Monday 9 February 1662/63

Could not rise and go to the Duke, as I should have done with the rest, but keep my bed and by the Apothecary’s advice, Mr. Battersby, I am to sweat soundly, and that will carry all this matter away which nature would of itself eject, but they will assist nature, it being some disorder given the blood, but by what I know not, unless it be by my late quantitys of Dantzic-girkins that I have eaten.

In the evening came Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten to see me, and Sir J. Minnes advises me to the same thing, but would not have me take anything from the apothecary, but from him, his Venice treacle being better than the others, which I did consent to and did anon take and fell into a great sweat, and about 10 or 11 o’clock came out of it and shifted myself, and slept pretty well alone, my wife lying in the red chamber above.

36 Annotations

First Reading

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

Venice treacle

Sam evidently thinks he has food poisoning, as this substance was used against poisons. Webster's Dictionary defines it thus:

Theriac \The"ri*ac\, Theriaca \The*ri"a*ca\, n. [L. theriaca an antidote against the bite of serpents, Gr. ?: cf. F. th['e]riaque. See Treacle.]

1. (Old Med.) An ancient composition esteemed efficacious against the effects of poison; especially, a certain compound of sixty-four drugs, prepared, pulverized, and reduced by means of honey to an electuary; -- called also theriaca Andromachi, and Venice treacle.

Bradford  •  Link

Was any substance added to the pickling solution, such as alum?
Can recall, as a wee tyke, eating "quantitys" of ripe strawberries, and coming out in hives---aka Aqua's "urticaria."

JWB  •  Link

Polish King Michael said to have died of a "surfeit of gherkins" in 1673.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

the red chamber above.

Should this be linked to Seething Lane improvements in Background>People>Samuel Pepys? That category needs some entires.

Terry F  •  Link

Perhaps Sir J. Mennes has connections with members of the Levant Company, which was formed by a merger of the Venice Company and the Turkey Company.…

Always helps to have such sources, home-brewed treacle never being as effective as exotic ones.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

10:30 pm...Stumbling noises from below reach the red chamber...


"Sam'l? Is that you?"

"Arrgh. Oh, Apothecary...Thy drugs are...swift...Argggh..." Clump, fall.

Clapping sound from above. "You've missed your calling indeed."

"Thank ye, thank ye. I shall apply to Mr. Betterton for a place tomorrow."

"Feeling better, then?"

"Aye, Missus. How's the novel?"

"Raoul bought it in Chapter 33."

"Good! Unmannerly knave!"

"Coming up? Or me, down?"

"Ummn...Apothecary Minnes' drugs weren't quite swift enough, Bess. Best to see if sleep takes it off."

"Oh...What?! Oh, you didn't take that stuff of Minnes?!"

"Seems to be working."

"Sam'l...Minnes and Batten could've put anything in there."


"Excuse me..." Sound of hastily running feet...


"And he actually took it?" Sir Will Penn eyes his companions. Broad grins on all three faces...

"Like an innocent child heir to a throne would take 'candy' from an uncle next in line." Batten chuckles.

"I'd say it was the turpentine masking the odor of the horse dung that really made him believe in its efficacy." Sir John smiles benignly.


dirk  •  Link


"The Complete Herbal and English Physician" by Culpeper, 1652, provides a recipe -- probably not unlike what Sam was taking...

Aqua Theriacalis
Or Treacle Water

College : Take of the juice of green Walnuts, four pounds, the juice of Rue three pounds, juice of Carduus, Marigolds, and Bawm, of each two pounds, green Petasitis roots one pound and a half, the roots of Burs one pound, Angelica and Master-wort, of each half a pound, the leaves of Scordium four handfuls, old Venice Treacle, Mithridates, of each eight ounces, Canary Wine twelve pounds, Vinegar six pounds, juice of Lemons two pounds, digest them two days, either in Horse-dung, or in a bath, the vessel being close shut, then distil them in sand; in the distillation you may make a Theriacal extraction.

Culpeper : This water is exceeding good in all fevers, especially pestilential; it expels venomous humours by sweat; it strengthens the heart and vitals; it is an admirable counter-poison, special good for such as have the plague, or are poisoned, or bitten by venomous beasts, and expels virulent humours from such as have the venereal disease. If you desire to know more virtues of it, see the virtues of Venice Treacle. The dose is from a spoonful to an ounce.…

daniel  •  Link


this does it to ME every time.

dirk  •  Link


pickled Gherkins -- small cucumbers belonging to the Cucumis Anguria family, preserved by a special technique

In sam's time the more modern techniques involving pasteurization or refrigeration were eveidently not yet in use. Most likely Sam's "gurkins" were preserved as follows:

"The first, and oldest, method is by fermentation. Naturally occurring bacteria on cucumbers have the ability to reduce sugars present in the fruit through the process of fermentation or curing. Pickles manufactured by this method are called "processed" and usually take about five weeks to complete. They have an extended shelf life of many months."

Pickled gherkins prepared this way are not free of bacterial spores that may threaten health...…

dirk  •  Link


I guess "Dantzic" refers to the city of Gdansk (formerly called Dantzig) -- now in Poland. Probably this would imply a special variant of preservation technique and/or the origin of the gherkins.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Treacle Water"
Dirk,the treacle water probably was a good counter poison in the same way that Ipecac Syrup works nowadays,that is,it makes one throw up.

dirk  •  Link

Treacle Water

Apparently it was primarily intended to make one sweat -- another form of purification.

andy  •  Link

but from him

did he ever resolve that dispute about the building & walking on the leads?

andy  •  Link

Slightly OT but Robert Hooke's chronicle of the Royal Society from 1635 has just been found:…

I must admit I can't remember Hooke's Law, and the only version of Boyle's Law that I can remember comes from "1066 and all that" - Watt's potts never boyle.

Xaveco  •  Link

Another take on Treacle (Brewer’s Phrase and Fable)

Treacle [tree-k'l ] properly means an antidote against the bite of wild beasts (Greek, theriaka [pharmaka], from ther a wild beast). The ancients gave the name to several sorts of anti`dotes, but ultimately it was applied chiefly to Venice treacle (thériaca androchi), a compound of some sixty-four drugs in honey.
Sir Thomas More speaks of “a most strong treacle (i.e. antidote) against these venomous heresies.” And in an old version of Jeremiah viii. 22, “balm” is translated treacle- “Is there no treacle at Gilead? Is there no phisitian there?”

Robert Gertz  •  Link

2 Feb 1663...

Annals of the Society...

Petitioners, to wit:

Was petitioned today by one Alexander Marchant [Merchant?, can't never understand these tranplanted Frenchies], Sieur de St. Michel [so named] who wishes to demonstrate 1) a device for perpetual motion 2) a device for production of inexhaustible heat and light from a container of water. 3) an engine capable of driving machinery or a carriage, run on combustible oils, before the "Noble and August members".

[Nonsense but father of that damned lovely girl married to Sandwich's bustling little clerk at the Admiralty]

Referred for later action. [Offered to appraise devices at his home. Inquired after daughter.]

Personal Note. Today misplaced sealed jar of animacules in solution viewed in microscope from sample taken from Turkish corpse recently delivered, rumored dead of plague. Found later broken in street. [Hmmn...Ah, well they all said I was crazy to think these things spread diseases.]

jeannine  •  Link

Gee Robert, After reading your "personal note" today I think that both you and Sam have found yourself in pickle.

matthew newton  •  Link

... the red chamber above.
I am interested in house plans and structure and wondered if anyone enlighten me?
How many rooms does Pepys have in his house and are any used for more than one activity?

WILLEM  •  Link


Terry F  •  Link

Hooke's Law

Robert Hooke stated in 1676, "The power (sic.) of any springy body is in the same proportion with the extension."…
OR Stress is directly proportional to strain.

Methinks this law applies to many of the elastic (human) bodies and personae that are the subjects of the Diary.
Moral judgments on Mennes's "Venice" treacle aside, does anyone know the strain supplied by Dantzic-girkins? (aside? -- WHY?!)

Bradford  •  Link

Believe me, Willem, anyone who could reconstruct the floor plans, even without measurements, for this fabled abode would earn themselves a place in literary, naval, and architectural history.
Perhaps the latest annotation to this photo-essay provides fresh hope:…

Australian Susan  •  Link

Tomalin's biography of Sam says the house had ten rooms.

We have previously established that, alas, the 1724 picture shows the Navy Office *after* fire and rebuilding - not what Sam would have known. Pity.

Australian Susan  •  Link

I don't think I'll eat gherkins ever again.

Terry F  •  Link

A scene nearly like the Book of Job

A suffering man is visited by his friends - "came Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten to see me" - we lack only the gouty Sir W. Penn - to imagine that his "friends" might also be his tormentors, like Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, who saw Job sweat without benefit of Mennes' Venice gherkins.

Terry F  •  Link

'Twas Mennes’ Venice treacle that Job's friends lacked; Mennes had no hand in the gherkins, at least none that we know of....

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

AS: ."I don’t think I’ll eat gherkins ever again" Do not worry,
Just keep your stainless steel hat pin in a convienient place ready for action, be it man or cucumber, when either be stuck, the colour will tell ye, if it be saturated or sated with copper or be plain saline that keeps the blud flowing.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

It not be cheap medicine :
Treacle Flemish and Genoa,Flemish Treacle be a Salve, a medicinal compound.
1 brl [45 gallons?] [1659] of Flemish treacle be £49 13s 5d; approx 240 bob per gal or a bob per tablespoon.[Sir J.Mennes not be a cheape skate]
I dothe guess it be a good business the the medicine business.
lifted from…. Date accessed: 27 February 2006.

jeannine  •  Link

An excerpt from a letter from Charles II to his sister Minette, dated today..

"I have been perswading the Queene to follow the Queen Mother of France and goe in masquerade before the carnival be done, I believe it were worth seeing my Lord St. Albans in such an occasion. My wife hath given a good introduction to such a business, for the other day she made my Lord Aubingy and two other of her chaplins dance country dances in her bedchamber...."

Chy  •  Link

Worth noting, perhaps, that the matter of the gherkins solves an older question about just how much place vegetables took in Samuel's diet.

language hat  •  Link

Not really.
All we know is that on this particular occasion he ate a surfeit of gherkins.

Second Reading

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Danzig was a multi-ethnic city state, Hanseatic port and manufacturing centre. It's position on the Vistula delta made it a vital hub in the Baltic trade of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.

The convenient "surfeit of gherkins" theory may be taken with a pinch of salt. Michael was proving to be an unsuccecsful king, and was widely believed to have been poisoned.

Gerald Berg  •  Link

"shifted myself" ? Moved body or bowels?

Terry Foreman  •  Link…
language hat on 5 Sep 2005

"shifted myself": changed my clothes
refl. To change one's clothing; to put on fresh clothing, esp. undergarments. Obs. exc. dial.
1530 PALSGR. 703/1 In the sommer season I love to shyfte me often. a1548 HALL Chron., Hen. VIII, 64 He shifted hymself into a robe of a Cardinall. 1558 in Kempe Losely MSS. (1836) 185 He hath not left hym a shert there to shyft hym with all. 1622 in Foster Eng. Factories India (1908) II. 125 Nott leavinge one ragge to shift us. 1719 DE FOE Crusoe I. 53, I was wet, and had no Cloaths to shift me.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘Venice, n. < . . Latin Venetia . .
. . b. Venice treacle n. in old pharmacy, an electuary composed of many ingredients and supposed to possess universal alexipharmic and preservative properties.
1617 J. Woodall Surgions Mate 141 A little Venice Trekle or other Trekle.
1635 J. Taylor Life T. Parr C 3, And Garlick hee esteem'd above the rate Of Venice-Triacle, or best Mithridate.
1691 T. Hale Acct. New Inventions p. xxv, And as well may we be afraid to take the Venice Treacle, because of its being long kept in boxes of Lead . . ‘

‘electuary, n. < . . ἐκλείχειν to lick out
1. a. A medicinal conserve or paste, consisting of a powder or other ingredient mixed with honey, preserve, or syrup of some kind.
. . 1636 D. Featley Clavis Mystica xii. 148 Many simples goe to the making of a soveraigne Electuary . . ‘

‘alexipharmic, < post-classical Latin alexipharmicus . .
A medicine or treatment believed to protect against, counteract the effects of, or expel from the body a noxious or toxic substance, esp. a poison or venom; an antidote . . Alexipharmics were originally used in the treatment of many infectious diseases, including plague and smallpox.
1628 J. Woodall Viaticum 13 It [sc. Theriaca Diatessaron] resisteth putrifactious and pestilentiall vapours, and is the most antients Treacle of all other: my selfe haue had very much, true, and good experience of it, and would trust my life vpon it, before the 2. aforesaid Alexifarmicks.
1666 N. Hodges Vindiciæ Medicinæ & Medicorum (new ed.) 229 The chief intention in the cure consisting in an early expulsion of the malignity, proper Alexipharmicks did mostly contribute to this end . . ‘

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Hooke's Law: ut vis, sic extensio - a modern physicist would say: 'the extension goes as the force'.

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