Friday 29 March 1667

Lay long talking with my wife about Balty, whom I do wish very well to, and would be glad to advise him, for he is very sober and willing to take all pains. Up and to Sir W. Batten, who I find has had some words with Sir W. Pen about the employing of a cooper about our prize wines, [Sir] W. Batten standing and indeed imposing upon us Mr. Morrice, which I like not, nor do [Sir] W. Pen, and I confess the very thoughts of what our goods will come to when we have them do discourage me in going any further in the adventure. Then to the office till noon, doing business, and then to the Exchange, and thence to the Sun Taverne and dined with [Sir] W. Batten, [Sir] R. Ford, and the Swede’s Agent to discourse of a composition about our prizes that are condemned, but did do little, he standing upon high terms and we doing the like. I home, and there find Balty and his wife got thither both by my wife for me to give them good advice, for her to be with his father and mother all this time of absence, for saving of money, and did plainly and like a friend tell them my mind of the necessity of saving money, and that if I did not find they did endeavour it, I should not think fit to trouble myself for them, but I see she is utterly against being with his father and mother, and he is fond of her, and I perceive the differences between the old people and them are too great to be presently forgot, and so he do propose that it will be cheaper for him to put her to board at a place he is offered at Lee, and I, seeing that I am not like to be troubled with the finding a place, and having given him so much good advice, do leave them to stand and fall as they please, having discharged myself as a friend, and not likely to be accountable for her nor be troubled with her, if he should miscarry I mean, as to her lodging, and so broke up. Then he and I to make a visit to [Sir] W. Pen, who hath thought fit to show kindness to Balty in this business, indeed though he be a false rogue, but it was he knew a thing easy to do. Thence together to my shoemaker’s, cutler’s, tailor’s, and up and down about my mourning, and in my way do observe the great streets in the city are marked out with piles drove into the ground; and if ever it be built in that form with so fair streets, it will be a noble sight. So to the Council chamber, but staid not there, but to a periwigg-maker’s of his acquaintance, and there bought two periwiggs, mighty fine; indeed, too fine, I thought, for me; but he persuaded me, and I did buy them for 4l. 10s. the two. Then to the Exchange and bought gloves, and so to the Bull-Head Taverne, whither he brought my, French gun; and one Truelocke, the famous gunsmith, that is a mighty ingenious man, and he did take my gun in pieces, and made me understand the secrets thereof and upon the whole I do find it a very good piece of work, and truly wrought; but for certain not a thing to be used much with safety: and he do find that this very gun was never yet shot off: I was mighty satisfied with it and him, and the sight of so much curiosity of this kind. Here he brought also a haberdasher at my desire, and I bought a hat of him, and so away and called away my wife from his house, and so home and to read, and then to supper and to bed, my head full in behalf of Balty, who tells me strange stories of his mother. Among others, how she, in his absence in Ireland, did pawne all the things that he had got in his service under Oliver, and run of her own accord, without her husband’s leave, into Flanders, and that his purse, and 4s. a week which his father receives of the French church, is all the subsistence his father and mother have, and that about 20l. a year maintains them; which, if it please God, I will find one way or other to provide for them, to remove that scandal away.

24 Annotations

Bradford  •  Link

"Balty, who tells me strange stories of his mother," and proceeds to explain just why Esther might not want to stay with them for an indefinite period while the better half is on the high seas, due to the kindness of Sir W.---not that he gets thanks for that, since "it was he knew a thing easy to do."

Would you want to shoot a gun that had never been "shot off" before? I guess somebody has to do it, so etiquette says, "No---you first." "No, you, I insist!" "No no no, after you, my dear Alphonse!"

L. K. van Marjenhoff  •  Link

The more I learn about Sam and his motivations, the less I find admirable about him.

The more I learn about the initially foppish and ridiculous Balty, the more I find admirable about him. He has his problems, primarly his worry that his wife will party hearty while he's gone.

And how about his mother, my Lady de St Michel -- she pawned the loot and took off for Flanders -- "What happens in Flanders stays in Flanders" -- I hope she had the time of her life.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"...his purse, and 4s. a week which his father receives of the French church, is all the subsistence his father and mother have, and that about 20l. a year maintains them..."

Did Pepys not have an inkling that his his in-laws might BE charity-cases, given his pains to avoid their very neighborhood when he let Elizabeth off to visit them?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

As I understand it, Mrs. St. Michel fled to Paris at one point with Bess and Balty when they were young at which time Bess was put in a convent school and Balty jokingly suggested much later...


...In a letter testifying to his sister and Sam's staunch Protestantism, that he might well have ended up a papal nuncio's page...Or singing soprano. Anyway it seems the St. Michels lead an unsettled life at times, though it may largely be Alex's improvidence driving the Missus to distraction at times. After all, though the in-laws St. Michel don't figure much in our hero's tale, they are very much engaged in their own adventure. I get the feeling theirs is an extremely passionate match...With significant ups-and-downs, complicated again by Alex's lack of practicality.

While may possibly explain why Bess finds Sam's diligence and work ethic to have a irresistable appeal.

Balty does indeed seem to be striving...I wonder if Sam finds some favorable contrast with John Jr., who, despite a reconcilation with brother Sam, doesn't seem particularly energetic about his future.

Sam could be reading his own assumptions into Balty's worries about Esther. Since it's unlikely Balty would openly discuss fears of Esther's fidelity with him, Sam may simply have lept to conclusions which have nothing to do with Balty's concern for her comfort.

Poor Admiral Sir Will...What more does he have to do? I suspect Sam must be quite desperately deferential in public to him to be holding all this bile in. Possibly Penn enjoys twisting the knife a little as he dispenses minor favor.

Mary  •  Link

"a place he is offered at Lee"

Time may tell, but I wonder whether this is really Leigh-on-Sea. That's a good step from London and right on the coast facing towards the Dutch enemy.

It might possibly be Lee in what is now south London; a little way south of Blackheath, between there and Eltham, and within comparatively easy reach of London should need arise. As I say, time may tell. L&M includes no note on the location of Sam's Lee.

Australian Susan  •  Link

It does seem strange that we have heard nothing of the poverty of Bess and Balty's parents before - I would have thought Bess would have raised this with Sam. After all, if he's prepared to help his brother-in-law, surely we would help his parents-in-law, as, indeed, he seems to be about to do, even if it is only for shame, not from a genuine desire to help his relatives by marriage.

L. K. van Marjenhoff  •  Link

I was very aware that Bess and Balty's parents were impoverished. The indicators were Bess's filching funds for them from her kitchen allowance and the parents' "mean lodgings," so mean that Bess didn't even want Sam to see where she was going when she visited them.

Phoenix  •  Link

"The more I learn about Sam and his motivations, the less I find admirable about him."

Yes. And further, there is very little beyond his ambition, work ethic and - thank you, Sam - a confessional diary, to admire. He is in many ways a nasty piece of work.

He is not above accepting favors from a neighbor he holds in contempt.

His mother dies and he has a little cry and then goes out and parties, hiding his grief. Yeah, sure. He will, however, make a generous public show of mourning.

Penury in the family? Perhaps it should be seen to. The shame.

Help out Balty? He has lots of advice to offer which is sufficient to discharge him as a friend.

All in the span of two days.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Which Leigh?

The L&M Index indicates this is Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

Mary  •  Link


Thanks, Terry. I didn't have the Index to hand. But I still find it a little odd that Balty should choose to lodge his wife there. By the 16th century Leigh was already growing into a fairly busy sea-port, so perhaps not the best place in which to sequester one's 'abandoned' young wife.

JWB  •  Link

"She (Bess) did give me an account of great differences between her mother and Balty’s wife. The old woman charges her with going abroad and staying out late, and painting in the absence of her husband, —[?? D.W.]— and I know not what; and they grow proud, both he and she, and do not help their father and mother out of what I help them to, which I do not like, nor my wife."

cape henry  •  Link

A very enlightening entry in several ways, not the least of which the above excellent conversation.Balty clearly has evolved, at least in Pepys' eyes, and I too think he seems an admirable and forthright young man, concerned at this point about the welfare of his wife.Although I agree with many that Pepys is not the most wholesome person, it seems to me that in this case he has been, as A. Susan and others suggest,pretty steadfast in matters of his own family's well being - and Balty's.I suspect he may think that Elizabeth's father is not worthy of support and thus this hesitancy.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I dunno…Sam’s been very helpful to Balty and one of the quietly nicest things in the Sam-Bess relationship has been his overlooking of her filching for the aged ps, even to generally letting her rant about servants who’ve caught her at it. Only when it’s become too obvious or she’s let a servant mouth off a little too loudly about it has he upbraided her. He’s willing to help them now that he’s secure, within reason of course…After all, he’s not that loose with the purse for his own ps.

The mystery of his disaffection for Alex remains...One suspects they asked for something when he and Bess married or perhaps made a bit much of their pretensions to French aristocracy. Or, as I've speculated in the past, perhaps Alex tried to hit him up for funds for his latest invention.

Nix  •  Link

I don't think Samuel is a nasty piece of work, except in the sense that all men are nasty pieces of work. He is a man of his class and time, with the mores of his class and time, including the hypocrisies of his class and time, and the desires, emotions and impulses of all classes and all times. I can't speak for anyone else, but were I to keep a diary as unguarded as Samuel's, I'm sure that many folks 350 years hence would think me a nasty piece of work as well.

cum salis grano  •  Link

Everyone has a minimum of three sides to their character.
Public, private and the evolving/developing one.
There be no perfect 'omo sapiens.
With Samuell we get to see a glint of all three.
Of course it shocks us that he is not Mr. Perfection or the reflection of ourselves.

RE: 4 shillings a week and the 20 quid a year to live off, seems in this highly inflated modern era so little,
in 1600's only the top 500,000 families live on more than 68L a year or per person 12L per year. [ Eliza Picard, Restoration London]

Most labouring and non resident servants live on about 4.10s per year.
It has taken 15 generations [British], for the poor to have more than one set of undies at a time and other goodies.
There were so many even poorer than the St. Michel's at this time, that had food handouts of the day, the poor house in each Parish.

Until one wears the moccasins of the other person, one does always comprehend the actual details, and Samuell has memories of garret living and is now living the good life, and the majority of people fail to connect their good and bad times, when the tummy rumbled and it being over loaded to other situations. Just a viewpoint .

L. K. van Marjenhoff  •  Link

Our Sam is tarnished, for sure, but he's a gift that keeps on giving!

language hat  •  Link

"I don’t think Samuel is a nasty piece of work, except in the sense that all men are nasty pieces of work. He is a man of his class and time, with the mores of his class and time..."

No, I don't agree. I'm quite sure there were plenty of faithful husbands and honest, generous people, then as now. I'm all for perspective, and I've said more than once that we shouldn't judge his behavior as a public servant by today's standards, but I don't buy the idea that we're all corrupt and selfish, it's just that some of us hide it better. That's an attitude that is dear to wrongdoers (not that I'm accusing Nix of being a criminal element, of course!) and satisfies our desire not to be too smug, but it's wrong, and it does a disservice to honest people. Sam was far from the worst guy around, and I'm not saying we should stone him, but it's reasonable to judge him by the evidence he presents (for which evidence we thank him).

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"of the French church"
I suppose they were Huguenots although Bess went to Catholic school and seems sympathetic to the Catholic church.

cum salis grano  •  Link

Lee? Lee [Lea, Leigh?] there is a river Lee that runs through ague infested marshes north east from the Thames to Ware, thus very cheap but not too far from London Town, it is possible that there be a little known cul de sac known to only the very poor, not worthy of recording, there is a Lee bridge with a collection of residences, not until the draining of the marshes around London that was required to house the excess of the poor as this area was blighted, thus did not have locations worth mentioning. Now the Area is popular.

Area of search would be Limehouse or Hackney wick.

The requirement was for very inexpensive digs, as the St Michels were elegantly poverty stricken.
"...he do propose that it will be cheaper for him to put her to board at a place he is offered at Lee, and I, seeing that I am not like to be troubled with the finding a place, ..."

cum salis grano  •  Link

French Church, I am of the understanding it is the Church for the Huguenot Exiles.

The Huguenots were French Protestants who began to migrate to London from the 1550s, to escape persecution in their Catholic homeland.

Mary  •  Link

Yes, I thought about the Lea Valley, Lea Bridge Road etc. before mentioning Lee in SE London, but decided against it, largely because the area as a whole is not generally referred to as "Lee/Lea." "Lea' is the name of the river that runs through several districts.

Anyway [spoiler] later entries will show that Terry is right in citing the arguments for Leigh-on-Sea.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The French Church

There are two Huguenot congregations in London at this time.

The French Church (Threadneeldle Street) is the more established (fd. 1550)

The French Church (Savoy) was founded by Charles II (1661)

The L&M Index identifies the latter as the Church in question here, but the entry there is not well sourced, which is probably why Phil has not linked it.

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