Wednesday 7 February 1665/66

It being fast day I staid at home all day long to set things to rights in my chamber by taking out all my books, and putting my chamber in the same condition it was before the plague. But in the morning doing of it, and knocking up a nail I did bruise my left thumb so as broke a great deal of my flesh off, that it hung by a little. It was a sight frighted my wife, but I put some balsam of Mrs. Turner’s to it, and though in great pain, yet went on with my business, and did it to my full content, setting every thing in order, in hopes now that the worst of our fears are over as to the plague for the next year. Interrupted I was by two or three occasions this day to my great vexation, having this the only day I have been able to set apart for this work since my coming to town. At night to supper, weary, and to bed, having had the plasterers and joiners also to do some jobbs.

13 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"fast day"…

"I staid at home all day long to set things to rights in my chamber by taking out all my books, and putting my chamber in the same condition it was before the plague."

I see Pepys puttering about and whistling or humming snatches of "Beauty Retire" and other "aires", until he injures his thumb.

Lawrence  •  Link

Well me think's Master Pepys might have tried to get one of the chaps there working to have drove the nail for him?
Still he puts much pride in his home, and regardless of his painful mishap, got the job done! He never wastes a single day? no wonder some call him the saviuor of the navy?
If only we had someone like that now? Living in Axe Yard, or close to? number 10?

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Owie owie owie -- Sam's description gave me shivers. Been there done that, but at least I had ready access to antibiotic gel, sterile bandaging, etc ... back then a simple accident could be a death sentence.

Pedro  •  Link

Thanks for the site and poem JWB.

Oh, the slaves abroad in the sugar cane,
Find plenty to help and pity their pain,
But the slaves at home in the mine or fire,
Have plenty to pity but none to admire,

It seems the Chain Makers are worse off…

“If the condition of the iron-workers in Cradley Heath is even worse than that of the nail-makers of Bromsgrove, it may at least be said of Cradley Heath that it makes no pretence of the rustic beauty with which Bromsgrove hides its cruelty as with a mask. It is frankly an industrial town, a town of the Black Country, where in smoke and soot and mud, men and women earn their bread with the abundant sweat not of their brows alone; a terribly ugly and depressing town in which, however, contrasts too painful are absent.
One expects to find misery here, whereas in Bromsgrove one looked for smiles.”

Robert Sherard, White Slaves of England:…

JWB  •  Link


If Sam's balsam was the real thing-resin from the Balsam fir-it contained benzoic acid, a mild antibiotic used today as food preservative and an antifungal.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Well, it will be easier to fast now. What do you think, Tom...If it falls off we'll put it in the box with my stone?"

"Oh, will you stop waving that thing around and go see Mr. Hollier?!!" Bess howls.

Lee Proud  •  Link

The basalm could have contained a variety of different properties. Some even had a lard base. No laudanum in the seventeenth century for the pain though.

Lee Proud  •  Link

Once again, Samuel mentions the plague. This dreadful situation is a constant on the mind of people still alive. Wondering if and when it may return? We have no idea what they went through and can only have an inkling of what it was like.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

I’ve hit my thumb with a hammer many times, but never so hard as to “bruise my left thumb so as broke a great deal of my flesh off, that it hung by a little.” How, pray tell could he have been using the hammer that he would hit his thumb that hard? He should have left the hammering to a joiner, or Elizabeth. She would certainly have had a better time of it.

Al Doman  •  Link

@Louise Hudson:
If you've hit your thumb with a hammer many times, what makes you think Liz would do any better? (grin, duck & run)

Seriously though, in those days nails had a square cross section (not round), and typically with a square head. Four sharp edges on both. If the nail went in further than expected and trapped his thumb under the head, or if it folded over from being struck at an angle, any of those edges could do some damage. Crush & cut, rather than just crush injuries you might get with round section wire nails.

No tetanus shots back then...

Louise Hudson  •  Link

@Al Doman

You might be right about hammers back then. But I still think Liz could do better. Women tend to be gentler than men at many tasks. Men seem to have a need to make as much noise as possible and shake the whole house when using a hammer. Testosterone, I guess.

Nobody knew what tetanus was in those days, not even doctors. It wasn‘t discovered and identified until 1884 by several researchers. Antonio Carle and Giorgio Rattone first discovered evidence that tetanus was an infectious disease in that year. A vaccine was not developed for another 56 years.

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