [from a padlocked carpenters storage box], so I think that either it be in his mind the thought after seeing a shapely wench, and it be good idea to have an observation post to see the action in the clerical section. Otherwise he would call in a ships carpenter to complete the necessary actions, especially the cleaning up the evidence. [thereby tho the sentences do run together really require a second paragraph, just mere details]
But then he only puts the basic details in his journal and which will bring back to mind the intimate details.
Lets face it, Trades men and and other sundry space takers do not warrant a mention unless it be of great significance, as most of us that use brawn rather than brain are easy dismissed as clod hoppers.

In retrospection, I doth think the inspiration of seeing the comely wench gave the idea, to have installed a port hole, so to be fully aware of the actions in the main area, where reside about 6 to 8 clerks, messengers, bell man and other not to be mentioned bodies that be required to keep a tight ship.

Pauline  •  Link

"I fell upon boring holes"
Fall to:
to apply oneself; to begin: ‘to fall to work’.

Fall on or upon:
a. to assault; attack: ‘the enemy fell on them….’
b. to be the obligation of: ‘it has fallen on me to support the family’.
c. to experience; encounter; ‘they fell upon hard times’.
d. to chance upon; come upon: ‘I fell upon the idea….’

Random House, unabridged edition

Definition “d” fits well.

Cumgranissalis  •  Link

d]it be. keeps Sam callous free, let the Ships carpenter do the job.

Pauline  •  Link

"She being gone..."
She may even be out there cleaning the great office as he is having this reverie. He begins by saying "to my office" and finding the girl there cleaning "it". He uses "my office", "my closet", and "the great office": leaving "my office" open to meaning his personal part of the office (his closet) or the office as a whole (everything--all the rooms and all the busines and responsibilities). I'm reading it as "my office" meaning his personal space and desk, his work that he is taking up for the day. She is found cleaning "it" and then goes out, and he has this reverie of having holes in the wall through which to watch her and take pleasure in his attraction to her without crossing the line of "meddling" with her, which he has just refrained from doing - but the impulse was strong: "God forgive me!…what I mind I had to her".

Australian Susan  •  Link

Bryant, one of Sam's biographers interprets this passage as Sam actually boring the holes himself and that this is to spy on the lesser clerks to make sure they are doing their work. Tomalin is silent on this incident.
Arthur Bryant,Samuel Pepys: the man in the making, 1948 edition, Collins, London, p. 178 "..bored a hole in the wainscotting of his closet to watch the doings of those small fry."
I am uncertain if Bryant is correct either as to the purpose or that the hole [Bryant refers to one, but the diary clearly says plural] was drilled through the wainscotting: the diary does not says so. I think Sam just wants to have better communication and to see who is coming, but I do think he did it himself.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Pity the office wasn't preserved, I'm sure many of us would drive the tour guide crazy demanding to see "Sam's holes".


Getting out of that low position, I wonder if he shared that "no true friendship" observation with Elisabeth. It's in little spots like these where her views would be so revealing that we really miss out not hearing her voice more.

Pauline  •  Link

Arthur Bryant
IF Bryant is in error, he is in the very most excellent company (see all of the above).

We need the OED for 17th C. use of "fall to" and "fall upon". And we can hope the holes are mentioned again.

Matt  •  Link

The OED cites this reference from 23 March 1660/61:

"And the play, which is called "All's lost by Lust," poorly done; and with so much disorder, among others, that in the musique-room the boy that was to sing a song, not singing it right, his master fell about his ears and beat him so, that it put the whole house in an uprore.”

It’s not quite the same as ‘fell upon’, but suggests that the word ‘fell’ can be associated with action.

The OED provides 17th C quotes to support both readings:

“To begin upon, take up, set about. Obs.” (70.d)
“To come across, light upon; to hit upon (an expedient). (With indirect passive” (65.c)

language hat  •  Link

"We need the OED"
Relevant senses in OED:

To come across, light upon; to hit upon (an expedient)
1747 in Col. Rec. Pennsylv. V. 99 Some Method should be fall'n upon to prevent the Evils which threaten Us.

To begin upon, take up, set about.
1649 BP. HALL Cases Consc. I. v. 43 Otherwise some Interloper may.. fall upon the work at a lower rate, and undoe the first editor.

To have recourse to; to make use of.
1654 H. L'ESTRANGE Chas. I (1655) 130 His Majesty fell upon Davids design..of numbering the People.

I don't think we can tell which he meant without further information.

Bergie  •  Link

A peephole (Pepyshole?) needn't be big to be functional, but boring it makes noise. If the holes were meant to be secret, he must have drilled them when he was alone in the office.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Can't resist...

"Pepys?!" A voice calls from behind...

Sam, intent on his drilling, jumps three feet in the air. Looking up from where he's now fallen, he spies none other than William Griffen.

"Peeping? No, Mr. Griffen, not at all sir! The idea!"

Griffen, who'd merely come to ask if his daughter's duster was anywhere to be seen, eyes Pepys with a puzzled air...

LucyC  •  Link

Naughty Samuel Pepys ... Benny Hill used the pun on his TV show back in the late 50s (or early 60s):

"A shy young maid has took a room down at the village inn,
Her bedside light is oh so bright and the curtains oh so thin.
She enters her room at nine o'clock, at half past nine she sleeps,
Lord Clarendon walks quickly on but naughty Samuel peeps.

For we know it's right, it's in black and white,
And it's all written down in his diary."

(Opening lines of 'Pepys' Diary' from 'Benny Hill Sings?' CD to be found at…).
Was it used about Sam during his lifetime?

Pedro  •  Link

"Lady Fanshaw is fallen out with her only for speaking in behalf of the French,"

Interestingly Sam keeps his own thoughts about the French firmly in his head! Remember his thoughts after the Battle of the Ambassadors-

"So then I went to the French house, where I observe still, that there is no men in the world of a more insolent spirit where they do well, nor before they begin a matter, and more abject if they do miscarry,"…

Jeannine  •  Link

Pauline "Arthur Bryant--If Bryant is in error, he is in the very most excellent company (see all of the above)." Thanks for the gracious interpretation of the historian Bryant and all of the other annotators that chose to share their thoughts for the day. To me personally, one of the joys of reading Sam is that he's like history himself--he's imperfect, his writing is open to interpretation and he offers an interesting point for people with views different from mine to spark my interests, share their opinions and help me grow as he does. For me, I'll gladly remain in the company of those who choose to explore options with an openess to others and to risk possibly be wrong, because, just like Sam, I'm not always exacting in my writing and I'm also not perfect. Boring holes or not boring holes.... who is to know and does it really matter THAT much in the larger scheme of life???

Miriam  •  Link

"Verily, they have their reward."

Glyn  •  Link

There were 14 clerks in the Navy Office in addition to the ancillary support staff, with 2 clerks assigned to each board member (Will Hewer and Tom Hayter for Pepys), who otherwise worked communally on everyday business, such as writing out copies of the numerous contracts, preparing sailing orders, drawing up accounts, etc. Pepys has his own small office, as do the other board members (although I imagine theirs to be bigger and further away) but I am guessing that all of the clerks work together in a single large room called the "great office", perhaps with desks or on some long tables where they can spread the maps out.

It's part of Pepys' job to keep an eye on the workers so I doubt if this was in any way surreptitious: it's rather like a modern middle manager (and try saying that 3 times in a row) putting a glass window into his or her office, in order to see who in the adjoining office has some free time and so can be given the next piece of work.

We know from when Pepys gets the builders in that it's in his nature to be a very "hands-on" "proactive" boss who constantly likes to get involved and chivvy the workers along, and I am sure that he would have been exactly like that in the Navy Office as well. That may have made him unpopular with the clerks who would probably have preferred him to be like Sir John Mennes who told jokes and left them largely undisturbed, and I imagine they made a few office jokes about Pepys' behaviour behind his back.

Dorota  •  Link

"Myself all in dirt about building of my house and Sir W. Batten’s a story higher. "

so how many storeys had he had before that building? any idea or maybe some links?

Second Reading

bw  •  Link

Sam commented some time ago about having got an office for himself off from the main office, and a bit later about Penn (and Batten?) then getting their own private offices.

Bill  •  Link

"I fell upon boring holes for me to see from my closet into the great office, without going forth"

Spoiler alert: Whether or not he started "boring holes" today, in a few days, on July 9, he finished the job. I agree with most of the annotators, he simply wanted to see what was happening (or who was present) in the "great office" without having to go look. On July 9 his wife will be present as he works, so I don't think his "pepys-hole" was any great secret.

And if you feel a need to hear the Benny Hill song which LucyC mentioned above that is almost about today's entry you might try the following link. But I urge you to resist.…

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Thanks as ever for your informed and insightful comments Jeannine! :)

The Carterets and the Sandwiches grow closer: this is in Sam's interest, as one is his patron, and the other is his boss. In view of recent disagreements, it does no harm to have a show of support in the office!

Bridget Davis  •  Link

I don't know anything about architecture but could the "boring holes" already have been there, maybe from the construction? I sure enjoy reading these annotations; thank you all.

Gerald Berg  •  Link

What about the chimney-money? Will not pay without force! Tax revolt? Taxed per chimney perhaps?

john  •  Link

There is the matter of how these holes would have been drilled. One would need a hefty wimble and a long bit to drill through the oak-panelled walls. This is not something Pepys would have on him or even easilly available. I do not really think that he drilled the holes himself.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘to fall to
. . 3. To set to work, make a beginning . .
1597 Shakespeare Richard II v. v. 98 My Lord, wilt please you to fall to?
1677 A. Yarranton England's Improvem. 101 Let us fall too, and consider of some good things to advance the Woollen Manufactures
. . 1886 E. Whitaker Tip Cat (new ed.) xv. 199 Dick, finding a spare rake, fell to and worked with a will.’


‘ to fall to ——

. . 4. To apply or betake oneself to; to have recourse to; to take to; to begin, proceed to. With n., inf., or gerund . .
, , 1644 H. Slingsby Diary (1836) 112 In Marston corn feilds [the Parliamentary army] falls to singing psalms.
1707 London Gaz. No. 4329/5 They fell to their Oars . . '

eileen d.  •  Link

enter "chimney tax" in the search field for lots of background.
for starters,

"I am told that this day the Parliament hath voted 2s. per annum for every chimney in England, as a constant revenue for ever to the Crown."…

jimmigee  •  Link

"what a mind I had to her, but did not meddle"
Nearly every day this month I read about a famous person who now wishes that he had done the same!

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The mid-year "Observations" are unusual. They are the closest Pepys gets to sharing his interspections.

As Anais Nin, said "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Jeannine's post about Queen Catherine's reluctant ventures into Court life illustrate the problems Charles II and his retinue had in adapting to civilian life back home in England. Ten years on the run must have seemed much more exciting in retrospect; being warm, fed and comfortable now was much less stimulating. However, she was Court-bred and convent-educated, and used to protocol and ceremony.

European manners, such as they were, came from a couple of 16th century Italian books:

'Galatea: or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners' by Giovanni della Casa made waves in England for centuries. It was first translated into English from Italian in 1576 by Henry Peterson and was immediately taken up by young Oxbridge scholars, who wanted to ditch their reading lists for practical knowledge that would serve them at the Elizabethan court.

Unlike bloodlines, good behavior can be aped, and the popularity of etiquette books speaks not only to a desire for financial reward but also to social mimicry.

The takeaway from Galateo is simple: politeness is the art of pleasing others.
Well-bred men neither take “monstrous strides” nor let their hands “hang dangling down”.
Indecent and improper men make a habit of “thrusting their hands into their bosoms, or handling any part of their persons which is usually covered”.
Loud and messy sneezers were as detested in Della Casa’s time as our own, those people who deign to “sputter in the very faces of those that sit near them”.
Spittle, the public paring of fingernails, and flatulence are held in low esteem.

Pages are devoted to table manners. Toothpicks make one look “like a bird going to build his nest”; only “inn-keepers and parasites” express great pleasure when consuming food and wine.

Other examples are less obvious, such as not smelling anything you intend to eat or drink.

The politest personages in Galateo are those who keep the mouth, ears, and eyes free of offensive stimulus — protecting their bodies and those of their peers. The motif is taken to ends that seem odd to the modern-day reader, who is told that it is rude to peruse personal correspondence in front of guests.
The logic makes sense, as one should never portray themselves as bored, idle, or distracted in the company of others:, The affront of an acquaintance checking text messages over drinks predates smartphones by several centuries.

In addition to prohibitions of the body, there are dicta regarding the spirit. Men must not be too “thoughtful” — “wrapt up in your own reflections” — or exceedingly sensitive, for to socialize with the latter kind of person is like being “surrounded with the finest glass ware; to which the slightest stroke may be fatal”.

Discussing dreams is boorish, for most people are not “wise men amongst the ancients” but see only “trifling and frivolous” images thrown against the screen of sleep.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


Lying is bad. Arrogance is bad. Gossip should be reined in by a government of the tongue. No one ever wants unsolicited advice.

People who subject others to “jingling puns” mistake wit for the shopworn speech of the low and vulgar.

A prostitute should never be described as such — “an immodest woman” will do.

Galateo ends with prose that shows the author’s grace and manners: “because each of the particulars hitherto mentioned is marked but with a slight degree of error, therefore there can be no great harm in neglecting the whole”.
What could be more gauche than instructing a stranger how to act?

Giovanni Della Casa (1503–1556) was a Florentine cleric, born into mercantile wealth with aristocratic origins. After a libertine youth in which he penned obscene poems, he leveraged family connections, which trumped his shaky religious convictions, and found himself appointed Archbishop of Benevento. ... Written between 1552 and 1555, 'Il Galateo' was completed a year before his death. Later, Della Casa asked a nephew to incinerate his compositions, but 'Il Galateo' was published posthumously, with French, Spanish, German, and Latin editions circulating before the century’s turn, and dozens since. ...

Another 16th century Italian book of manners was Baldassare Castiglione’s 'The Book of the Courtier' (1528).

It concerns sprezzatura:
While the qualities associated with this Italian word have been praised since the classical era, sprezzatura found an Early Modern patron in Baldassarre Castiglione, whose 'Il Cortegiano' promotes the performance of effortlessness in the highest regard.

In the early 1500s, Castiglione’s treatise achieved widespread renown as a philosophical exploration of etiquette, courtship, and politics. ... “portraying a perfect Courtier, explaining all the conditions and special qualities requisite in one who deserves this title”.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


There are some obvious traits: noble birth, charming character, skill in war. And then comes sprezzatura, which is the “one universal rule” concerning graceful behavior: “to avoid affectation to the uttermost”, “to practice in everything a certain nonchalance [sprezzatura]”. ...
There is nothing to which we must “give greater care than to conceal art, for if it is discovered, it quite destroys our credit and brings us into small esteem”. He cites the example of classical orators, who, with monologues memorized, pretend to extemporize, as if the language was “springing rather from nature and truth than from study and art; the which, if it had been detected, would have made men wary of being duped by it”.

This is the paradoxical cocktail of qualities in sprezzatura: the achievement of eloquence and honesty through deception and concealment.

Some expressions get close to Castiglione’s ideal: French has 'je ne sais quoi'; Latin, 'ars est celare artem' (it is art to conceal art); Japanese, 'iki', an adjective meaning “subtly elegant, refined with no ostentation”; but nothing captures this aesthetic coolness quite like sprezzatura, which glides off the tongue almost as languidly as the style it describes.

The book was first translated into English by Thomas Hoby in 1561. By 1700 another edition was needed because of the scarcity of copies available.

Although our world looks different to courtly life in Urbino during the Renaissance, these “pages will lack interest only when mankind ceases to be interesting to man, and will reward study so long as the past shall continue to instruct the present and the future”.

Excerpted from…

I think we may say that Charles II's court excelled at three-quarters of "sprezzatura" -- the achievement of eloquence, deception and concealment.
Catherine was accustomed to the honesty part which makes the rest work.

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