Thursday 16 March 1664/65

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, my wife coming home from the water this morning, having lain with them on board “The Prince” all night. At noon home to dinner, where my wife told me the unpleasant journey she had yesterday among the children, whose fear upon the water and folly made it very unpleasing to her. A good dinner, and then to the office again. This afternoon Mr. Harris, the sayle-maker, sent me a noble present of two large silver candlesticks and snuffers, and a slice to keep them upon, which indeed is very handsome. At night come Mr. Andrews with 36l., the further fruits of my Tangier contract, and so to bed late and weary with business, but in good content of mind, blessing God for these his benefits.

16 Mar 2008, 11:56 p.m. - Terry Foreman

"a slice to keep them upon" slice ~ flat plate (L&M Select Glossary)

17 Mar 2008, 12:02 a.m. - jeannine

Posting this on the eve of St. Patrick's Day so you all wake up to Samuel O'Pepys! Note that pot of gold!

17 Mar 2008, 1:18 a.m. - Martha Wishart

Well, at least if Mrs. Pepys was out all night, she didn't enjoy it!

17 Mar 2008, 2:10 a.m. - Margaret

It seems that Samuel O'Pepys didn't find gold at the end of his rainbow (or green beer either)--instead he found silver, in the shape of candlesticks, snuffers, & a "slice". I am struck by the innocence with which he accepts these bribes. I suppose that when "everyone is doing it" it seems to be acceptable practice. Can someone tell me which came first: "slice" meaning a flat plate, or "slice" meaning a thin piece of something (like bread)? I had never heard of a flat plate being called a slice before.

17 Mar 2008, 3:08 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"I am struck by the innocence with which he accepts these bribes. I suppose that when 'everyone is doing it' it seems to be acceptable practice." Bribes? Gifts to clients are still customary in many circles: like Samuel Pepys, I've received some myself; but that's not the price of my custom, and that is clear.

17 Mar 2008, 3:25 p.m. - language hat

"slice ~ flat plate" That's not quite accurate: the OED says "One or other of several flattish utensils (sometimes perforated) used for various purposes in cookery, etc." (a representative citation from the period is 1688 HOLME Armoury III. 317/1 "A Slice.. to cut Dough into pieces, called a Beater, a Break." Ibid. 396/1 "A long piece of Wood cut after the manner of a Slice which Deary-women use about their Butter."; a later one is 1858 SIMMONDS Dict. Trade, "Slice,.. a spatula for serving cooked fish."). The word was borrowed in the early Middle Ages from Old French esclice, esclisse (mod.F. éclisse) 'splinter, shiver, small piece (of wood, etc.),' and the first sense in English was "A fragment, a shiver, a splinter"; it quickly mutated to "A relatively thin, flat, broad piece cut from anything."

17 Mar 2008, 3:26 p.m. - language hat

"bribe" I think it's best to refrain from using such value-laden language to describe accepted business practices.

17 Mar 2008, 8:51 p.m. - jeannine

Gifts for Sam Come join with me friends to help Sam and his tribe As we gather to euphemize the word ‘bribe’ You see the Navy was quite tight with their pay Men sought to make money in some other way Payments, gifts and exchanges were customary And often doled out to a high dignitary Gifts were the norm for the Clerk of the Acts For all the business he had to transact The son of a tailor wore a brand new suit With lots of places to stash all of his loot Gold was for Sam’s pockets in need to be filled By all of the workman no matter how skilled Those in the Navy sure knew how to act When Sam gave their sons a big fat contract They stood quietly by with a nod and wink Slipped Sam a large gift and then bought him a drink Then there were those who secretly exchanged Payments for contracts which Sam had arranged Delivered discreetly by a third party When paying directly would be foolhardy Securing a man a job with Sam’s good name Was just part of the everyday business game For their gratitude they would gladly disperse A handful of silver to fatten his purse And there were those who had so little money Their gift to Sam was a taste of their honey Wide fluttering eyes would softly wink and flirt And in a dark alehouse they’d lift up their skirt Presents were bestowed out of gratuity And called gifts, contributions or charity All were fine to accept when Sam said one thing “This work was done in the good name of the King”

17 Mar 2008, 10:19 p.m. - Robert Gertz

Lovely Jeannine. And thanks for the visit from O'Pepys. I knew Leopold Bloom had to have a Pepys in his ancestry somewhere.

17 Mar 2008, 10:21 p.m. - Robert Gertz

Seems the Montagu children will not be a brace of hardy seafaring types...

18 Mar 2008, 12:43 a.m. - Bradford

It's not like there was a Schedule of Prices on the wall as there might be in, say, a Notary Public's office; nor was there a code of professional ethics to which the Guild of Government Workers must subscribe, as with today's Realtors. A standard can be contravened only when a standard exists. But our Resident Poet has put the idea much more aesthetically!

18 Mar 2008, 1:55 a.m. - Sean

Sam's justifications and excuses are amusing but we should not be too judgemental. It was not until the 19th century that our idealized code of conduct for public officials became established along with the rise of a professional and adequately paid civil service. The 17th century is still in transition between low paid officials who often treated their posts as sinecures or, if they did do their jobs, lived off fees at best and bribes at worst and a our modern ideal (not always realized at that).

18 Mar 2008, 10:39 a.m. - Australian Susan

"...not until the 19th century..." The (late) Health Minister in our State Govt here in Queensland is on trial for corruption at the moment (to do with govt contracts). At least there is a general consensus now that such things are wrong - but only 20 years ago here, there was a great deal of bribery which was not seen by most as wrong. What is happenning with Sam is perfectly normal according to the social norms and laws of his day. I don't suppose these beautiful objects survived to modern times did they? There is a photo here of something which sounds similar to what Sam received.

18 Aug 2015, 4:38 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"This afternoon Mr. Harris, the sayle-maker, sent me a noble present of two large silver candlesticks and snuffers, and a slice to keep them upon, which indeed is very handsome." On 28 March the Navy Board acknowledged receipt of 50 bolts of Holland duck at Deptford from John Harris, and on 4 May he tendered for the supply of 1500 hammocks: CSPD 1664-5, pp. 131, 132. (L&M footnote)

18 Mar 2018, 8:39 a.m. - Gerald Berg

If these are not bribes what else could they be? Examples of God’s munificence to one of his favourites of course! How could you possibly expect anyone to feel anything but pleasure in that?