Saturday 17 December 1664

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning. At noon I to the ’Change, and there, among others, had my first meeting with Mr. L’Estrange, who hath endeavoured several times to speak with me. It is to get, now and then, some newes of me, which I shall, as I see cause, give him. He is a man of fine conversation, I think, but I am sure most courtly and full of compliments.

Thence home to dinner, and then come the looking-glass man to set up the looking-glass I bought yesterday, in my dining-room, and very handsome it is.

So abroad by coach to White Hall, and there to the Committee of Tangier, and then the Fishing.

Mr. Povy did in discourse give me a rub about my late bill for money that I did get of him, which vexed me and stuck in my mind all this evening, though I know very well how to cleare myself at the worst.

So home and to my office, where late, and then home to bed.

Mighty talke there is of this Comet that is seen a’nights; and the King and Queene did sit up last night to see it, and did, it seems. And to-night I thought to have done so too; but it is cloudy, and so no stars appear. But I will endeavour it.

Mr. Gray did tell me to-night, for certain, that the Dutch, as high as they seem, do begin to buckle; and that one man in this Kingdom did tell the King that he is offered 40,000l. to make a peace, and others have been offered money also. It seems the taking of their Bourdeaux fleete thus, arose from a printed Gazette of the Dutch’s boasting of fighting, and having beaten the English: in confidence whereof (it coming to Bourdeaux), all the fleete comes out, and so falls into our hands.

23 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

From the Carte Calendar, absent Dirk

Ormond [to a Naval Commander not herein named]
Written from: Whitehall

Date: 17 December 1664

Shelfmark: MS. Carte 145, fol(s). 77
Document type: Copy

Has seen the joint letter, containing certain proposals [concerning outfit of privateers] directed to Sir Nicholas Plunket. The King will accept of such proposals, and will grant the needed Commissions. ... But some person duly authorized must first come hither, in that behalf.


William Coventry to Sandwich
Written from: [St James's]

Date: 17 December 1664

Shelfmark: MS. Carte 75, fol(s). 283-284
Document type: Holograph

Is sorry to hear by his Lordship's letters that the Captain of the Happy Return hath misbehaved himself about the prizes; and has received the Lord Admiral's orders to reprehend him. It is determined to keep all the Dutch and the Commissioners of Sick & Wounded have orders for securing them & to allow each man 5d. per diem. Proposes the sending in of certain ships to be careened.…


"The careening of a sailing vessel is laying her up on a calm beach at high tide in order to expose one side or another of the ship's hull for maintenance below the water line when the tide goes out."

jeannine  •  Link

“Journal of the Earl of Sandwich” edited by R.C. Anderson

17th. Saturday. Capt Spragg and his squadron set sail for Beachy from St Helens Road. This morning about 3 oclock I saw the Blazing Star again in the mail topsail of the Argo Navis, distant from the Great Dog - 29° 00’, the Scorpion’s Heart - 26° 00’. The body of the star was dusky, not plain to see his figure or dimensions, but seemed 4 or 5 times bigger than the Great Dog, of a more red colour than Mars. The tail of him streamed in the fashion of a birchen besom towards the Little Dog on one half of the distance between them. Capt. Teddiman coming from the Canaries said he saw the star there and the first time it appeared was about October 20th.

jeannine  •  Link

"and then come the looking-glass man to set up the looking-glass I bought yesterday"

Probably important to check out how looks for his secret tryst he's planning for next Monday!

cape henry  •  Link

"...which vexed me and stuck in my mind all this evening..." One pictures Mr. Povy picking up the thread of his ongoing criticism in direct and forthright terms, making repeated points,and pressing steadily. Pepys all the while inwardly scheming "very well how to cleare myself at the worst..." I'm not sure why, but I picture these as rather quiet, one sided confrontations, not red-faced arguments.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"the taking of their Bourdeaux fleete"

We first heard about this 21 November: "this day for certain newes is come that Teddiman hath brought in eighteen or twenty Dutchmen, merchants, their Bourdeaux fleete, and two men of wary [scanning error] to Portsmouth"

and now the conjecture that the fleet was egged on by the press.

Paul Chapin  •  Link

"birchen besom" (from Sandwich's journal)
OED re "besom":
2. An implement for sweeping, usually made of a bunch of broom, heather, birch, or other twigs bound together round a handle; a broom.

So the comet's tail looked like the sweeping end of a birch broom.

cgs  •  Link

"...give me a rub about my late bill..."
rubbed poor old Samuell up the wrong weigh again.

3. An obstacle, impediment, hindrance, or difficulty, of a non-material nature: a. With addition of in (or on) one's way, course, etc. Obs.
Very common from c 1590 to c 1775.

andy  •  Link

in confidence whereof (it coming to Bourdeaux), all the fleete comes out, and so falls into our hands

early Psywar by perfidious Albion - a technique surely used many times since.

When you read a political story, always ask yourself: "Why is this story printed here? Who wants it printed here? Why do they want it printed here right now?"

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Pepys through the looking glass...If Bess ever catches him.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Povey getting a little back on Pepys, eh? I doubt Sam has been too careful to conceal his true opinion of Povey's accounting skills and honesty despite Povey's generosity and hospitality to him.

language hat  •  Link

“…give me a rub about my late bill…”

This is the OED's definition 5:

An intentional wound or chafe given to the feelings of another; in later use esp. a slight reproof or teasing.
1642 ROGERS Naaman 89 Both the former rubs, and this affront.. wrought a marvellous abasement in his soule. 1677 Govt. Venice 277 They many times give them such rubs and mortifications, that they are quickly taken down. 1720 DE FOE Capt. Singleton x. 182 You have always one dry rub or another to give us. 1780 F. BURNEY Diary May, He failed not to give me a rub for my old offence. [...] 1887 SERVICE Life Dr. Duguid xvi. 102 She seldom saw me but she gied me a bit rub aboot Leezie.

Don McCahill  •  Link

In case others were wondering, this is not Mr Halley's comet. That comes in 1682 (the year Halley tracks it and predicts its return). I wonder whether this particular comet might have started him thinking about them.

Pedro  •  Link

Newton and comets.

In the site quoted by PK above, and cgs the other day, it tells of Newton’s observations of the 1664/5 comet and goes on to say that there is no evidence that his early interest in comets was sustained.

In his book Isaac Newton The Last Sorcerer, Michael White seems to suggest otherwise, a summary…

Newton had been captivated by the comet in the last weeks of 1680 (as were Haley and Hooke), and, in typical fashion, he pushed himself to the limit of endurance to study the phenomenon. He stayed up all night every night making detailed observations in his “Waste Book”…Not content with his own sightings, he traced every observation he could from astronomers throughout Europe, and even received a report from Aurthur Storer in Maryland…

(At this point he had yet to realize that the motion of a comet is influenced by the Sun)

In the early autumn of 1682 another brighter comet appeared and he sat outside his rooms at Trinity College, wrapped in blankets, plotting the path (between the sightings he spent some time studying the comet motion) and this time it was realized that the motion was retrograde…The jigsaw was falling into place and the picture they would reveal was not just an explanation for the movements of the comet; the movement also provided a further clue to the concept of universal gravitation.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"the captain of the Happy Return"

A note by Pedro suggests this might be Captain Henry Cuttance: "In 1665, he commanded the Happy Return (52 guns)."… This was a ship 44-54 guns, built in Yarmouth 1654 as Winceby; captured 1691 (L&M Index).

(Happily, C. S. Forester chose the Happy Return as the name for the Horatio Hornblower series, but not for a ship.)

Pedro  •  Link

“the captain of the Happy Return”

From the Montagu Journal, and the fleet list of April 1665, it shows the Happy Return with Captain James Lambert. Perhaps some action was taken against Henry Cuttance?

Harvey  •  Link

What a wonderfully precise description of the comet's position;

“Journal of the Earl of Sandwich ... 17th Saturday. ... about 3 oclock I saw the Blazing Star ... distant from the Great Dog [Sirrus] - 29° 00’, the Scorpion’s Heart [Antares] - 26° 00’"

This would fix it's position accurately, and with several times and positions like this the orbit could be calculated retrospectively, once Newton had done his work.

Cactus Wren  •  Link

Er, given that Antares and Sirius are never visible at the same time (in the Northern Hemisphere Antares is a summer, Sirius a winter star), I'm not sure how precise the Earl of Sandwich's description is. Unless by "the Scorpion's Heart" he meant some other star.

(Starry Night Enthusiast v.6 doesn't show the 1664 comet at all. Amusingly, it does backtrack artificial satellites, so I can find out exactly where and when Sam would have been able to see Hubble or the ISS or an Iridium communications satellite.)

cgs  •  Link

additional info:
An Astronomical Description of the Late
Comet or Blazing Star; As it appeared in
New-England in the 9th, 10th, 11th, and
in the beginning of the 12th Moneth,
1664. Together with a Brief Theological
Application thereof. (1665) An Online
Electronic Text Edition.
Samuel Danforth Paul Royster (editor)†…

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"At noon I to the ‘Change, and there, among others, had my first meeting with Mr. L’Estrange, who hath endeavoured several times to speak with me. It is to get, now and then, some newes of me, which I shall, as I see cause, give him."

Roger L'Estrange between 1662 and 1666 was responsible for the two official newspapers (the only papers published): The Intelligencer and The Newes. (They were identical, but came out on Mondays and Thursdays, respectively.) For his methods of gathering news, see Sir Roger L'Estrange : a contribution to the history of the press in the seventeenth century by Kitchin, George… ; Peter Fraser, The intelligence of the secretaries of state and their monopoly of licensed news 1660-88. Pepys's Friend Moore was later the means of giving him news of a naval battle: (L&M note)

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