Saturday 20 September 1662

Up betimes and to my office, where I found my brother Tom, who tells me that his mistress’s mother has wrote a letter to Mr. Lull of her full satisfaction about Tom, of which I was glad, and do think the business will take. All this morning we sat at the office, Sir J. Minnes and I. And so dined at home, and among my workmen all the afternoon, and in the evening Tom brought Mr. Lull to me, a friend of his mistress, a serious man, with whom I spoke, and he gives me a good account of her and of their satisfaction in Tom, all which pleases me well. We walked a good while in the garden together, and did give him a glass of wine at my office, and so parted.

So to write letters by the post and news of this to my father concerning Tom, and so home to supper and to my lodgings and to bed.

To-night my barber sent me his man to trim me, who did live in King Street in Westminster lately, and tells me that three or four that I knew in that street, tradesmen, are lately fallen mad, and some of them dead, and the others continue mad. They live all within a door or two one of another.

41 Annotations

First Reading

Bradford  •  Link

Tradesmen "lately fallen mad, and some of them dead, and the others continue mad."

Perhaps not news one would most enjoy hearing while being shaved with a straight razor.

Has L&M any further intelligence on this contagious mania?

A. Hamilton  •  Link

three or four that I knew in that street, tradesmen, are lately fallen mad, and some of them dead, and the others continue mad.

It seems to me that there isn't a very great distance between the repetition of credulous gossip and the curiosity of the epidemiologst, who takes the added step of asking how these events may be connected. Pepys is living on the threshhold of the invention of the scientific method. We see a reflection of this curiousity in his constant questioning of prices & practices.

Terry F  •  Link

Bradford, L&M do not try to clarify the madness of the tradesmen.

Since it's too early for the use of mercuric nitrate to make felt hats (… ), I was wondering if there were not something like lead that was involved, as it was in "The Madness of King George [III])"

[Side note: "The movie is based on a play by Alan Bennett called "The Madness of George III". The popular story in the UK is that the movie's title is different from that of the play because it was thought the American audience might mistake it for a sequel. While not wholly true, director Nicholas Hytner has confirmed that it was "not wholly untrue" and it is now widely held that this almost certainly did play a part in the titling of the film."]…

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"three or four that I knew in that street,tradesmen are latelly fallen mad"
"the risks to people involved in the manufacture of white lead used in paints and glazes were far graver than the risks of absorbing it through the skin as a cosmetic-'ceruse'"
Lisa Picard-Restoration London

Terry F  •  Link

Lead was also used in the making of ammunition, ceramics, glass, plumbing and, of course, roofing.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Lead was also used, in later times, to seal tin cans when canning of meat was first introduced: they didn't understand the connection even in the 19th century. Sam's long time successor in the Navy Victualling office in the 19th century decided that HM Navy should have the new tinned meat - the ratings were suspicious of the new food preferring the old salt pork (which Sam's ratings would have had). They called the new canned meat "sweet FA" - commenting on the unknown origins of the meat. Sweet FA was Sweet Fanny Adams a London girl who was abducted, abused, murdered and dumped. The case was a newspaper sensation - she was always called "Sweet Fanny Adams". The ratings were right to be suspicious: lead poisoning is thought to have been a main cause for the disaster of the vanished Franklin expedition to discover the NW passage. Probably language hat is now going to tell us all that this is *not* the derivation of sweet FA, but it is what I read somewhere (probably to do with the Franklin expedition). The crew of navy ships in Sam's time did not usually go on very long voyages - the North African coast or the West Indies were the really long voyages for them - India and the East Indies were not yet opened up to the English fleet, so they did not suffer the awful food privations of later RN Ships. It was the next century, the 18th, which became known as The Age of Scurvy. See "Scurvy" by Stephen R. Bown (ISBN 0670041203 Amazon reference:…

Paul Chapin  •  Link

"the 18th century became known as The Age of Scurvy"
Until my hero, Captain James Cook, became the first sea captain to keep his men free from scurvy by forcing them to drink citrus juice from limes and other fruits. From which came the term "limey" - but you all knew that.

Terry F  •  Link

The 18th was also the century of chemistry, in which lead poisoning was proposed as the cause of symptoms of a syndrome.

The so-called "Devon colic" first reported in 1655 was hypothesized as due to "lead...used in the cider making process both as a component of the cider presses and in the form of lead shot which was used to clean them."…

JWB  •  Link

"...are lately fallen mad, and some of them dead,"
Lead(&other heavy metal) poisoning is cumulative, slow acting. These men are reported to have lately fallen mad and some dead. My guess it was moldy grain. Neighbors would have access to the same storage.

Terry F  •  Link

Thank you, JWB for a convincing case;
I had followed my own lead and strayed WAY off-topic.

andy  •  Link

"moldy grain" - Yes, JWB

I once came across a story in French about a madness which had engulfed a village and it was due to a psychoactive drug like LSD that had come from naturally-fermenting grain. I forget the chemistry but it was something like ricin (Of which we have heard a lot more recently in a different context).

GrahamT  •  Link

Re: JWB's mouldy grain:
Rye (and other grains, but less commonly) can develop a black mould called Ergot. This contains a substance once called Ergotine, now better known as LSD. It is a well documented cause of "plagues" of madness. Rye is a common additive to bread in colder climates, so if a baker used a bad batch of Rye flour, a lot of his customers would go mad (ergotism)and some would die of the mycotoxins.

Xjy  •  Link

Occupational diseases
The classic work in this field is Italian, from 1700. The Diseases of Artificers, by Bernardino Ramazzini. A far too short article is available in Wikipedia…

Terry F  •  Link

Meanwhile in Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

'Convulsive ergotism may have been a physiological basis for the Salem witchcraft crisis in 1692' (and of other witchcraft cases there, 1648-1706).
The hypothesis in inverted commas is the subtitle of a crucial paper by Linnda R. Caporael, published in the prestigious journal *Science,* Vol. 192 (2 April 1976):…

Pedro  •  Link

They called the new canned meat "sweet FA"

Thank you Aussie Susan for the pending derivation of "Sweet FA". I have always wondered how it tied up with the more "colloquial" expression!

Robert Gertz  •  Link

If it were ergot, one might think more customers of the bakery would be affected, but they might have stored the bread. Still, unless we hear of wider reports I'd suspect something more localized to the tradesmen or their homes. Unfortunately we don't know the details of their occupations...

And of course, Capt. John Graunt, pioneering businessman/epidemiologist, is a friend of Sam's who bought his book on regarding observations on the bills of mortality on March 24, 1662. It sure would be interesting to know if Sam ever mentioned the matter of the King Street tradesmen to him.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Tom in love...

Not exactly a wild romantic is our Tom.

Jeannine  •  Link

"Tom in Love",,,,Robert, when I read the entries about trying to find Tom a wife and the thorough lack of any "emotions" usually associated with love, Tom could as easily be trying to buy a new horse, a shovel, cement, or some other inert object,,,,,all factual and transaction oriented,,,,but wait I need to take that back,,,there would probably be a little more emotion shed for selecting a new it might be a "beauty"!

Mary  •  Link

All for love?

Certainly Sam is not about to allow brother Tom to repeat his own youthful rashness in simply marrying for love. Perhaps this is wise; from the little that we have seen of Tom so far, he seems to lack the intellectual drive that is enabling our diarist to make good despite a penniless match.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

What gets me, Jeannine, is Sam's utter failure to see anything wrong in this. And yet, our boy, hope of his family, married on wild impulse a girl with no dowry and no prospects, however high flown Alex's pedigree might have been.

Would be very interesting to get Bess' impressions at this juncture. In fact I wonder if some of her discomfort at Brampton is due to John, Margaret, and our likely very unhappy and bitter Paulina constantly hinting at the need for one of the boys to make a "worthy" match...

"The news about Tom's match is good, eh Mr. Pepys?"

"Yes, indeed, Mrs. Pepys. Well, no offense meant to our Samuel but there'll be none of this nonsense with Thomas's match. At least one of me sons won't be yoking himself to the first trollopy Frenchie...Oh...Hello, daughter Bess." John turns from Margaret to eye his flighty Frenchie in-law just back from God knows what sordidness at Hinchingbroke.

Six more days in Hell, just six more days in Hell...Bess nods politely, "Father Pepys", heading...make that racing...for her room.

Jeannine  •  Link

All for Love?.. Mary and's not that Sam should be actually selecting a woman for Tom with the thought that "love" would be the impetus for the marriage, as Tom didn't know the candidates. It's that the criteria doesn't even seem to include the fact that the partner will be sharing a life with Tom, hopefully having a family together, being enjoyable companions for each other. etc. The "human" dimension of the relationship seems lacking.
In Sam's case he married Elizabeth without a dowry, etc. but with something that would serve him well, she had a higher social status than Sam, the son of a tailor had at birth. Although Sam would earn the way up the ladder by his achievements he at least had a partner that would be a suitable person to accompany him on his way up the chain, something that a dowry could not guarantee.
Also, to Robert's point on Elizabeth's thoughts, perhaps some of her discomfort at Brampton may have to do with the difference in class between her father/mother-in-law and herself. In Sam's case he is upward bound and agressive about moving up in society, in the case of his parents, this may not be the case and it may tiring after a long stay.

Jeannine  •  Link

The chapter entitled " A Treaty of Marriage" in the book
"The Life and Loyalties of Thomas Bruce" by the Earl of Cardigan describes the selection/negotiations for a partner for the young Thomas Bruce(the marriage took place in 1676 and was highly successful). Cardigan points out that..
"Our ancestors as we have seen, had notions of marriage very different from our own. They understood, however, that if a young man and a girl were paired off, having the same social and financial backgrounds, having been brought up in similar environments, having in common many acquiantances and friends, many tastes and occupations, many prejudices and enthusiasms -then it was extremely likely that they would not disagree, but would settle down to love contentedly together.
They understood also that, if both had been shielded from other intimate contacts, if both were healthy in body and reasonably comely in looks-then it was tolerably certain that (even without much prior acquaintance) they would discover in the intimacies of marriage some degree of mutual pleasure, which in turn might develop into mutual love.
It is not disputed that, in a very great number of cases, marriages this prosaically commenced did enjoy a remarkable measure of success---far more than is achieved by our present-day method of letting young people select their own mates." (p. 30).
Of note--this speaks to those marraiges arranged by "good" and "caring" parents, guardians, etc. and the way things "should" have been and clearly doesn't apply to the way things happened for many where the matchmaker may have had an agenda other than the well being of the couple to be.

Pauline  •  Link

Tom in love-

I’m not sure that a love match would not have been acceptable to Sam and his parents if Tom had met and fallen in love with someone. I think what we have here is Tom, with his stuttering and insecurities, reaching an age and the position of taking over the family business and household and needing a wife beside him to run the household.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

It will be interesting to monitor the course of other marital and love arrangements as the Diary progresses. I'm just disappointed Sam makes no hint of valuing what he won via the impulsive act of marrying Bess. As for the St. Michels' social position, I think Sam dismissed it best in discussing Balty "he wants bread", though I have been surprised that he's never alluded to it in discussing his efforts to win a commanding position in the office (I mean as he blew up the Brampton inheritance into a major deal hoping to gain a little status), even if his own view of their pretensions might be a bit cynical.

"Sir William Batten, my father-in-law, the Sieur de St. Michel..." Alexander gives a friendly but reserved nod.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Actually Jeannine, I tend to file all your "human" dimensions of marriage under the "love" heading and it disappoints that Sam offers no evidence of being concerned that his brother find emotional/long-term happiness. Still, Pauline is probably right to note that Tom is getting on and due to his physical drawbacks is not likely to be forward in seeking a companion...Sam and John Sr. very likely have left him to his devices for as long as they felt they could.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Tradesmen Lately fallen mad; from gossip to epidemiology

It was to be near 200 years until John Snow's classic and elegant demonstration of the spread of cholora…

Nix  •  Link

With roughly half of today's "love based" marriages ending in divorce, I don't know that we have any standing to criticize Samuel's "utter failure to see anything wrong" in matches negotiated on the basis of financial benefit. It seems to be pretty clear that the physical side of Samuel and Elizabeth's marriage wasn't all that either of them might have hoped for.

Jeannine  •  Link

Nix, Divorce was not really an option in Sam's day (the Roos case will come in the future where this will be a hot topic). For the most part women were not educated, not given opportunities for "decent" work, not raised to be independent, could not finanically support themselves, etc. so people tended to stay in bad marriages because they didn't have all of the alternatives that we have today. I think that the issue with Sam's views is that there isn't even a hint that he is considering a partner as a lifetime companion for Tom or thinking of his "happiness". This doesn't have to mean "love" but "like" might be a thought that seems missing from his entries.

And on a selfish note.. Sam had better choose carefully as he'll have to put up with the choice as a sister-in-law too.

Australian Susan  •  Link

It is outside our period, but has do people recall reading the Paston Letters at all (15th century English correspondence among a large and powerful family). I really disliked the attitudes shown in these letters towards marriage and how girls were treated entirely as commodities to be sold and manipulated for the financial benefit of the men. The one love-match described in the letters makes the matriarch of the family furious and the girl is physically abused and comepltely outcast for not obeying the older members of the family. It makes grim reading. Probably some of these attitudes would still be held.Emotions and feelings never come into debates on dowries and contracts, except maybe avarice.
Amazon ref:…

A. Hamilton  •  Link

Thanks,Michael Robinson, for a fascinating digression. The map drawn by Snow to plot the incidence of cholera cases ought to be a classic (if it is not already). I'd go so far to say that it exceeds in importance and quality of information Minard's famous map of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, of which Edward Tufte in "The Visual Display of Qunatitative Information" claims, "It may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn."

Mary  •  Link

The politics of marriage.

We accept readily enough the datum that, for most of our history, royal and aristocratic marriages were most often made for pragmatic reasons (political, dynastic,financial etc.). Why is it so difficult for us to swallow the idea that many lower-status marriages were made, perfectly properly, upon the same pattern?

In this particular case, Sam appears by no means unusual in his ambition for Tom to marry a suitable wife, one who will tend to enhance Tom's life in a practical way, so bringing advantage to the whole Pepys family. Tom needs a helpmeet. If he also grows to love his wife in the romantic sense, that will be a bonus.

As for Sam's attiude in general, it has to be said that he is not the most lively example of a man who empathizes with the emotional state of others. He is very protective of his father and, we deduce, is still in love with Elizabeth, but that's about it. His withers are seldom wrung.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: Snow and Tufte

Monsieur Hamilton, Tufte does in fact know about Snow, calling his graphic "an early and most worthy use of a map to chart patterns of disease" in the book you cite. He also devotes 10 pages in his book "Visual Explanations" to Snow and the brilliance of his work, even pointing out flaws in others' analysis of his data and using it to show how numbers can be "massaged" to "mask or even distort the true story of the data."

That said, I think Minard's chart (which I have hung in my office), with the six variables it displays, is still the champ when it comes to statistical graphics. FWIW.

(More on that chart here:… )

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I'm not sure that it does seem clear that the physical side of Sam and Bess' marriage wasn't all they'd hoped for? (Though is anyone's?) We know they enjoyed each other's physical company in those "lay long in bed with my wife" mornings. It seems they were unhappy apart and Sam's longings at times for her were intense. We know of course they wanted but haven't gotten children to date and Sam suffers and tends to move toward philanderous acts when Bess' physical problems prevent sex but those are by no means arguments that they didn't enjoy the physical side of their marriage. In part I say this because I've never been too willing to completely accept Tomalin's (among others) pronouncements on Bess' feelings or Sam's at full value. As for Tom, it seems Sam having found considerable contentment in his marriage despite the negative material gain it brought him has little concern that his brother achieve the same. Maybe it is desperation, a desire to at least get Tom a wife before it's utterly too late, but it seems cold on Sam's part.

GrahamT  •  Link

Sam is being pragmatic. If Tom can't find "a match made in heaven" then he will help with a match made on earth

Second Reading

Paul  •  Link

More on ergot
Ergot is caused by a fungus (Claviceps purpurea) which has been found on hundreds of plants in almost every country of the world. The fungus can adapt itself to form many different varieties. New species of the fungus and new hosts are still discovered today.…

Ergotism is the syndrome that develops in humans and animals after eating food or feed with ergot contamination. Ergotism in humans is now rare because of the strict guidelines for allowable ergot bodies in grain. Ergot poisoning from eating contaminated rye flour led to deaths in the Middle Ages. Symptoms include impaired blood circulation, causing alternating burning and freezing sensations, followed by gangrene of extremities. This symptom was referred to as St. Anthony's Fire. Nervous convulsions can also occur and lead to eventual death. Commercially produced flour and grain products are at very little risk of contamination, but home-grown grain should not be used unless checked thoroughly to ensure it is free of ergot.…

Here in Australia, drugs previously derived from ergot but now synthesised have been used since at least the 1970s for the treatment of migraine (Sandomigran ergotamine tablets) and as ergometrine injection (for post-partum haemorrhage). A classic case of Paracelsus’ dictum: “All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison”

Gerald Berg  •  Link

Just to point out: Lead poisoning would not have affected multiple people simultaneously.

WR to grain contamination: If it were the fault of the grain I would have expected some comment on even more people falling ill at the time of these deaths.

Speaking of grain contamination if someone mentioned A. Huxley's The Devils of Loudon I missed that.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

It was mercury not lead poisoning that was a danger in making felt hats. 

Mad Hatter syndrome
Gastrointestinal and central nervous system manifestations of chronic mercury poisoning, including stomatitis, diarrhea, ataxia, tremor, hyperreflexia, sensorineural impairment, and emotional instability; previously seen in workers in lead manufacturing who put material that contains mercury in their mouths to make the material more pliable.

Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012

Not sure hats were made with mercury in Sam's time, though they were in the 19th century.  

See also, Hatter's Castle, a 1931 novel by A.J. Cronin.

There were many poisons around in Sam's time that no one knew much about. It was a dangerous time to live. Only the 20th Century science brought much understanding and relief.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

It was mercury not lead poisoning that was a danger in making felt hats. 

Mad Hatter syndrome
Gastrointestinal and central nervous system manifestations of chronic mercury poisoning, including stomatitis, diarrhea, ataxia, tremor, hyperreflexia, sensorineural impairment, and emotional instability; previously seen in workers in lead manufacturing who put material that contains mercury in their mouths to make the material more pliable.

Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012

Not sure hats were made with mercury in Sam's time, though they were in the 19th century.  

See also, Hatter's Castle, a 1931 novel by A.J. Cronin.

There were many poisons around in Sam's time that no one knew much about. It was a dangerous time to live. Only 20th Century science brought much understanding and relief.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re Fanny Adams, OED has:

‘ < Fanny Adams, the name of a child who was murdered and dismembered at Alton, Hampshire, England, in August 1867.
. . 2. slang. Freq. in sweet Fanny Adams: nothing at all. Sometimes interpreted as a euphemism for ‘sweet fuck all’ in the same sense . .
. . 1930 J. Brophy & E. Partridge Songs & Slang Brit. Soldier: 1914–1918 123 F.A. Sometimes lengthened into Sweet F.A. or bowdlerized into Sweet Fanny Adams. Used to mean ‘nothing’ where something was expected . . ‘

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