Friday 22 May 1668

Up, and all the morning at the office busy. At noon home with my people to dinner, where good discourse and merry. After dinner comes Mr. Martin, the purser, and brings me his wife’s starling, which was formerly the King’s bird, that do speak and whistle finely, which I am mighty proud of and shall take pleasure in it. Thence to the Duke of York’s house to a play, and saw Sir Martin Marr-all, where the house is full; and though I have seen it, I think, ten times, yet the pleasure I have is yet as great as ever, and is undoubtedly the best comedy ever was wrote. Thence to my tailor’s and a mercer’s for patterns to carry my wife of cloth and silk for a bed, which I think will please her and me, and so home, and fitted myself for my journey to-morrow, which I fear will not be pleasant, because of the wet weather, it raining very hard all this day; but the less it troubles me because the King and Duke of York and Court are at this day at Newmarket, at a great horse-race, and proposed great pleasure for two or three days, but are in the same wet. So from the office home to supper, and betimes to bed.

16 Annotations

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Ormond to Sir William Temple
Written from: Whitehall
Date: 22 May 1668

Communicates the reasons of his journey into England ... and also of his hope that remedies may yet be provided to cure the hurts sustained by Ireland, during the late wars, so that she may, in time, "recover to a reasonable degree of happiness". ...…

Robert Gertz  •  Link

One might wonder how Betty Martin got "the King's"
starling "that do speak and whistle". Perhaps too much? Norwich in "Byzantium:The Apogee" tells the story of a parrot in the Imperial Palace who when the young heir, the future Leo VI "the Wise" was locked up by his angry and violent dad, Basil I, used to squawk "Alas, poor Leo" every time the emperor strode past. The pious author of one of the chronicles Norwich consulted suggested it was this that eventually led to Basil's release of the heir but Norwich notes it seems more likely to have resulted in Basil's strangling the bird with his bare hands. Perhaps Charlie suffered a similar reaction to his bird over time and Betty just happened to catch the tossed cage. Of such moments are great events born...

Peter Taylor  •  Link

Sam doesn't seem to work past noon much anymore, goes home for a nosh up with the lads then off into town to watch a play or do his personal business, it's not good enough, I think he needs pulling into line.

Paul Chapin  •  Link

"the less it troubles me because the King and Duke of York and Court ... are in the same wet."
Misery loves company, especially royal company.

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

And why would she give the starling to Sam when it would presumably be worth good money on the street? Are the Martins preparing to ask some favour in return or does she have real affection for him - or is she just fed up with the blasted bird whistling and talking all day?

Mary  •  Link

I note in the same March 1st entry that the original plan was for Mercer to accompany Elizabeth for her extended break in the country. I wonder whether the young lady decided that the rural life was really not for her, or whether Sam decided that his co-duettist could not be spared from London.

john  •  Link

Not the starlings I know (sturnus vulgaris). On this side of the pond, they are a noisy aggressive invasive species driving out native songbirds. They also have a racuous cry, not at all pleasing to the ear.

John Aislabie  •  Link

The "starling" sounds more like a mynah bird to me. An understandable description since it is of the starling family, but the mynah is of course well known as an excellent mimic

arby  •  Link

I'm no birder, and haven't looked it up, but I thought I heard that European Starlings had a reputation for being excellent mimics. Long ago. I seem to remember something about splitting their tongues to facilitate speech, dang, now I have to look it up.
You might want to check out "Mozart's starling" which was a European starling. Sang G sharp where Mozart had written G natural. But, maybe Sam's was a mynah.
I agree with John, they are a nasty invasive, and clearly haven't lived up to their potential on this side of the pond.

Mary  •  Link

European starlings are excellent mimics, with some sounds apparently having natural appeal for them. Some years ago there was a brand of telephone in England, the Trimphone, that emitted a distinctive, trilling ring. The starlings in one's garden soon learned to mimic this to perfection and sent us dashing to answer the phone time after time, only to discover that no-one was ringing - it was just another starling that had been trilling away within earshot.

nix  •  Link

Does Samuel really want to bring home a talking bird that has resided successively with Charles Rex and with Betty Martin? Liable to cry out "Pop-eyed pipsqueak" or "Oh, Sammy, do that again"? This might be his most reckless act yet.

pepfie  •  Link

Ever the aspiring climber - shared birds, shared luck, why not even chicks?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"saw Sir Martin Marr-all...I have seen it, I think, ten times"

L&M say according to the diary Pepys has seen the Dryden comedy (in whole or in part) seven times.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

" the King and Duke of York and Court are at this day at Newmarket, at a great horse-race, and proposed great pleasure for two or three days"

L&M say they went on the 21st and returned on the 23rd: London Gazette, 25 May.

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