Monday 14 July 1662

Up by 4 o’clock and to my arithmetique, and so to my office till 8, then to Thames Street along with old Mr. Green, among the tarr-men, and did instruct myself in the nature and prices of tarr, but could not get Stockholm for the use of the office under 10l. 15s. per last, which is a great price. So home, and at noon Dr. T. Pepys came to me, and he and I to the Exchequer, and so back to dinner, where by chance comes Mr. Pierce, the chyrurgeon, and then Mr. Battersby, the minister, and then Mr. Dun, and it happened that I had a haunch of venison boiled, and so they were very wellcome and merry; but my simple Dr. do talk so like a fool that I am weary of him. They being gone, to my office again, and there all the afternoon, and at night home and took a few turns with my wife in the garden and so to bed. My house being this day almost quite untiled in order to its rising higher. This night I began to put on my waistcoat also. I found the pageant in Cornhill taken down, which was pretty strange.

29 Annotations

First Reading

dirk  •  Link

"10£ 15s per last”

Anybody any idea how much a “last” was?

Bradford  •  Link

Calling All Explicators:
"This night I began to put on my waistcoat also. I found the pageant in Cornhill taken down, which was pretty strange."

Leslie Katz  •  Link

From a definition of "last" in the OED:

2. A commercial denomination of weight, capacity, or quantity, varying for different kinds of goods and in different localities. Cf. G. last.
Originally the "last" must have been the quantity carried at one time by the vehicle (boat, wagon, etc.) ordinarily used for the particular kind of merchandise. As a weight, it is often stated to be (like the Ger. weight of the same name) nominally equivalent either to 2 tons or to 4,000 lbs. In wool weight it is 4368 lbs. (= 12 sacks). A last of gunpowder is said to be 2,400 lbs. (= 24 barrels), and of feathers or flax 1,700 lbs.
The equivalence of the last of wool with 12 sacks seems to have led to an association of the word with the number twelve. Thus a last of hides was formerly 12 dozen (also 20 dickers of 10 hides each); of beer 12 barrels; of pitch 12 (sometimes 14) barrels; of cod and herrings 12 barrels (but of red herrings and pilchards 10,000 to 13,200 fish).
As a measure for grain and malt, the last was in the 16th c. 12 quarters, but is now 10 quarters = 80 bushels.

dirk  •  Link

a "last"

I can now answer my own question (I think):

"A measure of volume, which was often used in the grain business, was the LAST. Depending on the region it varied between 2,800 liter and 3,000 liter. It was also used as an old measure of weight; one last of wheat was 2,400 kg, one last of rye was 2,100 kg and one last of linseed was 2,040 kg."…

10£ 15 s would now be around £880…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"This night I began to put on my waistcoat also.”

Was this a common means of dealing with the night air and a nagging pain, or the result of Sam’s successful experiment?

Friday 18 October 1661: “This night lying alone, and the weather cold, and having this last 7 or 8 days been troubled with a tumor . . . which is now abated by a poultice…, I first put on my waistcoat to lie in all night this year, and do not intend to put it off again till spring.”…

Robert Gertz  •  Link

So our Beth is sticking on to the very last moment before the great roof-raising, eh? I was beginning to think she'd scooted for Brampton already.

Note to self: When and if time-traveling to Pepys' London, avoid consultions with Dr. Tom Pepys.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"but my simple talk so like a fool that I am weary of him"
me thinks Dr. T. Pepys isn't "simple"
he graduated from Medical School in Padua,one of the best Medical Schools at the time; he probably spoke Italian and Latin and I am sure he knew his multiplication tables.

JWB  •  Link

It's the "last" in ballast.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The "pageant in Cornhill": an elevated moving display ad "in" the Street? a signature visual landmark, since Sam finds it "taken down [to be] pretty strange"? (Recalling reactions to changes in the same in Times Square in NYC. A change of ownership, or the "pageant" wasn't cost-effective? Sam showing he's not an entrepreneur?) Or...?

Clement  •  Link

c.1380, "play in a cycle of mystery plays," from M.L. pagina, perhaps from L. pagina "page of a book" (see page (1)) on notion of "manuscript" of a play.
But an early sense in M.E. also was "stage or scene of a play" (1392) and Klein says a sense of L. pagina was "moveable scaffold" (probably from the etymological sense of "stake"). With excrescent -t as in ancient (q.v.). Generalized sense of "showy parade, spectacle" is first attested 1805, though this notion is found in pageantry (1651).

Cornhill being a reknowned street of trade, Terry Foreman's "signature visual landmark" seems quite likely.

Clement  •  Link

Taken down
As to why, I suspect nothing more than the merchants were tired of seeing it every day, and thought it stale and uninteresting. Same reason stores continue to change their window displays frequently. Sam may visit Cornhill as infrequently as some of us do an area shopping mall, and wonder at the changes since our last visit (12 months prior).

JWB, thanks--an interesting link. Residents of North Carolina are known as "Tar Heels" to this day, as are their University's champion basketball team members.

Miss Ann  •  Link

"but my simple talk so like a fool that I am weary of him" - those of us who work with highly educated professionals, in my case lawyers, know that academic brilliance has nothing to do with personality - sometimes personality completely by-passes those with a high education (present company excepted of course).

Xjy  •  Link

"last" "Stockholm tar"
The Baltic is rampant today :-)
Great site, JWB! I'm a bit dubious about the bad reputation of Finnish tar. Have to look into that. As I've mentioned before, Oulu on the Gulf of Bothnia was a great tar metropolis, and Finland still produces tar pastilles and tar soap.
The first novel written by great Swedish author Sara Lidman (from the north) was entitled "tar dale" (it's available in German and French, but not in English) -- "tj?rdalen” in Swedish (1953). It’s about the harsh life of the poor villagers producing the tar.
Funnily enough, just yesterday I had to dig into what a “last” might be for a Swedish tall ship of the 18th century in the East India trade. It’s clearly a Baltic term — German, Frisian, Danish, Swedish. Around 2000 litres (the volume is primary) or 2 tonnes. At the time, Stockholm was a big ship-building centre.
In Sam’s day, of course, Sweden was a great power and still growing. Obviously its merchants and their English agents were fully capable of screwing the market for what they could get for a valuable commodity like tar.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

Residents of North Carolina are known as "Tar Heels"

Off topic, the Tar River flows through central N.C. near Tarboro. The autobiography of an uncle who served as president of UNC is “Memoirs of an Old Tar Heel.”

Mary  •  Link

"my simple Dr."

Enlarging on Miss Ann's note above, nor does academic success, in whatever field, necessarily accompany plain common sense.

language hat  •  Link

"It's clearly a Baltic term - German, Frisian, Danish, Swedish.”

Which made me think it must be in Russian as well, which it turns out it is, doubtless from the time of Peter the Great. This is a most educational site!

andy  •  Link

Up by 4 o'clock and to my arithmetique

I woke up at 4 am too this morning (it’s just light here) but turned over and went back to sleep.

Should we be concerned about Sam’s work/life balance?

is Beth?

Bradford  •  Link

The waistcoat's all very well for October; but July in London, if the current one's anything to go by?

Pauline  •  Link

"This night I began to put on my waistcoat also."
Terry F., I think you have it. Experimenting with keeping his torso covered and warm against his "old troubles". And now with the roof coming off, he takes it up even though it is July (but about to rain). OR it may actually be a truss-like garment; not only warmth, but firm support for his lower abdomen.

Glyn  •  Link

The Pageant in Cornhill

I think that Terry and Clement have basically explained it. But when Charles II ceremonially rode through London on his return in 1661, a series of triumphal arches were especially erected for the occasion, some of which appear to have survived for several years, and I am wondering if this was one of them. Possibly it would have been decorated with images glorifying the king and his father (a bit like what is on the Monument today).

Certainly, Cornhill could have been on the route that Charles took when he rode into London. As they were meant to be temporary structures, and doubtless impeded the traffic, I am surprised they lasted so long, but perhaps no-one wanted the responsibility of doing that, especially when the young king was highly popular. But now it's a year later and maybe getting rickety and dirty, and the king has lost a bit of his popularity.

This is all just a guess though, and I have no idea if "Pageant" would be used to describe such a thing.

Glyn  •  Link

Re Clement's reference: "Klein says a sense of L. pagina was "moveable scaffold" (probably from the etymological sense of "stake”). How close would a moveable scaffold be to a temporary archway or gateway? I have no idea.

Terry F.  •  Link

Glyn's suggestion is borne out by the entry of Monday 22 April 1661: KING'S GOING FROM YE TOWER TO WHITE HALL

Footnote 2: “The members of the Navy Office appear to have chosen Mr. Young's house [in Cornhill] on account of its nearness to the second triumphal arch, situated near the Royal Exchange, which was dedicated to the Navy.”…

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

L&M note on tar and last

The average price of tar in 1662 has been calculated as £10 3s. 4d. per last (i.e. 12 barrels of 30 gallons each), which was lower than the 1661 average. It rose to £15 in 1666. Stockholm tar was reputed to be the best; the tar from Norway (Bergen) and Russia were other varieties.

Bill  •  Link

"10l. 15s. per last, which is a great price"

LAST, a Burden or a certain Weight or Measure, as a Last of Pitch, Tar or Ashes is 12 Barrels, &c. of Codfish is 12 Barrels; of Corn 10 Quarters; of Hides 12 Dozen.
---An Universal Etymological English Dictionary. N. Bailey, 1724.

Bill  •  Link

"did instruct myself in the nature and prices of tarr, but could not get Stockholm for the use of the office"

STOCKHOLM TAR. A bituminous liquid obtained from the wood of Pinna sylvestris (Linn.) and other species of Pinna by destructive distillation. The tar exported from Stockholm in earlier times, and to which the term Stockholm tar was applied, was brought from the northern part of Sweden and from Finland, where the tar was produced by peasants from dry wood stumps burned in tjardalar, or specially made tar-burning ground.
---Dictionary of Applied Chemistry, 1913, v.5, p.195.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘last, n.2 < cognate with Old Frisian . . last cargo, load, duty, unit of measure . .
. . 3. A large commercial unit of weight, capacity, or quantity, varying for different kinds of goods and in different localities . .
a. A measure for . . pitch . .a last . . was formerly . . of pitch 12 (sometimes 14) barrels . .
. . 1486 in M. Oppenheim Naval Accts. & Inventories Henry VII (1896) 15 A last of pitch and Tarre.
. . 1612 W. Symonds Proc. Eng. Colonie Virginia in Narr. Early Virginia (1907) 184 In 3 monthes, we made 3 or 4 Lasts of pitch, and tarre.
. . 2006 S. Murdoch Network North vi. 212 An associate..procured a recommendation from the British ambassador for the free export of 150 lasts of pitch from Sweden . . ‘

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