Thursday 17 September 1663

Up, and my father being gone to bed ill last night and continuing so this morning, I was forced to come to a new consideration, whether it was fit for to let my uncle and his son go to Wisbeach about my uncle Day’s estate alone or no, and concluded it unfit; and so resolved to go with them myself, leaving my wife there, I begun a journey with them, and with much ado, through the fens, along dikes, where sometimes we were ready to have our horses sink to the belly, we got by night, with great deal of stir and hard riding, to Parson’s Drove, a heathen place, where I found my uncle and aunt Perkins, and their daughters, poor wretches! in a sad, poor thatched cottage, like a poor barn, or stable, peeling of hemp, in which I did give myself good content to see their manner of preparing of hemp; and in a poor condition of habitt took them to our miserable inn, and there, after long stay, and hearing of Frank, their son, the miller, play, upon his treble, as he calls it, with which he earns part of his living, and singing of a country bawdy song, we sat down to supper; the whole crew, and Frank’s wife and child, a sad company, of which I was ashamed, supped with us. And after supper I, talking with my aunt about her report concerning my uncle Day’s will and surrender, I found her in such different reports from what she writes and says to the people, and short of what I expected, that I fear little will be done of good in it. By and by newes is brought to us that one of our horses is stole out of the stable, which proves my uncle’s, at which I am inwardly glad — I mean, that it was not mine; and at this we were at a great loss; and they doubting a person that lay at next door, a Londoner, some lawyer’s clerk, we caused him to be secured in his bed, and other care to be taken to seize the horse; and so about twelve at night or more, to bed in a sad, cold, nasty chamber, only the mayde was indifferent handsome, and so I had a kiss or two of her, and I to bed, and a little after I was asleep they waked me to tell me that the horse was found, which was good newes, and so to sleep till the morning, but was bit cruelly, and nobody else of our company, which I wonder at, by the gnatts.

34 Annotations

First Reading

Lurker  •  Link

What is his uncle's "surrender" in this context?

PegH  •  Link

"...but was bit cruelly, and nobody else of our company, which I wonder at, by the gnatts." I've been there, Sam! Skeeters often favor one person in a group, it seems. Isn't this one of those little personal details that makes one think that if Sam showed up at his next birthday party we'd have plenty in common across all those centuries? It kinda gives me goosebumps.

language hat  •  Link

I used to be ignored by mosquitoes.
But that was in Thailand, and American mosquitoes seem to like me just fine.

I wonder how old Sam got before he stopped getting kisses from stray wenches who caught his fancy?

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Part of me wants to say that I hope he was very old indeed, LH. (As long as the maids were willing, that is...)

Our Sam certainly is a city boy, ain't he? Country living is *not* the life for him.

TerryF  •  Link


Parson Drove, originally a township and chapelry of Leverington, became a separate ecclesiastical district under the Leverington Rectory Act (1870).....The parish consists in effect of the fen end of Leverington; it has no separate manorial history
The scattered village is situated about 6½ miles west of Wisbech and 4½ miles south-west of Leverington.
Fendyke Bank, the great bank stretching from Cloughs Cross on the Lincolnshire border southwards to Guyhirn, is one of the most important in the district. For many hundreds of years it was the bastion of defence against the fresh waters coming down from the upland counties, and the landward counterpart to the old sea bank on the east side of Leverington. Fendyke protected the whole district on the north side of Wisbech which includes Tydd St. Giles, Newton, Leverington, Guyhirn, and Wisbech St. Mary. Its importance cannot therefore be exaggerated, and the most stringent measures were taken to ensure its safety. The obligation to maintain the bank was imposed on the landowners in the protected parishes.

A great breach was made in the bank in 1437, when 13,400 acres were flooded through the default of one Thomas Flower, the owner of 24 acres in Wisbech High Fen. (fn. 5) Further breaches occurred in 1570 (fn. 6) and in 1770. At the latter date a gap 130 yards wide was made, probably at Abel's Gull. Parts of the country-side were flooded to a depth of 6 feet, and were not brought back into cultivation for three years. So sudden was the disaster that some fled for their lives to Thorney Abbey and the higher lands around. (fn. 7)

The Fendyke may be said to mark the boundary between the 'peat' and 'silt' portions of the parish. The former, comprising Parson Drove Fen, has always been less highly valued and was formerly used mainly as sheep pasturage; it is sparsely populated. The latter, which is the area of ancient settlement, forms part of the Wisbech fruit-growing and market-gardening district.

The 2-mile road called Parson Drove or Parson Drove Gate, along which the nucleus of the village is built, was formerly a green drove and wider than it is now. The inclosure of pieces of common land beside the road has brought it down to its present width; a small strip of common remains at the western end, and the former extent of the rest of the commons is still clearly visible. A fence used to stretch across the eastern end at Gates End Bridge, to prevent cattle straying upon Overdyke Bank.

Pepys, who visited Parson Drove on 17 and 18 September 1663, described it as a 'heathen place' where he had to sleep in a 'sad, cold, stony chamber in a miserable inn'. His visit was made in connexion with the affairs of his deceased aunt Beatrice, relict of John Day of Wisbech, (fn. 8) who held much property in Leverington, especially in Outnewlands Field and Fen Croft. (fn. 9) 'Uncle Perkins', mentioned by the diarist as then living in Parson Drove in a poor way, was the husband of Jane Pepys, the diarist's aunt. (fn. 10) The inn in which the diarist lodged was the Swan which in 1834 belonged to Charles Boucher, a brewer, who altered it drastically. Pepys, who was very susceptible to environment, reacted unfavourably to the Fens. The roads, houses, living conditions, even the gnats from undrained swamps, come in for severe criticism.

From: 'Wisbech Hundred: Chapeiry of Parson Drove', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4: City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds (2002), pp. 197-200. URL:…. Date accessed: 17 September 2006.

Bradford  •  Link

The Gnatts know quality when they taste it. (Gnats here in the Mid-South pester, but they don't bite; a generic term for bugges?)

Aqua  •  Link

With much Thankes to the Dutch and the need for estates by The Kings Allies, The Fens be drained, so that from Huntington to the Kings Lynne the counties of Huntington[Cambridge] Lincolne and Cambridge were taken over for high productive growing of foods. Even to this day a man tilling the soil will run into and Object of arte, a Oak tree so hard that it be stone like, they are ejected by earth like a splinter in one's hand.
The Fens and the surrounding lands sent many new immigrants to the Land in the West. The stump gave birth to a popular Park.

Bryan M  •  Link

Sam the Irrepressible

In the midst of all the squalor, and uncouth and disappointing relatives Sam still finds an opportunity for self-improvement: “in which I did give myself good content to see their manner of preparing of hemp”.

And a kiss or two.

alanB  •  Link

Pepys'contribution to the Rough Guide to the Fens.

Evidently, London lawyer's clerks are not to be trusted. Nothing new here then!
And what did the locals think of you, Sam?

Benvenuto  •  Link

but was bit cruelly
Serves him right! Sharper than the non-existent pangs of conscience...

Australian Susan  •  Link

Reminds me of Cold Comfort Farm (with Sam as Flora)

Robert Gertz  •  Link

So Aunt Perkins had him going with her letter reports about Uncle Day's estate, eh? Visions of gold dancing in his head even as he slogged his way through the swampy fens.

Wonder what the clerk was doing in such a miserable place? And Sam never confirmed he was the guilty party...Just that the horse was "found".

The, uh, necktie party for the clerk went of course unmentioned...

"What do you mean, you already hanged him? Uncle Perkins?"

"Waste no time here, nephew Pepys..." Perkins turns to spit in polite deference to his famed relation.

"But...We found the horse run off, uncle. The man was innocent."

"Then he be safe in Arthur's bosum, nephew. I'd no be worryin' ye head about it. Some one comes lookin' for him we just say we found his gear in the swamp fens, poor fellow."

Hmmn...Well, no need to destroy a promising career over a little matter like this. "Uncle? What's that smell?"

"Oh, Frank be burnin' some old hemp and the remains...'Cuse me 'tis an interesting thing to experience." heads off somewhat quickly.

Methinks it best perhaps to delete the outcome from this day's entry, Sam notes to himself.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Saw somethin' nasty...In the woodshed."

"Yes, I'm sure you did Aunt Perkins." Sam nods solemnly, looking round. "Indeed." shudder. "I've seen a few nasty things myself. But as to what you wrote me about Uncle Day's will...?"

"'Tis no good, John Pepys' child." Frank shakes head. "Aunt has been this way ever since she wrote you and then went to look over Uncle's estate."

"Nasty!" Aunt Perkins shrieks, trembling...

"Yes. Well...Perhaps later, Aunt..." Sam nods. Following Frank out.

"Honestly I think mainly she's just upset over your actually coming to hold her to account on the place and things. Is a bit of a storyteller, is Auntie. Methinks she was wantin' to impress you and yours in London." Frank notes.

"Yes." Sam occupied by a new vision...The first vaguely resembling loveliness he's seen since coming to this misbegotten swamp of a place.

"And you might be, dear girl?"

"Oh, that's just Isabella the maid from your inn, Sam'l. Issy? The master send you?"

"Sure and tis the filthy man did, even the saints canno preserve his black soul. You be the one from London, the fancy gentleman from Court, relation of that evil man of darkness, Mr. Day?" she eyes Sam, wiping her nose.

"Yes, my dear. I am Samuel Pepys, Clerk of the Acts of His Royal Majesty's..."

"Filthy black souled king o' darkness...Betrayer of the Irish and corrupter of women. As all men are. Don' be tryin' to have yer way with me, fancy Court gent. I see yer eyes slidin' oer me bod, ye filthy mass o' corruption."

"Issy's had her hard times with men, cousin."

"Aye..." she spits. "Men...In the catalogues ye go for men. Dogs, I call ye."

"Why, you know Shakespeare?" Sam beams.

"As good an Irishman as there be. If there be any." she eyes him narrowly.

"But...Shakespeare was..."

"The lyin' dogs of England may say he was theirs..." harsh glare.

"But Issy?" Frank cuts in. "What did your master want?"

"He be wantin' the fancy gent to come into dinner. And it bein' me as to make and serve it, ye best be comin' now or I'll be throwin' it to the pigs."

"Best ye go with her, John Pepys' child. I'll find Father and be joinin' ye soon."

Really? Sam eyes the rather interesting Issy. "Ah, yes, yes. Bring your father soon as you can, Frank. I'll go along...With the enchanting Mrs. Isabelle..."

"So what plays do you know, Issy? If I may call you Issy?"

"Good as another. I know them all. I read, ye know. Me mother taught me." pause.

"Ye see him...Shakespeare? His works on the stage in London?"

"Constantly, Issy. I'm a devoted fan. Othello, Hamlet, Henry IV parts I and II... 'But do I not dwindle'..."

"Ah, the jolly fat Falstaff." she beams. Another careful look.

"I did hear...From that clerk we had stayin'. There be women on the stage now, in London."

"Oh, yes. And they're wonderful. Some of them. Great actresses, fine singers. Beautiful, especially in their costume gowns. Honored and admired by all. But there's great need for actresses who really understand the Bard, Issy."

She blinks...

"The Will be in me soul...Burned in me heart. But I'm no London beauty."

"Oh, Issy..." Sam smiles. "On the stage, in a lovely gown...You would do the Bard proud."

"I'd want to do the fun parts...Juliet, Rosalind, Viola, Perdita. The men let us do them?"

"The audience demands it, Issy. And what a Rosalind or Perdita you'd make."

"'Come, woo me, woo me...For I am in a holiday mood and like to consent'..."

Oh yes...Certainly...Sam snatches a kiss.


"No offense, Issy...Your playing deserved a tribute."

Shy blush... "Just a line, sir. But I know the whole part by heart."

"Well, then. I must be Orlando to your Rosalind. Commence, my good Rosalind."

(All Australian Susan's fault...She had to go and mention "Cold Comfort Farm".)

Martin  •  Link

indifferent handsome
Indifferent here seems to mean "moderately" -- tending neither to one extreme or the other.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"only the mayde was indifferent handsome,so I had a kiss or two of her"
I did not quite understand it; if she was indifferent how come so much kissing? or was it her beauty that was not so great?

Roger Arbor  •  Link

Wonderful Robert... the 'casting couch' perhaps?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

Martin you answered my question

Nix  •  Link

"my uncle Day’s will and surrender" --

The "surender" is the documentation required to transfer the "copyhold" portions of Uncle Day's estate. Copyholds could not be tranferred by will, only by "surrender" -- a procedure for acknowledging the transfer to the lord of the manor. They are in court because the documentation is incomplete -- the fight is whether the property will go to Samuel and his father, or to the Uncle's "heirs at law" by intestate succession.

For more on this, see the lengthy annotations on the Robert Pepys page --…

Rex Gordon  •  Link

Sam's turn to be bitten ...

I recall in the first year of the diary an episode in which Sam shares a bed in an inn with a traveling companion named Clark. (I think they were en route to Holland.) The two had met on the trip and had become quite friendly. Sam and Clark joked in the morning that the bedbugs and fleas had feasted solely on Clark, leaving Pepys unbitten. In "The Unequalled Self" Claire Tomalin wonders if the fleas' aversion to Pepysflesh might not have preserved Sam through the several outbreaks of plague. Country vermin don't seem to have been quite so particular!

Rex Gordon  •  Link

I saw something nasty in the woodshed.

I love the Hollywood producer's rejoinder: "Yeah, but did it see YOU?"

Pedro  •  Link

“Parson’s Drove, a heathen place”

Several sites say that Samuel lodged at the Swan Inn at Parson’s Drove, and according to Cambridgeshire Constabulary pub watch site there still is a Swan Inn.

And Parson Drove Parish Council site says…

“Parson’s Drove is one of the few Villages in Cambridgeshire to have a Village Green and together with the open countryside is perfect for a quiet stroll or picnic.”

So don’t let Sam put you off if you are in the area!

Australian Susan  •  Link

Robert G! I *knew* you'd rise to the bait! Thank you for a wonderful flight of fancy.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Despite being distracted by the appalling conditions, Sam, typically, takes note of how they prepare hemp - more information stored away for future reference when next they have "trials of hemp" at the Dockyards.
I'm quite surprised Sam didn't have a go on the treble viol himself - after all, he's been practising enough recently.
No mention of what the "country bawdy"song was about. The Hedgehog Song, maybe?
As for mozzies - when I first came here, I was targetted good and proper by these repellant little creatures and had huge red and white blotches from their bites, many of which became infected and left permanent scars on my arms and legs. Nowadays, it's a slight nuisance. My blood has got used to the bites and I am no longer fresh and tasty pommie meat to them.

GrahamT  •  Link

Susan, I had the same idea about the "Bawdy Song", except my mind jumped to "A Wizard's staff has a knob on the end". I found this site containing many Discworld songs:…

Sandro  •  Link

yeah samy

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

Bawdy Song
"No mention of what the "country bawdy"song was about. The Hedgehog Song, maybe? "

The "Cuckoo's Nest" seems more likely:…

Australian Susan  •  Link

Or The Foggy, Foggy Dew…

Folk songs were collected by the literate starting not long after our period, with Percy's Reliques, but the collecting mania really took off at the end of the 19th century, and most of the rude ones nearly got suppressed altogether because of the prudishness of the collectors. (Pratchett parodies this too!). Sam's mind is much more robust than that of corsetted ladies in Victorian times - he just records the subject matter of the song with no moralising over it.

laura k  •  Link


Fens is also a generic term for swamp or bog land. Thus the Irish revolutionary group, the Fenians. The term "Fenian" has been used to mean Irish at times.

I had always assumed (incorrectly?) that the Boston Fens and Fenway Park were so named because of Boston's considerable Irish immigrant population at the time the swamps were drained, the neighbourhood settled and the ballpark built (1912).

Aqua  •  Link

gnats be for many, just plain old midges [gnatlike, chironomidae, mime actor? ], gall [rude] or biting. Us yokels be saying, we tell all UFO's to Bugger off, before thee get splatted.
[UFO-->Unidentified Flying Osculaters]
'Tis strange the Latin word for fly be musca and for that squeeky rodent be mus.
Mosquito is an endearing term for little fly[dip terean, Culicidae, other wise known as a dunking female fly of this earth ] in Iberian, as the female loves to suck up thy blud, more blu the better.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"was bit the gnatts."

Travelers commonly remarked on the fenland gnats. "In 1635 , Lieutenant spoke most rudely of the fenland town of Crowland, where the local drink reputedly put the inhabitants 'into a drowsy and dead sleep, which they hold very convenient and necessary to avoyd the devillish stinging of humming Gnatts, which is all the Towne Musicke they have.'" Music and Society in Early Modern England By Christopher Marsh, p.116.…
Cf. Evelyn, 22 July 1670: "We rode out to see the great mere, or level, of recovered fen land, not far off. In the way, we met Lord Arlington going to his house in Suffolk....Having, after dinner, ridden about that vast level, pestered with heat and swarms of gnats, we returned over Newmarket Heath, the way being mostly a sweet turf and down, like Salisbury Plain, the jockeys breathing their fine barbs and racers and giving them their heats."…

The agues or malarial fevers endemic in the fen country were carried by mosquitoes which bred in the marshes until the drainage of the fens in the 18th century. (Per L&M footnote)

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re: ’ . . my uncle Day’s will and surrender . . ’

‘surrender, n. < Anglo-Norman surrender . .
The action or an act of surrendering.
1. a. The giving up of an estate . . spec. the yielding up of a tenancy in a copyhold estate to the lord of the manor for a specified purpose . .
. . 1590 W. West Συμβολαιογραϕία ii. §311. sig. DDiij, An Instrument of Surrender is an instrument testifiyng..that the particuler tenant of landes..doth..agree, that he which hath the next immediate remainder or reuersion thereof shall also haue the particuler estate of the same in possession.
. . 1766 W. Blackstone Comm. Laws Eng. ii. 365 Surrender,..the yielding up of the estate by the tenant into the hands of the lord, for such purposes as in the surrender are expressed . . ‘
‘indifferent, adj. < French
. . 6. b. Of medium or moderate extent, size, etc.; fairly large; tolerable. Obs. or arch.

1548 in W. Page Certificates Chantries County of York (1895) II. 482 Of good conversacion and qualities and indifferent lerenyng.
1580 J. Lyly Euphues & his Eng. (new ed.) f. 96, Indifferent welth to maintaine his family, expecting all thinges necessary, nothing superfluous.
1603 R. Johnson tr. G. Botero Hist. Descr. Worlde 77 Of sheepe they haue in some places indifferent store.
1697 W. Dampier New Voy. around World v. 96 Two little Islands, each about a mile round, of an indifferent heighth.
1707 tr. P. Le Lorrain de Vallemont Curiosities in Husbandry & Gardening 231, I discover'd them to be compos'd of much Mercury, of an indifferent Quantity of Sulphur, and a little less of fixt Salt. . . ‘
Re: ’laura k on 24 Sep 2006 Fens is also a generic term for swamp or bog land. Thus the Irish revolutionary group, the Fenians . . ’

‘Fenian, n. and adj. < Old Irish féne ‘one of the names of the ancient population of Ireland’ (Windisch), confused in modern times with fíann feminine collect., the name of a body of warriors who are said to have been the defenders of Ireland in the time of Finn and other legendary Irish kings.
1. (See quot. 1879.) Obs. exc. Hist.
. . 1879 Encycl. Brit. IX. 75/1 According to popular tradition the Fians, or Fenians were mercenary tribes acting as a permanent military force for the support of the Ard Rig, or king of Eire . .

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Large Glossary of the L&M Companion volume weighs in:

POOR WRETCH: (Sept 17 1663) poor dear (term of affection), used of both sexes.

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