Sunday 25th October 1663

(Lord’s day). Up, and my wife and I to church, where it is strange to see how the use and seeing Pembleton come with his wife thither to church, I begin now to make too great matter of it, which before was so terrible to me. Dined at home, my wife and I alone, a good dinner, and so in the afternoon to church again, where the Scot preached, and I slept most of the afternoon. So home, and my wife and I together all the evening discoursing, and then after reading my vowes to myself, and my wife with her mayds (who are mighty busy to get it dispatched because of their mistress’s promise, that when it is done they shall have leave all to go see their friends at Westminster, whither my wife will carry them) preparing for their washing to-morrow, we hastened to supper and to bed.

21 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

L&M read what one might expect - "seeing Pembleton come with his wife thither to church, I begin now to make no great matter of it, which before was so terrible to me."

though he does make note of this change of attitude. I wonder whether he made note of it at the time, or only now, at day's end (or after).

Terry F  •  Link

"reading my vowes to myself"

A novel phrase, "to myself" - We know he has gone to his office or walked in a garden to read them with nobody alse around; but does this phrase mean he was reading his vows silently, suggesting that at other times he has read them aloud?

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: "reading my vowes to myself"

Or, Terry, it's possible that the phrase means he read them out loud to himself. Hard to say.

Love the image of the maids scurrying around to get the washing done, knowing that they'll earn their freedom (and a free ride) by doing so...

Bradford  •  Link

Well, speak of the Devil! But here's sport at Westminster for Elizabeth with her maids, no doubt as a sweetner for the exertions of worshing. I gather the nap was during the Scot's sermon?

Pauline  •  Link

" go see their friends at Westminster, whither my wife will carry them."
Sounds good natured and perceptive of Elizabeth. Let's remember this to her credit.

Terry F  •  Link

"the Scot preached, and I slept"

What else?! The Scot's very presence is a cue.

Roboto  •  Link

Is every Monday a "wash day"? Has anyone checked back through the Mondays to see if this is true?

Bryan M  •  Link

Is every Monday a "wash day"?

The earlier discussion referred to by Terry is mostly a general discussion about Monday being the traditional wash day. However a quick search of the archive shows that our man did not really conform to this convention if it had been established by then. Sam mentions wash day twelve times (thirteen really but two are about the same day). Of these three washdays were on a Monday, eight were on a Tuesday and one on a Wednesday.

The first mention of washing, on 11 September 1660, gives a hint that something more than clothes washing was involved and that there was a cleaning of the house itself: "...I caused the girl to wash the wainscot of our parlour...".

Michael Robinson  •  Link

"reading my vowes to myself"

"Silent" reading -- calls to mind the famous passage in Augustine's "Confessions" VI,iii,(3) describing Ambrose of Milan, said to be the first description of silent reading and the internalization of text:-

"When he was reading, his eyes ran over the page and his heart percieved the sense, but his voice and tongue were slient .. What ever motive he had for his habit, this man had a good reason for what he did."

Henry Chadwick trans., who notes that slient reading was uncommon but not unknown in the ancient world.

Cactus Wren  •  Link

When did silent reading come to be the norm in the English-speaking world? Does anyone know?

Michael Robinson  •  Link

silent reading come to be the norm

By the mid C 9th. there were monastic rules requiring the copyists in scriptora to be silent rather than mouthing the words to themselves as they worked. This suggests a "norm." However this is a very complex question indeed. It depends what one means in part by "silent," for example the phrase "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" (Collect, Advent ii BCP - 1549) suggest that the mouth/aural/oral is involved still in the reading process at this date if only by analogy.

There is much specialist information out there; one place to start might be:-

Bryan M  •  Link

When did silent reading come to be the norm in the English-speaking world?

Alberto Manguel has a chapter on "The Silent Reader" in his book "A History of Reading", available online at:…

Manguel states that it was not until the tenth century that silent reading became common in the West although there are examples in Greek plays going back to the fifth century BC and "(a)ccording to Plutarch, Alexander the Great read a letter from his mother in silence in the fourth century BC, to the bewilderment of his soldiers". Manguel provides a lot more detail on Augustine and Ambrose and much more besides.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Mrs. Lane? Elisabeth Pepys, I've shopped your stall with my husband, Samuel?" Bess extends hand.

Uh...Betty smiles hastily, taking hand. "Oh, yes. Mrs. Pepys, right. And how is your good husband? He's not been in...My stall...For some time now."

"Oh, busy, busy, busy...As always. I've come alone with my maids today. Giving them a little visit as a treat for the washing yesterday."

"Ah. Well, hard to get the help to do anything nowadays without more coin or a sweet. Not like in me dad's day when a servant knew his or her place. Can I show you any linens, ma'am?"

"Anything Sam'l liked when he was here last?" eyes linens and cloth pieces.

"Oh?...Well, he did fancy my scarf here." holds scarf up. "Played with it quite a bit last time we...He was here."

"I see."

"Likes his colors, Mr. Pepys does. Has an eye for good cloth, that man of yours."

"Gets it from his dad." Bess nods. "But as fine a gentleman as ever nobility produced. Amazes me how good he is at all things, Mrs. Lane."

"Ay..." sigh. Ummn... "A true gentleman, Mr. P."

"Easily swayed at times, though. Not really his fault you know, he's not used to his success and all those people who throw themselves at him, hoping to lead him astray." Bess eyes Betty coolly.

"The merchants and all, I mean." cool Gallic smile.

Uh... "Yes, terrible how they press a man."

"And the ladies...Even worse...Poor man, though he tries to be faithful, he's under constant, terrible temptation in these evil times and with this lewd Court. I'm truly afeared he'll fall prey to some wicked slut one day. Some woman who'll throw herself at him when I'm not able to love him as I should. Terrible how some ladies take advantage of a man who clearly feels uncertain and awkward in his rising position, Mrs. Lane."

Uh... "Yes, terrible, ma'am."

The returning maids enter the stall...One nodding to Bess...

"These your girls, ma'am?"

"Ay, Mrs. Lane. Girls, close on." Bess waves.

A slightly nervous Betty eyes the group close round her.

"Are you looking for anything in particular for them?"

"Jane?" Bess motions to Jane who closes the stall door curtain.

"It's her, ma'am." Jane nods. "All me friends say she's the one."

"Ma'am?" Betty stares.

"Do you know how much my Sam'l loves Shakespeare, Betty? He'd appreciate this." Comes to stand by her, pointing to a window where the coming sunset can be seen. "Look, Betty how the sun begins to set...As if to say..." motions to girls who move in on poor Betty. "Betty's day is done."

"Mrs. Pepys?!"

"Strike. Here is the lady I seek."


Martin  •  Link

All that sleep
Obviously, Sam did have a poor night's sleep after Beth's bedtime complaints about boredom and pain in a particular place. Today, at least, he has kept her entertained, and tomorrow she will be busy enough with washing. We'll see whether the "nothing to do" issue comes back on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Terry F  •  Link

Washdays, &c., argumenta ex silentio

There are many things in the course of most any day that are not mentioned in the Diary, which doesn't mean they didn't occur. This has been remarked on before.

As for Wednesday laundry, a non-quick search didn't suggest that was other than a drastic occurrence.

Bryan M  •  Link

Washdays, &c., argumenta ex silentio

A search on wash days using the approved "non-quick" method gives the following updated results:

Total wash days indicated (so far) = 14
Monday = 4
Tuesday = 9
Wednesday = 1

This is a pretty reasonable sample from the last four years if wash days occurred every three or four weeks as previously suggested. So I think we can infer from the evidence we have that in the Pepys household Monday wasn't the "traditional" wash day.

Is wash day Tuesday a French thing? Perhaps this the real reason that Bess couldn't get on with Pepys snr, Pall, Lady Batten and all those maids. She just wouldn't conform when it came to wash day.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

(Thanks, Brian)

Brampton last summer...

"Paulina? What the devil are you doing with the wash...This is Tuesday."

"Father...Sister Bess says she prefers the washing done on a Tuesday. Tis the fashionable way, she say."

"On a Tuesday?! Good God, what will the Frenchie minx want next? Our plain honest English fare's not good enough, now our honest English Monday wash day...Defined by sacred and ancient tradition datin' back to before Caesar...Won't do?"

"And she'd like to do her dresses separate." Paulina awaiting explosion...

"Separate?! What?! My soiled linen's not fine enough to mingle with her fancy gown?!...By the Lord's Mass!"

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

A complete L&M transcription of the first sentence of today's entry:

(Lord’s day). Up, and my wife and I to church; where it is strange to see how by use and seeing Pembleton come with his wife thither to church, I begin now to make no great matter of it, which before was so terrible to me.

300 years before B.F. Skinner, Samuel Pepys discovers operant conditioning.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... begin now to make no great matter of it ..." -- makes more sense, thanks Terry.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Whichever day washing was done on, it was a tremendous undertaking that took all day--10 hours or more--and the backbreaking labor of several people. It was nothing like throwing a few things in an automatic washing machine and dryer today.

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