Friday 8 September 1665

Waked, and fell in talk with my wife about the letter, and she satisfied me that she did not know from whence it come, but believed it might be from her cozen Franke Moore lately come out of France. The truth is the thing I think cannot have much in it, and being unwilling (being in other things so much at ease) to vex myself in a strange place at a melancholy time, passed all by and were presently friends.

Up, and several with me about business. Anon comes my Lord Bruncker, as I expected, and we to the enquiring into the business of the late desertion of the Shipwrights from worke, who had left us for three days together for want of money, and upon this all the morning, and brought it to a pretty good issue, that they, we believe, will come to-morrow to work.

To dinner, having but a mean one, yet sufficient for him, and he well enough pleased, besides that I do not desire to vye entertainments with him or any else. Here was Captain Cocke also, and Mr. Wayth. We staid together talking upon one business or other all the afternoon. In the evening my Lord Bruncker hearing that Mr. Ackeworth’s clerke, the Dutchman who writes and draws so well, was transcribing a book of Rates and our ships for Captain Millet a gallant of his mistress’s, we sent for him for it. He would not deliver it, but said it was his mistress’s and had delivered it to her. At last we were forced to send to her for it; she would come herself, and indeed the book was a very neat one and worth keeping as a rarity, but we did think fit, and though much against my will, to cancell all that he had finished of it, and did give her the rest, which vexed her, and she bore it discreetly enough, but with a cruel deal of malicious rancour in her looks. I must confess I would have persuaded her to have let us have it to the office, and it may be the board would not have censured too hardly of it, but my intent was to have had it as a Record for the office, but she foresaw what would be the end of it and so desired it might rather be cancelled, which was a plaguy deal of spite.

My Lord Bruncker being gone and company, and she also, afterwards I took my wife and people and walked into the fields about a while till night, and then home, and so to sing a little and then to bed. I was in great trouble all this day for my boy Tom who went to Greenwich yesterday by my order and come not home till to-night for fear of the plague, but he did come home to-night, saying he staid last night by Mr. Hater’s advice hoping to have me called as I come home with my boat to come along with me.

27 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"the business of the late desertion of the Shipwrights from worke, who had left us for three days together for want of money"

L&M, citing a record of job-disruption at Deptford, point out we've seen something like this before at another yard: 1 June 1665: "some disorder in the Yarde at Portsmouth, by workmen’s going away of their owne accord, for lacke of money, to get work of hay-making, or any thing else to earne themselves bread.1 "

"1. There are several letters among the State Papers from Commissioner Thomas Middleton relating to the want of workmen at Portsmouth Dockyard. On June 29th Middleton wrote to Pepys, “The ropemakers have discharged themselves for want of money, and gone into the country to make hay.” The blockmakers, the joiners, and the sawyers all refused to work longer without money (“Calendar,” 1664-65, p. 453). "…

Australian Susan  •  Link

Today's tale of the book of rates almost makes one believe in RG's wonderful fantasy of spies!

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Cozen Frankie Moore" out of...


Right..."Cozen Frankie".

Admit it...Balty in Holland and back to England. Father Fogarty's occasional mysterious appearances. The arrival of Cozen Frankie out of France as plague is sapping the war effort. One just can't help wondering, can one?...

I'd have him stopped and searched at the coast, Sam.

Though of course I much prefer Bess as long-suffering real-life Sam-enduring heroine (or even fictional heroine) to enemy spy, even if Sam's afterlife horrified reaction would be too much fun to miss. Probably a mix of anger, horror...And given his remarkable ability to distance himself and show impartiality in the Diary "my wife inflicted the greatest defeat on the English navy in its history?"...just a touch of admiration.

More seriously, what interests me today is the casualness Sam shows about a potential spy (even a rather likely one) getting his hands on important information.

And of course now we have Abigail Williams, who surely can't return Sam's snooty, sidelong observations of "milord's doxy" with joyful love
as perfect candidate for Dutch spy mistress. I don't know if things will get as fun as young FDR and Cousin Alice Longworth in WWI Washington trying to spy on the German ambassador and folks they thought might be working for the Kaiser while Eleanor sighed at the "children playing detective" but we'll see if Sam's dislike of the lady leads him into suspicion.

"Does your father still have that odd optical tube about him?"

"You mean his periscope? What would you want that for...Sam'l, are you still trying to spy on that poor woman?"

"Bess...England's safety in times of war requires her officials to maintain constant vigilance."

"And she's got bigger breasts than Mary Mercer."

"Mrs. Pepys?"


Though dropping the fantasy cloak-and-dagger, actually this entry's rather pathetic reference to Bess' isolation might lead one to a certain classic Douglas Sirk film line. "Why [Bess] I never knew you had any friends." (Lana Turner to her black business partner and "best friend", "Imitation of Life").

language hat  •  Link

Can someone explain what was going on with the book of Rates?

Martin  •  Link

Taking a stab at LH's question while remaining mystified myself: to begin with, a Book of Rates was a compendium of the import duties on various articles. Somehow this particular book seems to have been contraband -- possibly because the Dutchman who was transcribing it is engaged in spying? The phrase "and our ships" seems to indicate some content relating to the fleet, as well. Or perhaps, because the Dutchman "writes and draws so well", the book is intended as a forgery, containing in false rates to allow someone to evade payment of duties? At any rate possession of the book seems to have been problematic. Millet is sent to fetch the book; Ms. Williams shows up with it herself. For some reason rather than have it be confiscated, she wishes to keep it, so they agree to cancel, or cross out, all that the Dutchman had written. But while it seems there was clearly something irregular or illegal about the book, strangely Ms. Williams is allowed to keep the evidence and there's no talk (yet) of arresting anyone for a crime.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"a book of Rates and our ships"

LH, I assumed this was a list of ships by rate = the number of guns they carried,
which would be a useful reference to join others Peoys has been assembling in the Navy Office over the years.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

"a book of Rates ..."

I assume a list of the Royal Navy ships including the number and weight of guns:…

" ... to cancell all that he had finished of it, and did give her the rest, ..."
To cancel, in printer's language, meant to remove a leaf or leaves (the cancellandum /anda ) from a text block; I assume the offending leaves with the rating information were cut out and the balance of the notebook returned to Abigail Williams.

Pedro  •  Link

"which was a plaguy deal of spite."

Anyone with OED? Imagine the uproar if it was used today in such circumstances!

Pedro  •  Link

“In the evening my Lord Bruncker hearing that Mr. Ackeworth’s clerke, the Dutchman who writes and draws so well, was transcribing a book of Rates and our ships”

The idea of classifying ships went back to Tudor times, but it had largely been abandoned in the miscellaneous fleets of the 1650’s. It was Pepys, characteristically, who in connection with the 1677 building programme drew up a “solemn, universal and unalterable” classification of the Navy, providing the number and weight of guns for each ship, and calculating the complements from the guns’ crews.

(Command of the Oceans by NAM Rodger)

Pedro  •  Link

"which would be a useful reference to join others Pepys has been assembling in the Navy Office over the years."

Terry, I think that you are on the right lines. The curiosity here is more a one of appreciation of a great work of art in drawing and writing, of which I believe the Dutch could be considered the best at this time, and not a matter of espionage.

The knowledge of the Fleet would be widely known, and Sandwich has great detail of the Dutch fleets recorded in his Journal for April and September of 1665.

JWB  •  Link

Abigail's Fighting Ships

A theatrical doxy makes strange bedfellow with Puritan/Dutch cabal. I side with Pedro in thinking this not a matter of espionage. She had Capt. Millet arrange it. Rate of the captain went with rate of the ship. That's the sort of knowledge she'd find of use in her chosen profession & book itself natural item of interest in a would-be salon. Today, upon getting orders, the first thing a sailor does is turn to Jane's Fighting Ships.

Martin  •  Link

If cancelling meant removing the pages, then why is Pepys sorry he couldn't have the book as a reference? He could have taken the pages and have them re-bound. Maybe someone can look at OED also for "cancel", but I'm finding a first and original definition meaning "to cross out with lines or other markings." This meaning seems more appropriate here than a technical printer's term. (The book was not printed; Pepys is not a printer.) So they obliterated the text and handed it back.

I agree its a book of rates of ships, which makes more sense than customs rates. But it's still a mystery why the keeper of the book is so peeved about the cancellation, and why, if the information is contraband, there's no talk of bringing charges for espionage--perhaps because they're dealing with Brouncker's mistress and want to keep the episode quiet? And if it's not espionage, why all the commotion?

language hat  •  Link

"But it’s still a mystery why the keeper of the book is so peeved about the cancellation...? And if it’s not espionage, why all the commotion?"

Exactly, and why did Abigail "desire it might rather be cancelled"? What was going on here? I guess we'll never know unless he recurs to the subject, but at the moment it's clear as mud.

Martin  •  Link

This is actually a fairly rare instance of Sam leaving us completely perplexed. Whether he has a reader other than himself in mind, or not, he usually is careful to explain the circumstances in such a way that we can at least puzzle it out.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Well, as to Abigail's wrath, Sam says that she saw what would happen meaning I think she realized the office wished to keep her book if they allowed the ships' rates info to stay and decided she'd rather see it destroyed. There must have been some significant information, or at least some that the public might have raised a hue-and-cry over, in the book that led the Naval Board to censor a large portion. Mrs. Williams may be perfectly innocent and no one seems to suspect her of anything underhanded but clearly Lord Bruncker among others was concerned by the contents. I would guess this is a public relations matter...For the public to hear that a Dutch artist/clerk was transcribing information on military vessels at such a desperate time...Not good. One can assume Mrs. Williams has the role of normal, if well-connected, upset citizen...thinking the board a bunch of idiots howling about nothing, outraged at the hint of wrong behavior, and suspecting (perhaps rightly) that some who disapprove of her relations with Bruncker are trying to undermine her.

Surprising that Captain Millet should have been so blind as to the potential for trouble.

And, after all...Espionage does occur and it often involves highly placed mistresses. In a more brutal war, stirring fierce hatreds, or with more politically-minded interrogators (say a Shaftsbury), Abigail might well be in serious danger, innocent or no. All in all, Sam and the board seem to be behaving with a good degree of common sense caution in the matter.

Now lets see...If some top official's mistress were found having a disk made of important military hardware or sites because she thought them very beautiful...And the disk made by a person whose nationality was that of an unpopular or even, enemy, land...

USA...Scandal. Lurid Televison sensation/possible trial/impeachment/resignation/removal of official.
Britain...Probably scandal. Lurid tabloids. Possible trial/resignation/removal.
France...Happens all the time/possible resignation.
Germany...Not that again/possible resignation.
Japan...Not that again/possible resignation.

Iran...Immediate trial and execution of mistress, enemy agent, official...And why was the woman not wearing a veil?
Russia...Arrest. Treason trial. Imprisonment. Lurid Television sensation.

Terry Foreman  •  Link


FWIW, in the Large Glossary in the Companion, L&M say that, in this specific entry, "cancel" means "obliterate. destroy by tearing up" -- IMHO adding to the mystery.

CGS  •  Link

A.S.. fantasy of spies!
knowledge of wot the other B***** be up was always worth money. Samuels ex boss be a good of example of getting info, Queen Eliza One be having Walsingham keep tabs on all the mails [now emails be kept tabs of]
If this be a male drawing details of gun boats [now photos], he residing in the Tower, but a mere girl of course not , just because she be talented organised and invented the detailed list of the navy royal, eh! only males would sell that book to the great painters of Holland.

NIH [not invented here] has suckered many a regime ,
Do you think only Old Man Downing be the only one gathering useful info, how else would Whats his name know that Bergen be the staging post for good loot.
knowledge be power.

All the best passers of info be those that thee think be dumb and blind and have an IQ of a turnip.

CGS  •  Link

"which was a plaguy deal of spite."
Plague also means
a. A blow; (also) smiting, slaughter. Obs.
in plague: at a stroke.
[plus that what we have been plague with]

plaguey [plaguy][< PLAGUE n. + -Y suffix1.]

A. adj.

1. Now arch. and rare.

a. Of the nature of or relating to bubonic plague or any other plague-like disease; pestiferous, pestilential, pernicious. Also fig. 1574
....1653 DUCHESS OF NEWCASTLE Poems & Fancies 62 Corrupts me, makes me full of plaguy soares, which Putrefaction on mens Bodies poures.

b. That affects like a plague; that causes severe affliction, damage, or distress, or is seen as a punishment or judgement. Obs.
1663 S. BUTLER Hudibras I. iii. 163 What plaguy mischiefs and mishaps Do dog him still.

2. In weakened use: troublesome, annoying, vexatious, tiresome, disagreeable; (colloq., as an intensifier) confounded, cursed, damnable, excessive, inordinate.
1594 Taming of Shrew sig. D2v, How lookes our New Mistris they say she's a plagie shrew.

B. adv. colloq. = PLAGUILY adv.

a1625 J. FLETCHER Rule a Wife (1640) I. 7 She walked plaguy fast.

CGS  •  Link

to cancell all that he had finished of it
Also 5-6 cansel, 5-7 cancell, 6 Sc. cancil. [a. F. cancelle-r (15th c. in Littré):{em}L. cancell{amac}re to make lattice-wise, to cross out a writing, f. cancellus, cancelli cross-bars, lattice. Cf. Pr. cancellar, Sp. cancelar, It. cancellare. F. canceller is a learned word: the native F. repr. of the L. is chanceler: see CHANCEL, etc.]

1. a. trans. To deface or obliterate (writing), properly by drawing lines across it lattice-wise; to cross out, strike out. Of legal documents, deeds, etc.: To annul, render void or invalid by so marking.

b. To deface or destroy by cutting or tearing up.
1580 ...1650 FULLER Pisgah III. iv. 385 That innocent Volume, first cancelled with a pen-knife to pieces, then burnt to ashes.

2. fig. a. To annul, repeal, render void (obligations, promises, vows, or other things binding). Also with out.
b. intr. To become void or null. rare.
a1667 COWLEY, A rash oath that cancell'd in the making.

3. gen. a. To obliterate, blot out, delete from sight or memory.

c. fig. To render (a thing) null by means of something of opposite nature; to neutralize, counterbalance, countervail; to make up for, compensate.

5. Printing. To suppress (a page, sheet, etc.) after it has been set up in type or printed off.1738

b. To frustrate, reduce to nought, put an end to, abolish.
1593 SHAKES. Lucr. 934

noun:ad. L. cancelli
I. 1. pl. Prison bars, limits, bounds, confines. Chiefly fig. Obs.

II. 2. The act of striking out, erasing, annulling, rescinding, etc.
3. Print. The suppression and reprinting of a page or leaf. Hence concr. a. a page so cancelled or struck out; b. (in full, cancel-leaf) the new page substituted for that cancelled. Also cancel-page, -sheet. (Now the prevailing use.)
1806 SOUTHEY Lett. (1856) I. 394 Send me down a whole set of the sheets, that I may look them over; and see what cancels are necessary.
4. pair of cancels: an instrument for defacing or punching tickets (on the railway, etc.).
1887 Daily Tel. 11 Apr. 2/6 Charged with stealing a pair of Cancels, the property of the District Railway Company.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

This meaning seems more appropriate here than a technical printer’s term.

Cancelling leaves by owners of books, not just by printers or booksellers, was actually a surprisingly common practice post Restoration in order to make texts conform to the requirements of the new regime, and then replacing with new printed or portrait leaves specially prepared for the purpose by the printer -- I can not find it quickly but in the past there has been at least one instance I recall of SP noting doing this to his own copy of a text.

[The OED appear not to have noticed the use of cancel in this sense in Joseph Moxon's 'Mechanick exercises: or, the doctrine of handy-works. Applied to the art of printing.' (1683-4); Moxon actually was an acquaintance of SP and is said to be the first tradesman FRS…. The very narrow and specific use of cancellandum /anda for the particular leaves in question certainly goes back to Venice prior to 1500, and was used in the learned latinate world in general, however general re-appearance in the modern English speaking world probably does not go back much before R. W. Chapman's 'Cancels,' (1930)]

Pedro  •  Link

“but my intent was to have had it as a Record for the office, but she foresaw what would be the end of it and so desired it might rather be cancelled, which was a plaguy deal of spite.”

The Dutchman was transcribing from another book, so why did not Pepys transcribe the book for himself? Maybe he wanted the transcription because it was so well done, as the information that the Dutchman is copying is by no means top secret.

Amanda  •  Link

Lurker here. Don't know much about Pepys' times, but as a working writer, I immediately figured this was about money. Pepys & co. want to cancel the book (i.e. not pay for it) but want to keep it anyway. I'd tell them to take a hike, too.

In most mainstream publishing today, you get some of the money (usually half) in advance, then more (the other half) when the book is completed, edited, and on its way to press. If the book is canceled, you keep the money you already have, plus the rights to the work. So in modern terms (which of course isn't what we're talking about here), the author's er, lady, isn't willing to let them have the "rights" to the work that's already been done.

You more knowledgeable folk: does this seem to have any relation at all to Pepys' situation?

CGS  •  Link

back then Authors got pittance, the printer got all the rights and control, 'tis way I remember the situation.
In order to control the product of thy mind one had to get a Kings agreement,called a patent or commission.
If an Author wanted monies he had to control the press, ala Franklyn or Thomas Paine in later years.

Second Reading

Louise Hudson  •  Link

What’s up with the letter Sam “discusses” with his wife? Not even a comment on it!

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

'What’s up with the letter Sam “discusses” with his wife?'

We're as perplexed as you. Elizabeth received an anonymous illiterate letter; Mary found it in the bed and gave it to Sam; he reads it and impulsiverly threw it away; now Elizabeth's looking for it; Sam didn't confess he had destroyed it when first asked days ago; Mary wants to leave and isn't saying anything about anything, probably because of Elizabeth's temper tantrums; Sam's now hoping Elizabeth will forget (and in the meantime probaby wants to enjoy his marital benefits).

It's a stupid Sam situation (not his first) and he'll never 'fess up now. For the first salvo:…

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Thanks, Sarah. I agree with your assessment.

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