Saturday 31 January 1662/63

Up and to my office, and there we sat till noon. I home to dinner, and there found my plate of the Soverayne with the table to it come from Mr. Christopher Pett, of which I am very glad. So to dinner late, and not very good, only a rabbit not half roasted, which made me angry with my wife. So to the office, and there till late, busy all the while. In the evening examining my wife’s letter intended to my Lady, and another to Mademoiselle; they were so false spelt that I was ashamed of them, and took occasion to fall out about them with my wife, and so she wrote none, at which, however, I was, sorry, because it was in answer to a letter of Madam about business. Late home to supper and to bed.

46 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

"my plate of the Soverayne"

L&M say the 1637 copper plate engraving by John Payne (1608-1648) was the print of the ‘Sovereign of the Seas’ acquired by Pepys 31 January 1663, and hung by him in his Green Chamber 15 February.…

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

"they were so false spelt that I was ashamed of them, and took occasion to fall out about them with my wife, and so she wrote none"

The classic relationship power struggle. If you'd just helped her, Sam, she wouldn't have gotten all huffy and refused to do it at all! As you acknowledge ("however, I was sorry"), your loss, pal.

First time he's referred to Lady Jem as "Madam," isn't it? Is it possible that she's not writing to the Montagu ladies, but instead to her prospective companion and her mother? (But the PC's mother wouldn't rate a "my Lady," would she?)

Bradford  •  Link

"Plate" here meaning "print from a copper plate"; but what is "the table to it"?

"The Shorter Pepys" shows him spelling the verb as "entended," which today would be false-spelt (they insert a hyphen too).
Quite so, Todd: Samuel could have just as easily shown his superior knowledge by gently offering to help Elizabeth correct her errors as by deriding them. As I once heard a wise man put the proposition, "If you're so smart, why aren't you kind?"

Terry F  •  Link

“Plate” here meaning “print from a copper plate”; but what is “the table to it”?

Bradford, L&M agree that's a good question! They suppose it to be a document; I suppose it to be a "table" describing the ship's rigging, masts, etc., in detail, and that this is another tool for learning (like the model Mr Anthony Deane furnished him after their lessons).

dirk  •  Link

"the table to it"

According to L&M, the table was the "key" to the drawing - the explanatory legend.

And BTW, Sam original spelling of the word "plate" in today's entry was "plat" -- according to the L&M edition. So, "correct spelling" is relative -- to say the least...

dirk  •  Link

Sorry for the double entry on "table",Terry. We must have posted at the same time...

Terry F  •  Link

No offense, Dirk; our entries seem complementary.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

And the two of you are complimentary! :-)

(Always glad to see politeness on the 'net ... it's an all-too-rare occurrence, unfortunately.)

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

I wonder if 'table' be a kind of protecting device, a frame for carrying the document, that can be set on the side-board.
Marriage is game of tennis, scoring points, to win if not by truth then by finding fault, anything to un nerve the opposition specially when Eliza has a way of putting to pen, thoughts that Sam does not want to hear or see.
Samuell thinking "Damn it you cannot say that", as Eliza has written a juicy titbit, saying "Petycote ain't spelt like that it has has to teas and a why, and a hay, dusent ye no nutin'"

Mary House  •  Link

I seem to recall that letters of Jemima to her husband show that she also had difficulty spelling. She probably would not have noticed that they were "false spelt."

Pauline  •  Link

"... in answer to a letter of Madam about business..."
Perhaps Elizabeth is acting as a go-between translator here? Between Lady Sandwich and the French governess for her daughters, Mademoiselle Le Blanc? And Elizabeth's spelling is false both in English and in French?

A contract?

Or do we have the wrong lady and mademoiselle? I too assumed discussion for a new companion for Elizabeth.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

"plate of the Soverayne with the table to it ..."

Plate would be perfectly normal usage in certain circles even today to describe a single mechanicaly reproduced image. The list of illustrations in a book is often labeled "Plates" or "List of Plates."

Tables or Keys to complex engravings are not uncommon in England the C17 - 19. They could either be produced by the original print publisher and sold as a set with the engraving,in which case one might find small identifying letters or numbers placed in the image, or be published separately. It is not uncommon to find them framed identically with the engraving and hung beneath.

andy  •  Link

false spelt

strange how Bess was able to express herself in English to Sam with such lucidity and clarity as to be a security risk, leading him to destroy her letter to him. Methinks he is still brooding on the infamous letter and out to denigrate her in another way.

no letter is sent: so now he cuts her off from the outside world again.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Just speculation but I wonder if "Madam" might have actually meant Mademoiselle LeBlanc's mother in France. If Lady Jem had through her children's governess gotten involved in some small business venture trading in France via the woman's mother, Bess would have been very useful as translator and Sam might have been hoping for a small cut. Just speculation...

Xjy  •  Link

Sam as a pedantic arsehole...
Yes, he shows himself in a terrible light today.
I'm 61, and yesterday, for the first time ever, I reflected on something similar to this. My Dad was a carpenter and joiner before he became a surveyor. One of his favourite pastimes was deriding me in such terms as "is that what they teach you in school??" - ie "you useless airy-fairy grammar school would-be toff". I've often been angry with him for not teaching me what he knew, and when I was at school I wanted a polytechnical education double maths and joinery, for instance... but yesterday it struck me that he could easily have given me the practical skills he possessed and made me practical too. If he'd wanted to.

But he didn't. Like Sam, he was more interested in rubbing in his own imagined superiority.


Pedro  •  Link

(Mary)…I seem to recall that letters of Jemima to her husband show that she also had difficulty spelling.

Looking in Ollard’s Biography of Montagu I find a couple of examples of Jemima’s letters. (If her spelling was bad she knows where to put a semicolon, which is more than I do! But maybe that would be Carte, from where the info is taken.)
I cannot see Sam telling Jem off in the same manner!

The birth of their daughter had taken place during his absence, and they had planned to call her Sarah, but Jem decided to christen her Katherine…

“you having the honour to bring our so much desired queen I thought we might a
alsoe have the honour to have her name”

(Perhaps a spoiler?) She wrote to him while he was in Madrid…

“I have sent little Kat to London to Mr Pers the Serg that belongs to the Duke ( my entry…our friend Pearse the gossip!) ther they say the famostes Docr. In Iingland for sore eies; he did a mirackeulus cure on the Dutches daughter, the Lady Ann, and now cam up to the Dutches of Richmon who by the smale pox had one of her eies much hurt.”

pjk  •  Link

The way to our Man's heart:
Surely Sam's ill-humoured response to the spelling is a peevish after-shock of the argument that followed his meagre lunch of an undercooked rabbit. It sounds a very sulky, needling kind of day but they seem well matched at it.

J A Gioia  •  Link false spelt that I was ashamed of them,...

agreed, distemper simmers throughout this entry; from the ill-prepared hare to the above complaint.

in kollege it was generaly bruted to us lit majors that a close attendance to the niceties of spelling came in the wake of dictionaries, johnson's being the most admired if not exactly the first, which appeared in the mid 18th cent.

sam seems ahead of the curve then and, under the circumstances, something of a git. correct spelling must have begun as a policy of the technocratic elete as a measure and signifier of ... wot?

language hat  •  Link

"so false spelt that I was ashamed of them"

This is extremely interesting to me. Spelling was not fixed in Sam's day, and there was no one right way to spell many words, but clearly there were limits within which you had to stay or be thought an ignoramus. Perhaps excessive doubling of consonants ("itt was verry hott") and ear-spellings of classically derived words (serkumstans for circumstance) were giveaways. I'd dearly love to see her rough draft!

jeannine  •  Link

"I’d dearly love to see her rough draft!"
It was really in code and it said,
"My huband gut uup ooot of the wrung side off the bed tis mornging. He's bin in a sheeeetty mood eber since."

R. O. Curtis  •  Link

"...false spelt..."
So in the pre-Johnson era, what was the standard for "true" spelling? Maybe the King James bible?

JWB  •  Link

Just now reading about Mark Twain's early life as an itinerant type- setter. Forerunners must have had marked homogenizing effect on spelling, like today's code writers' lines getting repeated again & again in different software.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Thanks Michael Robinson “plate of the Soverayne with the table to it …” Of course you are on target.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

re: passing on information to others.
Those that are secure in their knowledge, do so without guilt , Others do not, it be a form of false security Blanket.
The Parable of the One Talent, Two Talents and Five Talents,
says it all. [Matt 25:14-30 ]
a version…

Robert Gertz  •  Link

17th century College man there...

Though Samuel? About your spelling...

Australian Susan  •  Link

Re JWB's comment

Very neat! You're probably right. The early 18th century edition of the Book of Common Prayer which I own has what we would call "normal" spelling as far as I have read, except for a few "-xions" where we would expect to "-tions". So the spelling must have normalised sometime soon after this time. I think Dr Johnson's Dictionary (1755)must have helped standarise matters. See… for interesting information about this (including some surprising definitions). Spelling and grammar nowadays are either evolving or going downhill depending on your take on the world. I had to restrain myself from telling our local florist that her sign about ordering early for Feb 14th should be corrected so dissappointment [sic] was spelled right.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Ignoramus L., = ‘we do not know’, (in legal use) ‘we take no notice of [it]’.]
1. The endorsement formerly made by a Grand Jury upon a bill or indictment presented to them, when they considered the evidence for the prosecution insufficient to warrant the case going to a petty jury. Hence quasi-n. or ellipt., esp. in the phrases to find, return, bring in (an) ignoramus; more rarely in passive, to be found, returned ignoramus. Also transf. an answer which admits ignorance of the point in question; fig. a state of ignorance.

1626 BERNARD Isle of Man (1627) 102 On the backe of this Inditement..they [the grand jury] write either Ignoramus, or Billa vera
Thank you OED:

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Plate: 20 major ways of using this Interesting word as a noun, so I must eat ' me 'at' off it.
Be careful when using it as Verb, as it has been used by the under world .

I. A flat sheet of metal, etc.
5. a. A smooth or polished plate of metal, etc. (as in sense 1) for writing or engraving on.

"...1576 FLEMING Panopl. Epist. 85 Which also you haue imprinted in the tables of your remembrance, and ingrauen in the plates of your deep understanding..."

GrahamT  •  Link

There is a theory that English spelling started to standardise with the introduction, and monopolisation, of the printing press by Caxton in the 15th century. What he printed was the only (Middle) English spelling some readers saw, as most manuscripts were in Latin; though, even he wasn't consistent with his spelling. When other presses started printing, they poached Caxton's workers, so spreading the word - literally in this case - as they carried Caxton's spelling with them.
The fact that the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible were printed rather than hand-written, helped to crystalise standard spellings and present them to a wider audience. We know though, from our own readings, that there was still quite some flexibility in spelling in the 17th century.
Finally, good old Dr. Johnson published his definitive - for the time - list of spellings; until Noah Webster and the compilers of the OED came along, that is.
Centuries of moves toward standardisation seem to be dissolving away with the internet and phone texting. It now seems "you are" is abbreviated to "your" instead of "you're", and University graduates don't know the difference between sour and soar, or lever and leaver. (Seen this week.)

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"false spelt"
There is always time to learn.Sam should know;He is learning his multiplication tables!!!

Australian Susan  •  Link

More grammar gripes

People also cannot distinguish between flaunt and flout and less and fewer, including my daughter's Grade I teacher who sent home a worksheet for her to indicate "which box has the less items in it" It is all very well for there to be variances in spelling and I think Sam's main point in this diatribe against Elizabeth's letter-writing is he wants them both to look good in the eyes of the world: he is not a pernickety little pedant over spelling. Bad grammar can, however, change the whole meaning of a phrase or sentence and that is much more serious.

Mary  •  Link

Cobbett defined it beautifully.

"Grammar, properly understood, enables us not only to express our meaning fully and clearly, but so to express it as to enable us to defy the ingenuity of man to give our words any other meaning than that which we ourselves intend them to express."

Australian Susan  •  Link

Yes! Beautifully put! Cobbett writes wonderfully mellifluous prose.

language hat  •  Link

less and fewer:

The "rule" that says less cannot be used for countables is wrong; it has been so used since the time of Alfred the Great (the ninth century). The alleged rule derives from an offhand remark on the word "less" by Robert Baker in 1770:

"This Word is most commonly used in speaking of a Number; where I should think Fewer would do better. No Fewer than a Hundred appears to me not only more elegant than No less than a Hundred, but more strictly proper."

Somehow over the next couple of hundred years this expression of personal preference got turned into an alleged rule of the English language, which hasn't affected most people's usage but has enabled others to make them feel bad about it. As the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in these matters) says, "If you are a native speaker, your use of less and fewer can reliably be guided by your ear."

Quote from James Thurber:
"I was never in Europe for less than fourteen months at a time."

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: less and fewer

Yep, like so many things in English, this isn't a hard and fast rule -- rather, it's a matter of which style you agree on and decide to follow. I like the Associated Press Style Book, which deals with such issues in a newsy, commonsense way. They say:

"In general, use 'fewer' for individual items, 'less' for bulk or quantity.

Wrong: 'The trend is toward more machines and less people.' (People in this sense refers to individuals.)

Wrong: 'She was fewer than 60 years old.' (Years in this sense refers to a period of time, not individual years.) [So they disagree with Baker, whom LH quotes above.]

Right: 'Fewer than 10 applicants called.' (Individuals)

Right: 'I had less than $50 in my pocket.' (An amount.) But: 'I had fewer than 50 $1 bills in my pocket.' (Individual items.)"

Re: the Thurber quote above, he's clearly using 14 months as a discrete block of time, so I'd say that usage is correct.

As in all things style-based, the important thing is consistency. If you're going to be "wrong," be wrong all the time! (Must ... not ... make joke about the current administration...)

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Rules are to known fully, then taken apart at will. Less be better, fewer mistakes to pick on.
[from he, that writes with water in water]

Australian Susan  •  Link

"guided by ear"

Yes, response to language is aural, even when you are reading it. Good prose is always good, even if it's incorrect factually. This is why so many Anglicans yearn for the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer and why they have lasted so long: they were created in a time when (to my mind, or maybe just my mind's ears) written English reached wonderful heights of expression. And this Diary often shows this too.

But I still think using the definite article with less (see my example above)is poor grammar and aurally offensive.

Mrs. Malaprop  •  Link

Thank you all for your lessons on grammer and all of your word choice accomodations. I totally apprehend exactly what you are saying and will use these lessons to become a suburb writer. But for "fewer" and "lesser" your affluence over my understatement is small and I'm still confused. In regards to my word choices there I'll have to pick between the guesser of two evils.

Pedro  •  Link

Less and fewer.

Thank you Mr. Hat, your explanation fills in a few gaps in a discusssion I had with my lovely Brazilian professora. To some extent, while slowly studying Portuguese, I have had to relearn English grammar at times (too many fags behind the bike sheds). She advised me that the book that is used by Cambridge for foreign students learning English, is Practical English Usage by Michael Swan.

Interestingly it says “less” is used “especially” before uncountable nouns, and “fewer” used before plural nouns.

“Less” is quite common before plural nouns, as well as uncountables, especially in an informal style. Some people consider this incorrect.

(For Australian Susan, being guided by ear?) One of the examples used is…

“Some people in our village still go to church, but less/fewer than 20 years ago.”

Both sound OK to me. But one thing I cannot agree with my teacher is the use of which and that. Susan may agree that the following is aurally offensive…

“The book which I bought yesterday is interesting.”

Patricia  •  Link

Sam is a grouch. He's mad about the half-baked dinner, which he has already chewed her out for, and now he takes it out of her about her spelling. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Miserable twit.

Second Reading

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Language, spelling and grammar are always evolving. Nonetheless, at any time there is a (flexible) common standard by which educated people understand each other. I had an email yesterday inviting me to sign an online petition. Although I sympathised with the cause, I didn't sign, because it was so poorly worded, as well as misspelt, that I wasn't prepared to put my name to it. In fact, it didn't really mean what I believe its creators intended it to mean, so the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, to whom it was addressed, would not be able to act on it anyway.

A long time ago, I was a political press officer, so I had to edit or even rewrite pieces pieces by our Parliamentary candidate. We got on very well, but he didn't always enjoy my surgery on/butchery of his prose, (especially when it was to fit limited available space.)

We know from Sam's previous entries that he's very gratified by the interest My Lady takes in Elizabeth. We also know that he's very anxious, perhaps even neurotically so, for Team Pepys look good in front of all their social superiors. So this anxiety is what fuelled the evening's marital strife. People who feel strongly aren't always capable of being tactful: in fact, spouses/girl/boyfriends can't always bothered to be tactful, especially at the end of a long day.

Every relationship has arguments - and subsequent regrets. The diary gives a mere glimpse of those of Sam and Elizabeth: after all, we do not have a transcript of the conversations. Yet some annotators seem to enjoy rushing to sanctimonious and self-righteous judgement. The worst thing about this, is that it obscures rather than helps understanding of the diary in its historical context. Let the one without fault cast the first stone!

Phil C.  •  Link

In the example that Pedro gives (nine years ago!) - “Some people in our village still go to church, but less/fewer than 20 years ago.” - the choice of less or fewer alters the meaning. "Less" would mean that while there could be the same number of people going to church, some have cut down on the frequency with which they attend; but "fewer" can only mean attendance has dropped.

I don't understand why Sam is so often unhappy about the size of his meal. All I can think is that Elizabeth doesn't have enough money, in which case I wonder how their housekeeping finances were handled. Is Sam not providing enough? Perhaps it's given to Elizabeth weekly and it's running out by the end of the week. Or Elizabeth is spending it on something else?

Phil C.  •  Link

It occurs to me that Elizabeth doesn't know if or when Sam will be coming home for a meal; why prepare a meal and throw it away.

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

The diary gives us a glimpse, but not a full view. It doesn't give details about the day to day housekeeping, nor does Sam record trivia about everyday arrangements. However, just because no arrangements were mentioned, doesn't mean that none were made. It's very frustrating when we want to know more. Alas, a diary can never be a complete record, or it would take longer to write than to live.

NJ Lois  •  Link

" Sam is a grouch. He's mad about the half-baked dinner, which he has already chewed her out for, and now he takes it out of her about her spelling. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Miserable twit."
There is criticism that "Some annotators seem to enjoy rushing to sanctimonious and self righteous judgment- the worst thing about this is that it obscures rather than helps the understanding of the diary's historical context." I don't see how the above has anything to do with understanding the diary's historical context. Sam can be a bully, as in beating his boy, and belittling his wife, whom he married when she was 15. He, an Oxford graduate, could have seen to her further education. In addition, Sam usually has dinner elsewhere, cooked by someone's cook, or by a professional.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

". I home to dinner, and there found my plate of the Soverayne with the table to it "

L&M: There were several drawings of the Royal Sovereign, the largest ship in the navy. The best-known was that by John Payne: The true portraiture of his Majesties' royal ship the Sovereign of the Seas built in the year 1637; Capt. Phineas Pett being superuisor and Peter Pett his sonne, mr builder (1637); see Sir G. Callendar, Po0rtrait of Peter Pett, pl. iv. Pepys now hung the print in his Green Chamber:… He preserved a copy of Payne's drawing in his library (PL 2972, pp. 271-2). No 'table' (key) has been preserved there or elsewhere. Presumably it was a MS.

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