Sunday 29 November 1663

(Lord’s day). This morning I put on my best black cloth suit, trimmed with scarlett ribbon, very neat, with my cloake lined with velvett, and a new beaver, which altogether is very noble, with my black silk knit canons I bought a month ago.

I to church alone, my wife not going, and there I found my Lady Batten in a velvet gown, which vexed me that she should be in it before my wife, or that I am able to put her into one, but what cannot be, cannot be. However, when I came home I told my wife of it, and to see my weaknesse, I could on the sudden have found my heart to have offered her one, but second thoughts put it by, and indeed it would undo me to think of doing as Sir W. Batten and his Lady do, who has a good estate besides his office. A good dinner we had of boeuf a la mode, but not roasted so well as my wife used to do it. So after dinner I to the French Church, but that being too far begun I came back to St. Dunstan’s by six and heard a good sermon, and so home and to my office all the evening making up my accounts of this month, and blessed be God I have got up my crumb again to 770l., the most that ever I had yet, and good clothes a great many besides, which is a great mercy of God to me.

So home to supper and to bed.

25 Annotations

First Reading

Bradford  •  Link

To be clothes-proud, not only on one's own behalf, but on behalf of one's wife---as an extension of oneself, of course, as Lady Batten no doubt is of her man, though she may be better at badgering her husband for the latest modes. (And good-quality velvet is a long-wearing investment, especially in "dull" colors not given to fading.) Of course Pepys's own kit lacks for nothing: witness those cannions. Anyone got an illustration to show us the dashing effect?

jeannine  •  Link

"there I found my Lady Batten in a velvet gown, which vexed me that she should be in it before my wife, or that I am able to put her into one, but what cannot be, cannot be. However, when I came home I told my wife of it, and to see my weaknesse, I could on the sudden have found my heart to have offered her one, but second thoughts put it by,"

What in interesting set of emotions here. First Sam's honesty is so raw and revealing, it's almost embarrassingly painful--how many of us haven't at one time or another been jealous of what someone (especially someone we don't like!) has been able to do that we haven't been able to do. It's probably a universal feeling at some point in everyone's life as they are growing and finding their way. Then to come home and share this experience with Elizabeth is what I found even more revealing. Apparently he felt not only "safe" to share this thoughts with her about Lady B having a fine velvet dress, but then to acknowledge that they couldn't afford the same things as his rival could. My guess is that over the last few days as he has shared things with Elizabeth (Sandwich issues, etc.) that perhaps he tells her more of his "private" thoughts than we may be aware of.

There is also an interesting part of this that left me uneasy as Sam seems to have well provided for himself over the last month or so and made his needs a priority above his wife. I realize that this is probably the norm for the time, but with all of his expenses of late, it's rather glaring. It seems that Elizabeth is clearly second in line in their family hierarchy.

djc  •  Link

Providing for himself first? Yes, but not entirely selfish I think; he is a rising man in a career that is still more of a courtiers than a civil servant. He is conciously dressing to impress, to fit in, to look like he belongs to the company and social position he aspires to.

Jesse  •  Link

"I told my wife of it"

I'm guessing that Elizabeth is still unwell… , and probably quite limited in mobility. With little to divert her, her husband's sympathy (witness the recent "my poor wife" entries 11/25-27) may spur him to provide some 'entertainment', as it were, and thus he may be confiding somewhat more than usual?

cumgranosalis  •  Link

I doth think it unusual for many men to discuss their feelings with a spouse. It be a complaint I hear from many of the weaker sex that the macho one holds back his feelings , thus I think Sam has a good bond as any.
The role of bright partner, versus the quieter partner has changed unlike the avis mob, where the male still parades, the evolution of the homo erectus has devolved to the male having a few places to get suited up while the famale of the species has malls galore to feast and prance..

Robert Gertz  •  Link

" beaver, which altogether is very noble..."

Wait a century Sam and Ben Franklin will make it a global propaganda symbol of the plain, simple, humble but wise, modest, and unspoiled (Ha, ha...Ben Franklin? Modest? Unspoiled?) American citizen.


"...I have got up my crumb again..."

Cute way of putting it.


"A good dinner we had of boeuf a la mode, but not roasted so well as my wife used to do it."

Ah, the good ole days of the simple life...Before 2 maids and a cook were able to produce a meal far less tasty than 1 wife.


Lucky Bess didn't strangle you with those pretty scarlet ribbons when you backed off from the velvet gown offer, Sam. Interesting to picture you there in your new finery moaning about Lady Batten's neat new gown while hastily noting to poor Bess that 'twould be best to avoid such heedless extravagance.

"So you see, my dearest Bess, why it would be folly to emulate our reckless neighbors, the Battens? I mean, heck...I've already had to spend a fortune on this outfit." Sam preens a bit. "We could hardly afford to do it for you."

"Merde...He gave me a room of my own...He gave me a room of my own...I shouldn't kill him..." muttering, grinding of teeth... "Remember the nice piece of salmon he got me...He was ready to leave me everything he had when he went to sea...I shouldn't strangle the self-centered, selfish little... with his own damned welvet lining."

"What was that, Bess?"

MissAnn  •  Link

For some reason I immediately thought of David Beckham - some things never change ... metrosexuals were around for hundreds of years before we put a name to him.

Pedro  •  Link

"they couldn't afford the same things as his rival could"

Sam earns his crumb, but Sir William knows how to earn a crust!

andy  •  Link

but what cannot be, cannot be

a strangely timeless expression, like "C'est la vie!" or "Que sera, sera" and one to drop into yer contemporary glitterati coffee shop conversation: "As Sam Pepys once said, what cannot be, cannot be..."

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Just how much of that 770L crumb would a new velvet gown for Bess (though lover of good fabrics Sam seems to want it more) cost?

"Oh Sam'l?! A new velvet gown? For me?! Oh my sweet...Sam'l?"

Hmmn? Sam eyes self in full-length mirror...Gown held up to neck. Good Lord, that's gorgeous material. Turns to catch the light on the folds.

"Tailor's boy...Hand it over or I start wearing your new suit with the ribbons." a grim Bess.

cumgranosalis  •  Link

Sam forgets that he was ready to caste out his lad, for flinging his cape over the shoulder and strutting ..... the rogue.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"black cloth suit, trimmed with scarlett ribbon"
Oswald Boateng take notice!!!

cumgranosalis  •  Link

Errata it be Ruffian not Rogue; cloaks galore: When Will was mentioned about his use of a cloak, it upset Sam:
"...Home, and observe my man Will to walk with his cloak flung over his shoulder, like a Ruffian, which, whether it was that he might not be seen to walk along with the footboy, I know not, but I was vexed at it; and coming home, and after prayers, I did ask him where he learned that immodest garb, and he answered me that it was not immodest, or some such slight answer, at which I did give him two boxes on the ears, which I never did before, and so was after a little troubled at it...."…

language hat  •  Link

"I have got up my crumb again"

This expression is a little misleading, since to our ears it sounds like he's using "crumb" for "money" (probably influenced by the modern slang term "bread"); in fact, it means "things have gotten better for me" in a more general sense. OED:

Phr. to gather (or pick) up one's crumbs: to 'pick up' or recover strength or health; to improve in condition. Obs. exc. dial.
1588 A. INGRAM in Hakluyt Voy. II. II. 130 Our men beganne to gather vp their crums and to recouer some better strength. c1645 HOWELL Lett. 2 Feb. an. 1621 Thank God, I.. am recovering and picking up my crums apace. [...]

[Note, by the way, the earlier spelling of crumb as "crum"; the unhistorical -b wasn't added till shortly before Pepys' day, and didn't become prevalent until the 19th century.]

Nix  •  Link

"boeuf a la mode" --

Not with ice cream on top, I hope.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"my best black cloth suit, trimmed with scarlett ribbon, very neat, with my cloake lined with velvett, and a new beaver, which altogether is very noble, with my black silk knit canons I bought a month ago."

October 31:…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

" Sir W. Batten...who has a good estate besides his office."

Lands at Easton St George's, Som., inherited from his father, and a house and property at Walthamstow, Essex. (R) (L&M footnote)

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Terry, in this case I read "estate" to mean general wealth more than just real estate. After all, Lady Batten had been married before, so what was hers became his. As I understand it, far-off estates like the one in Somerset were used to supply food to the London establishment, a place to hide your unwed pregnant daughter, a place to go for a summer break or if infections get too bad around London (plague, smallpox, typhoid, influenza -- all were killers).

Food was more valuable than money in famine times like this ... I wonder Pepys hasn't mentioned the bad harvest more,
August 21 – Concerned about the wintry weather, the Parliament of England holds an intercessary fast.
August 28 – Severe frost in England.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Sam's hat was probably made from Canadian beaver, because by 1600 most of the European beaver had been wiped out. To own one would be a status symbol. Pepys bought a beaver hat in June 1661 for 85 shillings. This one he found at Mrs. Holden's, but he didn't tell us the price this time.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I wonder if Sam rethinks the decision not to get a velvet dress for Elizabeth after he settles his monthly accounts with so much satisfaction. Spare your "poor wife" a couple of the crumbs, Sam.

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link


Despite Batten's "good estate", he still lives above his means, and dies broke, leaving Lady B in some straits. Of course, this might be because Sam, Coventry & Carteret limit his corruption.

£770 would not last Elizabeth long if Sam died, nor would it provide a marriage portion for Pall, nor help keep young John at Cambridge or give him a start in life.

BTW, it's been my "poor" wife this last week or so because she's ill. She's either not well enough yet to go to church, and/OR, she's heard via the servants' grapevine that Lady B is going. Elizabeth detests Lady B, and avoids her, to avoid giving her the respect Lady B thinks she's due, because of her social position as wife of a knight.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

I suppose Sam never thought of getting something a little less grand than his "best black cloth suit, trimmed with scarlett ribbon . . . with my cloake lined with velvett, and a new beaver . . . with my black silk knit canons I bought a month ago," so he could afford something nice for his wife. "Self-centered fop" springs to mind. Elizabeth should have insisted on going to church with him, wearing a plain, patched homespun dress and a cheap unfashionable hat and shawl to show him up! She could have borrowed them from her maydes if she didn't have anything plain enough.

Al Doman  •  Link

@Louise Hudson: "Elizabeth should have insisted..."

First off, there is no "insist". Sam is the boss and has the final say. Yes, Bess can make his life miserable but Sam has proven time and again he's willing to suffer that if he thinks it's necessary for the greater good of Team Pepys.

Women's dress at that time was of great importance to their social status. None would willingly go about in public in substandard dress, let alone to major social events such as Sunday church.

But for the sake of argument, let's suppose that Bess did go to church dressed as you suggest. Other people would have to conclude she'd done something seriously wrong and Sam was punishing her. They wouldn't think she was protesting or temporarily deranged because in those cases Sam would have kept her at home; airing something like that in public would reflect badly on the team and Sam especially.

Bess can't hurt Sam in public without hurting herself as well. If push comes to shove Sam would have to prevent it; it behooves Bess to think things through and not let things escalate to that point.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Al Doman. That attitude is what kept women subjugated for millennia. It was only when women came out of the shadows that they began to be shown the least bit of respect. It took 300 years after Pepys' time for women to find the courage to speak up for themselves and it took another fifty years or so for them to get any traction. Slavery was more easily overturned than the subjection of women, which is rampant in the world to this day. It's very telling that in the US male former slaves got the vote long before free white women or former female slaves did.

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