Thursday 7 September 1665

Up by 5 of the clock, mighty full of fear of an ague, but was obliged to go, and so by water, wrapping myself up warm, to the Tower, and there sent for the Weekely Bill, and find 8,252 dead in all, and of them 6,878 of the plague; which is a most dreadfull number, and shows reason to fear that the plague hath got that hold that it will yet continue among us. Thence to Brainford, reading “The Villaine,” a pretty good play, all the way. There a coach of Mr. Povy’s stood ready for me, and he at his house ready to come in, and so we together merrily to Swakely, Sir R. Viner’s. A very pleasant place, bought by him of Sir James Harrington’s lady. He took us up and down with great respect, and showed us all his house and grounds; and it is a place not very moderne in the garden nor house, but the most uniforme in all that ever I saw; and some things to excess. Pretty to see over the screene of the hall (put up by Sir J. Harrington, a Long Parliamentman) the King’s head, and my Lord of Essex on one side, and Fairfax on the other; and upon the other side of the screene, the parson of the parish, and the lord of the manor and his sisters. The window-cases, door-cases, and chimnys of all the house are marble. He showed me a black boy that he had, that died of a consumption, and being dead, he caused him to be dried in an oven, and lies there entire in a box.

By and by to dinner, where his lady I find yet handsome, but hath been a very handsome woman; now is old, hath brought him near 100,000l. and now he lives, no man in England in greater plenty, and commands both King and Council with his credit he gives them. Here was a fine lady a merchant’s wife at dinner with us, and who should be here in the quality of a woman but Mrs. Worship’s daughter, Dr. Clerke’s niece, and after dinner Sir Robert led us up to his long gallery, very fine, above stairs (and better, or such, furniture I never did see), and there Mrs. Worship did give us three or four very good songs, and sings very neatly, to my great delight.

After all this, and ending the chief business to my content about getting a promise of some money of him, we took leave, being exceedingly well treated here, and a most pleasant journey we had back, Povy and I, and his company most excellent in anything but business, he here giving me an account of as many persons at Court as I had a mind or thought of enquiring after. He tells me by a letter he showed me, that the King is not, nor hath been of late, very well, but quite out of humour; and, as some think, in a consumption, and weary of every thing. He showed me my Lord Arlington’s house that he was born in, in a towne called Harlington: and so carried me through a most pleasant country to Brainford, and there put me into my boat, and good night. So I wrapt myself warm, and by water got to Woolwich about one in the morning, my wife and all in bed.

44 Annotations

First Reading

Patricia  •  Link

We often comment in these posts that things haven't changed much since Pepys day in many respects, but here is a prime example of something that HAS changed. I have shown people around my house and grounds before, even showed off a few nice collectibles, but I'll wager none of us have ever had a mummified boy on display for the edification of visitors!

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Swakeleys -- brief modern history of manor and house

'Ickenham: Manors', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4: Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood with Southall, Hillingdon with Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow with Pinner (1971), pp. 102-104.
Date accessed: 08 September 2008.

andy  •  Link

He showed me a black boy that he had, that died of a consumption, and being dead, he caused him to be dried in an oven, and lies there entire in a box

Yes, but it doesn't seem respectful, I wonder if he had a religious committal or something? Frankly it makes me shudder.

Grahamt  •  Link

As has been commented before, this is Brentford.

Pedro  •  Link

And with the Fleet…

Yesterday Sandwich was on the Dogger Bank and made a handsome observation of the sun being latitude 54 deg 36 mins. Merchant ships reported that they had been close to the Dutch fleet who bear 15 leagues off. Today he records that he saw a bill from London ending the 25th August in which 6102 died of the plague and 1000 more of other disease.

(Journal of Edward Montagu edited by Anderson)

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"and being dead, he caused him to be dried in an oven"
And then there was the Hottentot Venus.

Albatross  •  Link

Wow, did today's entry take a surprisingly macabre turn!

From JWB's link, I particularly enjoyed this unintended irony...

"On numerous occasions, people, especially students, stole the body as tactless practical jokes."

Nothing tactless about displaying a man's body as a curiosity for forty years, but to STEAL it? Shocking!

dirk  •  Link

John Evelyn's diary today:

Came home, there perishing now neere ten-thousand poore Creatures weekely: however I went all along the Citty & suburbs from Kent streete to St. James’s, a dismal passage & dangerous, to see so many Cofines exposed in the streetes & the streete thin of people, the shops shut up, & all in mournefull silence, as not knowing whose turn might be next: I went to the D[uke] of Albemarle for a Pest-ship, to waite on our infected men, who were not a few:

Nix  •  Link

Tactless? Bentham requested that they do it!

Australian Susan  •  Link

We need to remember that the 3 displayed bodies in these annotations were all prepared thus for very different reasons. Bentham was just peculiar in wishing to have his body preserved - the case of Eugene was one of funeral directors trying to Do The Right Thing and not bury a nameless corpse, but the example in the diary entry is something much nastier: this treats the black person as subhuman - a curiosity to be studied, not a human being to be treated with dignity. It is reminiscent of the treatment of Aboriginal bones by anthropologists and was echoed, fictionally, in the original Planet of the Apes. And Sam goes along with this: it is just another curiosity, like a collection of shells, but one does wonder how he would react if this were to be proposed for a black person he knew such as Mingo?

GrahamT  •  Link

Re: Dessicated boy:
"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." L. P. Hartley, 1953.

Mary  •  Link

"The past is another country...." is what Hartley wrote.

Australian Susan  •  Link

MR - exactly so! Cromwell and other regicides were either deprived of Christian burial or disturbed from their burial as they were thought unworthy of such because of the heinous crimes they had committed. This mummified West Indian is being treated as unworthy of respectful burial because he was regarded as not quite human. Remember that people sincerely believed in those days that if you were not buried properly and decently with all your parts and left in peace, you would not rise on Judgment Day - this gave rise to the abhorrence people felt for the gibbeted or otherwise displayed corpse, why the ultimate punishment ended in quartering so your parts were all over the place and why there was such a hatred of those wanting bodies for dissection.

Mary  •  Link

Christian burial denied.

We have no evidence that the lad was Christian at all. Was it normal to insist that such servants be baptised? I've so far seen no reference to this.

Nix  •  Link

I don't assume the "black" boy was African. Might have been, but the usage "black" in Samuel's time commonly referred to hair/eyes/complexion (think "black Irish"), not skin color.… My recollection is that Samuel usually uses "Negro" to refer to Africans.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Well, it could have been worse...

"Pepys, more dessicated boy?"

CGS  •  Link

black has a wide range of meanings,
the jury be out:
Negro Dark skin OED
1686 London Gaz. No. 2177/4, A black Negro Man about 30 years of age.
often refered to the Moors

6. = Black man or woman. a. A person of ‘black’ skin; an African Negro, or Australasian Negrito, or other member of a dark-skinned race. In this sense it appears to be a translation of Negro, which was in earlier use.
1625 PURCHAS Pilgrims IX. xiii. §1. 1570 The mouth of the Riuer [Gambra], where dwell the Blackes, called Mandingos. 1679-88 Secr. Serv. Moneys Chas. & Jas. (1851) 58 To Randall Mc Donnell, for a black his sl Matie bought of him, 50l. 1682 BUNYAN Holy War 20 This giant was one of the Blacks or Negroes.

c. A black-haired person. Obs.
c1686 Yng. Mans C. in Roxb. Ball. II. 558 The pleasant Blacks and modest Browns, their loving Husbands please.

d. A mute or hired mourner at a funeral. Obs.
1619 FLETCHER M. Thomas III. i, I do pray ye To give me leave to live a little longer: Ye stand before me like my Blacks.

black, a
1591 [See BLACK MAN 1].

1. A man having a black or very dark skin. (Cf. quot. 1815 for BLACK a. 3a.)
1591 SHAKES. Two Gent. V. ii. 12 Blacke men are Pearles, in beauteous Ladies eyes.

1666-7 [See BLACK BOY 1]. \

1. A boy having a black or very dark skin; spec. (a) = BLACK MAN 1; (b) a Negro manservant (cf. BOY n.1 3).
1635 Relation of Maryland v. 28 The Children live with their Parents; the Boyes untill they come to the full growth of men..then they are put into the number of Bow-men, and are called Black-boyes.

1666-7 PEPYS Diary 27 Jan., Her little black boy came by him. 1

1. A black-skinned African, an Ethiopian, a Negro; any very dark-skinned person. (Formerly without depreciatory force; now a nickname.)
1547 BOORDE Introd. Knowl. 212, I am a blake More borne in Barbary.

1666 PEPYS Diary (1879) VI. 46 For a cook maid we have used a blackmoore.

Harvey  •  Link

Dessicated black boy on display? ... we're displaying our 21st century prejudices if we assume that there was a lack of respect, or that it was due to race or servant status. We simply don't know why it was done or what it implied about the boy.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Harvey - please see my annotation above: to leave someone unburied in the 17th century was deeply disrespectful. Read some of Sam's entries about people making desperate efforts to bury dead relatives in this appalling plague season - they were determined to do what for them was the right thing. Note the comments Sam makes and also in the quotations from evelyn's diary about the shock of seeing unburied coffins: to leave someone unburied was a dreadful thing to do in 17th century eyes. Nowadays we think nothing of someone who leaves their body for medical research. In the 17th century, medical students had to steal corpses or bargain with the hangman for felons. Leaving a gibbeted corpse swinging about was not just an awful warning, but, in the light of 17th century mores, condemned the person to eternal damnation and the inability to rise at the Last Judgement - Enlightenment ideas were not yet circulating, which questioned this scheme of things.

Doug Neilson  •  Link

Swakeleys House will be open to the public this year on:

Sunday 5th April, 2009
Sunday 5th July, 2009
Sunday 11th October, 2009

in each instance from 11am till 3pm.

Anthony Pearson  •  Link

My father, Robert Pearson, wrote a fictional book called "Merrily to Swakeley" which explains (albeit fictitiously) who the little black boy was, how he came to be at Swakeleys and his ultimate (much discussed on this thread) fate.
It can be bought online
"Merrily To Swakeleys" by Robert Pearson

cgs  •  Link

spelling errata for follow ups

1. trans. To make quite dry; to deprive thoroughly of moisture; to dry, dry up. Also fig.
In U.S. applied to the thorough drying of articles of food for preservation.
1575 TURBERV. Faulconrie 261 They doe mollifie, and desiccate the wounde or disease.
1626 BACON Sylva §727 Wine helpeth to digest and desiccate the moisture.
1657 TOMLINSON Renou's Disp. 181 This..will desiccate an ulcer.

Linda  •  Link

The Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford and other museums of ethnography display shrunken heads and artifacts made from human remains. These are also cases of treating body parts as objects to be studied.

Jenny  •  Link

These entries are quite timely. Just yesterday in New Zealand, dried heads of Maori were returned to their "iwi" (tribe/people) after being returned from museums. Negotiations were in place for many years before the heads were returned. The head is the most sacred part of the body according to Maori and drying enemies heads after battle was the most horrific form of punishment/revenge that could be taken.

On the subject of Bentham, he wanted to remind future generations of mortality.

JWB  •  Link

...quite timely...sort-of...
Last weekend reading David McCullough's latest, learned that in 19th C Paris @ Amphitheatre d'Anatomie, discarded pieces from the dissecting halls were fed to dogs in cages kept just outside for that purpose.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Death and auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham

On 8 June 1832, two days after his death, invitations were distributed to a select group of friends, and on the following day at 3 p.m., Southwood Smith delivered a lengthy oration over Bentham's remains in the Webb Street School of Anatomy & Medicine in Southwark, London. The printed oration contains a frontispiece with an engraving of Bentham's body partly covered by a sheet.

Afterward, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the "Auto-icon", with the skeleton padded out with hay and dressed in Bentham's clothes. Originally kept by his disciple Thomas Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college; however, for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, and in 2013, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as "present but not voting".…

The legend about these "present but not voting" appearances in philosophical circles is that -- ever the utilitarian -- "he" would thus break all tied votes in favour of the affirmative.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"sent for the Weekely Bill, and find 8,252 dead in all, and of them 6,878 of the plague"

Recte 6988 (29 August-5 September). (L&M note)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"so we together merrily to Swakely, Sir R. Viner’s."

Swakeley's, half a mile south-west of the church at Ickenham, Mdxx. It had been bought by Sir Robert Vyner in this year, having been built in 1629-38 by Sir Edmund Wright on the H-plan, with cross wings at the n. and s. ends. Wright had left it to his daughter, wife of Sir James Harrington (puritan politician and cousin of the author of Oceana), who occupied it 1643-1660. (Per L&M note)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Pretty to see over the screene of the hall (put up by Sir J. Harrington, a Long Parliamentman) the King’s head, and my Lord of Essex on one side, and Fairfax on the other; and upon the other side of the screene,"

The screen is described by Mrs K.A. Esdaile in LCC, Survey of London, Monograph no. 13, App. C, and ascribed to John Colt, jun., c. 1655, who probably mace all the busts with the exception of that of the King, which appears to be by Peter Bennier (Besnier). See op. cit., pls 23-6. Two of the busts survive in situ -- those of Charles and of Fairfax, the parliamentary general. That of Fairfax appears to be the only contemporary bust. The bust of Essex (another parliamentary general) is now in the mausoleum attached to the church at Ickenham. Those of the parson (Nathanael Nicholas) an d lord of the manor (Harrington) an d his sisters have disappeared. (L&M note)

Terry Foreman  •  Link

" my Lord Arlington’s house that he was born in, in a towne called Harlington"

Dawley House Arlington's grandfather, Sir John Bennet (d. 1627) had bought the reversion of the manorin 1607, and it remained in the family until 1724. Arlington was not born there but at Little Saxham, Suff. , where he was baptized on 6 September 1618. But he spent his youth at Harlington, where his father lived after 1624. (Per L&M note)


StanB  •  Link

Completely off topic but thought you might find interesting, the Tudor, Stuart periods and particularly the ECW I have a passion for and over time have built a little collection I'm quite proud of I have several editions of the London Gazette from the 17th Century along with a few Civil War pamphlets and coins mainly Charles 1st and 2nd and some Elizabethan and Tudor Coins, Today I managed to acquire a London Gazette "Graded Fine" from Aug 6-9th 1683 its main coverage concerns The Rye House Plot I'm very happy with it next on my list London Gazettes covering Mortality Bills and my Holy Grail search continues for original copies of The Oxford Gazette but I'm not holding my breath for that one

Gerald Berg  •  Link

Sam and his usage of the word “merrily”. Has he used it or synonyms so much as in this plague time? He seems absurdly enjoying near all the time. Except for a few beautifully reflective death summations which are hardly... Well compare J.Evelyn’s somber renderings quoted above with all the statistically moaning. I am respectful of the statistics yet here we all are dancing with Sam at the edge of his abyss!

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Rye House Plot of 1683 was a plan to assassinate King Charles II of England and his brother (and heir to the throne) James, Duke of York. The royal party went from Westminster to Newmarket to see horse races and were expected to make the return journey on 1 April 1683, but because there was a major fire in Newmarket on 22 March (which destroyed half the town), the races were cancelled, and the King and the Duke returned to London early. As a result, the planned attack never took place.…

GrahamRA  •  Link

Swakely Estate is open to the public for one day on Saturday 22nd September 2018 under the Open House Scheme. A rare opportunity to see inside the house that Pepys eulogises over!…

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Thank you Graham RA - I’ll visit if I can.

I suggest that the ‘black boy’ was indeed a negro servant and so fit only to be a slave in the eyes of most English people. Crucially this meant he had no soul and would no more benefit from the Resurrection (in which all Anglicans say they believe every Sunday), anymore than a horse or dog would. So, like them, his body could be disposed of as the owner chose.

The Enlightenment came later:…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Chris Squire UK there is documentary evidence that black servants in England at this time were baptized and not owned.

See Tudor, English and black – and not a slave in sight" a review of Black Tudors: The Untold Story, which debunks the idea that slavery was the beginning of Africans’ presence in England, and exploitation and discrimination their only experience.…

In Pepys Diary there is Mingo (Sir William Batten's servant)…

See also Mingo's Hart Street antecedents.…

Altogether between 1588 and 1638 St. Olave's Hart Street saw three baptisms and 12 burials of Africans, whilst the neighbouring church of St. Botolph's Aldgate saw just one baptism (of the aforementioned Mary Fillis) but 17 burials of Africans.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Evelyn's note about pest ships means that before this there were pest houses, which were now over-run. One was the first building on a street I knew quite well:

"1665 was the year of The Great Plague. ‘Pesthouses’ were built for plague victims, the first one in London being on Carnaby Street.

"In 1682 bricklayer, Richard Tyler, laid out Carnaby Street, which took its name from Karnaby House, the first house built on the street."…

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