Wednesday 17 June 1668


Rose, and paying the reckoning, 12s. 6d.
servants and poor, 2s. 6d.
musick, the worst we have had, coming to our chamber-door, but calling us by wrong names, we lay.

So set out with one coach in company, and through Maydenhead, which I never saw before, to Colebrooke by noon; the way mighty good; and there dined, and fitted ourselves a little to go through London, anon. Somewhat out of humour all day, reflecting on my wife’s neglect of things, and impertinent humour got by this liberty of being from me, which she is never to be trusted with; for she is a fool.

Thence pleasant way to London, before night, and find all very well, to great content; and there to talk with my wife, and saw Sir W. Pen, who is well again. I hear of the ill news by the great fire at Barbados.

By and by home, and there with my people to supper, all in pretty good humour, though I find my wife hath something in her gizzard, that only waits an opportunity of being provoked to bring up; but I will not, for my content-sake, give it. So I to bed, glad to find all so well here, and slept well.

[The rough notes end here.]

19 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"I hear of the ill news by the great fire at Barbados. "

L&M note the magazine at the Town of Saint Michael (now Bridgetown) had been destroyed on 18 April.

One of the main ports in the world during the 17th century, St Michael was rich from the sugar and slave trades. A fire in 1659 had destroyed over 200 houses in the city centre. Just 8 years later -- in 1667 -- a hurricane hit Barbados, destroying more of the city. The great fire in 1668 burned down 800 buildings.……

Carl in Boston  •  Link

I find my wife hath something in her gizzard, that only waits an opportunity of being provoked to bring up; but I will not, for my content-sake, give it
There are times when Sam writes with great eloquence. He could have written a wonderful Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. This has a whiff of Pride and Prejudice.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"I hear of the ill news by the great fire at Barbados."

"Curse you, Sam Pepys!!" Wayneman Birch in rags, covered in burns. "Captured by pirates on the way to this Hell and deprived of me manhood in unspeakable, though thanks to that rather clever pirate doc, survivable manner, whipped and beaten and made near slave here, now this...I'll live to see vengeance done on you yet!!"

"Name, dear?" a charitable matron pauses.

Yes, name...A new name that will strike terror into the heart of Sam Pepys one day...

"My name..." croak...

"There!..." a fervent cry. "I recognize her bag there...Mary, poor girl...Is it you? Oh, what horrible burns...! Mary Skinner, can ye hear your father, dear girl?!"

Bag?...Yes, poor Mary, who always was saying we could be twins...Poor girl, I did try to help...Ah, poor man...

"Is that her, sir?" the lady asked.

"Yes, not too bad in the face, thank God...Mary."

Hmmn...The pirates did say I be rather attrative with long hair...And me face not be too badly cooked...

And it doth be that bug-eyed freak's greatest weakness...

"Oh...Father..." she...Gasped out...

Heh, heh...Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha...

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"reflecting on my wife’s neglect of things, and impertinent humour got by this liberty of being from me, which she is never to be trusted with; for she is a fool."

Spoken by the gent who can't handle his wife's summer vacation time alone without chasing girls even to risking compromising his powerful officemate's rather foolish married daughter, feeling up a sleeping actress friend, and potentially putting himself at the mercy of an ambitious junior employee husband of his mistress.

GrahamT  •  Link

I've read the diary for eight years and the first (and probably only) time he mentions my home town, all he says is "through Maydenhead, which I never saw before".
Maidenhead was one of the major staging stops on the Great West Road to Bath and Bristol, as it was one day's ride from London and a main crossing point of the Thames. The current stone bridge dates from the 18th century, so it was probably a wooden bridge when Pepys crossed it.
Pepys and company appear to better the stage coaches somewhat, by the extra 14 miles from Reading to Maidenhead. 42 miles in one day with a stop for lunch in Colnbrook seems quite good considering that most of the roads would have been unmade or poorly maintained - depending how many 'highway menders' were available.
Of course it was near midsummer, so the evenings would be light until late, giving extra safe travelling time, and they didn't have the Hammersmith Flyover tailback to cope with.

Mary  •  Link

The cost of travel.

For interest's sake I've had a look at just how much this jaunt has cost Sam and it comes to a figure not far short of £30. Not perhaps extravagant when compared with the sums that he is prepared to spend on books, plate etc. but is quite a bit to spend on intangibles, even allowing for the cultural/educational aspects of the journey.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"I hear of the ill news by the great fire at Barbados. "

A true and perfect narrative of the late dreadful fire which happened at Bridge-Town in the Barbadoes, April 18, 1668 as the same was communicated in two letters from Mr. John Bushel, and Mr. Francis Bond, two eminent merchants there, to Mr. Edward Bushel, citizen and merchant of London : containing the beginning, progress, and event of that dreadful fire, with the estimation of the loss accrewing thereby, as it was delivered to His Majesty by several eminent merchants concerned in that loss.
Bushel, John., Bushel, Edward., Bond, Francis.
London: Printed by Peter Lillicrap ..., [1668]
Early English Books Online [full content]…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

'Charles II: June 1668', in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1667-8, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1893), pp. 418-468.…

June 17. 1668
The Royal Katherine, The Downs.
Sir Jer. Smith to Williamson.

I have arrived in the Downs with 7 other ships named, and hourly expect Sir Edw. Spragg and Rear-Admiral Kempthorne, with those ships I left at the Nore.

I suppose they will number 40 ships altogether, but as you will have an account from Sir Thos. Allin, I trouble you no further.
[S.P. Dom., Car II. 241, No. 153.]

June 17. 1668
The Monmouth, Downs.
Sir Thos. AIIin to Williamson.

Capt. Beach of the Greenwich has sailed towards the Straits, with Sir Rob. Southwell, Sir Barnard Gascoigne, and other gentry.
[S.P. Dom., Car II. 241, No. 154.]

Amb. Extraordinary Sir Robert Southwell is going back to Portugal.
Sir Bernard Gascoigne (Italian: Bernardo Guasconi) (1614–1687) was an Italian military adventurer and diplomat, known as a Royalist officer of the English Civil War. He was condemned to death at Colchester, but reprieved because of the potential repercussions.…

June 17. 1668
Sir Geoffery Shakerley to Williamson.

Had a report of some thousand Tories, headed by one Douglas, being up in arms in the north of Ireland;
but letters from there saying nothing of it, presumes it is no such thing.
Asks to be supplied with the newspaper.
[S.P. Dom., Car. II. 241, No. 155.]

June 17. 1668
Thos. Holden to Hickes.

The Virgin from Rochelle reports that 10 great ships were there, with troops from Portugal, about 5,000 men,
and that they talk there of another breach either with Flanders or the Swiss.
[S.P. Dom., Car II. 241, No. 156.]

THE SWISS? Of course, Switzerland wasn’t what we know today. It was probably the name of a canton?

June 18. 1668
Col. Thos. Middleton to Sam. Pepys.

I have paid the tickets belonging to the 5 ships, as also the officers’ full sea pay, which took between 1,600l. and 1,700l.

I ordered the keeping the gun carriages on board the ships they belong to.

I have lost the account of what the calkers’ pay comes to, but will get another;
I will employ them in calking the ships not appointed for sea.

The price of the 1,000 loads of excellent timber is from 2/. to 3/. a load, but the owner will have 400/. in hand, and the remainder on delivery.
Other timber is offered for 48s. a load.
Begs an answer about it.

Mr. Moorcock thinks only the King’s forest timber will be used.

I am almost torn to pieces by the workmen of the yard for their weekly pay; what shall I say to content them?

Five of the fireships have come to Gillingham; I want their books, as I intend to pay them all tomorrow.
[2 pages. S.P. Dom., Car II. 241, No. 167.]

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

June 17. 1668
Treasury Chambers.
Sir George Downing to the Earl of Anglesey.

The Treasury Commissioners are surprised to find that books have been signed by him for 290,000l. for tickets and seamen’s wages,
and desire him to satisfy them how such a great sum arises.
[S.P. Dom., Car II. 241, No. 165.]


San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"L&M note the magazine at the Town of Saint Michael (now Bridgetown) had been destroyed on 18 April. One of the main ports in the world during the 17th century, St Michael was rich from the sugar and slave trades."

As demonstrated by the (incredibly long) title of the book about the fire, and by the first letter announcing the news on June 7, the town is called Bridgetown now.…

Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados was first called Saint Michael after the parish of St. Michael, but was commonly referred to by the ancient bridge found at the bay by a second group of English settlers to arrive on the island in 1629.
Charles Wolverston's expedition called it ‘Indian Bridge’ making reference to the earlier Amerindian inhabitants. This second settlement began on just one hundred acres, just north of the the bridge and Careenage, granted by then proprietor James Hay, Earl of Carlisle.

The main streets laid out by the surveyor John Swan and named in 1657, with the boundaries were legally defined some 30 years later (Act of 1660), [Ligon] was one of the first to describe the town with the street names Reed, Swan, James, Tudor, High, and Palmetto still survive unchanged to this day.

By the 1740's there were at least 1200 houses built of coral stone; ‘the windows glazed and sashed; the streets broad, and the Rents as dear in Cheapside, in the Bridge, as in Cheapside in London’.

Carlisle Bay, at the bottom of which the Bridge stands, is spacious and capable of holding 500 sail ships. The massive stone Mole that ran out from James Fort into the sea was subsequently destroyed in the tempest hurricane of 1694.

Although the central bay area used to be a foul swamp area drained and fortified by 1707, there remained swamps on the east of the town, that at times overflow the whole town; which lie at the entrance to a valley that runs several miles into the ‘country’ then called the Valley of St. George.

Like so many towns on the islands in the Caribbean, Bridgetown had its fair share of early disasters such as the fires of 1659, 1668, 1673, 1756, 1758 and 1766 (plus others in the mid-19th century) and the hurricanes of 1675, 1780 and 1831.
These events shaped peoples' memories with their devastation, in some cases smashing 80 per cent of the town, burning of over 26 acres, and destroying 1,140 buildings. Which is why little remains from the 17th century.…

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

The Swiss are more than the name of a canton, the cantons having been unified since 1291, they are a name of dread, for Switzerland is a wild country of impregnable mountains, and fortified cities where firebrand Calvinists preach the export of their revolution. It is also where mercenaries come from, making Switzerland an even more fearsome power than it is today. Louis, having captured the neighboring Franche Comté, has refrained from going further east but had to deal with those mercenaries there and in Flanders, and has lately been banging the table asking that they refrain from serving against France, or else. A lot of French troops are still out there, starting to stand down but still rampaging quite a bit because it seems Louis has forgotten to pay them.

But Holden's letter is interesting, in suggesting the general disbelief (at least in chanceries) that anything so outlandish as a peace treaty, such as France and Spain have just proclaimed, can be more than a ruse for this or that of the European powers to pivot to its next target. On June 16 the Venetian ambassador to Paris, Marc Antonio Giustinian, was reporting that "The two most powerful fleets of England and Holland which are on the point of forming a conjunction are keeping every one on the watch to see in what direction they propose to steer their course. (...) Here they are afraid that these fleets mean to scour the seas, showing their power everywhere for the purpose of causing themselves to be recognised as masters of the Ocean and the Mediterranean, the exclusive sovereigns and masters of every trade route." […]

The latter would send shivers up the spine of any Venetian, and shortly would be a good description of what England and Holland will start trying in southeast Asia. But for now, Britannia ruling, ruling the waves..? From London and seen through the prism of all these unpaid bills, unprovisioned ships, deserting, incompetent impressed sailors and general terror of a French invasion, it seems incredible, but in fact the Navy is causing quite a bit of nervousness.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

The fire in Barbadoes - but that was more than two months ago! And in the Spring, when the sailing weather is good (isn't it?) However it seems the news were particularly slow to come, given notes on dispatches written in the days following the fire that they were "read in Council" only in late June or as late as mid-July (e.g. Nos. 1734, 1740 and 1741 at…).

Sam could have got the news in Bristol, where one would have expected them to come first and to be of great local interest, but it seems he had to reconnect with the official channels and so they may have been not only slow, but kept quiet. They are of more than idle interest to him, because a lot of shipping now has to be arranged for the reconstruction, and quickly before the French grab the ruins. Indeed the latest from the colonists (Nos. 1770-1772 at…) is an urgent request for dozens of cannons.

It must have been quite a show. The letters say as many as 300 barrels of powder went off, and a thousand houses (mostly dry thatch) were wiped out in the space of 2-3 hours. All the slaves ran away, how terrible. One letter (No. 1734) reports "it is suspected (...) that a little negro boy took up a candle into the garret". Hmmm, but that was just the latest disaster in those colonies, when it's not a fire it's a hurricane or the French or the Indians. Completely unsustainable.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Thanks, Stephane ... my books on Louis XIV are quiet on this period, and I'm always curious to know what was really happening on the other side of the channel. The paranoia on the English side was quite insane, and continued to be for decades.

On the Swiss, I find it interesting to note that the Swiss flag is the reverse of the Crusaders' flag. When Philip the Fair arrested the Crusaders and obliterated their empire, many "disappeared" ... shortly after which the peaceful Swiss came out fighting and turned into mercenaries. I suspect a connection.
Louis XIV was right to leave them alone, but I hadn't realized they were fighting in Flanders.
Heck, who wasn't fighting in Flanders?

I'm also hoping the Crusaders' treasure from their fleet which disappeared will be found on Oak Island ... Maybe next season???…

Harry R  •  Link

"musick, the worst we have had, coming to our chamber-door, but calling us by wrong names, we lay" -

Sam and co unhappy with the dawn chorus. What's going on here? Is it an early morning call or do the maids want to get the room clean and ready with fresh towels and linen for the next occupants? Are Sam and his party having a chuckle under the bed clothes about the musick not worth getting up for?

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Harry, I can't find the previous example of this a couple of years ago, but when rich people are staying at an inn, an enterprising innkeeper may suggest to the local musicians that a good way to earn a BIG tip would be to serenade the rich folk (and charge a commission no doubt).

In this case the Pepys assume they are not the targets as the musicians called out the wrong names when they said "Time to rise and shine, Mr. and Mrs. X."

Harry R  •  Link

Thanks Sarah. I wasn't aware of that. Little did the enterprising innkeeper know that in Sam he has a discerning listener who's written a few tunes of his own and knows a thing or two about musick. Oh yes.

Scott M  •  Link

The itemized expenses from 5 June through 17 June are 23l. 15s. 0d. The National Archives Currency converter (…) estimates that to be roughly 2,702 pounds. Pepys spent an average of about 208 pounds per day, in todays money.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Harry R ... I found our encyclopedia entry for these entrepreneurial early morning entertainers:

Waits or waites were British town pipers. From medieval times up to the beginning of the 19th century, every British town and city of any note had a band of waites.
Also see…

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