Thursday 11 February 1663/64

Up, after much pleasant discourse with my wife, and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and did much business, and some much to my content by prevailing against Sir W. Batten for the King’s profit. At noon home to dinner, my wife and I hand to fist to a very fine pig. This noon Mr. Falconer came and visited my wife, and brought her a present, a silver state-cup and cover, value about 3l. or 4l., for the courtesy I did him the other day. He did not stay dinner with me. I am almost sorry for this present, because I would have reserved him for a place to go in summer a-visiting at Woolwich with my wife.

32 Annotations

First Reading

Lawrence  •  Link

"Hand to fist" I get the sene of a pig roast , or part of one, and the two of them eating it with hands only?
There is A paragraph missing in this verion, Sam goes on to say that he'd wrote a letter to his Father as regards the one Sam had seen at his cosin Rogers yesterday, an angry one it seems.

jeannine  •  Link

From L&M, the missing paragraph mentioned by Lawrence follows:

"After dinner my wife and I up to her closet, and saw a new parcel of fine shells of her brother's giving; and then to the office, where till 11 at night and then home after I had writ an angry letter to my father upon the letter my Cosen Roger showed me yesterday. So home and to bed, my mind disturbed about the letter I am forced to write tonight to my father, it being very severe; but it is convenient I should do it."

I checked Helen Heath's book "The Letters of Samuel Pepys and His Family Circle" but this letter is not included, which makes me wonder if it still exists????

Paul Chapin  •  Link

"I am almost sorry for this present"
I take it that Sam means here that he would rather Falconer were still in his debt, so he could go visit him in Woolwich in the summer. But that puzzles me; these people (I mean Sam's acquaintances generally) seem to visit each other all the time without there being obligations to discharge. Maybe Sam was thinking of a more extended stay, several days or a week, which would be a significant imposition.

cumsalisgrano  •  Link

" wife and I hand to fist to a very fine pig...."
b. hand to fist (colloq.) = HAND TO HAND.
1652-3 WOOD Life 4 Mar., Going to the ale-house..they set hand to fist, and drunk very desperatly.
i.e. They dothe enjoye , finger licking good. they dived in to see whom could finish first.

cumsalisgrano  •  Link

Visits: I dothe thinke it was easier then to make contact, and share a repas at home or out at the house of ales or caffeine.
Todays world be more constricting, as people appear to be more inhibited.
Todays world be wrapped up in technology and not wanting to see the eyeballs to whom they be talking at.

Nate  •  Link

my wife and I hand to fist to a very fine pig

hand (Grose 1811 Dictionary)

A sailor. We lost a hand; we lost a sailor. Bear a hand; make haste. Hand to fist; opposite: the same as tete-a-tete, or cheek by joul.

Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.

Sounds as if they really liked that pig!

cumsalisgrano  •  Link

or tooth and nail

Mary  •  Link


L&M gloss this expression 'hastily'.

Xjy  •  Link


Sounds like hand-to-hand as in combat, close-quarters, "comminus". They got down close and dirty and made short work of it. Great expression.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Will..." gobble, snort...Shake and wave of detached leg, mouth rather full, wipe of greasy lips. "Have a chair and have at it." Wave to the pig...Gobble, chew.

Uh...Hewer eyes half-stripped pig carcass. The happily feasting Pepyses...

"No, thank you very much Mrs. P."

"Oh..." Bess shakes head. Urp... "Pardonnez-moi...Come, now Will. There's plenty."

"Really not very hungry, ma'am." Indeed I don't think I'll ever be hungry again...Will blanches a bit as Bess dives a hand pigside, shrugging.

"You're missing one hell of a feed, boy." Sam lifts head from large platter of pig's head.

Heh, heh...Not quite seeing the princess at her regal best, eh boy? He thinks, contentedly eyeing Hewer, then the grease-covered, happily chowing Bess.

Knew a pig fest would knock his fantasy queen from her throne...Sam grins to self, urging Bess to try the deliciously tender posterior. Oooh... she cooes.

Will politely smiling as he backs out and runs for the nearest gutter.

Have to remember to invite Pembleton to dinner one of these days...

Terry  •  Link

Hand to fist
Of course we still have the expression "hand over fist" (in English English at least) meaning "very quickly". It seems unlikely that they would want to eat something "very fine" quickly though.

Pedro  •  Link

Pig trivia from the Book of Days.

Stow, in his Survey, mentions a curious custom prevalent in his time in the London markets:

'The officers in this city,' he says, 'did divers times take from the market people, pigs starved or otherwise unwholesome for man's sustenance; these they did slit in the ear. One of the proctors of St. Anthony's Hospital tied a bell about the neck, and let it feed upon the dunghills; no one would hurt or take it up; but if any one gave it bread or other feeding, such it would know, watch for, and daily follow, whining till it had somewhat given it; whereupon was raised a proverb, such a one will follow such a one, and whine as if it were an Anthony pig.'

St. Anthony has been long recognized as the patron and protector of the lower animals, and particularly of pigs. Quaint old Fuller, in his Worthies, says:
'St. Anthony is universally known for the patron of hogs, having a pig for his page in all pictures, though for what reason is unknown, except, because being a hermit, and having a cell or hole digged in the earth, and having his general repast on roots, he and hogs did in some sort enter-common both in their diet and lodging.'

(Welcome back Terry)

Pedro  •  Link

(Welcome back Terry)

Sorry, I think I have the wrong Terry here.

We have not heard from that Gentleman and Scholar TerryF for some time. I do hope he is OK.

Pedro  •  Link

"a very fine pig."

And a nasty one, again from The Book of Days...

Among trials of individual animals for special acts of turpitude, one of the most amusing was that of a sow and her six young ones, at Lavegny, in 1457, on a charge of their having murdered and partly eaten a child...The sow was found guilty and condemned to death; but the pigs were acquitted on account of their youth, the bad example of their mother, and the absence of direct proof as to their having been concerned in the eating of the child.

Rex Gordon  •  Link

"... know, watch for, and daily follow"

I used to feed a particular pigeon who, when he saw me get off the elevator of my office building, immediately flew from his perch on the building opposite to the front door of my building to wait for his sunflower seeds, or to follow me to the nearby deli. He was very fond of their pancakes. Everyone called him Walter. If he could have whined he would have been just like an Anthony pig.

mary mcintyre  •  Link

"my wife and I hand to fist... "

I am getting a very "Tom Jones" (Fielding's, not Wales') vibe here...

Clement  •  Link

Hand to Fist

I think the definition that Nate cites, seated opposing each other, seems most likely here, as well as in the quotation CSG cites.
Perhaps the added context of a voracious attack on the pig that makes it seem colloquially appropriate to Sam.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

hand to fist to a very fine pig.

I have not tracked back but, from memory, think this is the first fresh meat mentioned since the roast and pied swans of Christmas tide; fresh, rather than salted, meat would have been quite scarce at this time of the year.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Food, glorious food!

Don't care what it looks like:
Burned, underdone, crude --
Don't care what the cook's like.
Just thinking of growing fat --
Our senses go reeling.
One moment of knowing that
Full-up feeling!

Food, glorious food!
What wouldn't we give for
That extra bit more --
That's all that we live for.
Why should we be fated to
Do nothing but brood
On food,
Magical food,
Wonderful food,
Marvellous food,
Fabulous food,
Beautiful food,
Glorious food!…

Paul Chapin  •  Link

very fine pig
Fresh roasted pig, the meat pulled fresh from the bone, is one of the finest meats on earth, tender and succulent. I had one roasted in an earth oven in Hawaii once that still stands out in my memory. So please don't dis the pig.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Sir, Sam and Bess Pepys have asked for...


cumsalisgrano  •  Link

"please don't dis the pig" it be the pig that supplies us with organs so we can go on playing, after we have misused them playing with excesses of life..

ruizhe  •  Link

Actually, Hewer probably would have warmed to the sight of a "grease-covered, happily chowing Bess". Men were different in those days.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

" Mr. Falconer came and visited my wife, and brought her a present, a silver state-cup and cover, value about 3l. or 4l., for the courtesy I did him the other day. "

Presumably during Pepys's visit on 22 January to the Woolwich ropeyard, of which Falconer was in charge.… (Per L&M footnote)

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... So home and to bed, my mind disturbed about the letter I am forced to write tonight to my father, it being very severe; but it is convenient I should do it."

Convenient is an interesting word to use here. It may be a timely request to his father not to share the family financial details with relatives with whom Pepys has to do business ... but I suspect it was also a shot across the bow to prevent his father from asking directly for more money. Presumably he doesn't know how well his son is doing ... or perhaps the home improvements, furnishings, new wigs and clothes have raised expectations in Brampton.

Bill  •  Link

"my wife and I hand to fist to a very fine pig"

To drink hand to fist. Boire á tire-larigot. [To drink as much as one wants]
---The Royal Dictionary Abridged, French to English. A. Boyer, 1755

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Doesn't anyone think Sam might have been using hyperbole when he said they ate the pig hand to fist? Don't we all exaggerate in that manner, especially when it comes to greedily eating and drinking? "We devoured the meal. "He gobbled it up." "We made pigs of ourselves." "He inhaled the food." "She drank like a fish." "He drank his companions under the table." Would anyone take these words and phrases literally? Do you all think Sam was always deadly serious, never making light of anything, even in informal conversation? No joking, no kidding around, no exaggerating for effect, even in the "privacy" of his diary?

Zexufang  •  Link

I too think that Sam was suggesting that the pig was sooo delicious and tasty that they ate it both heartily and with much relish.

That is all.

Tonyel  •  Link

"my wife and I hand to fist to a very fine pig."

Can it be that, in addition to modernising the King's navy, our hero invented pulled pork?

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

I think that Louise and Zexufang have the right of it re the hyperbole, but I also looked up 'hand to fist' in the 13 vol OED, and drew a blank.

However, it occurred to me that Sam might also have meant a jocular variation of 'hand to hand', meaning that he and Elizabeth were, playfully, almost fighting with each other as they grabbed at the meat.

Personal cutlery use was still rare in those days: according to Wikipedia, "most of Europe did not adopt use of the fork until the 18th century".

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re: ‘ . . but it is convenient I should do it.’

‘convenient, adj. and n. < Latin . .
. .4. b. Suitable to the conditions or circumstances; befitting the case; appropriate, proper, due. Obs.
. . 1670 Duke of Richmond Let. 11 Feb. in A. Marvell Wks. (1875) II. 299, I thought convenient to advise you, that I intend to prosecute this businesse . .

5. Morally or ethically suitable or becoming; proper. Obs.
. . 1511–12 Act 3 Hen. VIII c. 23 §5 It is not convenient nor standing with good and indifferent ordre that the said sir Robert shuld be Auditour and Juge of hymself.
. . 1684 tr. H. C. Agrippa Vanity Arts & Sci. (new ed.) xviii. 62 She sang and danc'd more exquisitely than was convenient for an honest woman . . ‘

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

RE; ‘my wife and I hand to fist to a very fine pig.’

‘hand to fist, adv. . .
2. Without pause, continuously; heartily. Chiefly with reference to drinking.
[1653 A. Wood Life 4 Mar. in Thomæ Caii Vindiciæ antiquitatis Academiæ Oxoniensis (1730) II. 489 Going to the Alehouse..they set hand to fist, and drunk very desperatly.]
1706 G. Farquhar Recruiting Officer iii. 31 Many, many a dry Bottle have we crack'd hand to fist . .’


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