Sunday 13 March 1663/64

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed talking with my wife, and then up in great doubt whether I should not go see Mr. Coventry or no, who hath not been well these two or three days, but it being foul weather I staid within, and so to my office, and there all the morning reading some Common Law, to which I will allot a little time now and then, for I much want it. At noon home to dinner, and then after some discourse with my wife, to the office again, and by and by Sir W. Pen came to me after sermon and walked with me in the garden and then one comes to tell me that Anthony and Will Joyce were come to see me, so I in to them and made mighty much of them, and very pleasant we were, and most of their business I find to be to advise about getting some woman to attend my brother Tom, whom they say is very ill and seems much to want one. To which I agreed, and desired them to get their wives to enquire out one. By and by they bid me good night, but immediately as they were gone out of doors comes Mrs. Turner’s boy with a note to me to tell me that my brother Tom was so ill as they feared he would not long live, and that it would be fit I should come and see him. So I sent for them back, and they came, and Will Joyce desiring to speak with me alone I took him up, and there he did plainly tell me to my great astonishment that my brother is deadly ill, and that their chief business of coming was to tell me so, and what is worst that his disease is the pox, which he hath heretofore got, and hath not been cured, but is come to this, and that this is certain, though a secret told his father Fenner by the Doctor which he helped my brother to.

This troubled me mightily, but however I thought fit to go see him for speech of people’s sake, and so walked along with them, and in our way called on my uncle Fenner (where I have not been these 12 months and more) and advised with him, and then to my brother, who lies in bed talking idle. He could only say that he knew me, and then fell to other discourse, and his face like a dying man, which Mrs. Turner, who was here, and others conclude he is.

The company being gone, I took the mayde, which seems a very grave and serious woman, and in W. Joyce’s company’ did inquire how things are with her master. She told me many things very discreetly, and said she had all his papers and books, and key of his cutting house, and showed me a bag which I and Wm. Joyce told, coming to 5l. 14s. 0d., which we left with her again.

After giving her good counsel, and the boys, and seeing a nurse there of Mrs. Holden’s choosing, I left them, and so walked home greatly troubled to think of my brother’s condition, and the trouble that would arise to me by his death or continuing sick.

So at home, my mind troubled, to bed.

45 Annotations

First Reading

Nix  •  Link

"reading some Common Law" --

Is there any documentation of what Samuel was reading, or what legal works might have wound up in his library? I assume it would be Coke's Institutes, published earlier in the 17th century, or a volume of his Reports. Blackstone wouldn't some along for another century or so. But perhaps there were some other, less renowned treatises or compilations that might have come his way?

Nix  •  Link

Poor Tom --

My first reading was that "the pox" refers to syphilis, not smallpox, hence Samuel's initial reluctance to go (shame to the family), and his final note on "the trouble that would arise to me". But this could also be attributed to concern over the contagiousness of smallpox, and "his face like a dying man" suggests the latter. I imagine the Tomalin biography tells us, but I haven't read it yet.

Of course, syphilis ran in the best of families:…

cape henry  •  Link

This entry is a note perfect example of Pepys' amazing journal-istic style. He takes us from an ordinary Sunday morning, beginning with the pillow talk and the bad weather, and his realization that he needs to study the 'common law,' into a series of encounters which lead him to discover that his brother is dying of syphilis. This is a revelation to him, and to us, and he delivers it in what we might call real time, with the dagger-like suddenness inherent in the word 'pox.' This sentence having been rendered, the rest is epilogue, including his selfish concern for the trouble that will attend his brother's passing. Here we have one of the gems of the Diary, from start to finish.

LHayes  •  Link

Tomalin (p.163) states that the "pox" here means gonorrhoea, but she doesn't say how she knows this.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Poor Tom...

Sam, try to get hold of yourself. That empathy is just spewing out all over the place.

I know, I know. He and Bess have been coming round and he's just being practical.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

It is good and honest writing, of course and as always, true to the spirit. I do believe he does, in his way, care deeply for Tom and his plight.

Nate  •  Link

Gonorrhea and pox synonyms? I don't think so even if they are both venereal diseases. Pox comes from pocks as in pock marks that might result from smallpox, chickenpox, cowpox, and syphilis.

Jesse  •  Link

"his disease is the pox"

My guess was/is smallpox. Tom is mentioned on 25 Feb w/o health problems. Only on 8 Mar is there mention of "brother Tom, who is in bed, and I doubt very ill of a consumption". IANAD but my guess would be that STDs would show their symptoms long, long before one has "not long to live" and that if Tom suffered from one then Pepys would have known. The timeline somewhat fits the Wikepedia entry for smallpox: 'The incubation period between contraction and the first obvious symptoms of the disease is around 12 days ... [b]y days 15-16 the condition worsens'

weazel  •  Link

wasn't a side affect of syphillus "talking idle"?

Mary  •  Link

the pox.

At this date 'the pox' normally indicates a venereal disease rather than one of the other specified poxes (cowpox, chickenpox, smallpox). Will Joyce is speculating that Tom contracted his disease at some time in the past ("which he hath heretofore got'), had mistakenly thought himself to have been cured but the disease has now broken out again and 'is come to this.'

I can see no reason why any of the other poxes should be kept a secret; only VD carries the possibility of social stigma and a need for secrecy.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

No mention of an urgent message to Mom, Dad, and Pall at Brampton, and John Jr. wherever he is now, I see. Perhaps Sam forgot to mention it or left it to the wonderful Mrs. Turner's capable hands. Also no mention of Bess' reaction...She has seemed fond of Tom given Sam's mention of her role in the marriage efforts, of her going to Tom's, and of meeting her there on occasion during his brother's illness.


"...Will Joyce desiring to speak with me alone I took him up, and there he did plainly tell me to my great astonishment that my brother is deadly ill..."

So the Joyces hemmed and hawed all afternoon, just mentioning that Tom was still quite ill and would like a nurse, passing the time "pleasantly" as Sam puts it and would have left without giving him the full story if he hadn't gotten the message from Mrs. T and called them back?

No wonder Sam finds them a bit hard to take at times.

Pedro  •  Link


I am not sure what Sam would know of smallpox, but surely the reactions of those around Tom would show a greater concern for the spread to others.
Today, with concern of biological attacks, a single confirmed case of smallpox would be considered an emergency.…

Smallpox Through History….

Robert Gertz  •  Link

The problem with the eradication or more dangerously, the near-eradication, of any transmissable disease is that humans lose the immunity of the herd, which largely protects us from massive depopulation even when we as individuals may be vulnerable, within a generation or two (especially when they stop vaccination programs to save a few bucks!...Support your immunization campaigns! Sorry,end of commercial). Given our increasing susceptibility to disease, we could find shaking hands with our hero and his mate a risky business. Though some of us sure wouldn't mind a peek at all the things Sam and Bess might be harboring. As for smallpox it no longer (supposedly, hopefully) exists free in human populations and so to see it emerge anywhere would indeed be cause to push the alarm. Recently there was a minor but worrying incident recorded in "Nature" when the 1918 flu virus ("Spanish flu"), revived for experimental purposes from frozen corpses, turned out to still be quite capable of killing animal test subjects despite supposed inactivation.

(Does worry one a tiny bit when one is looking as I am at my lab notebook and see they've managed to spell it "Fedral Government Supply". But, of course, you can trust us...)

language hat  •  Link

"I do believe he does, in his way, care deeply for Tom and his plight."

I'd like to think this, but I haven't seen much sign of it in all the time I've been reading the diary, and I don't see how it can be reconciled with "I thought fit to go see him for speech of people's sake" and "the trouble that would arise to me by his death or continuing sick." He seems not to care much at all about his brother -- which is fine, not all families are close, and it's impressive that he's so candid in his diary, but I do find it a bit off-putting.

JWB  •  Link

Tomalin (further p163 paperback):

"The truth was that he (TOM) was dying of tuberculosis of the lungs, then called a comsumption; it was often associated with venereal disease-Pepys talks of one of Batten's clerks dying of consumption "got, as is believed, by the pox"-but wrongly both in general and in the particular case of poor Tom."

JWB  •  Link

Death & dying

As an old man, who has seen his share of dying in & out of the family, let me say that it is not unusual for survivors to be angry at the dying.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I think mixed in with the sorrow is always practical annoyance at all the details even a beloved partner's illness and death cause. We're privileged to see an honest portrayal of exactly what a man is feeling during what (since a spoiler has been done) will be a tragic death. Some moments of grief and loss, some of fond memory, some of annoyance and anger at the jerk for putting us out like this...

Sam has tried hard to do right by Tom in terms of matrimony, etc. Though he's made no great deal of it, he has indicated that he and Bess have been checking on him, though he seems to rely on Jane Turner for much of Tom's supervision. He and Tom do not seem to have shared many interests and perhaps don't particularly like each other but Sam has generally done his duty as effective head of the family and he has seemed to feel especially responsible for helping and guiding Tom. If that 'help' and guidance have sometimes reached annoying levels, as the oldest of seven I can say it goes with the territory and it's usually intended as caring.

That said we do await some indication of loss from Sam...

JonTom Kittredge  •  Link

I have to second Mr. Hat. I've come to like Sam tremendously, and it's hard not to believe the best of him. But from he first heard of Tom's illness, I have seen very few signs of empathy, or even care. Sam's candor in the diary is so disarming that I think it's easy for us to read into diary feelings which we are *sure* such a likable person must have had.

Pedro  •  Link

"and the trouble that would arise to me by his death or continuing sick."

Tomalin says of the Dairy...

"Yet it allows us to experience the world from inside his skin, and for all its huge, Shakespearean cast of characters, it is always essentially a rhapsody on himself at the centre."

jeannine  •  Link

Slang of the times

From what I recall during this time period, (can't find the source at the moment) "the pox" refers to syphilis and "the clap" refers to gonorrhea. Either would be an embarrasment to Sam, if Tom actually had it. Although 'the pox' was rampant among the courtiers and, as Nix noted above, people like John Wilmot, (aka Lord Rochester) died from it, even Charles II was not be "immune" from it and passed it along to a future mistress Louise de Keroualle.

On an interesting note, in Wilmot's bio ("A Profane Wit" by Johnson), there is a comment that often men having early phases of the disease did not get treatment as they thought that perhaps they suffered from "THE STONE". The scary part is that Wilmot, in his denial, passed it along to his wife and their children. The sadness here is that even when the carrier believes they are in remission, their partners and/or children are at risk.

Perhaps Sam is also wondering how,when and with whom Tom could have gotten infected and is worried about being hit up for money etc. from some women who felt "injured" by Tom.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"the pox"
Methinks he is dying of Tuberculosis,but if it were some sexually transmitted disease Sam is partly to blame because he has been disapproving of poor Tom's marriage plans.

Lawrence  •  Link

"after giving her good councel, and the boys"
Boys? does he mean the Joyces'?

Paul Dyson  •  Link

From January 27th: "...and so called to see Tom, but not at home, though they say he is in a deep consumption, and Mrs. Turner and Dike and they say he will not live two months to an end. "

So these two were not far wrong, perhaps from being used to seeing others in this state.

Martin  •  Link

"a bag which I and Wm. Joyce told, coming to 5l. 14s. 0d."
"To tell" is not often used with the meaning "count" anymore, except in usages like "all told" and "telling time" and in the occupation "teller". In the King James, Psalm 147: "He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names."

Pauline  •  Link

"after giving her good councel, and the boys"
The boys are probably Tom's tailoring apprentices.

Terry F  •  Link

"the Doctor which he helped my brother to"

Presumably not Dr Alexander Burnet, the Pepys's physician.
L&M do not comment on this detail.

Terry F  •  Link

Had Tom been taken to Dr Burnet...

...I'd expect Pepys to write "the Doctor."

Glyn  •  Link

Following on from Martin's post about the word 'tell', there's also the word 'want; used twice here.

He wants common law; his brother wants a nurse. Both times 'want' means 'need'.

Would it be such a scandal to the Pepys family if a single man in his 20s had had sexual relations with a prostitute, bearing in mind the number of brothels in the area and the example of the king and his aristocratic friends? Yes, it might be a cause for gossip (especially spread by the Joyces) but surely not a great scandal provided he hasn't contracted any disease.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Meanwhile, like Sam, we've ignored poor Mr. Coventry. Hope he's doing better.

DrCari  •  Link

Syphilis is some nasty business.

When I was still in training I was assigned to do a psychiatric evaluation of an end-stage syphylitic man. (Hard to believe in this modern age of antibiotics that he never sought treatment.) I had to don protective gown and gloves and was warned to avoid any contact as the disease is apparently very contagious at this stage.

I spoke briefly to the patient who was confused and floridly psychotic due to damage to his brain cells from this infection.
It was one of the more disturbing tasks I did as a student.

Dan Jenkins  •  Link

I'm with JWB and Robert Gertz on the mixture of sorrow, anger and worry about practicalities. I have been through this far too many times myself - most recently with my father's death a few months ago. People's reactions to death and dying are often complex and contradictory.

Sam was astonished to hear how direly ill Tom is (and, of what, admittedly). When he had heard earlier of Tom's illness, he did attempt to visit and found Tom not in. My recent experience with my father included similar reports of his impending death, a visit which found him not apparently so ill, and my final vigil with him at his death only a month later.

The course of illness is erratic, mayhap more so in those times. Death was experienced more commonly and intimately than most do today, so the shock with which the modern mindset perceives death seems to be lacking in Sam's outlook. This is not to say he doesn't experience the grief, but he, as effective head of his extended family, must also weigh the practical issues.

Nate  •  Link

"immunity of the herd"
Robert, I presume you mean genetic immunity but with the disappearance of the disease the genes would not disappear unless there was very strong selective pressure. For instance sickle cell anemia is still with us in the US even though malaria is not and there is selective pressure against the genes for sickle cell anemia. There are many other examples of genetic diseases that can protect against one pathogen but also have costs.

Ruben  •  Link

Death and confusion
As we are not that familiar anymore with death as was in Pepys days, we also tend to forget that the manifestations of disease changed.
No provision was taken to keep the patient hydrated, as we do now.
As a consequence many more than today died dehydrated, a sure way to become gradually confused and die a more clement death.
Because of this common final path, confusion does not add to our knowledge about Tom's illness.

AussieRene  •  Link

What a fabulous and diverse lot of annotations today. Just shows the class of the annotator's on Sam's site.

Australian Susan  •  Link


I think I would rather say that "wants"here means "lacks" linked with "being in want" which is diferent from need, albeit in a subtle way.
I agree with jeannine, clap means gonohorea and pox means syphilis. Nearer to our times, Winston Churchhill's father died of syphilis and Edward VII was rumoured to have had it and passed this on to his wife which caused her deafness, but that may be just spiteful Court gossip.
Sam's attitudes and reactions seem not very fraternal, except when Tom does not even recognise him, and more concerned with work and trouble and Sam's public image. Not very edifying.

language hat  •  Link

"I have been through this far too many times myself - most recently with my father's death...
People's reactions to death and dying are often complex and contradictory."

Same here, and I agree -- but if I had been keeping a similar journal during my father's final illness, it would have alternated between fond memories, regret at a needlessly unpleasant coda to a well-lived life, and annoyance at his obstinacy, refusal to act in his own interest, etc. etc. Nobody would criticize Sam for his remarks if they were in such a context; it's the fact that he doesn't seem to have any reaction *but* annoyance that's off-putting.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Strong resistance to infectious diseases will fade out of a population once the antigen is no longer present to induce immunity in part by selection for immune cell populations quickly Nate. While we do carry the various cells, without an exposure we don't have pressure on the immune system to selectively clone the needed items and we can die before any resistance can be mounted. Which is why we stimulate artifically with vaccination and immunization.

Pedro  •  Link

"it's the fact that he doesn't seem to have any reaction *but* annoyance that's off-putting."

Tomalin also says...

"His account of the last weeks of his brother Tom is particularly disconcerting in the way it alternates between callousness and sorrow."

Second Reading

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Yet again, we are having sanctimonious judgements about what Pepys does or does not write down about feelings he may or may not have regarding his brother.

(1) One can choose one's friends, but not one's family.
IF you are lucky enough to feel close to your blood relations, that's a real bonus, but just because people are closely related, doesn't mean they are close in human terms. I have seen lots of hatred, indifference and, most often, very mixed feelings within families. It's hardly surprising, because the blood bond ties many people together who would very likely not choose to be acquainted otherwise. In the end, you feel what you feel and, to a private diary, why should you pretend?

(2) Even if you are close, if you know you are going to be either arranging the funeral and sorting out the estate, OR arranging care and managing someone's affairs, the worry of how the **** you are going to cope may well eclipse finer feelings, especially if you have an employer to please too.

My only conclusion is that people in Pepys' day weren't all that different to people today.

Bill  •  Link

“and showed me a bag which I and Wm. Joyce told, coming to 5l.14s. 0d.”

To TELL, to count or number.
To TELL NO STORE, to account as nothing.
TELLERS, [in the Exchequer] four Officers, whose Business it is to receive and pay all the Monies upon the King's Account.
---An universal etymological English dictionary. N. Bailey, 1724.

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Re "want" in the sense of "need", and not "desire"; it's still used that way today, especially in north Britain. I remember my grandmother: "you want a haircut!"

Bill  •  Link

WANT, Deficiency, Lack, Need, Poverty.
---An universal etymological English dictionary. N. Bailey, 1724.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re: ‘ . . who lies in bed talking idle . . ‘

idle, adj. . . Old English . .
7. In quasi-adv. use = idly adv. Obs.
. . 1663   S. Pepys Diary 29 Oct. (1971) IV. 356   The Queene mends apace they say; but yet talks idle still.

idly, adv. . .
 1.  a. Vainly, in vain; uselessly; frivolously, carelessly, ineffectively . .
1625   J. Hart Anat. Urines ii. xi. 122   [It] is not a thing so slightly to be passed ouer, as many may idlely imagine.
1700   J. Astry tr. D. de Saavedra Fajardo Royal Politician II. 89   When a Prince idlely squanders away his subjects fortunes.

b. Incoherently (from affection of the brain), deliriously. Obs.
. . 1632   tr. G. Bruele Praxis Medicinæ 399   They which talk idlely with amazednes..for the most part die.

Re: ‘ . . for I much want it.’

‘want, v. < an early Scandinavian . .

I. To be lacking, to lack, and related senses.
1. trans.
a. (a) Not to have, to be without; to be deficient in; to lack. Now chiefly Sc.
. . 1625 C. Burges New Discou. Personal Tithes 67 It is a thousand pitties they should want blowes who will doe nothing without them.
1684 tr. T. Bonet Guide Pract. Physician i. 16 If you want Peaches, you may use Juice of soure Apples . . ‘

As in: ‘For Want of a Nail:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.’…

Re: ‘ . . which I and Wm. Joyce told . . ’
‘tell v. . . < Germanic . .
II. To mention numerically, to count, reckon.
. . 17. trans.
 a. To count (the members of a series or group); to enumerate, reckon, number . .
. . 1696   T. Wagstaffe Acct. Proc. recoining Clipp'd Money 8   His Son (who can scarce tell ten) is one of the Tellers in the Exchequer.
1719   D. Defoe Life Robinson Crusoe 254   He could not tell Twenty in English; but he numbered them, by laying so many Stones on a Row, and pointing to me to tell them over . .

 18. a. trans. To reckon up or calculate the total amount or value of (money or other things); to count up. Obs.
. . 1609   J. Skene tr. Regiam Majestatem i. f. 36,   Quhen he is fourtene ȝeares compleit or quhen he can number and tell silver.
1723   D. Defoe Hist. Col. Jack (ed. 2) 92   What it [sc. his cargo] really amounted to, I knew not, for I never told it . . ‘

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