Thursday 13 November 1662

Up and began our discontent again and sorely angered my wife, who indeed do live very lonely, but I do perceive that it is want of work that do make her and all other people think of ways of spending their time worse, and this I owe to my building, that do not admit of her undertaking any thing of work, because the house has been and is still so dirty.

I to my office, and there sat all the morning and dined with discontent with my wife at noon, and so to my office, and there this afternoon we had our first meeting upon our commission of inspecting the Chest, and there met Sir J. Minnes, Sir Francis Clerke, Mr. Heath, Atturney of the Dutchy, Mr. Prinn, Sir W. Rider, Captn. Cocke, and myself. Our first work to read over the Institution, which is a decree in Chancery in the year 1617, upon an inquisition made at Rochester about that time into the revenues of the Chest, which had then, from the year 1588 or 1590, by the advice of the Lord High Admiral and principal officers then being, by consent of the seamen, been settled, paying sixpence per month, according to their wages then, which was then but 10s. which is now 24s.

We adjourned to a fortnight hence. So broke up, and I to see Sir W. Pen, who is now pretty well, but lies in bed still; he cannot rise to stand. Then to my office late, and this afternoon my wife in her discontent sent me a letter, which I am in a quandary what to do, whether to read it or not, but I purpose not, but to burn it before her face, that I may put a stop to more of this nature. But I must think of some way, either to find her some body to keep her company, or to set her to work, and by employment to take up her thoughts and time. After doing what I had to do I went home to supper, and there was very sullen to my wife, and so went to bed and to sleep (though with much ado, my mind being troubled) without speaking one word to her.

43 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

"our commission of inspecting the Chest"

L&M note: "This was the commission appointed on 20 October to examine the affairs of the Chatham Chest. Its quorum was three, and of the members here mentioned (there were 12 others), Clark was M.P. for Rochester, John Heathe Attorney-General to the Duchy of Lancaster, Prynne M.P. for Bath, Rider and Cocke merchants. Pepys himself proved the most active of them all...."

"a decree in Chancery in the year 1617, upon an inquisition made at Rochester about that time into the revenues of the Chest"

L&M note: "The report of 1617 was that of a similar commission appointed in 1616."

Terry F  •  Link

"Pepys himself proved the most active of them all"

Recall his notably charitable reception in the Navy Office of impoverished seamen; he, a landlubber, had a more charitable disposition towards them than his 'senior' sea-dog colleagues.

Bradford  •  Link

"my wife in her discontent sent me a letter, which I am in a quandary what to do, whether to read it or not, but I purpose not, but to burn it before her face, that I may put a stop to more of this nature."

He mistakes the mettle of the woman if he thinks to solve this dispute by such means: his prowess at the office does not translate to the home.

Australian Susan  •  Link

"Pepys himself proved most active of all"
Although I don't doubt that Sam was moved by the plight of impoverished seamen, I think also he was motivated to tackle the problems ofthe Chatham Chest vigourously because he could not abide slipshod proceedings, administrative muddle and the like: he just *had* to fix this! I have in my mind the picture of most of the members of this group thinking they will meet a few times, discuss the problems of the Chest, issue a few directives, eat a few good business dinners and generally not exert themselves much, but then they find they are being prodded along by someone with sharp eyes, a well-filled, well-sorted brain and a seemingly inifinite capacity for hard work and ferreting out details.

Glyn  •  Link

Perhaps he thinks the bad news will just disappear if he doesn't open the letter - that's a human enough reaction.

Does anyone remember just when it was that he said he and his wife were now very happy together (and was it simply wishful thinking on his part)?

Miss Ann  •  Link

Poor Bess, she only wants a companion and now she's getting the silent treatment - I feel for her.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

What normal couple isn't very happy one day and the next ready to go at each other's throats? The arguing is not important. But Sam is doing something terrible in dismissing Bess like this...He's had her feeling like his partner, now instead of listening to her and giving a reason or two for why the companion idea's a problem he's out to establish his authority. It's a compliment to him and his efficient ways that Bess should choose to write out her woes, hoping he'll treat her with respect.

In short, Sam...You're blowin' it-bad. I wonder if in part it's just bad timing...The recent troubles have got him anxious to have authority confirmed in the State and in his home, perhaps?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I try to imagine poor Will Hewer trying desperately to make sense of all the glaring and Sam's pompous silence.

I must not kick him in his stone wound...I must not kick him in his stone would. Much as I would like to, Bess thinks as she lies next to our proud little Napoleon, cold and distant, his manner.

That said and done, to be fair, Sam has been counting pennies and denying himself the pleasures of new books and wine, though the expense ("We must save for our age, Mrs. Pepys. Now is not the time to abandon thrift.") argument sounds a little hollow when he caves at every new play. She might have mentioned it to him before holding interviews-unless of course she has...For the past few weeks...And he's never listened. The letter thing is just unforgiveable though, especially from our pov since we lose out on reading it.

inaquascripto  •  Link

Bess is in the fortunate and unfortunate position of haveing no personel responsibilities as every one be doing their job. Most of the wives of lessor folks had to feed, wash, wipe, scrub a brood of running noses, wear out their knees, throw out a disk in the lower lumber, or if poorer be scivy to a lady with no life of her own, or if that be not possible help out at Mother Bedding's local pleasure centre.
Other wise at the other end of the Economic scale, one spent the day getting dressed and making the rounds of the society and sipping fine Earl grey with pinky in accustomed manner [Manor]
Elizabeth be transitioning between be the bride of a ne'erdo well, but promissing and now is progressing upscale to able to enjoy and join the well healed society.
She does not yet have all the Ingredients to be name droping [" I was just saying to Palmer, you..."],or sewing delicate doilies.
Quite naturally Eliza needs some higher challenges as she has obtained what many would like to have, food in bellie , a tee shirt on the back and tent over her head while she cuddles up to her warm spot. This take most people 12hrs just to get the basics, so now it is time for Eliza to feed the upper brain.
Of course the male of the species does understand this need , as she be there for his needs, not a unique human than happens to be his orbit.

Terry F  •  Link

"I went home to supper, and there was very sullen to my wife, and so went to bed and to sleep...without speaking one word to her."

Do we see passive-aggression, or acting so? This is all very deliberate, and, yes, cruel.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Sam mentions that Elizabeth is in want of "work". Wonder how he defines this?

I sense that, hovering around on the edges of their minds is the sad fact that they are having to come to terms with being childless - no sign of anything despite years of marriage - so Elizabeth needs to do *something* to occupy herself if she is not taken up with pregnancy, child-bearing and, knowing her, having arguments with the nursery maids! They do not seem to have ever faced this (yet) or discussed it, but it must add strain. Even when they moved into this house, they fixed on one room as a nursery, so still had hopes then. But they must have dwindled away by now.

Joe  •  Link

"...but I do perceive that it is want of work that do make her and all other people think of ways of spending their time worse"

The "effects of idleness" again.

Pauline  •  Link

"Up and began our discontent again and sorely angered my wife.."
But let's keep this in context: the two young ladies in question have been introduced to Elizabeth by her brother Balty. Yesterday found them: "...bred up with too great liberty for my family, and I fear greater inconveniences of expenses, and my wife’s liberty will follow..."

It's not just the idea of a companion for Elizabeth, it is also this/these particular candidates. And Sam's statement about her current lack of work, while she is at Tom's to save her the burden of "the dirt", is very current-situation based. Like maybe once she is back in charge of and busy with her household she will be less vulnerable to the these young ladies and their "liberty". Good old Jane suits better; Sam has ongoing problems with Elizabeth's family.

Xjy  •  Link

This day revolves around Bess
What a shame we haven't got her diary...

andy  •  Link

But I must think of some way

and being unable to do so, Sam retreats into his cave.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"who indeed do live very lonely"
She should adopt a child or get a dog or both.:)

alanB  •  Link

Xjy laments that Mrs P didn't keep a blog. Perhaps she did - inaquascripto and written between the lines of Mr P's ramblings. Maybe we should be looking for our own treasure in Cambridge. (Please take with a pinch of salt Mr Gertz!)

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...who indeed do live very lonely..." And I suspect Sam's principle fear is those independent young ladies might encourage Bess to seek out companionship. What's good for the King's lady friends is most emphatically not good for Mr. Pepys' Missus, however much he may enjoy viewing their antics.

Now lets play devil's advocate and wonder if perhaps Sam really is to some extent protecting Bess from a real danger. The court is sordid and vicious, there are many who would happy lure an innocent if somewhat willful young wife into trouble. Our Bess would not be the first good lady led astray to her regret and by the lights of that time and in some ways even our own it is Sam's duty to protect her.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

Chatham Chest

Don't forget the Batten angle here. Pepys
has decided Batten is corrupt and is cheating the Chest, according to information he received. He initiated the inquiry as I recall, and is determined to see Batten fall (another reason for the distance between Pepys and the Battens,btw).

A. Hamilton  •  Link

Bess or Beth and anger

Bess or Beth? I forget. Eternal male dilemma-- how to respond to an angry woman. Pepys understands why she's frustrated, but doesn't agree with her solution, which seems to be to hire one of Balty's young women. He has the purse strings. Her only recourse is to make him feel miserable if she doesn't get her way. He wants to divert her in other ways. Their roles and responses flow from the structure of the family, in which Elizabeth has no more real independence than a child would have.It was the way of the world in those days. Robert Gertz is right in saying he makes it worse by refusing to read her letter, denying her equality on an emotional as well as a financial level. Its a mess, Bess.

Jeannine  •  Link

Robert-- perhaps Sam and Elizabeth live in a state of perpetual juggling of conflicts greater than just themselves, societal, personal differences and family ties-- Tomalin offers some insights here when she says "The character of Charles II set up another conflict for him. As a young man Pepys lived in a society in which two cultures co-existed: the sexually liberated low life found among the Whitehall clerks, tavern and shopkeepers of Westminster Hall, and the puritan culture in which he was brought up, with its ideal of continence and perpetual wrestling to resist temptation."( p201). Tomalin also explains that in regards to Elizabeth "The deepest bond in her life may well have been with her brother Balty;it was reciprocal, and each is shown looking out for each other in the pages of the Diary" (p. 210). Perhaps Balty for all of his faults listened to Elizabeth and respected her feelings, and made an effort to help her, which is something that Sam is clearly not doing here. The sadness is that for all of the energy and creativity that Sam puts into solving problems, exploring alternatives, etc. at the office, he hasn't carried this skill set into his personal life to help his wife. Even if the best solution was not one of Balty's suggested companions, he knows his wife is lonely and could help to guide her into activites, find a place to "fit" and help her choose some friends that could provide a "safe haven" where she could flourish. She took the time and thought to put her words into writing whcih clearly shows something is hurting in her life. To deny her a voice may give him the immediate result of sidestepping the hiring of a companion, but will no doubt plant a lingering seed of resentment in Elizabeth. A sad day.

Terry F  •  Link

"Bess or Beth? I forget." - don't we all, A.Hamilton?

Other bynames for and diminutives of "Elizabeth":

Terry F  •  Link

Still other bynames/diminutives of “Elizabeth”:


Terry F  •  Link

SPOILER: bynames of Elizabeth will come in handy in coming years.

(Oy, too many puns....)

Jeannine  •  Link

Gee Terry shall we digree even further down the road of variations of (in)famous Elizabeths...

Lizzie Pepys took an axe
And gave her Sammy 40 whacks
And when she Saw her letter burn
She decided to take another turn

Terry F  •  Link

Nice turn yourself, Jeannine!

Matthew Knight  •  Link

"The sadness is that for all of the energy and creativity that Sam puts into solving problems, exploring alternatives, etc. at the office, he hasn’t carried this skill set into his personal life to help his wife." Just a snip from above, but the idea that this is even a consideration for 17th century man is purely a 21st century idea. In theory - if not always in practice - the woman is subservient in any marital relationship at this point in human history. "Like it or lump it" would have been how Sam's male contemporaries would have reacted to a wife's unhappiness with her lot. Even though it can be said Samuel Pepys is quite interspective and egalitarian for a man of his times - it's a bit of stretch to turn him into a "sensitive new-age guy." In short, who's wearing the pants in this family?

Actually, I think he's just being a skin-flint. Finances being a somewhat of a balancing act (renovations, etc.) - I'm betting he's just too cheap to put up with the expense of another mouth to feed, cloth and house. And a "lady" of this type would be no scullery maid. She would have to be presentable in good company and would have expected to be kept in a style to which she was accustomed. That don't come cheap!

Then there's the shift in the balance of power this would represent. 2 against 1! Another consideration, I suspect.

Australian Susan  •  Link

The previous experiment of having a companion for Elizabeth - Sam's sister Pall - didn't work out. Maybe this has made Sam cautious.

Nix  •  Link

And don't forget ...

and Liza with a Z

Jeannine  •  Link

Matthew--Thanks for the comments and good points about a modern perspective vs. Sam's time period. There is one angle that perhaps a 17th century Sam should be considering -- many unhappy wives were having affairs, running around behind their husband's backs,running away, etc. That was a reality of his time period and the Charles II culture that he dealt with on a day to day basis. Best to keep "the wife" happy and busy so that she doesn't follow the lead of other disgruntled wives.
Also, I agree with the penny pinching issue....but 2 against 1..Hmmm....anyone with kids knows that "selective listening" is a universal survival skill that is timeless and linked to the survival of the species, so Sam could have opted out of listening at any time.

Mrs. Gay Gertz  •  Link

Jeannine, I liked your take off on the Lizzy Borden Poem, el mucho.
From other media sources and people it seems like a lot of older generation husbands don't care enough about their wives to treat them with more sensitivity. I wish I could say more about how my husband sets a new example, but he says he'll only be embarrassed if I do. That is, he sets a good example of a good husband, MOST OF THE TIME!

Jeannine  •  Link

Mrs. Gay Gertz, Anyone reading Robert's annotations would KNOW he thinks the world of his wife and it shows! My husband's strategy is to encourage me to read more and more about Sam and the men of his time ~~ it's like having his own personal marketing committee, by comparison he'll ALWAYS LOOK GREAT! That, a good sense of humor, "selective listening" and ridding the house of any sharp axes are the hidden secrets to marital success in the 21st century.

inaquascripto  •  Link

"many unhappy wives were having affairs, running around behind their husband’s backs," and still do, The Don Juans of the world, always be having a field day [nite]
Humans be at all times, doth enjoy biofeedback of pleasure, and fail to see that others are doing the same thing.
Rarely do people think of the consequences of an action 'til it has sad consequences.
or "Homines libenter id quod volunt credunt" from Caesar ,Debello Gallico,III,18
Men easily believe what they want .

Mary  •  Link

"many unhappy wives were having affairs..."

Lest anyone be tempted to impute such base intentions to Elizabeth, I suggest that it would be very difficult indeed for her to conduct a clandestine affair, even if she were minded to. In a household where the servants live so much en famille, it would be impossible for her to keep such a secret. Sarah, at least, would find out about the goings-on and would be most likely to inform Sam, given that her relationship with him seems generally to run more smoothly that her relationship with Elizabeth.

language hat  •  Link

"it would be impossible for her to keep such a secret"

Well, of course it was impossible to keep such secrets from personal servants; that's why ladies had ladies' maids and were so close to them. You'll note that Elizabeth does not like Sarah and wants a maid of her own choosing. I make no imputation of unchastity here, merely an observation.

maureen  •  Link

Guys! It's a class thing. When we began Elizabeth had to do all the work and neither could afford much of a social life. Now they have joined the middle classes, the servants do the work, Sam is at his tailor, at the book stalls, doing business lunches and networking. Elizabeth is simply bored out of her head - she wants a companion to talk to and we know that this particular problem will not be solved for 200 years or more, in fact it gets worse before it begins to get better.

inaquascripto  •  Link

"Guys! It’s a class thing," It is a lack of education by all classes, the world over, just that Christians gives lip Service to equality of the gender. It still be in the Bible that Eve be a rib of Adam, so we use any old excuse to get our own way..

Pauline  •  Link

Thanks, Maureen
There must be a whole class of "campanions" out there looking around for an opportunity such as this one with Elizabeth. The options for these women, while having touching points with today, have their own difficulties.

Pedro  •  Link

"who indeed do live very lonely"

Remembering all the dancing and gay life at Hinchingbrooke.

Second Reading

arby  •  Link

It's more than just thinking "the bad news will just disappear if he doesn't open the letter", he was going to burn it unread in front of her. Very provocatively rubbing her nose in his dismissal of her concerns, a vivid demonstration of how little her opinion matters to him.

john  •  Link

@arby There are many instances in the diary where Pepys takes his wife's concerns and opinions in mind. He did not burn the letter unopened so that may have been petulance at the moment writ down. I note that he thought about whether or not to open it rather than simply dismissing it.

Christopher  •  Link

I recall an earlier post where Sam tore up a letter Liz had written to him. He hadn't read it, tore it up in front of her, then felt sorry about doing it. Maybe she finds writing a carefully constructed letter easier than debating to her opinionated and "high" husband in her second language.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"my wife in her discontent sent me a letter, which I am in a quandary what to do, whether to read it or not, but I purpose not, but to burn it before her face, that I may put a stop to more of this nature."

L&M: See…

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