Wednesday 6 June 1666

Up betimes, and vexed with my people for having a key taken out of the chamber doors and nobody knew where it was, as also with my boy for not being ready as soon as I, though I called him, whereupon I boxed him soundly, and then to my business at the office and on the Victualling Office, and thence by water to St. James’s, whither he [the Duke of York] is now gone, it being a monthly fast-day for the plague. There we all met, and did our business as usual with the Duke, and among other things had Captain Cocke’s proposal of East country goods read, brought by my Lord Bruncker, which I make use of as a monkey do the cat’s foot. Sir W. Coventry did much oppose it, and it’s likely it will not do; so away goes my hopes of 500l..

Thence after the Duke into the Parke, walking through to White Hall, and there every body listening for guns, but none heard, and every creature is now overjoyed and concludes upon very good grounds that the Dutch are beaten because we have heard no guns nor no newes of our fleete. By and by walking a little further, Sir Philip Frowde did meet the Duke with an expresse to Sir W. Coventry (who was by) from Captain Taylor, the Storekeeper at Harwich, being the narration of Captain Hayward of The Dunkirke; who gives a very serious account, how upon Monday the two fleetes fought all day till seven at night, and then the whole fleete of Dutch did betake themselves to a very plain flight, and never looked back again. That Sir Christopher Mings is wounded in the leg; that the Generall is well. That it is conceived reasonably, that of all the Dutch fleete, which, with what recruits they had, come to one hundred sayle, there is not above fifty got home; and of them, few if any of their flags. And that little Captain Bell, in one of the fire-ships, did at the end of the day fire a ship of 70 guns.

We were all so overtaken with this good newes, that the Duke ran with it to the King, who was gone to chappell, and there all the Court was in a hubbub, being rejoiced over head and ears in this good newes.

Away go I by coach to the New Exchange, and there did spread this good newes a little, though I find it had broke out before. And so home to our own church, it being the common Fast-day, and it was just before sermon; but, Lord! how all the people in the church stared upon me to see me whisper to Sir John Minnes and my Lady Pen. Anon I saw people stirring and whispering below, and by and by comes up the sexton from my Lady Ford to tell me the newes (which I had brought), being now sent into the church by Sir W. Batten in writing, and handed from pew to pew. But that which pleased me as much as the newes, was, to have the fair Mrs. Middleton at our church, who indeed is a very beautiful lady. Here after sermon comes to our office 40 people almost of all sorts and qualities to hear the newes, which I took great delight to tell them. Then home and found my wife at dinner, not knowing of my being at church, and after dinner my father and she out to Hales’s, where my father is to begin to sit to-day for his picture, which I have a desire to have. I all the afternoon at home doing some business, drawing up my vowes for the rest of the yeare to Christmas; but, Lord! to see in what a condition of happiness I am, if I would but keepe myself so; but my love of pleasure is such, that my very soul is angry with itself for my vanity in so doing. Anon took coach and to Hales’s, but he was gone out, and my father and wife gone. So I to Lovett’s, and there to my trouble saw plainly that my project of varnished books will not take, it not keeping colour, not being able to take polishing upon a single paper. Thence home, and my father and wife not coming in, I proceeded with my coach to take a little ayre as far as Bow all alone, and there turned back and home; but before I got home, the bonefires were lighted all the towne over, and I going through Crouched Friars, seeing Mercer at her mother’s gate, stopped, and ’light, and into her mother’s, the first time I ever was there, and find all my people, father and all, at a very fine supper at W. Hewer’s lodging, very neatly, and to my great pleasure. After supper, into his chamber, which is mighty fine with pictures and every thing else, very curious, which pleased me exceedingly. Thence to the gate, with the women all about me, and Mrs. Mercer’s son had provided a great many serpents, and so I made the women all fire some serpents. By and by comes in our faire neighbour, Mrs. Turner, and two neighbour’s daughters, Mrs. Tite, the elder of whom, a long red-nosed silly jade; the younger, a pretty black girle, and the merriest sprightly jade that ever I saw. With them idled away the whole night till twelve at night at the bonefire in the streets. Some of the people thereabouts going about with musquets, and did give me two or three vollies of their musquets, I giving them a crowne to drink; and so home. Mightily pleased with this happy day’s newes, and the more, because confirmed by Sir Daniel Harvy, who was in the whole fight with the Generall, and tells me that there appear but thirty-six in all of the Dutch fleete left at the end of the voyage when they run home. The joy of the City was this night exceeding great.

28 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

John Evelyn's Diary

June 6: came Sir Dan: Harvey from the Generall & related the dreadfull encounter, upon which his Majestie commanded me to dispatch away an extraordinary Physitian, & more Chirurgions: ’Twas on the solemn fast day, when the newes came, his Majestie being in the Chapell made a suddaine Stop, to heare the relation, which being with much advantage on our side, his Majestie commanded that Publique Thanks should immediately be given as for a Victory; The Deane of the Chapell going down to give notice of it to the other Deane officiating; & so notice was likewise sent to St. Paules and Westminster abbey: But this was no sooner over, but newes came that our losse was very great both in ships & men: That the Prince fregat was burnt & so a noble vessel of 90 brasse Guns lost:
[… ]together with the taking of Sir Geo: Ayscue & exceeding shattring of both fleetes, so as both being obstinate, both parted rather for want of ammunition & tackle than Courage, our Generall retreating like a Lyon, which exceedingly abated of our former jolitie: There was however order given for bone-fires & bells, but God knows, it was rather a deliverance than a Triumph: so much it pleased God to humble our late over Confidence, that nothing could withstand the Duke of Albemarle: who in good truth made too forward a reckoning of his successe, now, because he had once beaten the Dutch in another quarrell: & being ambitious to out-do the Earle of Sandwich, whom he had prejudice [to] as defective of Courage: A Doctor preached on call on me in time of trouble: I suppd at the Groomeporters;…

Terry Foreman  •  Link


Fireworks burning with a serpentine motion (L&M Large Glossary).

Paul Chapin  •  Link

Terry, thanks very much for giving us Evelyn's account of the day's events. A rather more somber (and realistic) perspective than Sam's unalloyed joy.

cgs  •  Link

6. A kind of firework which burns with a serpentine motion or flame.
1634 J. B[ATE] Myst. Nat. 61 The Composition for middle sized Rockets may serve for Serpents.

1666 PEPYS Diary 6 June, Mrs. Mercer's son had provided a great many serpents, and so I made the women all fire some serpents.

1697-8 Act 9 Will. III, c. 7 §1 Whereas much Mischief hath lately happened by throwing casting and fireing of Squibbs Serpentes Rockettes and other Fire-workes.

7. A bass wind instrument of deep tone, about 8 feet long, made of wood covered with leather and formed with three U-shaped turns. (The instrument, once disused, has been revived in the performance of early music.) Also, an organ-stop of similar tone.

Australian Susan  •  Link

"...I make use of as a monkey do the cat’s foot. ..."

Anyone any idea what this means?

Seems as nonsensical as a couple of my grandmother's which she was wont to say when vexed:

"You'll be up for sale with a pound of tea!"
[said in that "you'll be sorry" tone which every mother knows]


"give a thing, take a thing, black man's plaything" [muttered - said when turning away]

Sam's remark seems equally cryptic, but also said in vexation or exasperation. Losing 500 pounds would vex our Sam.

What happened to the likeness of John Pepys? Anyone know?

Are we to assume that Sam's boy was with him the whole day, so that even when he says he took a coach to Bow on his own, the boy was actually with him? In the same way that Jane Austen's novel never mention the accompanying servants when she describes outings?

Charming word picture of the evening, with everyone hanging around the bonfires, chatting and the excitement of fireworks, with Sam goading the women into setting them off - much giggling and shrieking - and men wandering about setting off muskets and lots of drink. Hmm. Why are we not surprised the Great Fire didn't start earlier!

Michael Robinson  •  Link

“…I make use of as a monkey do the cat’s foot. …”

84. The Monkey and the Cat. Aesop's Fables (1884)

A Monkey and a Cat lived in the same family, and it was hard to tell which was the greatest thief. One day, as they were roaming about together, they spied some chestnuts roasting in the ashes. "Come," said the cunning Monkey, "we shall not go without our dinner to-day. Your claws are better than mine for the purpose; you pull them out of the hot ashes and you shall have half." Pussy pulled them out one by one, burning her claws very much in doing so. When she had stolen them all, she found that the Monkey had eaten every one.

A thief cannot be trusted, even by another thief.

JWB  •  Link

"Crouched Friars"

Was this a standing London boy's joke-crouched for crutched? Or Sam's joke, a one-off mistake or misprint?

Michael Robinson  •  Link

“Crouched Friars”

"Crutched Friars (street in City of London) The street so named does not refer to friars on crutches, but to 'crouched' friars, ie ones who wore a cross on their habit. The title denoted a mendicant or begging order of friars properly named Friars of the Holy Cross ..."

A Dictionary of True Etymologies, By Adrian Room, 1988…

Mary  •  Link

the monkey and the cat's foot.

We still refer to someone as a 'cat's paw' when he has been manipulated into taking an action that is intended to be and proves to be for another's benefit

JWB  •  Link

Thanks MR. Still the humor hasn't been drained out. Now, about those true believers taking up serpents upon receipt of the "good news"(last chapt. Mark).

Bradford  •  Link

“Mrs. Mercer’s son had provided a great many serpents, and so I made the women all fire some serpents.”

I remember these things, circa the mid-1960s (US). They were sold at the local variety or drug store in an orange and white box with black lettering, and could be bought at any time of year, not just near the Fourth of July with other fireworks (or Halloween, when they would be more appropriate). But in this modern incarnation they were never as excitingly snakelike as one hoped, and fizzled more than hissed.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Crouch\, v. t. [OE. cruchen, crouchen, from cruche, crouche, cross. Cf. Crosier, Crook.]

1. To sign with the cross; to bless. [Obs.] --Chaucer.

2. To bend, or cause to bend, as in humility or fear.

She folded her arms across her chest, And crouched her head upon her breast. --Colerige.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Cf. Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
The Merchant's Tale

1706 And seyde his orisons, as is usage,
And said his prayers, as is the usage,

1707 And croucheth hem, and bad God sholde hem blesse,
And makes the sign of the cross over them, and prayed God should them bless,

1708 And made al siker ynogh with hoolynesse.
And made all secure enough with holiness.…

Australian Susan  •  Link

Bradford - re Fireworks: I think the ones you had would have been made "safe" for children to buy and use! Fireworks are banned in Australia except for public displays and also for Chinese New Year - the crackers set off then are quite fearsome.

Thanks for the Aesopian explanation for Sam's reference.

Is Crutched as quoted above also related to cruck houses? If so, I am puzzled as they are so called because they are built with an A frame at each end (as if you were building a solid tent), which is called the cruck, but it is not a cross shape. Or is this all a different etymology?

Mary  •  Link

Cruck (as in houses)

This relates not to crouched/crutched but to 'crook' meaning a piece of curved timber. Used in both house-building and ship-building contexts.

Mary  •  Link


Sorry - I was a bit too quick off the mark there. All these 'bending' words (shepherd's crook, the crook of one's arm, crouch etc.) are closely related - it's the 'cross' aspect that bears a different history, though it is a further word that derives, ultimately, from a separate development of the Latin - crux, crucis.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Here is a picture of a (rather heavily restored) Cruck House…

The photo clearly shows the main timbers.

In the 1960s (when I lived in Lichfield) this house was nearly pulled down - great local campaign to save it. Nice to see it looking good now.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...vexed with my people for having a key taken out of the chamber doors and nobody knew where it was, as also with my boy for not being ready as soon as I, though I called him, whereupon I boxed him soundly..."

Nothing like beating the boy soundly to take the edge off one's nerves. After all, Bess fights back.

And "Dewey Defeats Truman"...Well, enjoy it while you can, Samuel.


"What really burns is the money I laid out that night..."

"Oh, are you still mourning those few shillings? Give it a rest, Sam'l." Bess sighs.

"Say...Speaking of that day...How did Hewer ever manage to get all that art work on what you paid him back then?"

"Bess..." Sam looks round. "The same way I got to save 5200Ls by then on several salaries of 300-350Ls."

"Not to mention Barlow's 100L deduction for the first few years..." Bess notes. "My clever little fellow."

"There is a statute of limitations even here, right?"

cgs  •  Link

such a crisis or cross to bear, that be crux of the problem.

Nix  •  Link

"it was rather a deliverance than a Triumph" --

A beautiful turn of phrase, the first I can recall from Evelyn. Does anyone know if it is original with him?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Sir Daniel Harvy, who was in the whole fight with the Generall...tells me that there appear but thirty-six in all of the Dutch fleete left at the end of the voyage when they run home."

L&M: Harvey was a relative of Sandwich by marriage; later Ambassador to Turkey. He was wildly wrong. The Dutch losses were much lighter than those of the English -- only four out of c. 100 ships: Allin, vol. ii, p. xxvi.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"seeing Mercer at her mother’s gate, stopped, and ‘light, and into her mother’s, the first time I ever was there, and find all my people, father and all, at a very fine supper at W. Hewer’s lodging,"

L&M note Will Hewer had ceased to live with the Pepyses in Novemb\mber 1663.

Marquess  •  Link

Will Hewer seems to be doing quite well, let's hope we get to hear more of his success in the future.

john  •  Link

"as a monkey do the cat’s foot" made the OED:


1.1 The foot of a cat; †used lit. in reference to the fable or tale of a monkey (or a fox) using the foot or paw of a cat to rake roasted chestnuts out of the burning coals.  (The story is told by some of a monkey belonging to Pope Julius II., 1503–13; see N. & Q. Ser. vi. VII. 286.)

[1623 Mabbe tr. Aleman's Guzman d'Alf. ii. 167 To take the Cat by the foote, and therewith to rake the coales out of the Ouen.]    c 1661 Argyle's Last Will in Harl. Misc. (1746) VIII. 30/1 Like the Monkey, that took the Cat's Foot to pull the Chesnut out of the Fire.    1666 Pepys Diary 6 June, My Lord Brouncker, which I make use of as a monkey do the cat's foot.    c 1680 Humane Prudence (1717) 214 The polite man makes use of others as the Fox did of the Cat's Foot, to pull the Apple out of the Fire.

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