Monday 16 May 1664

Forced to rise because of going to the Duke to St. James’s, where we did our usual business, and thence by invitation to Mr. Pierces the chyrurgeon, where I saw his wife, whom I had not seen in many months before. She holds her complexion still, but in everything else, even in this her new house and the best rooms in it, and her closet which her husband with some vainglory took me to show me, she continues the veriest slattern that ever I knew in my life. By and by we to see an experiment of killing a dogg by letting opium into his hind leg. He and Dr. Clerke did fail mightily in hitting the vein, and in effect did not do the business after many trials; but with the little they got in, the dogg did presently fall asleep, and so lay till we cut him up, and a little dogg also, which they put it down his throate; he also staggered first, and then fell asleep, and so continued. Whether he recovered or no, after I was gone, I know not, but it is a strange and sudden effect.

Thence walked to Westminster Hall, where the King was expected to come to prorogue the House, but it seems, afterwards I hear, he did not come.

I promised to go again to Mr. Pierce’s, but my pain grew so great, besides a bruise I got to-day in my right testicle, which now vexes me as much as the other, that I was mighty melancholy, and so by coach home and there took another glyster, but find little good by it, but by sitting still my pain of my bruise went away, and so after supper to bed, my wife and I having talked and concluded upon sending my father an offer of having Pall come to us to be with us for her preferment, if by any means I can get her a husband here, which, though it be some trouble to us, yet it will be better than to have her stay there till nobody will have her and then be flung upon my hands.

35 Annotations

First Reading

Australian Susan  •  Link

The historical novel, An Instance of the Fingerpost ( Amazon ref:…
has graphic descriptions of vivisection from this period. I think we can see some of Sam's liking for dogs when he comments on not knowing if the dog lived or not. Or maybe it is just his ever curious mind.
I wonder if the "bruise" he talks about was actually a hydrocele? See…
They can be very painful if there is infection and the pain is similar to being kicked in the groin (so I am assured).

Terry F  •  Link

Today, in his Diary, the Reverend Josselin offers petitionary prayers

16. Parliament adjourned until Nov. 20. passing a sharp act against coventicles(.) my little Rebekah very full of boils lord heal her and help us…

(Draft-versions of the "sharp act against coventicles" have been passed in both Houses of Parliament, which have been granted an extension for a Conference to complete it. There is also the matter of his daughter's health.)

cumsalisgrano  •  Link

With a song and a prayer the Houses did go round and round and back and forth to the Painted Chamber to save the day so that the King can sign a bill that will get more money into the coffers from the seditious ones, also the King wants to get on with his war without interference from selected ones.
There was an important missing paragraph affecting those that fail to doff their titfers, preventing the King from sending His Houses of peoples reps back to the provinces to enjoy a summer in the fields.

read it all here:

"..Proviso concerning the Quakers missing, which they conceive to be a material Part of the Bill..."…

Patricia  •  Link

I love it that Sam notes that Mrs. Pierce "even in this her new house and the best rooms in it, ... continues the eeriest slattern that ever I knew in my life." Not even a new house can improve some people.

cape henry  •  Link

"...eeriest slattern..." Well, maybe so, Sam, but who is it that 'cuts up' a living dog?

Paul Chapin  •  Link

La Belle Pierce?
As a glance at the annotations under her entry reminds us, Mrs. Pierce has always been noted for her extraordinary beauty, which Sam has remarked on a number of times, although he found fault with her housekeeping. But "eeriest slattern" doesn't sound like a description of someone easy on the eyes. Wonder what might have happened to her?

Australian Susan  •  Link

Is "eeriest" a transcription error? It really does sound very odd. Or is this another of those words which have changed their meaning over the centuries?

Brian  •  Link

"He and Dr. Clerke did fail mightily in hitting the vein"
Not a very expert performance from two highly regarded physicians, is it? Although to be fair, I suppose this wasn't a skill that was as commonly used then as now. Also even today experienced phlebotomists are often more handy with a needle than doctors and nurses . . .

Terry F  •  Link


So the L&M transcription as well.

c.1300, north England and Scot. variant of O.E. earg "cowardly, fearful," from P.Gmc. *argaz (cf. O.N. argr "unmanly, voluptuous," Swed. arg "malicious," Ger. arg "bad, wicked"). Sense of "causing fear because of strangeness" is first attested 1792.…

Paul, your question -- "Wonder what might have happened to her" -- is appropriate for a woman of whom it is said "She holds her complexion still...."

Mary  •  Link


The multi-volume L&M prints "veriest" which is what one would expect in this context.

Mrs. Pierce is still beautiful and still has the glow of youth in her cheeks; slatternly maybe, but not eerie.

andy  •  Link

which now vexes me as much as the other

I didn't realise that Sam already acknowledged a troublesome problem with one testicle. A possible cause of infertility? And due to a urinary infection or STD?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"eeriest slattern..."

Error for veriest?

Unless of course...

"And look at this mural Elizabeth did last week, Pepys." Pierce proudly points to a graphic depiction of a man undergoing a rather gruesome surgical procedure.

"He's being cut for the stone, I thought you'd appreciate it. Look how she's got the detail here...Pepys?" Pierce looks after a Sam running from the room.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Lucky Paulina... Back little doubt to the joys of being ordered about by Bess and Sam and one can just imagine the care Sam will put into finding her a proper husband.

"That lout in the gutter seems to be breathing..." "Better kick him, Sam." Bess suggests.

On the other hand, there's always the chance he'll let her play the lady in style for a few days in hopes of impressing some guy in marriage.


Robert Gertz  •  Link

"I promised to go again to Mr. Pierce's..."

"Isn't Pepys here?" Dr. Pierce to Mrs. Pierce. "I wanted to introduce him to our guests Drs. Praetorius and Frankenstein."

Praetorius busily sewing away at the late dog...Frankenstein assisting, with primitive electrical apparatus at his side.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

La Belle

Perhaps a comment on her housekeeping, not her appearance, although she may also have been slovenly dressed, being at home, especially if she was trying to discourage her husband from bringing home friends in the morning to play mean tricks on little dogs.

eerily, eerily, I say unto you
(I accept that veriest is the word Sam meant.)

Xjy  •  Link

"Forced to rise..."

Unusual for Sam to indicate unwillingness re early rising. He's usually up before the larks. Not himself these days.

As for women, maybe Sam now falls more for a friendly disposition and readiness to sport with him than for a fashionably pretty face. Hence his growing disenchantment with some "beauties".

At least the surgeon didn't just grab a stray orphan in from the street for his experiments. Or dredge the prisons. Or maybe he did - anyone know if the medical profession used "dead men walking" for experiments as part of a deal, as has been known to happen in the US, for instance?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Spoiler ahoy...

Stay tuned for the blood transfusion experiment, Xiv...

Atropos  •  Link

One can understand Sam's eagerness to witness this early experiment in Anaesthesia in the light of his own experience in being "cut", and the very real possibility, in light of his recent symptoms, of the return of pain and disability.

His is not a casual or morbid interest.

Ann  •  Link

I have to admit I'm kinda bummed those smarter than me figured out its "veriest." I was thinking "Eerie Slatterns" would be a great name for a rock band, or a teenage horror movie....

Terry F  •  Link

"She holds her complexion still,...."

Wonder why this? She is unabashed that her house is at it is?

Ann, great idea. A Great Gathering of Garage Bands immaterializes.

Terry F  •  Link

cumsallygrano calls our attention to the "Proviso against those People commonly called Quakers" in the "Bill against seditious Conventicles." It touches the good Sir W. Penn, whose son, William, was, of course, one...well, you know the story.…

Bradford  •  Link

A pity---"eeriest slattern" is a great misreading, and even if inappliable after all to Mrs. Pierce, many of us can no doubt provide from our acquaintance someone who fits the caption.
A one-letter change from one acceptable word to another is among the hardest of proofreading errors to catch.

Glyn  •  Link

Slatternly - is Sam reacting to the chaos of a house with at least two children aged under five in it (there are probably more)?

For more on Elizabeth Pierce, take a look at the entry for April 30, 1662:…

Our Elizabeth once said that she didn't think Elizabeth Pierce was so hot (I paraphrase), and Sam foolishly disagreed. Elizabeth Pierce is attractive and fun-loving but presumably not much of a housekeeper. However, Sam has high standards about this and has criticised his own wife for the same thing. I think that he's using the word humorously rather than censoriously.

Mistress Pierce is something of a baby-machine, having given birth to at least two children and perhaps more since the diary began, and eventually going on to have 20(!). I think it was Language Hat who thought that Elizabeth Pepys might subconsciously have taken this as an affront against her own lack of children (I imagine he put that more elegantly).

Elizabeth Pierce has been a good friend to both Sam and Elizabeth, although she hasn't appeared in the diary for almost exactly a year.

Glyn  •  Link

Ah, I see Robert Gertz also made that observation in the above entry for 30 April 1662.

Phil Gyford  •  Link

Re the discussion above about "eeriest"/"veriest": I've now corrected the text to the latter.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

"By and by we to see an experiment of killing a dogg by letting opium into his hind leg."

Pepys does not say whether this experiment was in any way connected with the work of the Royal Society. About this time the minutes contain the following reference: "May 4, 1664. It was ordered that Dr. Croune, Dr. Balle, and Mr. Hooke take care at the next meeting to cut off some skin of a dog; and that the operator provide a dog for that purpose." Several experiments at subsequent meetings are reported (Birch's "History of the Royal Society," vol. i., p. 422).
---Wheatley, 1904.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"By and by we to see an experiment of killing a dogg by letting opium into his hind leg."

L&M note Gunther (iii. 130) states that anaesthesia by intravenous injections of opium had been induced in animals since c. 1656.
Early science in Oxford by Gunther, R. T. (Robert Theodore), Published 1920…

Louise Hudson  •  Link

It appears to me that Sam is saying, "She may be a slattern, but it hardly matters given her beauty." He seems inordinately fond of beauty and it apparently forgives everything. I wish he had given some examples of her slatternliness. Traces of dust on top of the picture frames?

I can't get my head around the experiment on the dog. "the dogg did presently fall asleep, and so lay till we cut him up, and a little dogg also, which they put it down his throate". What is that supposed to mean? What did they put down whose throat? And to what end? I realize this is the 17th Century, but Sam seems particularly immune to cruelty to dogs, which must have been loved pets even then.

Tripleransom  •  Link

I think Sam is saying they put the little dogg to sleep by feeding it opium. It's an early experiment with anesthesia.

Bridget Carrie Davis  •  Link

I find it odd that Sam would be invited to this experimenting on the dogs; was Mr Pierce Sam's surgeon?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"I find it odd that Sam would be invited to this experimenting on the dogs; was Mr Pierce Sam's surgeon?"

See the link in the entry to "Mr. Pierce" and Pauline's 2003 post

Gleaned from Claire Tomalin's biography:
Close friend to Sam throughout his adult life. He was Montagu's surgeon aboard the Naseby and went on to become surgeon to the Duke of York (James) in 1660. As such, he was a source of information about what was going on in the royal court. Sam relied on this friendship "for gossip and good company."

Tomalin spells it Pearse.…

As a surgeon of some standing, Pearse would have been known to the circle of those interested in experiments with anaesthetics.

mountebank  •  Link

"He and Dr. Clerke did fail mightily in hitting the vein"

A curiously modern sounding usage.

Sam does seem to be very prone to recurring bollock pain. It sounds like there's an underlying medical condition.

A readable kaleidoscopic entry.

Gerald Berg  •  Link

I see the syringe was invented in 1844 so begs the question of what was used in this case?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Perhaps like this 1666 procedure at the Royal Society

The world's first experiments with blood transfusion occurred in the mid-1660s in England. The procedure, which was first carried out between dogs, was gruesome: the dogs were tied down, the arteries and veins in their necks opened, and blood transferred from one to another through quills (most likely made from goose feathers) inserted into the blood vessels. The experimentalist started and stopped the flow of blood by loosening and tightening threads tied with running knots around the dogs blood vessels. The blood of the emittent dog flowed from its carotid artery into a vein in the recipients neck while the recipients own blood ran out its carotid artery. According to physician Richard Lower, who described the operation in an essay published in 1666 in Philosophical Transactions, the worlds oldest scientific journal, the transfusion came to an end when the emittent dog began to cry, and faint, and fall into Convulsions, and at last dye [;sic];.…

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re: ’ .. . the veriest slattern that ever I knew in my life.’

‘slattern, n. and adj. < the dialect verb slatter to spill or splash awkwardly, to slop, to waste, etc., of obscure origin.

1. a. A woman or girl untidy and slovenly in person, habits, or surroundings; a slut. (See also quot. 1639.)
1639 J. Smyth in Glouc. Gloss. (1890) 199 A slaterne, i.e. a rude ill bred woman.
. . 1669 Dryden Royal Martyr Epil., Here Nelly lies, who, though she liv'd a Slattern, Yet dy'd a Princess, acting in St. Cathar'n.
. . 1766 J. Fordyce Serm. Young Women (1767) I. ii. 76 Butterflies one day, and slatterns the next . . ‘ (OED)

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