Wednesday 14 January 1662/63

Lay very long in bed, till with shame forced to rise, being called up by Mr. Bland about business. He being gone I went and staid upon business at the office and then home to dinner, and after dinner staid a little talking pleasant with my wife, who tells me of another woman offered by her brother that is pretty and can sing, to which I do listen but will not appear over forward, but I see I must keep somebody for company sake to my wife, for I am ashamed she should live as she do. So to the office till 10 at night upon business, and numbering and examining part of my sea-manuscript with great pleasure, my wife sitting working by me. So home to supper and to bed.

31 Annotations

First Reading

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

"my wife sitting working by me"
I think this is the first mention I have seen of Bess joining Sam in his office. Perhaps he is learning the value of including her in his grand affairs.
What is the sea-manuscript that requires numbering?

Eric Walla  •  Link

I too wondered about the manuscript. Is this part of the reason for last night's party? A little pleasure, while confirming pertinent facts about their journey together? Or more likely, is it the reminiscences from their gathering that prompts Sam to bring it out? Maybe he mentioned it and the others would like to read it?

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Agh! all that talk, be wearying, needs time to recuperate after that great spread.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

It would be very interesting to see Bess at the office and we can wonder if this is Sam trying to make amends by having her keep company as he works late or did he come home after "business" and she worked beside him as he did the pleasure work of polishing up his account of his life-changing voyage in his study.

In either case he seems to be making an effort to respond to her complaints. Be interesting to know how fully he's admitted to Bess that he accepted her letter as an accurate summing-up of her plight. Was it "...Darling, I know everything you said was true. I acted like... But try to understand that if anyone from the office ever got hold of your letter and put it about that I was running off all the time...And after all, I was trying to do something about the situation." Probably not. But he does seem to have gotten across to her that he does appreciate her situation, is doing something about it, and was sorry.

One thing we may need to remember is that Sam is under no obligation, even to his future self, let alone us, to tell everything... The details of an abject apology to Bess may not suit his vision of what the Diary should hold. Nor the details of just what he got Sir John to sign off on the other day...

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I was discussing the fight with my wife and sisters as I was curious that Bess and Sam seem to have recovered a good relationship rather too quickly, my question being if they thought Bess is concealing bitter anger or what. The point was made by a couple that Bess probably is still angry but that she seems sensitive to the "mustn't hurt Samuel's career" argument. In other words, she probably half-accepted the idea that the letter could have done harm and it was wrong of her to press it, especially to have Jane involved, even slightly. One person suggested that Bess feels very guilty about being a hinderance to Sam (no dowry, no children) and while this one time she didn't let that stop her, she in her course empathized with Sam's anger (I've done all this for you, I've been trying to help deal with this, Look how hard I work for us). Some agreed with me that Sam for his part,very likely belatedly admitted he'd been a bit of a cad and that her complaints were legit.

Still, I can't quite get past the image of raging Sam ripping up his own love letters while Bess tearfully pleads for them... Having kept them seven years, probably rereading them constantly during his sea trip and other times.

A pain and rift one can't easily dismiss, I think.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Womens feelings ? It be for their own thoughts. Standard operating procedure. Man be all omnipotent. This situation be out of the Norm.[this be part of the on going struggle for equality, liberty etc.] Here we are seeing a couple actually sharing other thoughts. Women have only been able to voice their thougths officially and vote, not even a hundred years yet. We still do not like people to truly have their own opinion, we be only giving lip service to a democratic thought. Tis why a good politico, keeps his true thoughts tucked away, till the day that he has full authority.

Pauline  •  Link

'if anyone from the office ever got hold of your letter and put it about that I was running off all the time'
I still can't see that the men in the office, or the Duke, would care. Let alone disrespect Sam. He runs off to work in almost every case. How he treats his wife (unless he is seriously physically mistreating her) just wouldn't cross their radar.

I wonder if the letter included something about their childlessness that could be contrued to his dishonor? If there were children, Elizabeth would be busy (and have a whole 'nother set of complaints--but not the loneliness and lose ends she complains of). Perhaps between them they agree that they are childless because of his surgery and that as an issue of perceived virility could be suggested by the letter?

jeannine  •  Link

Robert, one more perspective to add to the mix. It has also occured to me that as Sam rises in stature that it would benefit him to have his wife "aligned" with someone to help her "grow" with his position too. I do know that as Sandwich rose up the ranks that he nicely but firmly encouraged his wife to learn the ways of being a lady, etc. and learn how to "fit" into the court, etc. Now Sam had to see what Sandwich was doing and how his career took off. As perceptive as he was he also had to notice the change in Lady Sandwich's role, attire, manners, etc. over time. Even if he didn't want to pay for a companion for Elizabeth then he could have encouraged other female relationships with appropriate ladies (perhaps someone like Lady Sandwich, who actually liked Elizabeth). He was also close enough with the Lady that he could have asked her advice, which would have reflected admirably on him. In this case, helping to transition his wife up the status chain would have been a "good" reflection on him. Even with the "silent wife is a good wife" attitude at the times (which our site super hero AquaMan describes accurately), having your wife reflect class, status, etc. would be a bonus to any man on the rise.

JWB  •  Link

Bess @ office
She supervised boring the "spy hole", 9 July last.

stolzi  •  Link

"my wife sitting working"

At this period, I believe - certainly, a little later - this generally meant needlework.

Bradford  •  Link

Exactly my initial unreflective response, Stolzi: while he does some mechanical paperwork, she sits by sewing, and occasionally they exchange a few words. Have done the same myself, in a similar situation, though I hope Elizabeth's handiwork isn't as thumb-clumsy as mine.

Pauline  •  Link

'I do know that as Sandwich rose up the ranks that he nicely but firmly encouraged his wife to learn the ways of being a lady, etc. '
Jeannine, it was my understanding that Lady Sandwich was born and raised a "lady"--and of the best sort: natural and easy going despite rank. Also, she has counseled with Sam about Elizabeth and spent time directly aiding Elizabeth as well as offering friendship. She is, however, often in the country, older than Elizabeth, and busy with many children.

It is unclear to me what Elizabeth's natural pose would be. Her father had an aristocratic background, and she is fairly well educated. I always imagine her speaking with a French accent and have no idea whether that would be a plus or a minus in her acceptance in higher circles. She seems quite competent in running her household. She is often reported (Tomalin for one) as being difficult. I would guess that she doesn't quite fit any mold of young wife of up and comer in their circle because of her youth, her background, her temperment, and being childless.

jeannine  •  Link

Elizabeth-additional considerations.
As Tomilin is so often referred to in discussing Elizabeth's character, perhaps this view from Ollard, another biographer of many other contemporaries (Sandwich, Charles I &II) may offer a different perspective. From his biography "Pepys" he notes that "In the early years at the Navy Office Pepys made at least spasmodic efforts to share with his wife the enhancements offered by the great fair of the world. He took her with him to the theatre..[quotes many other diary entries of shared activities]. From the evidence of the Diary, indeed the only source on this topic, it was not the widening of Pepys intellectual interests and artistic horizons that loosened the ties between them. Elizabeth’s formal education, like her antecedents, left, no doubt, much to be desired. Left to herself she would, it seems, have preferred playing blind-man’s-bluff with the maid to hearing about the methods of limiting population practiced in East Prussia or the million other subjects on which Pepys was ready to absorb information. But she consistently shows in the Diary an attractive and unselfish readiness to enter into her husband’s interests and to offer him her untutored natural abilities and tastes to shape and direct. (p. 123)…. As in the spring of 1660 when he went to sea with Mountagu she still had no power, no resources no friends. Her raison d'etre was to please him. She could make herself disagreeable, but that was all. He held all the cards; money, freedom, social opportunity, and played them for himself. Increasingly this meant that the world he lived in grew apart from hers.” (p. 127)

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Nobody, who spins in anothers orbit should be mooning and only raise a few tidal waves.

Clara  •  Link

Bess seems not to be discouraged by Sam's rage, she is still following her aim to get a companion. Perhaps she thinks she deserves it for having managed the feast the day before so well.

I wonder if Bess is well enough educated for witty conversation with the other ladies??? Sam doesn' t tell anything about her behaviour.

C.J.Darby  •  Link

What! Elizabeth in the Office? Perhaps she was itemising the expenses for yesterdays entertainment, or knitting and watching. No pretty PA's to make her jealous.

language hat  •  Link

Great quote, Jeannine.
I'll repeat the last bit for those who missed it:
"Her raison d’etre was to please him. She could make herself disagreeable, but that was all. He held all the cards; money, freedom, social opportunity, and played them for himself. Increasingly this meant that the world he lived in grew apart from hers."

Pedro  •  Link


One of our frustrations is that it is hard for us to see Elizabeth’s side of the story, so any learned interpretations should be welcome, and taken as a guide so that we can attempt to make our own judgement, right or wrong.

I cannot see that Elizabeth would have much problem fitting into the up and coming circles. She has a good relationship with Jemima, and has several admirers, including Montagu.

The difficulty for me is summed up by Percival Hunt (Samuel Pepys in the Diary) who says of the relationship…

“He expected her to be his wife, and a housekeeper, and a companion, and wise and encouraging. Besides, she was to retire into a cloud when he had work to do, and was to know without telling when to leave him alone. She was, that is, to be all things to one man. “

jeannine  •  Link

Just wanted to point this out too. In fairness to Sam, Elizabeth and all, in regards to Elizabeth, Ollard does point out in the quote above that "From the evidence of the Diary, INDEED THE ONLY SOURCE ON THIS TOPIC", it appears (unless someone else has other information here to share) that we will only see Elizabeth through Sam's eyes. She will never get her own voice, she will never be given a non-biased perspective as any information about her comes only from Sam.
I recently did a detailed book search looking for a biography about her and just located one book that was categorized as a "biography" instead of fiction. The majority of the information in that book is drawn from the diary. If I find anything in it of value to add to our understanding of Elizabeth, her family, etc. that is either outside of the Diary and/or not a spoiler, I'll post it. Also, there is a letter from Balty to Sam in much later years which is long but gives some insight into their background prior to coming to England. I'll find a spot on the site somewhere for it when I can understand where it fits into the "big picture" and will post it too.

Pauline  •  Link

Very good discussion, everyone.
In what we know about Elizabeth, and the care we can take in knowing our limits to what we can know, I continue to have trouble understanding what in her letter to Sam could have posed such a threat to his honor if exposed. She would appear to be no less perfect and no more imperfect than any others.

Embarassing if the maid read the letter and blabbed it to the Penn's maid that E. was lonely, but not career damaging.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

What man dothe like to be criticized for any deed, not many I dothe think, and here be 'me misses', be doing just that, Me , cannot keep order if the Mistress of the house calls the master to task, the maids be agast , never get the chamber pot emptied.

jeannine  •  Link

The Contents of the Letter.
Perhaps it is not WHAT was in the letter, but the fact that ANY letter existed with even the slightest hint of some fault of Sam. In the 1672 book by Hannah Woollery "A Gentlewoman’s Companion" this is from the section entitled “Of Marriage, and the duty of a Wife to her Husband"

“The more particular duties of a Wife to a Husband, are first, to have a greater esteem for him than for any other person; and withal, to have a settled apprehension that his is wise and prudent. The Woman that will entertain mean and low thoughts of her Husband will be easily induced to love another, whom she ought not to affect……Suffer not any buzz in your ears of detracting stories of him, and abhor it in your Servants, for IT IS YOUR DUTY TO HIDE HIS FAULTS AND INFORMITIES, AND NOT DETECT THEM YOURSELF, OR SUFFER THEM TO BE DISCOVERED……

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

More *very* revealing info, Jeannine! I had assumed that our puzzlement over the intensity of this fight, and over Sam's actions, had much to do with our inability to empathize with the cultural mores of the day, but the quote above is a wonderful example of how a "good wife" was supposed to act, and provides one reason why Sam felt entirely justified in what he did. Indeed, the fact that he felt any remorse over it shows that he was ahead of his peers in his attitude toward relationships!

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

'How a "good wife" was supposed to act' didn't necessarily change much until the last forty years. See 'The Good Wife's Guide', which even Snopes thinks may be true, based on other similar things published in books for girls even into the 1960s (text on this link).…

Can we say that Sam was any different from the men in the three centuries that followed him?

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link


glad to see thee back.

Patricia  •  Link

I see this as just pathetic. Mrs. P is so lonely, and has no one else to turn to, that she has to sit doing her needlework next the big meanie that broke her heart. My only consolation is that she will die long before him and he'll have a long time to think about what he did.

Pedro  •  Link

“I see this as just pathetic”

Brave Patricia, don’t forget Charlie that other big meanie!

Second Reading

Louise Hudson  •  Link

After reading a few of these posts, it occurs to me why Elisabeth is as lonely as she is. She is pining for a baby. Nothing is going to fill that loneliness, though a companion might offer a pretense of help. It won't bring her peace or contentment and Sam will probably never understand it. Even the letters he destroyed were probably helping her to deal wih the lonliness.

Bridget Davis  •  Link

I agree, Louise. The only difference between her marriage and most others was that she has not yet had children.

Gerald Berg  •  Link

No child and no resolution. Yes, I see this as the principal tragedy in their lives, particularly E's. Not the fact of not having children but that there was nothing else for her to do but have children.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

E. might have had nothing else to do but have children, as Gerald Berg says, but that was common at the time and for centuries after. Even having something else to do would probably not have affected the longing for a baby . Even today, when women are "liberated" (in a way never dreamed of by E. or her co-horts) and have plenty to do, many still pine for a baby , often going to great lengths to have one. In E's day there was nothing to be done except to drink an occasional witch's brew from a midwife. I feel sorry for her and wish she had written a diary so we could know her other than solely through Sam. I wonder if there were any diaries from women at the time that have survived. Of course, they would be less likely to have been saved, being considered women's silly scribblings, best disposed of.

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