Monday 23 March 1662/63

Up betimes and to my office, before noon my wife and I eat something, thinking to have gone abroad together, but in comes Mr. Hunt, who we were forced to stay to dinner, and so while that was got ready he and I abroad about 2 or 3 small businesses of mine, and so back to dinner, and after dinner he went away, and my wife and I and Ashwell by coach, set my wife down at her mother’s and Ashwell at my Lord’s, she going to see her father and mother, and I to Whitehall, being fearful almost, so poor a spirit I have, of meeting Major Holmes. By and by the Duke comes, and we with him about our usual business, and then the Committee for Tangier, where, after reading my Lord Rutherford’s commission and consented to, Sir R. Ford, Sir W. Rider, and I were chosen to bring in some laws for the Civill government of it, which I am little able to do, but am glad to be joyned with them, for I shall learn something of them.

Thence to see my Lord Sandwich, and who should I meet at the door but Major Holmes. He would have gone away, but I told him I would not spoil his visitt, and would have gone, but however we fell to discourse and he did as good as desire excuse for the high words that did pass in his heat the other day, which I was willing enough to close with, and after telling him my mind we parted, and I left him to speak with my Lord, and I by coach home, where I found Will. Howe come home to-day with my wife, and staid with us all night, staying late up singing songs, and then he and I to bed together in Ashwell’s bed and she with my wife. This the first time that I ever lay in the room. This day Greatorex brought me a very pretty weather-glass for heat and cold.

35 Annotations

First Reading

Miss Ann  •  Link

"... then he and I to bed together in Ashwell’s bed and she with my wife."

I find it quite difficult to put an "innocent" spin on this type of sleeping arrangement, why would he sleep with Will, in Ashwell's bed, and Ashwell sleeps with Bess? Was it too much wine and they couldn't make it up the stairs? I know we've said in the past that there was "nothing going on", but I cant' help wondering about all this. I suppose I find it difficult changing my thinking from today's morals and those of yesterday.

Glad to see he "spoke his mind" to Major Holmes, now that may fade into history and no need for a second.

Bradford  •  Link

Samuel could have slept with Elizabeth, and Will could have slept with Ashwell, whom she doesn't know from Adam, nor her from Eve. Oh. That doesn't solve the problem, does it?

In all our discussions about the perplexing layout of this domicile, no guest bedroom has been mentioned; and as a bed at this period, and in this social set, was one substantial and expensive piece of furniture, perhaps there was no extra, and you couldn't ask a welcome guest to bunk it on the floor, or pressure a classy employee like Ashwell to do so in order to provide Will hospitable bedding to an unheralded visitor.

I'm afraid we must just recur to what has been said before in these notes: sharing beds was a custom of the time which, unless interesting circumstances intervened, was no more unusual than sharing a cab would be today.

Bradford  •  Link

Ooops. Please omit the now-unwanted "Will" between "provide" and "hospitable bedding." Always proof twice before posting.

TerryF  •  Link

Such prudential bed-sharing was common well into the 19th c., as we know from the beginning of *Moby Dick* wherein Ishmael shared a bed in the Spouter Inn with Queequeg.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Today's entry is a great example of what attracts me to Sam and his Diary. First, the admission and self-chastisement involved in "being fearful almost, so poor a spirit I have, of meeting Major Holmes." (What a relief it must have been for him to make things up with Holmes.) Then, the admission that he is "little able to do" the task of bringing in laws for the governance of Tangiers, but that he looks forward to the challenge and the opportunity to "learn something."

This candor is wonderful to behold, and Sam's curiosity and desire to learn -- confessed here to no one but himself -- is a huge part of what makes him an interesting, successful man.

I also enjoyed the glimpse in this entry of the burden of unexpected social obligations -- first for dinner, and later for supper and sleeping arrangements. Looks as if both Sam and Elizabeth handled it well.

Miss Ann  •  Link

The "unexpected social obligations" require a fair deal of flexibility in thinking & organisation, and Sam and Elizabeth have shown they have it in great quantities. Imagine if someone turned up unannounced today when you had made arrangements with your partner to do something, but that something has to be shelved so as to provide hospitality to the unexpected guest, and not once but three times in one day - I doubt it would happen like this today, more is the pity.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Sam I think would have been failing in his duty as Ashwell's employer not to ensure that there could be no question of propriety with an unattached male guest loose in the house. Especially as Ashwell seems a very genteel type what with her father checking Sam out first and all.

Besides Sam left out...

"Did find Will Howe gazing rather fixedly upon Ashwell and resolved to put a stop to such things immediately by taking him to bed with me."



"Does Mr. Pepys often sleep with his friends when they visit?"

"Oh, all the time." Bess innocently nods.

"Oh...Then my father was right about him." Ashwell nods. "He'll be very pleased to hear I'm under no danger here."

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Would it be "Major Holmes, Captain of the....."?

Decent fellow to more or less apologize like that. Of course meeting Sam just outside Sandwich's...Famed patron and cousin, major (at least supposed by the world) wheel in the new government...He'd not be likely to try and challenge him there.

I wonder if in fact Montagu had summoned him to warn him to back off and let cousin Samuel be. Creed might well have told him of the situation if no one else had already.

Harry  •  Link

Such prudential bed-sharing was common well into the 19th c.,

From my experience, in an emergency women nowadays don't have a problem with sharing a bed, but it remains a taboo for men. Living in Paris we have space for just one guest room which has a double bed. This has often been used by two women, mostly my wife's friends and relatives from South America, but also earlier my daughters' school friends. When we have had to accommodate more than one of my son's friends, he slept on the sofa in the living room or in a sleeping bag on an air mattress.

Many years ago I was part of a group of 4 young men on a camping trip who were invited late one rainy night into a modest farm in Galicia in western Spain. The farmer took out clean sheets from a large cupboard and showed us into his bedroom where there were two double beds. I have no idea where he and his wife spent the night, possibly in the barn, but when we arose the next morning they were waiting for us with steaming bowls of coffee and loaves of bread and butter . We really appreciated the Spanish hospitality, but we spent a most uncomfortable night, desparately anxious not to touch each other.

Glyn  •  Link

I think that Holmes has been pressurized to do this, by either Coventry or Lord Sandwich, or possibly even by the Duke of York. Even if Holmes thought that he was in the wrong, surely he would have let Pepys sweat for a while to see if Pepys would apologise first.

Josh  •  Link

Brad, how can you be so clueless? Will should have slept with Elizabeth, and then Samuel could have bedded Ashwell. I mean, bedded down with. Oh, heck, let's all chip in and buy them a sofabed.

Stolzi  •  Link

Sam's relief and pleasure

at escaping a duel are expressed, no doubt, in the long and happy music session this night. How convenient that Will.Howe should come along unexpectedly.

300+ years later one can still be happy for him.

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

Bed Sharing
People of the *same* sex sharing a bed was unremarkable. No one would have thought twice about Sam and Will Howe sharing bed, but if Howe and Ashwell shared a bed, it would have been regarded as anything but innocent. It's not that the 17th C culture was less sexualized, it's just that same-sex activity was outside the frame reference (though it certainly was heard-of).

Two things have changed: we are now mostly prosperous enough to give everyone a bed of his own, and the "same-sex option" (if I can call it that) is more in the forefront of people's minds. Harry's story nicely illustrates the change in consciousness.

I have noticed that, at my gym, the guys in their fifties and above walk around naked unself-consciously, while younger guys mostly keep towels tightly wrapped when not behind the shower curtain. To the older guys, I assume, we're just men in a locker room together, whereas to the younger men, we're in a potentially sexual situation.

We're just uptight about different things than they were in the 17th C.

pjk  •  Link

Weather Glass
Yesterday on BBC Radio 4 there was an interesting programme about the early days (roughly contemporaneous) of the Royal Society.
It can be heard by going to…
and following links to "In Our Time". It will be overwritten by the next edition next week.

celtcahill  •  Link

Lincoln and his law partner slept together often, and reading Twain reveals this custom in extension to nearly our own time, and outside the west I have no doubt it remains an accepted custom.

Many European - especially Russian - accomodations are made in this manner - sharing tables with strangers in restaurants commmon in '73 and on the train in Russia that same year in my own experience. We westerners , and I think we Americans in particular, have an expansive sense of personnal space not entirely shared by others.

Zeitgeist and ethnocentricity are severe limitations in thinking, and the temptations of revisionism strong on that account. Contribute balefully to our often boorish and insensetive foreign policy too.

adam w  •  Link

"...and who should I meet at the door but..."
Pepys, the born storyteller. How many times have we all used this rhetorical construction when recounting a day's events? Almost a cliche now for a bit of gossip - you'd roll your eyes as you said it. It's fascinating to see the phrase used identically in the 17th century: Pepys treating his diary like a mate in the pub. Another brilliant entry!

Saul Pfeffer  •  Link

Sleeping habits and the bed issue in SP's era.
May I recommend "At Day's Close" by A. Roger Ekirch. This is the definitive account of night-time habits in Europe and America. Travelling strangers often slept together at inns. There was due regard to the sex of the bedfellows. Pepys is mentioned many times in the index. The arrangement this day was of course the only sensible one for staying overnight.

Louis Anthony Scarsdale  •  Link

I can second Saul's recommendation of Ekirch's book, which I recently finished reading. It is packed with curious and valuable information, the result of two decades' assiduous but lively scholarship.

Indeed, practically any general history of anything British or European these days is going to cite the Diary as testimony, and Pepys pops up in "the quality prints" all the time, down to the tech section of "USA Today." When Tomalin's bio came out, the editor of the "New York Times Book Review" praised it though noting that Pepys was "little read" these days. He is no longer editor of the NYTBR.

Australian Susan  •  Link

"Up betimes"

Percival Hunt in his book of essays on Pepys in the Diary concludes that this means at dawn.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"boorish and insensitive foreign policy too"
methinks criminal.

birdie  •  Link

“Up betimes” - Many older words and expressions in the English language are remarkably similar to their Scandinavian equivalents. Old Swedish words for "early" are "arla" and its synonym "bittida". They are still used in some expressions even though "tidig" today would be the most common translation for "early".

Of course, "arla" has the same root as the English "early". Its synonym "bittida" (today pronounced and most often spelled "bitti") literally means "between times", i.e., between night and day (dawn).

dirk  •  Link


May I add "bijtijds" (=betimes) -- a form still used in some Flemish dialects -- although the "official" Dutch phrase would be "op tijd" (=on time).

tonyt  •  Link

"Up betimes".
It seems clear from the next diary entry (24 March 1662/3) that "up betimes" means well before 6.00 a.m. This suggests that it is more likely to mean 'first light' (about 30 minutes before dawn) rather than dawn itself.

language hat  •  Link

First light sounds right to me too.

And can we please keep current politics out of this? Thank you.

birdie  •  Link

"First light sounds right to me too" - Dawn and first light are synonymous according to Webster's dictionary. I second the appeal from Mr. Hat on current politics.

Miriam  •  Link

My, the readers of the "N. Y. Times Book Review" are a touchy lot.

laura k  •  Link

"When Tomalin's bio came out, the editor of the "New York Times Book Review" praised it though noting that Pepys was "little read" these days. He is no longer editor of the NYTBR."

You're not seriously suggesting these are in any way related? I can assure you they are not.

Bradford  •  Link

Boy, Miriam was right. Better skip the politics, literary and international, go straight to March 26th and, as Ellen has recommended, celebrate Stone Day. The year was 1658 . . .

Salt Cellar  •  Link

Ekirch (see above) quotes Pepys among many others on bed-sharing (p. 282):

“Forced to lie one evening with a friend in his chamber, Pepys ‘could hardly get any sleep all night, the bed being ill-made and he a bad bedfellow.’”---Oct. 22, 1660.

“he” = Mr. Shepley, one of My Lord’s servants:…
So this topic goes way back.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Never forget the "Great bed of Ware."
Sharing : today the affluent do not have to share a crum, only those that have only a crum will share, that has been my experience in most of the cultures of travels..Affluence is the separator of peoples [never all, there be exceptions, when it is seen that they be in the same boat]
A child with a crummy toy will share but a child with 10 toys will rarely share.
NB: Does Samuell now share a glass of bitters with his old clerky bretheren?

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Great Bed of Ware is an extremely large oak four poster bed, carved with marquetry, that was originally housed in the White Hart Inn in Ware, England. Built by Hertfordshire carpenter Jonas Fosbrooke in 1580, the bed measures 3.38m long and 3.26m wide (ten by eleven feet) and can 'reputedly... accommodate at least four couples'.

By the 19th century, the bed had been moved from the White Hart Inn to the Saracen's Head, another Ware inn. In 1870, William Henry Teale, the owner of the Rye House, acquired the bed and put it to use in a pleasure garden. When interest in the garden waned in the 1920s, the bed was sold. In 1931, it was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

" Sir R. Ford, Sir W. Rider, and I were chosen to bring in some laws for the Civill government of it, which I am little able to do, but am glad to be joyned with them, for I shall learn something of them. "

Tangier was not incorporated as a municipality until 4 June 1668. Until then civil government was in the hands of the military. (L&M footnote)

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

"Thence to see my Lord Sandwich, and who should I meet at the door but Major Holmes."

I love the conversational style Sam uses so often: "Then in comes ..."

Anyway ... phew!

JayW  •  Link

All of the BBCs In Our Time programmes, including the one on The Royal Society from 23 March 2006, can currently be found available through the website for downloading.

First light is a short while before dawn breaks in the UK.

The Great Bed was here in Ware for a year and very impressive it was. It took up virtually the whole room it was in.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The physicians of the day were worried about people developing bad sleeping habits because of all the unnatural candlelight which was extending their awake time. (Sound familiar?)

In 1637 the physician Tobias Venner (1577–1660) suggested a range of therapies to those confronting the unhappiness of night-time ‘watching’, including ‘a good draught of soporiferous Almond milk’ blended with barley, the flowers of borage and violets and rosewater sweetened with sugar.

Venner's advice rings true today:

‘If therefore ye desire peaceable and comfortable rest, live soberly, eschew crudity, and embrace tranquility of mind.’

Pepys, are you listening? SPOILER: The answer is "NO".

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