Saturday 8 August 1663

Up and to my office, whither I search for Brown the mathematical instrument maker, who now brought me a ruler for measuring timber and other things so well done and in all things to my mind that I do set up my trust upon it that I cannot have a better, nor any man else have so good for this purpose, this being of my own ordering. By and by we sat all the morning dispatching of business, and then at noon rose, and I with Mr. Coventry down to the water-side, talking, wherein I see so much goodness and endeavours of doing the King service, that I do more and more admire him. It being the greatest trouble to me, he says, in the world to see not only in the Navy, but in the greatest matters of State, where he can lay his finger upon the soare (meaning this man’s faults, and this man’s office the fault lies in), and yet dare or can not remedy matters.

Thence to the Exchange about several businesses, and so home to dinner, and in the afternoon took my brother John and Will down to Woolwich by water, and after being there a good while, and eating of fruit in Sheldon’s garden, we began our walk back again, I asking many things in physiques of my brother John, to which he gives me so bad or no answer at all, as in the regions of the ayre he told me that he knew of no such thing, for he never read Aristotle’s philosophy and Des Cartes ownes no such thing, which vexed me to hear him say. But I shall call him to task, and see what it is that he has studied since his going to the University.

It was late before we could get from Greenwich to London by water, the tide being against us and almost past, so that to save time and to be clear of anchors I landed at Wapping, and so walked home weary enough, walking over the stones.

This night Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes returned [from] Portsmouth, but I did not go see them.

25 Annotations

First Reading

TerryF  •  Link

Some vexations of today


Unless the OED can help, this word concerning the trajectory of *rising* seems to be used in such a vexing way by Mr. Coventry that Pepys takes pains to record what he takes was meant by it.
(Of course, the OED can't help Pepys, but he helps it.)


"I asking many things in physiques of my brother John, to which he gives me so bad or no answer at all, as in the regions of the ayre he told me that he knew of no such thing, for he never read Aristotle's philosophy and Des Cartes ownes no such thing, which vexed me to hear him say."

Descartes' modern physics isn't Aristotle's, to be sure -…

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

I thought Sam got his ruler yesterday ... if so, why would he repeat himself? Did he get a second? Did he only call on Brown yesterday looking for it, but only got it today? (Yet that would go against his behavior at Deptford yesterday, where he "amused" the measurer.)

Something tells me John won't be eager to visit again soon...

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"whither I search for Brown the mathematical instrument maker..."

It does sound as though Sam did this day's entry a bit later and got confused as to when Brown and the wonderous ruler showed, given his enthusiastic crowing yesterday.

"Dear Father,

Brother Sam has ordered...Asked me to give you an account of my time in London. I had a pleasant first few days while he was away...Theater every afternoon, carousing round London with his maid Hannah every night. Then, unfortunately, our pedantic family demi-god returned..."

"John? How's the letter coming?"

"Oh, fine Samuel." Places fun copy in waistcoat pocket, resumes sober copy.


Patricia  •  Link

" he can lay his finger upon the soare"
I take this not to mean "soar" as in "rising" but sore, as in open wound, in which sense this phrase is still used. "...there you put your finger upon the sore that many feel." (Tolkien)

Robert Gertz  •  Link

So today the good Coventry angel is on Sam' shoulder, urging him to fight corruption and do his bit for the greater glory of England.


"Pepys...Everybody's doing it." the little Charles with tiny crown on his left shoulder grins.

"Yeah...Everybody." Little Castlemaine on little Charles' arm nods, winking...

TerryF  •  Link

”he can lay his finger upon the soare”

Patricia, thanks for putting your finger on my sore.

Ken Welsh  •  Link

I find it interesting that Sam is so absorbed in technology and business, yet he is vexed that his brother isn't studying Aristotle at university. Is it because Greek philosophy still formed the basis of medicine in 17th C England?

vulneratus  •  Link

soare is a spelling of sore [OED} but no 17c version, all old sores be open , but the kestrel still soared. "...where he can lay his finger upon the (meaning this man’s faults, and this man’s office the fault lies in), and yet dare or can not remedy matters..."
OED Also 7 soare. [f. SOAR v., perh. partly after F. essor.
In Beaum. & Fletcher's Bonduca IV. iv. the second folio (1679) has ‘fearless of your bloody soars’; but the reading of the first folio (1647) is ‘fears’, evidently a misprint for ‘sears’, i.e. claws.]
1. The altitude attained in soaring; range of flight upwards. Also fig.
Forms: . 3-5 sor (3 seor), 4-5 soor(e (5 soure), 6-7 soare, 7 soar, 4- sore. [OE. sár str. neut., = OFris. sêr (WFris. sear, NFris. siar), MDu. seer, zeer (Du. zeer), OS. sêr (MLG. sêr-e, LG. ser, seer), OHG., MHG. sêr (early mod.G. sehr, also masc.), ON. and Icel. sár (Sw. sår, Da. saar), Goth. sair: see SORE a.
Feminine forms occur in some of the continental langs.: MLG. sêre, MHG. sêre (early mod.G. sehre).]
no quote, using soare as in saddle sore.1. Bodily pain or suffering. Obs.
so so_re
Sam should be entered for using an old spelling.

Salis pluere  •  Link

Ah! office politics "... and yet dare or can not remedy matters...."

dirk  •  Link

"the regions of the ayre"

Aristotle "Meteorology" (350 BC):
"The first difficulty is raised by what is called the air. What are we to take its nature to be in the world surrounding the earth? And what is its position relatively to the other physical elements. (For there is no question as to the relation of the bulk of the earth to the size of the bodies which exist around it, since astronomical demonstrations have by this time proved to us that it is actually far smaller than some individual stars. As for the water, it is not observed to exist collectively and separately, nor can it do so apart from that volume of it which has its seat about the earth: the sea, that is, and rivers, which we can see, and any subterranean water that may be hidden from our observation.) The question is really about that which lies between the earth and the nearest stars. Are we to consider it to be one kind of body or more than one? And if more than one, how many are there and what are the bounds of their regions?"

If we combine this with Sam's explicit reference to "things in physiques" (physics), we may conclude that the discussion between Sam and his brother probably was about what we would nowadays call meteorology and phenomena like cloud formation etc.

To find out how Aristotle deals with this (and what Sam may have expected his brother to reply), see the source of the above quote (no easy reading!):…

Mary  •  Link

"whither I search for Browne..."

should read, "whither I sent for Browne..." according to L&M.

andy  •  Link

regions of the ayre

When Galileo found with his telescope that Jupiter had moons, it led to doubt that the Universe can be considered to be finished; and, because god's universe would be finished and perfect, therefore the Universe had to be considered to be not the creation of god, and therefore its structure could be understood by man's reason.

Copernicus latched onto this and dared to suggest that the known universe was heliocentric not geocentric: Kepler was to follow with the study of orbits (and his equations still work, which is why the Internatonal Space Station doesn't fall down).

As the Royal Society was being formed, such new ideas were circulating in the circles of natural philosophy (i.e. science).

Interesting that Sam has picked up on this. I remember a few months ago he mentioned talking to Bess one night about astronomy, and wondered then what he might have told her.

J A Gioia  •  Link

... and see what it is that he has studied since his going to the University.

i'm sure nothing but politically correct, post-modern nonsense. alas, what passes for an education these days!

aqua  •  Link

wot Peeps was trying to extract from the College kid.
"...I asking many things in physiques of my brother John, to which he gives me so bad or no answer at all, as in the regions of the ayre he told me that he knew of no such thing, for he never read Aristotle’s philosophy and Des Cartes ownes no such thing, which vexed me to hear him say. But I shall call him to task, and see what it is that he has studied since his going to the University. ..."
Aristotle in his "on the Heavens " and in his "Physics" was concerned with the 4 elements, Fire and Earth , the extremes, and aer and water the intermediates and the fifth element of ather [regions of aer], the most remote element, along with Motion , everything has motion, it is moved by something, there is up /down and circular, light/ heavy bodies , some go up, some down and others both ways, it be one of Pepyss colleagues at the RS that would connect the two strange ideas [motions ]that be hovering in the skies.
The final, it be Aristotle's conclusion that Newton made sense of , with a codlin.
It took 2000 years to to pin down the great thoughts, for Aristotle showed his work sheet and reasoning which made it difficult for those poor students to use Greek for translation and comprehending at the same time.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Is it because greek phylosophy still formed the basis of medicine"
Ken Welsh,Galen the roman surgeon was the most influential personality in medicine in the "West" for a long time;he probably was influenced by Aristotle.

TerryF  •  Link

Why John doesn't know from Aristotle-

Descartes says:
"If you find it strange that I make no use of the qualities one calls heat, cold, moistness, and dryness…, as the philosophers [of the schools] do, I tell you that these qualities appear to me to be in need of explanation, and if I am not mistaken, not only these four qualities, but also all the others, and even all of the forms of inanimate bodies can be explained without having to assume anything else for this in their matter but motion, size, shape, and the arrangement of their parts (AT XI 25-26)."…

Bradford  •  Link

I keep thinking "regions of the air" has some more specific allusion to levels of the atmosphere, ascending to the aether (and perhaps to the planets, and then the Empyrean)? But whether this idea survived the switch from Copernicus to Ptolemy I can't recall.

Roy Feldman  •  Link

Was it common practice for people to pick fruit from archbishops' backyards in those days?

aqua  •  Link

Sheldons apples. In my neck of the woods scrumping the Bishops apples would earn thee a thick ear, or non local, a derriere full of pepper and salt stingers, believe me they stung, but a "gent/esq" would be offered the juciest by the gardener with a nice tip of the old cap.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"in the regions of the ayre he told me that he knew of no such thing, for he never read Aristotle’s philosophy and Des Cartes ownes no such thing"

In Principia Philosophiae (1644) Descartes had suggested that space was a single plenum of particles arranged in vortices. This contradicted Aristotle's theory of a series of concentric spheres [see the prior post]. Strictly speaking, the air was held [by Aristotle] to be only one of these spheres -- that between the earth and moon -- but the phrase was used loosely. Pepys retained only the work of Aristotle: Ars Rhetoricae (1606): PL 576 (I). (Per L&M footnote)

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

It's worth mentioning that John Pepys' near contemporary, Young Isaac Newton, was also currently at Cambridge, where he too was supplementing his Aristotle with Descartes.

It's likely of course that young Newton was taking both more seriously. Although Wiki describes Newton as "undistinguished" at Cambridge, it's also clear that he was already doing a considerable amount of work on his own account. :)…

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Our Sam would have been particularly interested in discoveries and theories re the practical concerns of naval men: weather and how to forecast it, winds and why they blow and change, tides and the moon, etc.

OED has:

‘physics, n. < Latin physica < Greek τὰ ϕυσικά , lit. ‘natural things’ . .
1. a. Natural science in general; esp. the Aristotelian system of natural science. Also: a treatise on natural science. Now hist. The scope of the term has varied from including the whole of the physical world (Locke also included God, angels, etc.) to being restricted to inorganic bodies, until finally being further restricted to sense 1b.
. . 1656 tr. T. Hobbes Elements Philos. iv. xxv. 290, I have given to this Part, the title of Physiques or Phænomena of Nature.
. . 1704 J. Harris Lexicon Technicum I Physicks, or Natural Philosophy, is the Speculative Knowledge of all Natural Bodies (and Mr. Lock thinks, That God, Angels, Spirits &c. which usually are accounted as the Subject of Metaphysicks, should come into this Science), and of their proper Natures, Constitutions, Powers, and Operations . . ‘

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

John was at Cambridge, but the curriculum and requirements were similar to that at Oxford. And we know what that was:…

I can understand why many "gentlemen of quality" attended, but did not graduate from, university in Pepys' day. Looks like John may be one of them if he doesn't hit the books.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Natural Philosophy is the study of nature, the universe, and natural bodies. It also arguably was the first step towards what we know as the Enlightenment.

Natural philosophy has been a concept since the philosopher Aristotle first used the term in ancient Greece, but it came to have a more dynamic meaning during the Enlightenment.

Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle led the way, adopting a more systematic, evidence-based approach to their experiments on the world around them, laying the foundations for modern science.

What if nothing exists — how can we prove otherwise?
René Descartes (1596 – 1650) identified a starting point that he argues is undeniably true: If we're thinking, we must exist. "I think, therefore I am" is the argument — or, in Latin, "Cogito ergo sum." Philosophers call it "the cogito" for short.


This conversation shows us Pepys' understanding of how transformative these issues are for the future. This partly answers why Pepys becomes so bored during Church sermons. They were preaching the status quo, and Pepys dimly perceives that those days are over. He's looking for answers, and doesn't want John to be left behind.

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