Wednesday 24 May 1665

Up, and by 4 o’clock in the morning, and with W. Hewer, there till 12 without intermission putting some papers in order. Thence to the Coffee-house with Creed, where I have not been a great while, where all the newes is of the Dutch being gone out, and of the plague growing upon us in this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another.

So home to dinner, and after dinner Creed and I to Colvill’s, thinking to shew him all the respect we could by obliging him in carrying him 5 tallys of 5000l. to secure him for so much credit he has formerly given Povy to Tangier, but he, like an impertinent fool, cavills at it, but most ignorantly that ever I heard man in my life. At last Mr. Viner by chance comes, who I find a very moderate man, but could not persuade the fool to reason, but brought away the tallys again, and so vexed to my office, where late, and then home to my supper and to bed.

28 Annotations

First Reading

Robert Gertz  •  Link

The plague...

A niece of mine asked me once... "Were you afraid of the atomic bomb, Uncle Bob?" and I told her, yes we were all afraid but we had to live our lives and get on with the routine things of life, knowing we might all one day suddenly face instant death. So Sam as the great darkness creeps slowly in...

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Mr. Povy, sir? Done as you asked."

"Excellent, Colvill. Soon the ruination will be complete. Well done." Povy rubs hands.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

"... obliging him in carrying him 5 tallys of 5000l. to secure him for so much credit he has formerly given Povy to Tangier, but he, like an impertinent fool, cavills at it, ..."

I assume news and fears of the impending general Government cash crisis has hit the street:-

"From that to other discourse of the times and the want of money, and he said that the Parliament must be called again soon, and more money raised, not by tax, for he said he believed the people could not pay it, but he would have either a general excise upon everything, or else that every city incorporate should pay a toll into the King’s revenue, as he says it is in all the cities in the world; for here a citizen hath no more laid on them than their neighbours in the country, whereas, as a city, it ought to pay considerably to the King for their charter; but I fear this will breed ill blood."…

For its impact on the Navy see:
" ... But to see how my Lord Treasurer did bless himself, crying he could do no more than he could, nor give more money than he had, if the occasion and expence were never so great, which is but a sad story. ..."…

" ... and he do assure me, unless the King can get some noblemen or rich money-gentlemen to lend him money, or to get the City to do it, it is impossible to find money: ..."…

Pedro  •  Link

"and of the plague growing upon us in this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another."

Come on Sam tell us what they said!

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Today at Gresham College -- from the Hooke Folio Online

may. 24. RH Reportd Expt. of Refraction of oyle of Turpentine on water. mr moneys letter about the Palmes of sallows Read. the variation obserud nothing.
the King pleasd wth the Expt. orderd to try the injecting of the blood of one dog into another. R…
may. 24. 1665. mr. Hooke acquainted the company that he had found the Refraction of oyl of turpentine vpon water to be the same wt that of water alone: the expt. was made before the Society which verify the account giuen. vizt that in both these the Inclination being 30o. the angle of Refraction was 40o. 43' and it was conjectured by mr Hooke that the vpper & vnder superficies of the oyle being parallell was the cause of the non alteratio of the Refraction wth more thickness of oyle of turpentine.
(there was an account giuen of hatching silkwomes eggs in vacuo but the glasse hauing admitted water twas to be tryed againe)
There was Read a Letter written to mr Hooke from Duckenhall may 16. 1665 concerning Caterpillers produced of the downy palmes of willows, orderd that if the season be not past mr. Hook take care to make the obseruation himself. Dr Godderd suggested that it should be obserued whether these insects doe not turne into flyes.
(the progresse of growth in vegetables to be obserued wth. microscopes
(vpon trying the injections of oyle of tobacco into a Dog made him sick & vomit) Dr wilkins. Mr Tho: Cox Mr Dan Cox & mr Hooke were appointed…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Experiments on animals

Were the experiments of the Royal Society on animals -- presumed "poysons," blood transfusions and surgical ventilations -- guided by any theories? Were there presumed practical implications for human health in mind?

Ruben  •  Link

For a short and good history of transfusion, see:….

"Richard Lower (1631–1691) was a follower of William Harvey and conducted extensive studies of the physiology of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems...he established the role of the lungs in the admixture of air to the blood. Lower performed exchange transfusion in dogs and transfused the blood of a sheep into a human. He recognized the role of blood transfusion in replacing blood lost from hemorrhage...he employed extracorporeal vascular conduits, including arterial heterografts..." see:…
(Lower was Charles II court physician during his last days in 1685). As he was very anti-catholic, he left the court when James became King.
More bio with a portrait at:…

JWB  •  Link

"Come on Sam tell us what they said!"

Well Pedro, coffee was rumored to be a cure/preventitive for the plague. Being in a coffee house, I think we can assume it came up; and I think we can assume who brought it up-Howard Schultz's predecessor.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Richard Lower was made a Fellow of the Royal Society 17/10/1667, but will only appear in Pepys's Diary on 3 July 1668.…

"Well Pedro, coffee was rumored to be a cure/preventitive for the plague. Being in a coffee house, I think we can assume it came up" and, JWB, I think we can assume it also went down!

Robert Gertz  •  Link

" was rumored to be a cure/preventitive for the plague..."

Perhaps fleas don't like caffeine.

Sounds like a Ph.D thesis to me...And a candidate for one of those awards given out to most wasteful use of government funding.

"Friends, look at this one. The liberals in Congress have sponsored a $2.5 million dollar study on whether plaque-bearing fleas are adverse to caffeine based on some Brit's (eye-roll) ancient diary."

"Rush...?" floor producer hisses. "Why are you stratching?"

"Coffee!!! Oh, God Almighty, is there coffee in the house?!!!"

CGS  •  Link

" Pepys Desird ..."; Samuel says nowt about being involved:
see Journal see TF's lead:
was there the other Mr Pepys there too?

Mordhena  •  Link

"A pocket full of posies"

I believe that people of Pepys' times carried 'nosegays' small bunches of fragrant flowers/herbs which they would hold under the nose when they went abroad in the streets to prevent them breathing 'ill humors.'

Australian Susan  •  Link

Please, please, please!

This rhyme has nothing to do with the plague in the 17th century according to folklorists. A good summary can be found here…'_Roses
As someone who studied folk song at an academic level (I only did not do a doctorate in this when I feared being totally unemployable), please believe me! There is no evidence this song was sung at that time and it belongs to a genre of song known as ring rhymes or kiss in the ring songs involving skipping or dancing in a ring, the participants then sit down or curtsey and the last one down either pays a forfeit or gets to kiss someone. It was a well known peasant courtship custom throughout Europe. Only began to be associated with plague in the 1950's because it all seemed to fit. Nononono. Sorry. But as we enter plague season in the diary, I though I would get in early and scotch this.

There *is* truth in people associating sweet smelling things with avoiding plague - which was thought to come from bad air (amongst other explanations). Judges in England used to carry small bunches of flowers to drive away the bad odour of the criminals they dealt with (not because of plague) much in the way police officers smear Vick under their nostrils when investigating the long dead.

All sorts of fanciful ideas about defeating plague grew up and this fear and desperation carried on into the 19th century. I have just been reading Harriet Martineau's novel, Deerbrook, which has as its climax an outbreak of unspecified "fever"or "pestilence" (typhus?) in the village of Deerbrook - one of the main characters is the village doctor who despairs over the behaviour of some of the villagers in persisting in not heeding his advice but heeding the fortune tellers and purveyors of quack medicines who had followed the illness in to the village to make money. Martineau considered she was writing a realistic novel (she sort of bridges the gap between Austen and Bronte), so her descriptions were presumably created so as not to seem outlandish to her readers.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Perhaps fleas dont like caffeine"
"used to carry small bunches of flowers"
A lot of insecticides contain pyrethrum which is extracted from flowers; perhaps there is a connection.

CGS  •  Link

good repellent for aphids be garlic, it works,but be it a co-incident.
True or false, most nursery rhymes, went from one generation to the next without the aid of the written word it was too unimportant to comment on and no money could be made for publishing them, there be more important things to write about, exception be the children stories that had an adage or a grown up point.
There was no Margaret Meade and others to investigate such nonsense until the cost of recording them was more palatable.
Free speech was not in vogue, so the only Fairy tales and games written for posterity, be those that the learned ones failed to understand the sarcasm.

Bryan M  •  Link

"...Creed and I to Colvill’s, thinking to shew him all the respect we could by obliging him in carrying him 5 tallys of 5000l. to secure him for so much credit he has formerly given Povy..."

The use of tallies and the reason for Sam's concern for their loss on the 19th becomes clearer. It looks like tallies were negotiable debt instruments, like bills of exchange.

Instead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer transferring 17,500l into the Tangier's account and giving Sam the delegation to sign cheques, Sam receives the tallies which can then be used to establish credit with merchants and traders. At some later time the merchants or subsequent bearers redeem the tallies at the Exchequer ... perhaps... maybe ... hence Colvill's reluctance.

Photo of tally sticks:…

Michael Robinson  •  Link

" ... of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another. ..."

These would appear to be the 'Clinical Practice Guidelines' of the day:

Certain necessary directions, as well for the cure of the plague, as for preventing the infection: with many easie medicines of small charge, very profitable to His Majesties subjects. Set down by the Colledge of Physicians.
By the Kings Majesties special command.
London : printed by John Bill and Christopher Barker, printers to the Kings most excellent Majesty, 1665.
[8], 35, [1] p. : coats of arms ; 4⁰.

Originally published in 1638 as 'Certain necessary directions, as well for the cure of the plague, as for preventing the infection.' Leaf A1 bears an order to print on verso, signed and dated: Edw. Walker. 13th May, 1665; reprinted in Oxford later the same year.

Link (per JWB) to photo-reproduction of whole text:…

cgs  •  Link

Thanks JWB and MR:
here be a snippet for those who be in a hurry. the cure be not for the man in the street, as it costly 4d or 8d be ingredient.
"when walking out[going abroad] ,it is advised to-carry Rue,Angelica,Maltemost[?] Myrrhe,scordium, or waterter-germander,wormwood,Valerian,or Setwall-root,Virginian=snake=root, or Zedoarie in their hands to smell to; anof those they bold or chew a little in their mouths;....[ sequence 23]...richer sort make use of this Pomander.....
[seq 25][ use garlic]
some may take Garlick with butter,, aclove, two or three, according as it shall agree with their bodies...
Some names will have to be researched.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Just for the record - the first collections of folk songs as sung by the common folk was made in our period - and one of the major sources was - our Sam! The first collection to be published was made in 1765, but the editor used older collections - including Sam's. See…

I've used this book for research - no mention of plague related rhymes! Sorry, I'll shut up now......

Australian Susan  •  Link

BryanM - thanks for the lovely photos - really brings it to life!

Pedro  •  Link

Povy to Tangier, but he, like an impertinent fool, cavills at it, but most ignorantly that ever I heard man in my life.

Why is it that Pepys has to constantly write down his thoughts belittling Povy? In modern terminology some would say “get a life Sam”.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Pedro, take a closer look at the sentence, and you'll see that Sam's calling Colvill an impertinent fool, not Povy (in this instance!)

CGS  •  Link

AS: It always good to see another slant .
Most that be written be regurgitated by the brainwashed, QED not always be available, sometimes larded with a few facts, then one must Descarte them for believability .

Second Reading

Louise Hudson  •  Link

I was told “Ring Around the Rosie” referred to smallpox rather than the plague.

Phil C.  •  Link

I’m pretty sure we played the “Ring around the Roses” game in the school playground at lunchtimes when I was a little kid in Sussex around 1959: though I remember we sang “Ring a ring of roses”... it was pretty clear that after sneezing you fell down dead.
One of my favourite books which I recommend to readers here is “The Lore And Language of Schoolchildren” by Iona & Peter Opie, published in 1959. I couldn’t find my parents original copy but I have a copy republished by New York Review Books so it may be available. It’s fascinating - some rhymes are many centuries old, and traditions are passed from child to child as if through an underground network.
Pepys is mentioned on page 2: “One of the strangest things I ever heard”.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Funny how words get changed over the centuries and from country to country. We always sang “Ring around the rosie(s), a pocket full of posies.” We had no idea what ”rosies” or “ashes” meant and took it literally as ashes from a coal furnace or fireplace. It made no sense, of course, but that hardly mattered. I was much older before I heard that it was in reference to a disease such as small pox or plague. I don’t think adults would have wanted to frighten little kids by telling them what the song really meant. Whar’s amazing to me is that the song was still being sung in the 20th century in America.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Wikipedia has:

"Ring a Ring o' Roses" or "Ring Around the Rosie" or "Ring a Ring o' Rosie" is a nursery rhyme or folksong and playground singing game. It first appeared in print in 1881, but it is reported that a version was already being sung to the current tune in the 1790s and similar rhymes are known from across Europe. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 7925. Urban legend says the song originally described the plague, specifically the Great Plague of London, or the Black Death, but folklorists reject this idea.…

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