Thursday 8 September 1664

Up and to the office, where busy all the morning. At noon dined at home, and I by water down to Woolwich by a galley, and back again in the evening. All haste made in setting out this Guinny fleete, but yet not such as will ever do the King’s business if we come to a warr. My wife this afternoon being very well dressed by her new woman, Mary Mercer, a decayed merchant’s daughter that our Will helps us to, did go to the christening of Mrs. Mills, the parson’s wife’s child, where she never was before. After I was come home Mr. Povey came to me and took me out to supper to Mr. Bland’s, who is making now all haste to be gone for Tangier. Here pretty merry, and good discourse, fain to admire the knowledge and experience of Mrs. Bland, who I think as good a merchant as her husband. I went home and there find Mercer, whose person I like well, and I think will do well, at least I hope so. So to my office a while and then to bed.


19 Annotations

Terry F  •  Link

James, Duke of York, to Sandwich
Written from: St, James'
Date: 8 September 1664

Shelfmark: MS. Carte 75, fol(s). 216
Document type: Original

Communicates advices which have been received of the design of the Dutch to send their Guinea-Fleet through the Channel. His Majesty, considering how unequal his strength is, at present, for any encounter, thinks that Lord Sandwich should sail to Spithead, with the Squadron named in the margin of H.R.H.'s letter, & remain there until further order. Desires, also, that certain other specified ships should be sent, some to Yarmouth; others to the Buoy of the Nore.
http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/projects...

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"My wife this afternoon being very well dressed by her new woman, Mary Mercer, a decayed merchant's daughter that our Will helps us to..."

Hmmn...Apart from the interesting historical coincidence-another Mercer, likewise daughter to a "decayed" gentleman of reduced means, will be causing havoc to a famous couple in 250 years...Seems Sam is more willing these days to take the risk of a girl who, based on lost family prosperity, might harbor ideas above her station. Not quite as "gallant" as Ms. Ferrabosco perhaps but... I can see poor Bess' insecurities surfacing sure as the sun rises.

Terry F  •  Link

Spithead is a channel (strait) between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, England, east of the Solent. http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/6947/

This takes Sandwich's fleet out of danger in the Channel and posts monitors on the east coast above and at the Thames.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I wonder if the whole point in sending Sandwich out was to lure the Dutch into delaying their Guinea counteroffensive while the new English Guinea force Sam mentions was prepared.

Bradford  •  Link

The descriptive term "decayed" can refer to a decline in health, financial position, morals, or some combination thereof---perhaps in this context a useful one-word condensation of "come down in the world."

Cum Grano Salis  •  Link

Decayed otherwise known as genteel poverty. [ shortage metal stuff not deficiency of mind ]

OED decayed no 1 reason for it to be used be as a verb be:
1b. To decline from prosperity or fortune.

decayed, ppl. a.[f. DECAY v. Cf. med.L. decheium in Du Cange.]

1. Fallen off, impaired, or reduced in quality, condition, health, freshness, prosperity, fortune, etc.; spec. in phr. decayed gentlewoman.
1513
1605 VERSTEGAN Dec. Intell. Pref. Ep., A restitution of decaied intelligence.

2. Physically wasted or impaired; that has begun to crumble or fall in pieces or to rot; ruined.
1528
other meanings be later.
[f. DECAY v. Cf. med.L. decheium in Du Cange.]

1. a. The process of falling off from a prosperous or thriving condition; progressive decline; the condition of one who has thus fallen off or declined.
c1460

b. Formerly sometimes = Downfall, destruction, ruin; poet. fall, death. Obs.
1535

[an interesting viewpoint {cgs}]
1674 WOOD Life (O.H.S) II. 300 The decay of study, and consequently of learning, are coffy houses.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"All haste made in setting out this Guinny fleete, but yet not such as will ever do the King’s business if we come to a warr."

Probably because the fleet was too small and included too many merchantmen. CSPD 1664-5 , pp. 3, 4. (L&M footnote)

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"My wife this afternoon ... did go to the christening of Mrs. Mills, the parson’s wife’s child, where she never was before."

Christenings were frequently done at home, so this could mean that Elizabeth had never been invited into the home of Rev. and Mrs. Milles before.

Weird Pepys makes such a point of it being MRS. Milles' child, and does not mention the Rev.'s participation in the occasion.

Sasha Clarkson  •  Link

Damn! There's always a sensible explanation :(

I had visions of a "decayed merchant" zombie Mr Mercer, limbering through Crutched Friars & Hart Street at night, attacking the unwary and eating their brains ...

Louise Hudson  •  Link

SD Sarah: Weird Pepys makes such a point of it being MRS. Milles' child, and does not mention the Rev.'s participation in the occasion.

Babies were always their mother's child until they were old enough to be interesting and were housebroken.

Tonyel  •  Link

Hmmn...Apart from the interesting historical coincidence-another Mercer, likewise daughter to a "decayed" gentleman of reduced means, will be causing havoc to a famous couple in 250 years..
Modern gossip has a short shelf-life.... Can anyone remember who this referred to 10 years ago?

Steven Snipes  •  Link

Tonyel: The reference might be to Lucy Mercer Rutherford.

Steven Snipes  •  Link

Tonyel: The name is Rutherfurd not Rutherford. Autocorrect strikes again.

Tonyel  •  Link

Thanks Steven but it still doesn't ring any bells - it must have been an American scandal that didn't make it across the pond.
(We should not go off topic any further I think - it was just an idle query.)

Steven Snipes  •  Link

Tonyel: Last word, according to Wikipedia, she had an affair with President Roosevelt, before he was president, which nearly ended his marriage.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re: ’ . . a decayed merchant’s daughter . . '

‘decayed, adj.
1. Fallen off, impaired, or reduced in . . prosperity, fortune, etc.; spec. in phr. decayed gentlewoman.
. .1711 J. Addison Spectator No. 165. ¶1 Theodosius was the younger Son of a decayed Family
. . 1921 G. B. Shaw Let. 13 Jan. in Bernard Shaw & Mrs. Patrick Campbell (1952) 218 The celebrated decayed gentlewoman who had to cry laces in the street for a living but hoped that nobody heard her.
1961 J. Gloag Victorian Comfort viii. 212 Impoverished widows and spinsters of the middle classes, who were officially described as ‘decayed gentlewomen’.’

(OED)

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