Sunday 28 May 1665

(Lord’s day). By water to the Duke of Albemarle, where I hear that Nixon is condemned to be shot to death, for his cowardice, by a Council of War. Went to chapel and heard a little musique, and there met with Creed, and with him a little while walking, and to Wilkinson’s for me to drink, being troubled with winde, and at noon to Sir Philip Warwicke’s to dinner, where abundance of company come in unexpectedly; and here I saw one pretty piece of household stuff, as the company increaseth, to put a larger leaf upon an oval table. After dinner much good discourse with Sir Philip, who I find, I think, a most pious, good man, and a professor of a philosophical manner of life and principles like Epictetus, whom he cites in many things. Thence to my Lady Sandwich’s, where, to my shame, I had not been a great while before. Here, upon my telling her a story of my Lord Rochester’s running away on Friday night last with Mrs. Mallett, the great beauty and fortune of the North, who had supped at White Hall with Mrs. Stewart, and was going home to her lodgings with her grandfather, my Lord Haly, by coach; and was at Charing Cross seized on by both horse and foot men, and forcibly taken from him, and put into a coach with six horses, and two women provided to receive her, and carried away. Upon immediate pursuit, my Lord of Rochester (for whom the King had spoke to the lady often, but with no successe) was taken at Uxbridge; but the lady is not yet heard of, and the King mighty angry, and the Lord sent to the Tower. Hereupon my Lady did confess to me, as a great secret, her being concerned in this story. For if this match breaks between my Lord Rochester and her, then, by the consent of all her friends, my Lord Hinchingbroke stands fair, and is invited for her. She is worth, and will be at her mother’s death (who keeps but a little from her), 2500l. per annum. Pray God give a good success to it! But my poor Lady, who is afeard of the sickness, and resolved to be gone into the country, is forced to stay in towne a day or two, or three about it, to see the event of it. Thence home and to see my Lady Pen, where my wife and I were shown a fine rarity: of fishes kept in a glass of water, that will live so for ever; and finely marked they are, being foreign. —[Gold-fish introduced from China.]— So to supper at home and to bed, after many people being with me about business, among others the two Bellamys about their old debt due to them from the King for their victualling business, out of which I hope to get some money.

24 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"I hear that Nixon is condemned to be shot to death, for his cowardice, by a Council of War. "

18 May 1665
"we did examine Nixon and Stanesby, about their late running from two Dutchmen;1 for which they are committed to a vessel to carry them to the fleete to be tried. A most fowle unhandsome thing as ever was heard, for plain cowardice on Nixon's part."…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Mrs. Mallett, the great beauty and fortune of the North"

L&M note there is a confusion here: she was the great beauty &c of the West.

Pedro  •  Link

“I hear that Nixon is condemned to be shot to death, for his cowardice, by a Council of War. “

On the 25th Sandwich gives, in his Journal, an account of the Court Martial, details to follow when I have the book at hand.

jeannine  •  Link

Graham Greene in “Lord Rochester’s Monkey” says this about this incident:

“It was during this brooding spring that Rochester thrust himself first into public notice. His action is the first mystery in a complex and contradictory life. For his courtship of Elizabeth Mallet everything seemed to be in his favour except his poverty: Lady Castlemaine had ‘rigged’ the King, and Henry Savile wrote to his brother that Charles was encouraging Rochester to make his addresses. It was true that Elizabeth had stated she would please herself, but there was the less reason to suppose that she would yield to force. Failure would leave the game in the rivals’ hands. Perhaps his age and the season and thee girls’ character are sufficient answer. He was just eighteen; it was late spring, Elizabeth, as she was to show with Lord Hinchingbrooke, cherished moods.

On the evening of 26 May she supped in her grandfather’s company and with one of the Maids of Honour, Frances Stewart, at Whitehall, who was engaged in the almost unique occupation of warding off the King. After supper Elizabeth left Whitehall withhold Lord Hawley. At Charing Cross the horses were stopped by armed men under the direction of Rochester, and she was transferred by force to another coach with six horses, which was driven out of London. Two women were waiting in it to receive her. One knows nothing of what Lord Hawley did, if he did anything at all, on seeing the goose whom he had intended to lay many golden eggs raped away. The hue and cry was raised, Lord Rochester was followed and captured at Uxbridge without Elizabeth,; and the King, who, according to Pepys, ‘had spoken to the lady often, but with no success’ on his behalf, was ‘mightily angry’. On May 27 a warrant was sent to Sir John Robinson, the Governor of the Tower to receive the Earl as prisoner.”

(Spoiler): Rochester, although a highly controversial character is a fascinating read, however, as with many of these ‘wild child’ types of the court of Charles II, it is heartbreaking to imagine what his wife had to put up during his lifetime. By this time, he was already drinking quite heavily and over the next few years will become really ‘out of control’. While his antics will make for wild stories, outlandish antics, witty (albeit quite obscene) writing, one can only imagine the sadness and disappointments in store for those who love him and call him ‘son’, ‘husband’ and ‘father’. I suppose, he’s just another tragedy to chalk up to court life.

jeannine  •  Link

And a little more on the Rochester incident....

Meanwhile,,,as Lady Sandwich hopes for a success, here’s a little more background on the Rochester-Hinchingbrooke jostling for Elizabeth Mallet’s hand (and purse!) and gives the a little more background to the annotation above.

In “A Profane Wit” the author James William Johnson explains that in December of 1664 Lord Sandwich had proposed to make his son Lord Hinchingbrooke (who was away on the Grand Tour) a prospect for Elizabeth Mallet’s hand.

“Lady Rochester’s cabal of relatives, however, was working for the candidacy of John Wilmot to notable effect, as Henry Bennet, Lord Arlington and Secretary of State, informed Sandwich in mid-December of 1664. On December 18, he wrote:

‘my Lady Castlemaine hath rigged the King, who is also seconded in it by my Lord Chancellor, to recommende my Lord Rochester. Now these personages being with doe much advantage and preference upon the stage, I feare noe other can with any probability of succeeding enter, what I further heare of the Lady is that Shee declares shee will choose for herselfe. If shee hold to it, the game is upon equal terms at least’.

Of note, Clarendon (Lord Chancellor) had a very strong long term friendship with Wilmot’s mother and at this time, favored her offspring because of that relationship. (Spoiler) One of the disgraces of John Wilmot’s life will be that he will turn on Clarendon and thus ‘bite the hand that fed him’.

mary mcintyre  •  Link

whoa, action-packed entry today, makes up for the past few days of up betimes, working past midnight.

hmm, this Lord Rochester sounds familiar... possibly the guy upon which Robt Downey Jr's character in "The Libertine" was based?

jeannine  •  Link


It was Johnny Depp who played him in "the Libertine" and yes, it was the ONE AND ONLY (even though the movie really didn't do the best job aligning itself with history).

Australian Susan  •  Link


The Penns were really up on fashionable things! Goldfish had only just been introduced to Europe. See…

Alas! They are likely to die young being kept in conditions of poor oxygen, but they are a very long-lived species if kept in optimal conditions.

Enlarging the dining table

for some history (scroll down past the delectable antiques in the photos).

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...shot to death..."

"Sos if we miss?" soldier asks sergeant-at-arms. "Ya bloody well keeping shooting till he'll dead, right."

"Seems a bit of unfair...I mean if the bloke don't buy it on the first salvo. Ought to be a rule..."

"This ain't the bleedin' lottery, boy."

Doesn't even sweet Lady Jem care what poor Ms. Mallet thinks?

Not to mention Sam...This incident might just possibly inspire others.

"Hold there, coach!" loud voice.

"Sam'l? Is it highwaymen?" Bess, fearfully.

"Give up the lady within or ye all die!" growling call.

Hmmn...Why that sounds like...Sam and Bess eye each other.

"Coming!" Margaret calls.

Hey, can't be worse than having to return to Brampton and my trussed-tyrant.

"Uh, no...The other lady, please." polite reply.

"Uncle...I'm going to assume this a rather ludicrous joke." Sam calls to a rather crestfallen Wight on horse, masked. Hired louts on horses beside him.

"...fishes kept in a glass of water, that will live so for ever..."

Or perhaps till next week unless Sam accepts the notion that floating sideways, unmoving at the top of the bowl is normal for "immortal" fish...

The Eva Peron of Chinese goldfish perhaps?

"Fins, eyes, mouth, figure...All must be preserved."


dirk  •  Link

The Rev. Josselin's diary today:

"God good in manifold mercies, my personal illness abates blessed be god, the plague got into our land at Yarmouth, and London. 14. dying this week. god good to me in the word preached, at which our concourse was this day great, its good fishing where many are(,) catch some oh lord I pray thee."

"its good fishing where many are, catch some oh lord I pray thee" - - I hope this refers to "the word preached, at which our concourse was this day great", and not to the plague deaths! It would be a rather cynical comment if it were to refer to the latter...

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Were the Penn's captives Goldfish or Paradise fish?

""Valenciennes (1842: 108) summarised the history of the introduction of Carassius auratus [goldfish] to Europe [writes Kottelat, 1997: 52]. He states that some authors (but does not say which) consider that it was introduced to Europe as early as 1611 or 1691 and that Yarrell reports that it had been introduced by the Portuguese from Java (...) to South Africa and from there to Lisboa. The first introduction to England dates to 1691 (Pennant, 1812: 490) and to France to 1755 (Hervey & Hems, 1968 ...). It was bred in northern Europe for the first time in Holland in 1728 according to Sterba (1987: 272)."…

L&M believe the Penns probably have Paradise fish.…

Pedro  •  Link

Nixon...The Court-Martial.

"This morning the Duke called a court-martial of all the Captains of the fleet for the trial of Captain Edward Nixon, who was the commander of the Elizabeth frigate. Had been at Tangier to transport my Lord Bellasis and the recruits for that garrison, and was returning for Plymouth with the Eagle in company and in the Soundings met with 2 Dutch men of war of above 30 guns each. Exchanged some broadsides with them and at night bore up for the Channel and left them, they pursuing him until 4 o’clock in the morning . The captain of the Eagle advising him to continue the fight and himself viz. the captain of the Eagle, being shot in the head with a small shot, a slight wound.

Captain Nixon confessing the fact and alleging nothing for himself, but the evil council of his ship’s officers and the bad weather that he could not carry out his lower tier, and suspicion that these 2 men of war had more ships near to countenance their boldness; and too much care to perform his orders, which were to go to Plymouth and there receive advice how matters passed between our fleet and the Hollanders and in the case of no danger to repair to Portsmouth, concluded with acknowledging he had greatly offended and begged the Duke’s mercy.

Hitherto the Duke and Prince Rupert were present, but after Cpt. Nixon had said, the Duke spoke to the commanders, told them how much the honour of the King and the Nation was wounded in this miscarriage, wished the commanders to consider of what had been confessed and to punish it with severity according to the laws martial. And so himself and Prince Rupert went out of the Court and commanded me to preside the court-martial.

The Judge-Advocate, Fowler, read unto us the laws martial pertinent for the occasion and the 12 article was pitched upon by the commanders, which says that whatsoever captain shall withdraw himself from a fight with the enemy or not to do his best to destroy and take all pirates and enemies shall be punished with Death, or such other punishment as the court-martial shall see fit. And the court-martial did unanimously conclude his offence within the article.

And the major part of them (all indeed except 6 or 7, viz. (as I remember) Vice-Admiral Myngs, Capt. Kempthorn, Capt. Fenn, Capt. Selly and 2 or 3 more, who were for a mitigated sentence, because the article did leave a liberty for it, but gave no other reason for the lessening of his offence, did judge him to suffer death according to that article by being shot to death.

Captain Nixon was called in and the said sentence was pronounced unto him, and so the court was dismissed.”

(Journal of Montagu edited by Anderson)

Wim van der Meij  •  Link

Thank you Jeannine for the annotations on Rochester. They make fine reading; his poetry is fascinating and very modern in its candour.
I thought the movie with Johnny Depp a deception.

jeannine  •  Link

"his poetry is fascinating and very modern in its candour."

Wim, most of Rochester's works were burned by his mother after his death, so it's surprising that any of it survived. In fairness to her, Rochester's wit and art (and probably most of his lifestyle choices) were an embarrassment to her and the good name of his children.

JWB  •  Link

Voltaire, "Candide": "in this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others" (Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres). In 1964, I was off Minorca as a midshipman and Byng's name came up-the caution was still alive then.

language hat  •  Link

Thanks very much for those enlightening comments, Jeannine. (Rochester was a superb poet, whatever his failings as a person.)

Sjoerd  •  Link

"Hereupon my Lady did confess to me.."

That's all very well... but for us non-native-english speakers... do i understand correctly that Lady S is worried about the Rochester scandal...hopes that the culprit will be put in jail...all because of the hope that her son would get the girl and the 2500l. per annum and that she risks exposure to the Plague to find out how things are developing ?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

All in the family

"the two Bellamys about their old debt due to them from the King for their victualling business, out of which I hope to get some money."

See 9 November 1663
“the Bellamys (who had some of the Northern counties assigned them for their debt for the petty warrant victualling) have often complained to him that they cannot get it collected, for that nobody minds, or, if they do, they won’t pay it in.”

L&M explain that the Bellamys “had unpaid bills for petty-warrants (locally bought) victuals supplied in Chatham and London going back to 1658 and amounting to at least £6,000.”…

L&M believe the Bellamys were related to SP via the Trices.

Pedro  •  Link

Stanesby…The Court-Martial.

On the 26th Sandwich reports…

“The same court-martial enquired into the behaviour of Captain Stanesby of the Eagle, and in conclusion cleared him of any blame in that transaction of Nixon’s, and approved his carriage as a man of sound reputation and under that character represented him to his RH’s favour to be employed in his Majesty’s service.”

Pedro  •  Link

On this day…

Sandwich says that warships have returned from Newcastle (escort for colliers) and report that there were no colliers ready to come away, not above six loading, and about 40 coasters. The frigates had heard of the Dutch fleet being abroad and having taken the Good Hope and 8 ships of the Navy provisions coming form Hamburg.

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Sjoerd, I'd say you've got it just about right, with one small correction. The culprit is already in jail (the Tower). Lady S is hoping that the trauma and crudity of the abduction will make Elizabeth Mallet decide not to marry Rochester. As Jeannine's 2005 annotation on Mallet shows, it didn't work; she married him a couple of years later. So any of you young men hoping to win fair (and affluent) lady, now you know how to go about it.

Sjoerd  •  Link

Thanks Paul;
afterwards I found this…

includes a portrait for La Mallet - fair? a bit pink cheeked - and info on how she is ancestor to the current Prince William.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Rochester was now only 17 and she too was a minor. A warrant for Rochester's discharge was issued on 19 June, but he was never prosecuted for the abduction. On 6 July the King commanded Sandwich to take Rochester to sea as a volunteer. The girl was brought back to London about a week after her abduction.

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