Sunday 4 February 1665/66

Lord’s day; and my wife and I the first time together at church since the plague, and now only because of Mr. Mills his coming home to preach his first sermon; expecting a great excuse for his leaving the parish before any body went, and now staying till all are come home; but he made but a very poor and short excuse, and a bad sermon. It was a frost, and had snowed last night, which covered the graves in the churchyard, so as I was the less afeard for going through. Here I had the content to see my noble Mrs. Lethulier, and so home to dinner, and all the afternoon at my Journall till supper, it being a long while behindhand. At supper my wife tells me that W. Joyce has been with her this evening, the first time since the plague, and tells her my aunt James is lately dead of the stone, and what she had hath given to his and his brother’s wife and my cozen Sarah. So after supper to work again, and late to bed.

20 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"a bad sermon"

Appropriate text, though: L&M note that Hewer's shorthand notebook reports the text was Leviticus 26:21 (King James Version): "And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins."

Lawrence  •  Link

Well we here in England, share with the weather sam'l is getting, all the gardens here looking the same, "white" with more on the way? even on a sunday, he has to busy himself, even if it's just bringing his diary up to date, and I for one am glad!!!

Jesse  •  Link

"expecting a great excuse"

"great" -> sarcasm?

Michael Robinson  •  Link

" ... expecting a great excuse for his leaving the parish before any body went, and now staying till all are come home; but he made but a very poor and short excuse,..."

Mr. Mills was ministering to the physicians perhaps ...

" ... and there met the first meeting of Gresham College since the plague. Dr. Goddard did fill us with talke, in defence of his and his fellow physicians going out of towne in the plague-time; saying that their particular patients were most gone out of towne, and they left at liberty; and a great deal more, &c."…

Australian Susan  •  Link

Re Jesse's remark - I don't think Sam was being sarcastic here - Sam was really expecting much better of his parish priest and feels annoyed and let down.

I hope Mr Mills looks round at his churchyard and sees how full it is with parishioners not buried by him (where was his pastoral care??) and feels very, very bad. Not a good example, is he?

adamw  •  Link

A covering of snow.
We've got that too, in the west of England. First for several years, children full of excitement.
But interesting that Sam feels an inch of snow is a more reliable protection against the plague (festering in the graves) than several feet of earth. The belief that cold was proptective is clearly a strong one: how does this fit with the 'miasma' theory of disease?

Lawrence  •  Link

The old saying... that a green winter makes a fat church yard, was still being quoted by my granmother in the 70s!

djc  •  Link

"aunt James is lately dead of the stone"


"My wife tells me that she hears that my poor aunt James hath had her breast cut off here in town, her breast having long been out of order."

So survival +9 month.

Mary  •  Link

poor Aunt James.

One has to wonder whether the 'stone' was not something else altogether, the result of metasthesis.

cgs  •  Link

cancer, the Queen of France was reported to have died of breast cancer, and here is another lead on this "dreaded" disease.

Australian Susan  •  Link

People thought then that illnesses resulted from foul air - thus all the plague remedies [sic] which involved smelling herbs or flowers or whatever to keep the air around you sweet. Cold, clean air was felt to be a plague preventive.

still happening 150 years later: i am currently reading the diaries of Watkin Tench one of the officers who sailed with the First Fleet to Australia.(1787-88) He mentions on the voyage out how very effort was made to keep the air below decks sweet by burning sweet smelling items: this was perceived as the best sort of disease preventive for the convicts (largely confined below deck).

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Apparently Aunt James didn't leave much, Sam not seeming much miffed at not being included.

So if Will came by in the evening to see Bess, Sam was writing the Diary at the office? Since he often mentions doing accounts at home, I wonder if he's slightly nervous about writing at home...Perhaps Bess has asked about it?

A.De Araujo  •  Link

"poor Aunt James"
Agree that "stones" was probably a misdiagnosis;I am not sure if there was the concept of metastasis back then but probably that was what was.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

"I wonder if he’s slightly nervous about writing at home…"

Robert suggests there is an air of a guilty secret in the way Sam writes his diary -- alone at the office, and in code. I find this persuasive. If his unflattering views of colleagues and superiors, not to mention his philandering, were exposed to another person, he could be ruined. And then there is his extraordinary, to me, turn to French, Spanish, Latin all mixed together, to record his intimate moments, almost as though he couldn't bear to write them out in plain English as too shaming. But, even bravely perhaps, he puts it all in, to our unending fascination.

Second Reading

David G  •  Link

As someone who has had kidney stones, I doubt that Aunt James had a misdiagnosis, as one of the commentators from ten years ago suggested. The symptoms of a kidney stone that is trying to pass are quite different from the symptoms of other serious medical other conditions (cancer does not, for example, typically cause severe cramping), and to die of a kidney stone would be a truly unpleasant way to go.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Weather report for 2019: My cousins near Windsor report snow on the ground, with the first snowdrops poking their brave first sprouts out of the frozen ground.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Apparently Aunt James didn't leave much, Sam not seeming much miffed at not being included."

I suspect Sam was relieved. They won't be asking him for loans for a while.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

In the early part of the 20th century, even to the 1950s cold air was considered a treatment for tuberculosis, so the idea had not died between Sam’s time and close to ours. Patients who could afford it were sent to sanitoriums, preferably in cold climates, such as Switzerland and made to sit or lie on balconies in the cold air. Windows were also kept wide open day and night in bedrooms and dormitories, perhaps in an effort to freeze the disease. Poor patients had little treatment and often died quickly.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Consider The Magic Mountain

The Magic Mountain (German: Der Zauberberg) is a novel by Thomas Mann, first published in German in November 1924. It is widely considered to be one of the most influential works of 20th ceGerman literature....[This]work reflected his experiences and impressions during a period when his wife, who was suffering from a lung complaint, resided at Dr. Friedrich Jessen's Waldsanatorium in Davos, Switzerland for several months. In May and June 1912, Mann visited her and became acquainted with the team of doctors and patients in this cosmopolitan institution.…

JB  •  Link

And, to extend the literary vein, but retreat a little further back in time, Robert Louis Stevenson finished "Treasure Island" in a Swiss sanatorium as well.

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