Thursday 12 February 1662/63

Up and find myself pretty well, and so to the office, and there all the morning. Rose at noon and home to dinner in my green chamber, having a good fire. Thither there came my wife’s brother and brought Mary Ashwell with him, whom we find a very likely person to please us, both for person, discourse, and other qualitys. She dined with us, and after dinner went away again, being agreed to come to us about three weeks or a month hence. My wife and I well pleased with our choice, only I pray God I may be able to maintain it.

Then came an old man from Mr. Povy, to give me some advice about his experience in the stone, which I [am] beholden to him for, and was well pleased with it, his chief remedy being Castle soap in a posset.

Then in the evening to the office, late writing letters and my Journall since Saturday, and so home to supper and to bed.

46 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

"Castle soap", i.e. castile soap

"Pure Castile soaps date back hundreds of years to a Spanish region called Castilla. Most soaps are made with animal fats but castile is made with olive oil which is a natural humectant. Humectants retain natural internal moisture by drawing it from the air."…

Castile soap in a posset? Sounds disgusting.

Bradford  •  Link

Isn't drink soapy liquid a time-honored way to induce vomiting?

dirk  •  Link

Cast(i)le soap

"Castile Soap: A mild creamy white bar soap made using a traditional soap boiling process from pure olive oil. Castile soap has been in use since the Medieval period and was traded by pedlars through most parts of Europe. No fragrance, no preservatives, no animal fats, no fuss. Castile soap produces small bubbles and is a favourite with those who find palm oil based soaps too drying but still require a bar that cleans thoroughly. Castile soap ages well, becoming harder with time, but it does need draining well after use."…

Pic at:…

pedro  •  Link

Castile soap

Soap for the Knights?

Terry F  •  Link

Castile soap

Soap for the nights
(in the vomitorium)

The source I first posted naively cited Castilla as its place of origin; the Wikipedia article refutes that.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

So he wrote up everything since Saturday today, eh? That would explain why he only remembered Bess had been reading to him throughout his illness in yesterday's entry. She's actually been quite attentive to him, though the entry of the 10th would suggest she left him to suffer alone.

Castile soap...

Just a vague guess but I wonder if the olive oil would somewhat counter the effects of the many diuretics in the typical 17th century English diet, helping to keep the kidneys properly flushed. If I have time, I'll try to look it up.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Pray what dothe thy mean Samuell "...only I pray God I may be able to maintain it...." would it be "...and other qualitys..."

dirk  •  Link

"I pray God I may be able to maintain it"

"In H2O Scripto": he may be thinking of the financial implications...

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

"...his chief remedy being Castle soap in a posset..." Not to remove the dirt? Now I dothe know where that Idea to wash a mouth out with soap[ no less castile], From those that lack any humor.
Humecant from the latin humectans ; humectare to moisten; humor/ liquid, any fluid or juice,especially the four fluids [cardinal humors][See spitting sheet];

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Sam may have had a London made version. Castile Soap was imported from Antwerp during Elizabeths Reign then French Protestants [Huguenots] did bring the skill of production along with other skills/trades to fair city of London;
Mary Grace of Lee(50) John Pett; Antwerp
39 cwt Castile soap £29 5s. John Elyetts
regular soap too 16cwt

Primrose of Lee Antwerp 33cwt Castile Soap L24 15s.
Swallow of London Giles Grey
Francis Bowyer: 26 cwt Castile soap £19 10s (31 Mar 1568)
19¼ cwt soap £14 8s 4d
From: 'London Port Book, 1567-8: Nos. 400-499 (Mar - May, 1568)', The port and trade of early Elizabethan London: documents (1972), pp. 62-79. URL:…. Date accessed: 13 February 2006.

[French Protestants]
; but the greatest Part of them by following the Callings they have been educated in, as the Making of Silks, Linens, Hats, Castile Soap, White Paper, and other useful Manufactures; by which they are become good Subjects to their Majesties, and this Nation reaps great Benefit by them.

From: 'House of Commons Journal Volume 10: 13 February 1692', Journal of the House of Commons: volume 10: 1688-1693 (1802), pp. 664-70. URL:…. Date accessed: 13 February 2006.
Going rate [1500's]15s per 112 lbs[1cwt]
approx 10 ozs per penny or 2 farthings a bar wholesale

Terry F  •  Link

Great finds, in Water Writ!!

We will also know, what kind of purgative Castile-soap-cum-Posset is,
in the end (one or the other).

"And as for the vomitorium, it was not a handy place for Roman over-consumers to make room for another course: it is the name given to a passageway through which the audience 'spewed out' of the amphitheatre."
- Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge University.…

Pauline  •  Link

'to wash a mouth out with soap'
In my vividly-remembered experience, this was a 'worshing' and took place after hanging out with my grandpa and coming home with certain of his expletives fully embraced into my speech; i.e., 'hell' and 'damn'. His loving and devoted daughter applying the soap. Nothing so refined as Castile--probably "Dial". I think I lacked no humor in this, Water Writer, but my mom may well have.

Australian Susan  •  Link

You can still get it!

Real nostalgia site this - also features Pears, Lifebuoy and Wright's Coal Tar. Memory Lane again.

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

Should we anticipate future problems distinguishing between the two Marys in the household? Particularly if Sam nurses a guilty attraction for one - or both!

Pedro  •  Link

"expletives fully embraced into my speech;"

Thank you Pauline, now we know the origin of the expression...

"Wash your mouth out with carbolic saop."

Pedro  •  Link


Saop should read soap. I must wash my mouth out!

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"then French Protestants(Huguenots)bring the skill of production"
In Aqua Scripto,methinks everybody knew how to make soap at this stage; they only needed the olive oil in this case.

Terry F  •  Link

“then French Protestants(Huguenots)bring the skill of production”

A. De Araujo, methinks In Aqua Scripto was speaking of production in scale and quality. Many Huguenots were urban artisans and craftsmen and gave a jump-start to manufactury in the communities that they ran to for refuge.

(Helas! not so Sam's in-laws.)

Ann  •  Link

Common gel-cap type stool softners sold today contain nothing more than liquid soap (per my pharmacist sister-in-law). How this would help "the stone" is beyond me....

celtcahill  •  Link

I've had occaision to read Dr John Hall's notes on his medical practice - he was Shakespeare's son - in - law - and if it weren't for Glisters he'd have had little to do indeed.…

Marston Bates in, I believe : " The Forest and the Sea " Points out that until nearly WW II Medical care was really Nursing care and not until biochemistry really got off the ground did medical providers have a clear notion of what they were doing and how they were doing it.

Terry F  •  Link

"Rose at noon"

Hint at an early St Valentine's day for Sam?

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Soap: Manufacturing knowledge was not obtained by going to the Technical schools of the days, ye got yerself apprenticed to a knowledgeable one, and the family secret be not written for all the world to know, was passed on, only to those that be acceptable and passed all the bigoted rules of 'dothe thy believe in wot I dothe believe'. So even if thou knew how to make animal soap, Castile required different techniques. This be the period of Monopolies and permission of the Crown to do any kind work. Fortunately for many, demand outstripped production allowing many to break with tradition.
Family professions of all trades were handed down, and only left a family when there be no more heirs or a widow liked a new husband, that the family secrets be spread.
This was the period of control of the masses was breaking down, in part due to thought not being the perogative of the powerful. Need out stripped stupidity. The powers to be, liked to get total control of others [still do].
Reading the HP site, shows the struggle to get control [called share the wealth with my mistresses], Imports/Exports, rules for controling business [7 mile area of no competition], who could have a theatre, or how many Hackneys to be allowed, how many skulls that be running up and down the Tems, Rules be good but progress be impeded when one had to wait till thy be arthritic before getting thy product on the market.

jeannine  •  Link

A Valentine's Idea!
How about making your own soap in a posset for someone you love. Just pick one of these little castile soap recipes…
and pour them into heart shaped little pans. Place the soaps in a glass and fill with posset for that someone special. This idea will not only rid your intended sweetie of any potential kidney stones they may happen to have but will also rid you of any future expenses that the potential relationship could impose, as any hopes for a future together will be over after the first sip.

Terry F  •  Link

Jeannine! A Valentine idea that has me LOL! (Too bad you are already taken!)

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Soaps of Elizabeth I:
Soap, 258; black, 708; Castile, 258; Flemish, 513; grey, 702. See also Washing balls [toilet soap sometimes perfumed;]

From: 'Appendix II: Descriptive list of commodities', The port and trade of early Elizabethan London: documents (1972), pp. 138-51. URL:…. Date accessed: 14 February 2006.

Terry F  •  Link

To underscore the point about trade secrets and monopolies made by in Aqua Scripto, Past Master of BH = British History Online --
In Diary period, we are still mostly in an age of controlled- NOT free-trade; of trade secrets protected with care by sharing it only within families; of trades controlled by Guilds, aka, Livery Companies, extending their tentacles abroad to trading companies, subject to royal authorisation (signed and sealed).

Australian Susan  •  Link

Baby care books of the pre-WWII period used to suggest pushing a sliver of soap up a baby's bottom if it was constipated.

Peter  •  Link

Susan, careful, you'll have Social Services round!

dirk  •  Link

"In Diary period, we are still mostly in an age of controlled- NOT free-trade." re - Terry

In the 17th c the prevailing economic theory -- as far as trade was concerned -- was so-called "Mercantilism" (< Lat. Mercator = merchant). Basically its goal was to increase national wealth - mostly viewed as the net amount of gold coming into the country. In practice this usually came down to exporting as much as possible (and preferably expensive items) vs. importing as little as possible (and preferably cheap raw materials. [Actually, this sounds familiar still.. It's nowadays generally referred to as "the North-South problem".]

One thing they weren't aware of at the time is that a large surplus of exports over imports is a major cause of inflation (price increases).

In a Mercantilistic context protecting your own national economy by prohibitive import duties ("protectionism") was absolutely normal and acceptable, as were "corporatist" production restrictions on a national level. As yet there was no such idea as to "free trade" being the ideal system -- both on a national & international level.

See also:…

dirk  •  Link

Mercantilism - a contemporary document on the subject:

"Englands Treasure by Forraign Trade. or The Ballance of our Forraign Trade is The Rule of our Treasure", by Thomas Mun of Lond., Merchant, 1664. Printed by J.G. for Thomas Clark, and to be sold at his Shop at the South entrance of the Royal Exchange.

(An "open letter" to Thomas Earl of South-Hampton, Lord High Treasurer of England.)…

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Dirk, great find thanks.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Dirk - I echo this - great find! And the 12 points of what make a great merchant, outlined at the start of this treatise, apply today to anyone trying to start overseas trade. They are also many of the qualities which Sam had. The author writes very well - totally in command of his material, with little padding.

jeannine  •  Link

Dirk, What a wonderful piece of work you've found. As the article says "It was left me in the nature of a Legacy by my Father.." What an unbelievable legacy to leave for one's child~~ morals, business smarts, etc. all in one. The 12 points in the beginning (as Susan noted) are a find and the ongoing details amazing. Thanks!

dirk  •  Link

Thomas Mun's text

The introduction to the text states:
"My Son, In a former Discourse I have endeavoured after my manner briefly to teach thee two things: The first is Piety, how to fear God aright, according to his Works and Word: The second is Policy, how to love and serve thy Country, by instructing thee in the duties and proceedings of sundry Vocations, which either order, or else act the affairs of the Common-wealth; In which as some things doe especially lend to Preserve, and others are more apt to Enlarge the same:
So am I now to speak of Money [...]"

How I would have loved to read the first "Discourse" too! ("On Piety & Policy"?) -- But it's nowhere to be found. We probably owe the survival of this one only to the fact that it was (presumably) handed to the Earl of Southampton and appeared in print.

dirk  •  Link

Thomas Mun - biographical data

Thomas Mun (17 June 1571 - 21 July 1641) was engaged in Mediterranean trade, and afterwards settled down in London, amassing a large fortune. He was a member of the committee of the East India Company and of the standing commission on trade appointed in 1622. In 1621 he wrote and published "A Discourse of Trade from England into the East Indies", in which he refuted claims that the company reduced the amount of bullion in England by exporting too much of it to India. His other work -- "England's Treasure by Forraign Trade" [see previous annotations] -- was published posthumously. He was buried in the chancel of his parish church, St. Helen's, Bishopsgate.

Main source:…

"England's Treasure etc" in PDF format:…

Second Reading

Mary Ellen  •  Link

Kirk's Castile soap is available. It is apparently made with coconut oil. The wrapper says it has been around since 1839. As I recall it is a soap with no lather or nonsense. very basic

Bill  •  Link

"to give me some advice about his experience in the stone, which I [am] beholden to him for, and was well pleased with it, his chief remedy being Castle soap in a posset."

Soap in medicine. The purer hard soap is the only sort intended for internal use; this triturated with oily or resinous matters, renders them soluble in water; and hence becomes an ingredient in pills composed of resins, promoting their dissolution in the stomach, and union with the animal fluids. ...
It is likewise a powerful menstruum for the calculus, or stone in the bladder; a solution of it in lime-water being one of the strongest dissolvents that can with safety be taken into the stomach: the virtue of this composition is considerably greater than the aggregate of the dissolving powers of the soap and lime-water, when unmixed.
---A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. 1764.

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

Susan of the south, my Grandmother raised me from about 1940-1939 and the use of soap that you described was one of her remedies. It must have impressed me as I still remember it.

Nate Lockwood  •  Link

I first learned of Castile Soap in a chemistry class. We made the soap and then added gasoline to make napalm. While production napalm is not made from castile soap the 'palm' comes from palmitic acid (a constituent of palm oil). I believe that the 'na' relates to Sodium (Na).

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

‘Castile soap, n. < Castile, a province of Spain, in which the soap was originally made.
A fine hard soap made with olive-oil and soda. There are two kinds, the white and the mottled. Called also Spanish soap.
1631 B. Jonson Divell is Asse v. iii. 3 in Wks. II Foame at th'mouth. A little castle-soape Will do't, to rub your lips.
1651 J. French Art Distillation v. 153 You may make candles of Castle-sope . . ‘
‘napalm, n.< na- (in naphthenate n.) + palm- (in palmitate n.): see further quot. 1946 at sense 1b. orig. U.S.
1. a. A thickening agent consisting essentially of aluminium salts of naphthenic acids and of the fatty acids of coconut oil.
b. A thixotropic* gel consisting of petrol and this thickening agent (or some similar agent), used in flame-throwers and incendiary bombs; jellied petrol.
. . 1946 L. F. Fieser et al. in Industr. & Engin. Chem. Aug. 769/1 It was next found (January 29, 1942) that a combination of aluminium naphthenate with the same ‘aluminum palmitate’ could be easily incorporated into gasoline to form a promising gel, and we termed this naphthenate-‘palmitate’ combination a Napalm gel. Subsequently it developed that the supposed ‘aluminum palmitate’ was actually the aluminum soap of the total fatty acids of coconut oil, and that the specific gelling quality is due to a high content of lauric, not palmitic, acid . .

napalm burn n.
. . 1997 Tampa (Florida) Tribune (Nexis) 7 Nov. (Baylife section), The image of her running naked, screaming in pain from napalm burns, remains a symbol of all that was wrong with the Vietnam War . . ‘
* ‘thixotropy, n.< German tixotropie . .
The property of certain gels of becoming fluid when agitated and of reverting back to a gel when left to stand.
. . 1971 New Scientist 19 Aug. 435/2 How to demonstrate thixotropy with custard.’

jimmigee  •  Link

Mercantilism: Currently a policy of the U.S. government, it seems.

Third Reading

Ruslan  •  Link

"Englands Treasure by Forraign Trade. or The Ballance of our Forraign Trade is The Rule of our Treasure", by Thomas Mun of Lond., Merchant, 1664.

The original link is broken. Here it is on the Internet Archive:…

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