Friday 21 June 1667

Up and by water to White Hall, there to discourse with [Sir] G. Carteret and Mr. Fenn about office business. I found them all aground, and no money to do anything with. Thence homewards, calling at my Tailor’s to bespeak some coloured clothes, and thence to Hercules Pillars, all alone, and there spent 6d. on myself, and so home and busy all the morning. At noon to dinner, home, where my wife shows me a letter from her father, who is going over sea, and this afternoon would take his leave of her. I sent him by her three Jacobuses in gold, having real pity for him and her. So I to my office, and there all the afternoon. This day comes news from Harwich that the Dutch fleete are all in sight, near 100 sail great and small, they think, coming towards them; where, they think, they shall be able to oppose them; but do cry out of the falling back of the seamen, few standing by them, and those with much faintness. The like they write from Portsmouth, and their letters this post are worth reading. Sir H. Cholmly come to me this day, and tells me the Court is as mad as ever; and that the night the Dutch burned our ships the King did sup with my Lady Castlemayne, at the Duchess of Monmouth’s, and there were all mad in hunting of a poor moth. All the Court afraid of a Parliament; but he thinks nothing can save us but the King’s giving up all to a Parliament. Busy at the office all the afternoon, and did much business to my great content. In the evening sent for home, and there I find my Lady Pen and Mrs. Lowther, and Mrs. Turner and my wife eating some victuals, and there I sat and laughed with them a little, and so to the office again, and in the evening walked with my wife in the garden, and did give Sir W. Pen at his lodgings (being just come from Deptford from attending the dispatch of the fire-ships there) an account of what passed the other day at Council touching Commissioner Pett, and so home to supper and to bed.

25 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"calling at my Tailor’s to bespeak some coloured clothes"

As L&M remind us, Pepys has just finished [ the clothing-coded ] mourning of his mother's passing.

mary k mcintyre  •  Link

Any ideas on "victuals"?

A snack? Or what the English called 'tea' before tea (aka dinner) became a social convention?

And what do we think they'd be snacking on, as distinct from a proper/conventional meal?

sbt  •  Link

Although there may be some special sense that I am not aware of
'victuals' is just 'food'.

To remind people, the Victualling Board (formed 1654) was a subsidiary
office of the Navy Board. It was effectively independent and
responsible for feeding the Navy, including making sure that stores
were properly preserved. To do this it, later at least, had its own

Note that Pepys has earlier had his proposals for its reforms accepted
and implemented - stopping events like the demolition of the
Victualling Office at Rochester in protest at the low quality of
provisions, a result of corruption.

Pepys is becoming Nautical - the ladies are consuming 'victuals' and
Carteret and Fenn are 'aground'.

cum salis grano  •  Link

victual [s]

[a. AF. and OF. vitaile, -aille (OF. also vitale, -alle, vittalle, victaille) fem.:{em}late L. victu{amac}lia, neut. pl. of post-classical L. victu{amac}lis, f. victus food, sustenance: cf. Prov. vit(o)alha, Sp. vitualla, Pg. vitualha, It. vettovaglia. The variant OF. and mod.F. form victuaille has been assimilated to the L. original, and a similar change in spelling has been made in English, while the pronunciation still represents the forms vittel, vittle. (See also VITALY.)]

1. collect. Whatever is normally required, or may naturally be used, for consumption in order to support life; food or provisions of any kind.

Occasionally applied to food for animals, but more commonly restricted to that of persons.
{alpha} 1303 R.
[long list of refs]
1663 BUTLER Hud. I. I. 316 For, as we said, he always chose To carry Vittle in his Hose.
1723 SWIFT Stella at Woodpark Wks. 1755 IV. I. 40, I must confess, your wine and vittle I was too hard upon a little.
b. Produce of the ground capable of being used as food. Obs.
white victual (quot. 1799), = next.
c1374 CHAUCER Former Age 36 Ther as vitayle is ek so skars and thinne {Th}at nat but mast or apples is ther inne.

c. Sc. Grain, corn. ? Obs.

2. pl. Articles of food; supplies, or various kinds, of provisions; in later use esp. articles of ordinary diet prepared for use.
{alpha} 13..

to victual
1. trans. To supply or furnish (a ship, castle, garrison, body of troops, etc.) with victuals, esp. with a store to last for some time.
{alpha} 13.. Coer de L. 1382

A house where victuals are supplied or sold; an eating-house, inn, or tavern.
....1662 in Extr. St. P. rel. Friends II. (1911) 146 To keepe an Alehouse or Victualling-house within your precincts.
{alpha} 1540-1

Art  •  Link

Umm - Why would the King hunt a poor moth? I assume this moth is of the insect variety... Or am I missing something?

Jesse  •  Link

"were all mad in hunting of a poor moth"

My take is that the dining company, of dubious sobriety, made a game of "hunting" a moth that was fluttering amongst them.

Mary  •  Link

could be almost anything in this context. A bit of cold pie? Bread and cheese? A little of some tasty left-over? At any rate, a casual meal or snack rather than a formal meal. The ladies are having a cosy little get-together.

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

Do we know anything about The Pillars of Hercules?
I assumed it was a pub but Sam usually notes what he eats and drinks, rather than the amount of money he spends "on myself". Could it be - surely not Sam! - a house of ill repute? If so, the name suggests a nice sense of humour.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"I found them all aground..."

Picking up the naval lingo, Sam?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"I sent him by her three Jacobuses in gold, having real pity for him and her." When not forced to it, our boy's a generous fellow.

Not to mention, Alex is going rather than coming... I wonder what he's up to "over the water".

Bradford  •  Link

"Victuals" perhaps sounds more elegant than its American South equivalent, "vittles."

Australian Susan  •  Link

......or the Dickensian cod Cockney of "wittles"

Paul Chapin  •  Link

According to CSG's OED excerpt, "vittle(s)" is the standard pronunciation.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"We et us some vittles" is still heard round our parts.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"Now this Diary be the story of a man named Sam...
Poor prick-louse's son, barely kept his family fed...
Then one day cousin Montagu come along...
And what happened then is the point of this song...

Opportunity, that is...Restoration, be the means...

Then the first thing you know Sam was out from Downing's lair...
New Lord Sandwich said, Sam move away from there...
He said, the Naval office is the place for you to be...
So they packed up Axe Yard and moved across city...

To Seething Lane...Courtiers, actresses...

Now every day we say hello to Sam and all his kin...
And he and Bess would surely thank us all for kindly droppin' in...

Though perhaps he rather parts of entries we'd not see...
You know he'd never refuse us his hospitality...

Vittles, that is...And the best violin and claret in town...

All come back now, ye'd hear?"

Mary  •  Link


There's nothing cod about this representation of 19th century London English in Dickens. If you had heard interviews with the evacuees from Tristan da Cunha following the catastrophic volcanic eruption of 1961, you would have heard evidence of just such a v/w variation in speech. Thanks to their social heritage and isolation the islanders' dialect preserved many aspects of an earlier pronunciation.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Thanks,Mary! I remember the Tristan da Cunha evacuation, but not interviews. Fascinating. Similar to the survival of English folk songs in the Appalachians. I had always thought Dicken's representation of Cockney was ott - and i have certainly always found it tiresome (especially in Pickwick Papers - but then that is an early work) - maybe that is why I had assumed it was incorrect.

JWB  •  Link

Americans called the Berlin Airlift "Operation Vittles" (aka LaMay's 'Coal & Feed').

language hat  •  Link

"“Victuals” perhaps sounds more elegant than its American South equivalent, “vittles.”"

As Paul says, that is the pronunciation of the word. People who say "VIK-choo-als" have learned the word from books rather than hearing it said. (It's like "chitterlings" [pronounced "chitlins"] that way.)

Bradford  •  Link

Ah so! Vittles ahoy! A fact not self-evident if one's never had the opportunity, in a long and misspent life, to hear anyone pointing to the word on the page while pronouncing it differently. (Although that's the only way to say it, per Merriam-Webster.)

So that means a victualer is a "viteller," and "victualing for Tangier" is "vittling." It certainly makes as much sense as pronouncing Pepys "peeps," like the chrome-yellow American marshmallow chick, or finding that William Cowper (another name never heard aloud unless you read Augustans at university in England) is pronounced "Cooper," like a barrel-maker.

Reading the Diary daily these past seven and a half years has certainly been post-post-graduate study.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

R Gertz:“We et us some vittles” is still heard round our parts.

About 150 miles north by north west we sing,

Lather britches beans and sow belly
Grits and black-eyed peas,
Collards cooked in streak-o-lean
I help myself to these.

Lather britches beans and sow belly,
Cornpone hot from the pan
Mashed potatoes and good pot likker
Feeds the hongry man.

cum salis grano  •  Link

vittles twas used in "Little Women".

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"This day comes news from Harwich that the Dutch fleete are all in sight, near 100 sail great and small, they think, coming towards them; where, they think, they shall be able to oppose them; but do cry out of the falling back of the seamen, few standing by them, and those with much faintness."

Of the three letters to Pepys from Harwich this day (Rawlinson MSS, Bodleian Libe, Oxford) is one from Anthony Deane that says: 'We have a strange turne of seamens spirrits that out of 800 men which weare on board Colliers...[are] now to be found not so many as will man eight Feierships...'.

cyclops  •  Link

In 1963, I went down into a talc stone mine in rural northern Vermont (USA) and heard distinctly Elizabethan English spoken by most of the miners.

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