Monday 19 June 1665

Up, and to White Hall with Sir W. Batten (calling at my Lord Ashly’s, but to no purpose, by the way, he being not up), and there had our usual meeting before the Duke with the officers of the Ordnance with us, which in some respects I think will be the better for us, for despatch sake. Thence home to the ’Change and dined alone (my wife gone to her mother’s), after dinner to my little new goldsmith’s,1 whose wife indeed is one of the prettiest, modest black women that ever I saw. I paid for a dozen of silver salts 6l. 14s. 6d. Thence with Sir W. Pen from the office down to Greenwich to see Sir J. Lawson, who is better, but continues ill; his hickupp not being yet gone, could have little discourse with him. So thence home and to supper, a while to the office, my head and mind mightily vexed to see the multitude of papers and business before [me] and so little time to do it in. So to bed.

18 Annotations

First Reading

Robert Gertz  •  Link

85,832Ls? Wow. I imagine there were national annual budgets then not much larger.

So if Bess has gone to Mother, and Sam is dining alone, has Mum Pepys gone home?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"Sir J. Lawson who is better"
Dead cat bounce?

Don McCahill  •  Link

Seems that Mr. Colville is clever enough to know that a pretty face in the office will bring in some additional trade of a certain sort.

I wonder if a salt was like today's salt shaker, or something more basic. At a half pound each, they must have been nice ones.

Nate  •  Link

Here's a link to a picture of a salt cellar that kind of matches a description I found of one from the seventeenth century.



Margaret  •  Link

"...whose wife indeed is one of the prettiest, modest black women that ever I saw..."

I expect most readers here realize this means that she had dark hair.

Salt cellar -- love the photo in the link -- I think the cellar was accompanied by a small silver spoon which people used to scoop out the salt. Though it's just occurred to me that sometimes salt would solidify into a lump (none of this free-running salt like we have today) so you'd need to do more than just scoop. I just had an image of people hacking away with a hammer and chisel, but I suspect my imagination is running away with me.

Albatross  •  Link

"I expect most readers here realize this means that she had dark hair."

Actually I was not aware of this. As a complete layman, I get most of my historical context from the contemporary version of "Doctor Who." Arriving in Pepys' England the Doctor would find happy people of various races strolling in pleasant conversation down the streets of London. I am crushed to learn that Doctor Who is PC, but historically inaccurate...

(Hmmm... Doctor Who meets Samuel Pepys... I need to send an e-mail to Steven Moffat...)

Michael Robinson  •  Link

" ... a dozen of silver salts 6l. 14s. 6d. ..."

The last item on the page linked below is a plain ‘capstan form’ unlined cast silver small salt, London 1580 — this was the usual form still in Pepys’ day and to the end of the C 17th. the "quality is typical of the type that would have been owned by a moderately successful businessman of an emerging ‘middle class’"; survivals in silver are of extraordinary rarity, the majority are pewter.
Price in 2005 L 38,809)…

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Mr. Pepys, these are the greatest silver salts known to Western civilization." Colvill notes proudly.

"At 6L 14s..." "And 6p..." Colvill, politely.

"...they ought to be."

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...whose wife indeed is one of the prettiest, modest black women..." Were brunettes considered laviciously closer to Evil in those days that Sam should seem surprised to find the lady so?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Were brunettes considered laviciously closer to Evil in those days that Sam should seem surprised to find the lady so?"

Apparently not.....quite:


Brown hair is culturally identified as the color of dependability and respect. Brown Hair is the color of wholesomeness and naturalness. Naturalness being associated with the color of the earth. Black hair however, is perhaps most famous for being the color of mystery and seduction.…

Australian Susan  •  Link

Sam buying a dozen silver salts seems to me to mean he's about to have a lavish dinner party (everyone gets their own salt as part of their place setting). At this time, we are moving into the kind of formal dining in middle class homes which we would almost recognise. People used to bring their own knives for the meat and expect to maybe be provided with a spoon, but forks were now coming into regular use and it was becoming the norm to provide the kind of place setting we would expect at a formal dinner. A large elaborate formal salt container would still be in use at really important dinners (this is where the expression above or below the salt comes from). Mannered 17th century diners ate with a napkin draped over their arms to wipe their fingers on, but presumably that napkin becomes obsolete with the advent of forks rather than fingers to hold the meat. Has Sam been purchasing cutlery? I can't recall. Providing matching sets of cutlery were coming in at this time and also guests not having to have their own knives and napkins. Tables did not have cloths. Interesting that Sam is concentrating on the niceities of social behaviour in the midst of the worst epidemic London has known since maybe the black death of the 14thc. With the individual salt cellars, i am not sure they would have had spoons in the 17th century - salt was not the fine free flowing stuff which came in later requiring a spoon or a shaker (naff), but would have been more like the packets of rock salt flakes you can buy which you crush and sprinkle with the fingers. I think if Sam was buying spoons with the salts, he would have said.

dirk  •  Link

BTW today would be the 450th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Charta (19 June 1215).

dirk  •  Link

Would also have been King James' birthday - had he lived to the age of 99 yrs...

Second Reading

Marquess  •  Link

Albatross, I love your comment about Doctor Who, it is indeed very PC, in Sam's time one would have been astonished to see a person of African origin on the streets. It would have been exotic to say the least.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"in Sam's time one would have been astonished to see a person of African origin on the streets."

Not really: next door to the Pepys's was Mungo, Batten's servant and future lighthouse-keeper:…

17th–18th centuries
During this era there was a small rise of black people arriving in London. Britain was involved with the tri-continental slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Black slaves were attendants to sea captains and ex-colonial officials as well as traders, plantation owners and military personnel. This marked growing evidence of the black presence in the northern, eastern and southern areas of London. There were also small numbers of free slaves and seaman from West Africa and South Asia.…

Mary K  •  Link

Persons of African origin.

See Miranda Kaufmann's "Black Tudors: the untold story" [published 2017 by Oneworld Publications
ISBN 978-1-78607-184-2] for a fascinating account of immigrants of African origin living and working in England much earlier than Pepys time, many of them in London (though there was one black woman running a smallholding in Cambridgeshire). These folk were not slaves; the practice of slavery was prohibited under English law.

Cazbot  •  Link

Re: Pepys doing normal life whilst the plague is happening.

Plague happened most summers in London, so the deaths aren't unusual. This year was the 'great plague' because it became particularly rapacious. Maybe it's not clear at the moment how bad the plague will become. Ref Lisa Picard's excellent history series…

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