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.

15 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"a slice to keep them upon"

slice ~ flat plate (L&M Select Glossary)

Martha Wishart  •  Link

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

Margaret  •  Link

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.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"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.

language hat  •  Link

"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."

language hat  •  Link


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

jeannine  •  Link

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”

Robert Gertz  •  Link

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

Robert Gertz  •  Link

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

Bradford  •  Link

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!

Sean  •  Link

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).

Australian Susan  •  Link

"...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.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"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)

Gerald Berg  •  Link

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?

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