Sunday 5 July 1668

(Lord’s day). About four in the morning took four pills of Dr. Turberville’s prescribing, for my eyes, and they wrought pretty well most of the morning, and I did get my wife to spend the morning reading of Wilkins’s Reall Character. At noon comes W. Hewer and Pelling, and young Michell and his wife, and dined with us, and most of the afternoon talking; and then at night my wife to read again, and to supper and to bed.

9 Annotations

Robert Gertz  •  Link

I wonder how Bess likes "being Sam's eyes"...No doubt he's making it clear the dismal future he fears awaits them if he loses his ability to read but her take would be interesting. Obviously Sam's problems are mostly reading-related now but is he suggesting to her he believes true blindness is just around the corner? Given his medical history he could be forgiven for expecting the worst. And does she view this as an unmitigated disaster or perhaps one that will allow her a bit of impowerment in the marriage?

Jenny  •  Link

I think Elizabeth enjoyed reading to Sam. It would have brought them closeness and intimacy. I am sure she worried about his eyes - she cared for him deeply. I don't know that the notion of empowerment would have entered her head. Yes, she was a wonderfully feisty and independent woman, but she was a 17th century woman. My mother laid out my late father's clothes for him every morning and always made sure he was served first at dinner and that was in the late 20th century. He was the man of the house and the breadwinner and that was how things were. It didn't make her unhappy - it was her role.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Not in so many modern words, but I wonder if Bess would have considered that blind (or reading blind) Sam would be needier and more dependent Sam. I'm sure she's concerned for him...They're a very loving and supportive couple as to mutual illnesses, despite their frustrations with each other at times. On the other hand I can't see Bess Pepys as a woman quite comfortable with her "role"...At least the uncomplaining, dutiful, unquestioning, and above all, unbothering one Sam often seems eager for her to take up. Though at least subconsciously Sam, as often as he resents her rebellious streak, seems rather pleased when she shows a little spirit. She likes to help him and seems at her best when he's making her feel a part of a team with him but without that element she becomes resentful and I think takes no little pleasure in getting a rise out of him by neglecting duties he expects her to perform. They married for love and she expects and I think again was led by him to expect more from him as a result.

john  •  Link

My wife read to me whilst I recovered from eye surgery (despite it not being a topic close to her heart -- ancient Egyptian history #6-). But this is now and it seems that reading to one another was common then. I understand his terror.

JKM  •  Link

When Sam says the pills "wrought well"--do we think they were some sort of purgative?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Shows how paltry the armaments of physicians at the time, and how probative what they did was -- eliminate bad humours first, then.... --, sans the Royal Society's experimental basis of it. So they struggled for results and repute.

"First, do no harm" is the germ of, but below the current standard of demonstrated safety and effectiveness.

Alan  •  Link

For a contemporary examination on the prospect of blindness to a man of letters, we need look no further surely than "On his Blindness" ( ) by John Milton. Of course, Milton's Puritan faith may have made him a little more accepting of what he perceived as God's will. I don't see Sam as being very happy to "only stand and wait".

That said, Milton went on to write "Paradise Lost" while blind, so perhaps deep-down he wasn't much on standing and waiting either.

Australian Susan  •  Link

Even by the standards of the day, Milton exploited his family when blind. Don't think Sam would have behaved in the same way, but who knows. Going blind or deaf is a frightening prospect for anyone, anywhere and at all times.

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