Friday 17 June 1664

Up, and to my office, where I dispatched much business, and then down by water to Woolwich to make a discovery of a cheate providing for us in the working of some of our own ground Tows into new cordage, to be sold to us for Riga cordage.

Thence to Mr. Falconer’s, where I met Sir W. Batten and Lady, and Captain Tinker, and there dined with them, and so to the Dockyarde and to Deptford by water, and there very long informing myself in the business of flags and bewpers and other things, and so home late, being weary, and full of good information to-day, but I perceive the corruptions of the Navy are of so many kinds that it is endless to look after them, especially while such a one as Sir W. Batten discourages every man that is honest. So home to my office, there very late, and then to supper and to bed mightily troubled in my mind to hear how Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes do labour all they can to abuse or enable others to abuse the King.

17 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

"a cheate providing for us in the working of some of our own ground Tows into new cordage, to be sold to us for Riga cordage"


A rope. Chiefly Sc.
c1470 HENRYSON Mor. Fab. v. (Parl. Beasts) xii, With towis proud ane pal{ygh}eoun can thay picht. 1513 DOUGLAS Æneis V. xii. 163 Thair cabillis new, and thar heid towis reparis. 1534 Acc. Ld. High Treas. Scot. VI. 234 Cabillis and towis brocht hame to the Kingis schip. a1578 LINDESAY (Pitscottie) Chron. Scot. (S.T.S.) I. 175 His handis bund witht sic ane tow of hempt. 1646 Alloa Kirk Session Rec. in North. N. & Q. 18 For towes to the bell. a1670 SPALDING Troub. Chas. I (1829) 12 Upon night, he came down over the castle wall, upon tows brought to him secretly by his wife, and clearly wan away. (OED Online)

Pepys does NOT want recycled represented as new and top grade.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...and full of good information to-day..."

"And so you see, Bess, they were taking the ground tow ropes that were worn and working them into new cordage, tarring it, and...Can you believe it?...Calling it new Riga hemp. I thought Sir Richard Ford was pulling a fast one with his hemp but this, oh... See here, now observe the way the fibre here is stretched, a clear giveaway... Here, Hewer, take this end. Pull that end, Bess. Pull it...Come on, pull."

Ummn...All I did was ask how his day went...

"Pull, hard...Hard, I say."

"Ahhhhh..." scream as the rope frays and she flies across the room.

"You see, you see! Rubbish, absolute worn-out rubbish! Bess? Are you all right?"

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...hear how Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes do labour all they can to abuse or enable others to abuse the King."

Nice to know the boys are working hard at something...

"Agent Van der Battern? Agent Van der Mindern?"

"Admiral Everson?"

"Careful..." Glances about... "Call me Mr. Everman here. Is all going well?"

"Our efforts to abuse or enable others to abuse the Englander King are proceeding well, sir. Though our Mr. Pepys continues to make nearly as much trouble as Mr. Coventry."

"I see. My friends. We have but a few minutes before we must part, and no further contact may be possible for years until we can fake your deaths. The war will soon begin in earnest and you gentlemen, our best agents, must fulfill our hopes of destroying this regime from within. Can you not find a way to eliminate or neutralize this little fellow?"

"Not easy, sir. He's too cautious to accept a clear and compromising bribe. As for elimination, believe me, we have tried." Van der Mindern.

"And tried..." Van der Battern shakes his head.

"And it has begin rather a struggle, having to play the doting fool and the corrupt turncoat with the little..." Van der Mindern frowns.

"Not to mention having to live in England, this land of beef and fogs all these years. I would I could have been allowed to drown that Stuart and his brother and cousin when they were all on board my ship during their ridiculous Civil War." Van der Battern sighs.

"I know gentlemen...But you know the Motherland appreciates your sacrifices. I have all the documents on the fleet you two have smuggled out. I must go now and speak with your chief before I am to catch my boat for the ship. Do whatever you can to deal with Coventry and this Mr. Pepys."

"Hmmn, you know, Sir Will..." Van der Mindern begins to resume his role... "I could do more remodelling work in my home. Pepys can't resist scurrying about a building project and we nearly did get him with the collapsing stairs into my house of office last time."

"Drowned in ... Poetic in a way. But perhaps the best way is to try... Distraction again, Sir John."

"But he seems to have little interest in Agent Lane now...The changable cad..." Sir John frowns.

"But a great deal of interest in our dear Mrs. Bagwell." Minnes nods...

"And Molly is our station chief..." Batten notes, smiling. "If she can keep that idiot greedy husband out of the way, she ought to be able to deal with Pepys."

cape henry  •  Link

In recent posts, Pepys has made relatively plain, by inference and implication, the difference he sees in the sort of brokerage or finder's fees of various types that he accepts, and the wanton bribery and graft of the likes of Batten. Pepys' standard seems to involve a serious calculation as to the value and serviceability of the goods [or services] to the navy and ultimately to the king. And here, also, he seems genuinely distressed when he laments that the "cheates...are of so many kinds that it is endless to look after them." In this, overall, he seems quite an honorable fellow.

Terry F  •  Link

Agreed, cape henry. One hopes the observation that "it is endless to look after [the cheates]" does not become resignation.

My sense is he takes Batten to be a distributor of no-bid contracts.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Meanwhile, in Holland...

"Young man, you can see that our request for you on your return to England to obtain a little information from your brother-in-law's office allowing us to quickly end this unjust war against the Republic is reasonable and hardly requires any risk on your part..."


"Five thousand..."

"Sir." A chained, somewhat the worse for wear but not yet manhandled Balty eyes his inquisitor... "You, sir, are dealing with Balthazar St. Michel, an exiled French nobleman, son of the wrongfully disowned Sieur de St. Michel. Though my dear father may have lost his lands and wealth, he did not fail to keep his honor and pass it on intact to his only son."

"Seven thousand...And we avoid any possible unnecessary unpleasantness." the Dutchman meaningfully eyeing the various implements of torture about the chamber...

"Sir. Though my purse be light and mine and my little family's need be great...A gentleman such as myself..."

"Eight thousand and I don't rip off the fingernails. And all for a quick glance at a few unimportant records on ships and men."


Terry F  •  Link

And Batten has his hand in the Chatham Chest till.

Cumsalisgrano  •  Link

Money always finds it level, called the trickle down theory.

John M  •  Link

So.. Supplying the Navy Office really was money for old rope (sorry)

Pedro  •  Link

Money for old rope is a SALTY SAYING...

Money for old rope... Today if we talk about "money for old rope" we mean money or reward obtained with little or no effort. The origins of this phrase are definitely salty. In Kydd's day old and frayed ropes were sold to shoreside traders. This old rope was often sold back to ships, to be then used as caulking between a ship's planks. Money for old rope was a perk of the boatswain (but sometimes the rope was not so old, and the offence of cappabar, or misappropriation of government stores was committed...)…

Cumsalisgrano  •  Link

Everything olde [waste in all forms] had a value, old linens were recycled until tattered and ready for the mess then turned into 'luvely' linen paper ready for someones diary.

language hat  •  Link

"the offence of cappabar, or misappropriation of government stores"

Not in the OED under this spelling. Anyone know what the standard form of the word might be?

Cumsalisgrano  •  Link

"cappabar" pure guess taken from tar lingo capper ,
a prank or an illegal act like nicking a few loose cannons.

Pedro  •  Link


Wiktionary gives...cappabar (plural cappabars) alternative spelling capperbar

a nautical a misappropriation of government property.

disposing of His Majesty's property was an immemorial practice among His Majesty's servants [...] and in the Navy it went by the name of cappabar. -- Patrick O'Brian, "The Mauritius Command".…

language hat  •  Link


I checked my Sailor's Word-Book (Admiral W.H. Smyth, 1867) and found "capabarre. An old term for misappropriating government stores. (See Marryat's Novels.)"

And this page:
has "Capperbar (naval slang for anything stolen)."

Interesting word! Maybe I'll post about it at and see if anybody knows more.

language hat  •  Link

This suggestion seems plausible:
Looks like German "kaperbar", apparently = "seizable", from "kapern" = "capture/seize [a ship]".

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