Wednesday 27 December 1665

Up, and with Cocke, by coach to London, there home to my wife, and angry about her desiring a mayde yet, before the plague is quite over. It seems Mercer is troubled that she hath not one under her, but I will not venture my family by increasing it before it be safe. Thence about many businesses, particularly with Sir W. Warren on the ’Change, and he and I dined together and settled our Tangier matters, wherein I get above 200l. presently. We dined together at the Pope’s Head to do this, and thence to the goldsmiths, I to examine the state of my matters there too, and so with him to my house, but my wife was gone abroad to Mrs. Mercer’s, so we took boat, and it being darke and the thaw having broke the ice, but not carried it quite away, the boat did pass through so much of it all along, and that with the crackling and noise that it made me fearfull indeed. So I forced the watermen to land us on Redriffe side, and so walked together till Sir W. Warren and I parted near his house and thence I walked quite over the fields home by light of linke, one of my watermen carrying it, and I reading by the light of it, it being a very fine, clear, dry night. So to Captain Cocke’s, and there sat and talked, especially with his Counsellor, about his prize goods, that hath done him good turne, being of the company with Captain Fisher, his name Godderson; here I supped and so home to bed, with great content that the plague is decreased to 152, the whole being but 330.

9 Annotations

First Reading

Margaret  •  Link

"...I walked quite over the fields home by light of linke, one of my watermen carrying it, and I reading by the light of it..."

I have, very occasionally, read a book while walking along a country road--but my mind boggles at the thought of doing it at night by the flickering light of a flame held by someone else!

A.Hamilton  •  Link

I concur Margaret. And the scene has comic overtones. Imagine Sam saying, "Can't you hold that light more steady? Cast it over my shoulder, and mind you don't throw shadows on the page. Ow, you're treading on my heels" etc.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

“…I walked quite over the fields home by light of linke, one of my watermen carrying it, and I reading by the light of it…”

I agree with Margaret and AH: with Pepysian pragmatism and an open mind I have just tried the experiment of reading a small volume with large type while walking across a relatively smooth late cut hay field in broad daylight -- the footing is just too uneven to keep the volume sufficiently steady and requires just enough attention in avoiding a slight stumble to be continually losing mental focus, I ended up going over repeatedly the same three or four lines of text trying to pull them into concentration and gave up in frustration after a few minutes, now add to this flickering torchlight ...

Robert Gertz  •  Link


Not that difficult to imagine why Sam will be having eye trouble in a few years...The real problem will be too many possible causes.

"It seems Mercer is troubled that she hath not one under her, but I will not venture my family by increasing it before it be safe."

A tribute to Mary Mercer's unique ability to get on with Bess...I suppose she used the old "you know it reflects badly on you, Mrs. Pepys" argument.

Very sensible of Sam to wait, given the possibility of infection...Wish he'd be so particular about his trips to Deptford to see Mrs. Bagwell with the plague all abouts.

You are gonna do one nice thing for Bess this holiday season, Sam? At least one decent party or a gift? I still can't believe you went to woop it up at Lord Bruncker's on Christmas Day and left her alone. Something tells me in spite of the Naval Office being at Greenwich and war business pressing, if Bess had invited Pierce and Knipp to dinner, you'd've somehow found a way to get home.

Ruben  •  Link

Dear XXI Century annotators:
Bess was Samuel Pepys spouse, companion, consort, wife, but still only a female. It was Sam's duty to care for her, etc., but she was not his equal, legally or otherwise. In many aspects Bess was Sam's property and any judge would have sustain that.
That was female's predicament in Pepys days.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Sam has treated her better, regardless of notions on equality. Even in his day and long before, there were ideals of love, marital companionship, and a husband's duty to his spouse and Sam was well aware of them and feels guilt when he corners himself regarding them. Though he could of course get away with bullying her into accepting his actions, he's behaving thoughtlessly under the cover of plague/war necessity. I'm hoping he'll remember he's married to a woman who loves him and make some kind gesture before the end of the holiday season.

It should also be noted, we have many examples of fairly independent wives in the Diary-Jane Turner, Lady Robinson, Lady Batten, Betty Pierce, Betty Martin who I think would scoff at the notion of being "property", though I agree, in a strictly legal situation they might be in trouble. In the day-to-day scheme of life they hold considerable power in their marriages and their husbands generally accept their position. Bess herself is actually allowed a fair degree of independence, though not so much as she would like or a modern wife would expect. She has social if not many legal rights or perhaps better stated, Sam has social duties towards her and he is failing this season.

cgs  •  Link

Rule of life: 1:eat 2: keep warm [98.6F] and 3:a place to kip.
Sam's time.
not many men had rites {sic}
1 third of men sign their name with an X.
Majority of wenches never got schooling.

Means to get food, rags and stuffed palliass be hard to find, even for the strong fit male, most means to get ones caloric intake required brute force.
Tools to make it easy for getting work done were just coming to vogue.
eg: A sailing ship then required a least 5 bodies for each mounted sail, to fire a cannon needed more bodies, very few females were up to lugging a cannon or sail,
and to have a job ferrying man, woman or horse up and down the Tems be hard labour.

Now a sailing vessel can go around the world with one girl at the tiller.
A 100,000 ton vessel can be run by less than 30 bodies, then the 1000 ton warship required at least 300 bodies.
A merchantman, 60 or so.
Tools have changed the odds of getting ones daily bread.
The Female now, does not require a man to buy or to lug the groceries home.

Then the female had to find other means to keep body and soul [sole?] together, as always there are exceptions where the female was in charge of her life by getting an education with or without the masculine help by writing books, painting or running a business.

Life be a trade off "quid pro quo"…
when it it be lop sided, hell breaks loose.

Second Reading

Gerald Berg  •  Link

I call out that Pepys’ most erotic writing is not the abysmally tawdry dalliances but his money porn exclamations on conquests in the offing. How often has he mentioned this MUCH anticipated payoff coming out of the Tangier account? Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens!

Appreciate the bat reading comments.

Best for everyone in the new year!

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

You have a point, Gerald. And a Happy New Year to you too.

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