Friday 21 November 1662

Within all day long, helping to put up my hangings in my house in my wife’s chamber, to my great content. In the afternoon I went to speak to Sir J. Minnes at his lodgings, where I found many great ladies, and his lodgings made very fine indeed.

At night to supper and to bed: this night having first put up a spitting sheet, —[?? D.W.] which I find very convenient. This day come the King’s pleasure-boats from Calais, with the Dunkirk money, being 400,000 pistols.

45 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

"This day come the King’s pleasure-boats from Calais, with the Dunkirk money, being 400,000 pistolles."

L&M note: "Paid by France in exchange for Dunkirk; transported from Calais to Tower Wharf in 'three stout and stately pleasure-boats, viz. His Majesties, the Duke of Yorks and the Duke of Albemarls':.... The total payable was 5 m. livres (£800,000): 2 m. at once, and the rest in quarterly installments over three years. Pepys is mistaken about the figures: the immediate down-payment amounted to c. 250,000 pistoles...."

Terry F  •  Link

"spitting sheet"

"sheet for spitting on in sickness: OED P bus in general use." L&M Large Glossary

News to me! Without L&M and the OED I'd be as clueless as Wheatley.

Bradford  •  Link

Please, just pass the spittoon.

Terry F  •  Link

How would a spitting sheet be installed to be " very convenient"?

It seems that it's always there. Is this what L&M mean by "but [sic] in general use"?

That's a strange land; so, Bradford, I'm with you.

Jeannine  •  Link

"helping to put up my hangings in my house in my wife’s chamber" --Does anybody have any idea what those hangings would consist of ?? (we KNOW they would not include Sam's painting of Lady Castlemaine, or the diary would have ended today!)

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Truly pleasure boats for Charlie and Jamie...


Spittin' sheets...Well, at least you can take them down and Bess and Jane can...urgh...wash them.


Sam Pepys, modern man...Ready and willing to help about the house. As for the hangings, I would guess tapestry and/or fancy cloth. The following has some info on 17th and 18th century wall hangings…

Robert Gertz  •  Link

One likes to assume it was to Bess' great content as well...It being her chamber.

"No, no...No! Over there, not there!"

"But I like it there!"

"Absolutely not! It belongs there!!" Insistent wave of the hands.

"I say it stays!!!"

"Here!" Jane ends all argument by nailing the piece firmly to the wall and standing back, arms folded.

Bess and Sam eye each other, Jane giving each a grimly determined look.

Four hours of this having been quite enough...

"Looks good." "Indeed."

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Popular hangings could be carpet tapestries from The Turkick regions, as they be popular for centuries, hanging to soften the sounds of unusual activities. They being very picturesque used long before one wore bedroom slippers to the upper chambers. Also there be tapestries of the type that made Bayeaux famous, telling of Norman victories and stories of infamy.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

"That’s a strange land' 'Tis be civil, they be putting out the pot be normal but to allow spittal or phlegm on an unsuspecting couple enjoying the nite aire be another. Besides it be cool to be able to tell ones physician which humor it be, if ye see the color, to tell the medicine man, so that he dothe know which course of action to take, be it letting of blud or leeching a few pints or issue the latest herbal brew from the Pharmacopia.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

For more learned hangings see Lizard Eliza Pg. 41-46
There be Wall paper shops opening up in1660 [ latest idea ] large sheets of printed or hand colored on the order of modern murals I dothe think.
Hangings as explained by Ms. Lizard, there be Clothe, damask, gilt leather, arras or tapestry.
It is a wonder that Sam did not buy from brother John, some broad clothe dyed in suitable colors?
As it can be stated, money buys from paper to silk, or velvets. Printed Calico from India was also available.
Tapestries were the ideal for the English climate keeping out that damp frosty aire it, could even be used to prevent those wonderful luverly draughts that be popular in the better houses.
For 49 quid in 1659, One could buy 7 pieces of Tapesty 12 foot long by 91 feet. {more be coming in the diary.]

Pauline  •  Link

' be cool to be able to tell ones physician which humor it be, if ye see the color...'
That's thought!
And it be cool to make your fellow annotators laugh out loud heartily.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

"Spitting Sheet" ?

Have checked my OED under spit, spitting and sheet but can find no citation or reference. (Have only the mini print, so perhaps a problem of my eyes and the degree of magnification, but I doubt.)

There is also no reference to such an item in the index or the text pages on bedding etc. in Peter Thornton, Seventeenth Century Interior Decoration In England, France and Holland, New Haven: Yale, 1978

The work is sufficently detailed to discuss the different types of sheet, bedding and matresses etc. and cites Pepys often for English middle class practice.

The omission might be of significance; have we a "ghost" or transcription error?

Terry F  •  Link

Verily, without L&M and the OED we'd be where Wheatley was.
The L&M text lacks "—[?? D.W.]" and the reference is to the Large Glossary in the L&M Companion, p. 613. The entry in full with no typos this time is:

"SPITTING-SHEET: iii.262 sheet for spitting on in sickness: *OED* P but in general use."

My THE COMPACT EDITION OF THE OED, is the 25th U.S. printing, July 1986. Our passage from Pepys Diary (= "P" in the Glossary entry) is quoted in Vol. II, p. 633 as an example of:
Spitting, vbl. sb.; 4. attr. a. In sense 'for spitting in or on', as spitting-box, -cup, -dish, -kettle, -pan, etc.

Xjy  •  Link

"spitting sheet"
Perhaps like a big hanky for the night. As Written in Water intimates, the doc's questions might provide an impulse here. The inspectorate of the expectorate... Emptying the chest was probably a lot commoner then than now - why I remember my granddad hawking phlegm into the range when I was an impressionable lad. And a bad bronchial cough I had once at school was referred to by a teacher as a "graveyard" cough... little did he know that I was "naturally" immune to TB cos I'd bin brung up nex ter a bombplot.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Spitting Sheet -- Is in OED 2nd.(1989) p. 1857, (270, ii)

Apologies, 'tis not spectral; can be found 7/8 of the way down a chronologically ascending long list of illustrations which begin in 1687, hence my overlooking the same. There are additional citations of use from 1684 & 1707.

andy  •  Link

In the afternoon I went to speak to Sir J. Minnes at his lodgings, where I found many great ladies, and his lodgings made very fine indeed.

I wonder what was the purpose of the visit to his problematic neighbour. Did Minnes invite Sam to show off his lodgings, knowing that Sam was just improving his?

Does "many great ladies" refer to living noble female people or perhaps sculptures?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...found many great ladies..." a new dimension to Sir John.

One our boy will no doubt appreciate.

language hat  •  Link

OED citations (other than Pepys):
1684 A. HALL Will (Somerset Ho.), One paire of spitting sheetes now used upon my bed.
1707 J. STEVENS tr. Quevedo's Com. Wks. (1709) 164 They left me, looking all over like an old Man's Spitting-sheet.

Nix  •  Link

"Spitting sheet" --

Possibly what we would now call a "pillowcase" (a term whose earliest OED citation is not until 1745)?

Mary  •  Link

"having first put up a spitting-sheet"

This doesn't sound like any sort of pillow-case. "put up" seems to indicate a fixed cloth of some sort .... but fixed where?

Peter  •  Link

Whatever a spitting sheet acually is, it sounds like it is crying out for a euphemism....

A. Hamilton  •  Link

“having first put up a spitting-sheet”

Fixed where? It is a puzzle. But see the first of the two OED citations given above by LH, "one pair of spitting sheetes now used upon my bed," where the sense suggests that they were laid upon the bed.
They are clearly changeable. I wonder whether they were fixed to the coverlet to function as a kind of bib under the chin of the sleeper.

A. Hamilton  •  Link


The word has a curious history. Here (as the annotations at the link explain) it probably refers to a 1640 French coin known as a louis d'or, although the name was also applied to other coins. The word appears to derive from the Italian town Pistoia, that gave its name to a short sword known as a pistolese. According to the OED, the diminutive form of this weapon became known as a pistolet. ("The theory is that F. pistolet (or ? It. pistoletto) with dim. form was applied first to a small dagger, as compared to the It. pistolese, and was thence transferred to the pistol, which was also small as compared with the harquebus.") The OED further reports that the name may also have been transfered from dagger to coin because a certain Spanish coin was smaller than others, but adds that French lexicographers have found no reference to pistolet the weapon earlier than to pistolet the coin.

Mary  •  Link

spitting sheet.

A.H., your comments have provoked very tenuous memories of a spell in hospital in the late forties, when the patient's end of the bed (folded-down top sheet and a portion of the scarlet, woollen blanket) were protected by a piece of sheet (perhaps 3 feet in width) that was tucked in across the whole width of the bed. Could this have been a spitting-sheet? It's purpose was clearly to protect the bed-linen from spills and splatters.

Do we have any retired nurses who might remember such devices?

Jeannine  •  Link

"Spitting Sheet" --In line with AH's and LH's comments -perhaps the spitting sheet could have been similar to a "duvet cover" in today's world --something either laid over or attached to the "better quality" cover underneath in order to protect it. Today a plain white down (feather) comforter, which is harder and more expensive to clean, would slide into a duvet cover, which would protect it be easier to clean, etc. -possibly the spitting sheet is along similar lines--something more easily removed for cleaning and intending to protect the underlying fabric.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Despite the missing humor, as pointed out, it dothe make eminent 'cents' to have protection from night druel, as the London aire be extremely hard on one's chest innner's. See John Evelyn for sad story on London's fumes, and then sorry list of those that be no longer participating in the activities.
As washing of the linens and bed covers be no mean task. I like the bib effect.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

P.S. sorry about the drivel.

Pedro  •  Link

"Today a plain white down (feather) comforter...possibly the spitting sheet is along similar lines"

In that case would Sam be spitting feathers?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

The Stuart boys find new employment for their great spirits...

On board a very pleasureable boat...

"We're in the money. We've got a lot of what it takes to get along." Charles and Barbara...Tossing cash about.

"...without Parliament..." Jamie finishes happily, preparing to dive into a bushel basket of cash.

"for now..." a frowning Clarendon adds.

Terry F  •  Link

perhaps the spitting sheet could have been similar to a “duvet cover”

As puzzled as ever, I wonder then what to make of the OED citation of 1684 A. HALL Will (Somerset Ho.), One paire of spitting sheetes now used upon my bed.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Pair does not always mean two separate items - take trousers for example - so maybe a "paire of spitting sheets" is one item, but stitched together from two pieces, to form an Ur-duvet cover. Also, the term "put up" does not, I think, necessarily mean nailed to the wall or hung from the tester. Maybe language hat could clarify this usage for us. I think it can mean just placed or laid or organised - Sam says he "puts up" papers when he is organising.

Bradford  •  Link

Re hangings: canopy bed-drapes?

Pauline  •  Link

'...coverlet to function as a kind of bib under the chin of the sleeper.'
I do like this, A. Hamilton. Are we all going there steadily?

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

There be a sheet for the last use it, be called a winding sheet. We use to use descriptive words to describe practical things, and paint a picture so that it be worth a thousand words, rather make up fancy mneumonic.

Glyn  •  Link

Transporting gold bullion, in an era when there wasn't international money transfers could be a hazardous operation. For example, during Pepys' lifetime there was the sinking of the English warship the Sussex which is currently (2006) the focus of a dispute between Britain and an American company on the one hand, and Spain on the other.

In 1694 HMS Sussex sank in the Mediterranean off Gibraltar with 9 tons of gold coins on board (now worth approx 2.3 bn pounds/4 bn US dollars or euro). It had been intended to buy the loyalty of the Duke of Savoy in the war with France. Britain claims the ship but Spain claims the territorial waters, hence the dispute.

Here's one very long link:…

(If that doesn't work when you read this, then google any news groups for "Odyssey Marine Exploration" or "HMS Sussex".)

lisa schamess  •  Link

truly i have found my people. have been reading and lurking here for a few weeks whilst working on an essay on SP and immortality. have been obsessed with this term 'spitting sheet' for longer than is decent.

i feel less alone today.

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Welcome, Lisa. Feel free to add your own annotations when you feel moved to do so. Even though you are several years behind us in the day-to-day unfolding of the diary, your entries will show up on the "Recent Activity" page, and people will read them and maybe respond to them.

Second Reading

Mary K  •  Link

Spitting sheet.

This makes sense and fits well with Sam's reference to "having first put up a spitting sheet".

"fabric attached to the wall behind a spittoon to protect valuable hangings or pictures from splashback."

Judith Flanders: "The Making of Home."
Atlantic books. 2014.
ISBN 9781848877986

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Jeannine wondered what the hangings might be. Probably window drapes and drapes around the bed from a canopy. There might ave been drapes hanging in doorways, too, as you often see in period dramas. Only the fairly wealthy could afford them.

A spitting sheet might have been what we call a top sheet, which would be folded over the top of spread, quilt or blankets to keep them clean. It would have been easier to wash a sheet than the other items. . Maybe people in those days used the spitting sheet to blow their noses or to cough into, and wipe their faces. Things were a lot different then and there was probably a lot more sneezing, coughing and nose blowing going on with no way to control it or prevent upper respiratory infections.

John York  •  Link

I am with Mary K on Spitting Sheets. The description by Judith Flanders in her book makes more sense and fits the description we have in the diary.
Quoting from Charlotte Moore's review:
"Where in those calm, tile-floored 17th- century interior paintings can we see a ‘spitting-sheet’ — fabric attached to the wall behind a spittoon to protect valuable wall-hangings or pictures from splashback? It’s rare enough to see the spittoon itself. Yet both items were commonplace."…

Bill  •  Link

Spitting sheet and spittons: Is this for tobacco? The encyclopedia has an entry for tobacco:…

There 7 mentions of tobacco in the diary but only one entry where SP has a "chaw" of tobacco and this is in association with the plague. Perhaps spittons are for visitors or other household members?

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Chronic coughs and bronchitis were much commoner then than now. It was the Little Ice Age, so colder then than now; houses were damper and draughtier; and above all, there was fog, so common as to pass unmentioned, made worse by the polluted air from 1000s of coal fires.

Be grateful for the Clean Air Act of 1956, climate change, double glazing, draught proofing and damp courses in houses and for gas fired central heating.

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