Sunday 20 December 1668

(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to church, and then home, and there found W. Joyce come to dine with me, as troublesome a talking coxcombe as ever he was, and yet once in a year I like him well enough. In the afternoon my wife and W. Hewer and I to White Hall, where they set me down and staid till I had been with the Duke of York, with the rest of us of the Office, and did a little business, and then the Duke of York in good humour did fall to tell us many fine stories of the wars in Flanders, and how the Spaniards are the [best] disciplined foot in the world; will refuse no extraordinary service if commanded, but scorn to be paid for it, as in other countries, though at the same time they will beg in the streets: not a soldier will carry you a cloak-bag for money for the world, though he will beg a penny, and will do the thing, if commanded by his Commander. That, in the citadel of Antwerp, a soldier hath not a liberty of begging till he hath served three years. They will cry out against their King and Commanders and Generals, none like them in the world, and yet will not hear a stranger say a word of them but he will cut his throat. That, upon a time, some of the Commanders of their army exclaiming against their Generals, and particularly the Marquis de Caranen, the Confessor of the Marquis coming by and hearing them, he stops and gravely tells them that the three great trades of the world are, the lawyers, who govern the world; the churchmen, who enjoy the world; and a sort of fools whom they call souldiers, who make it their work to defend the world. He told us, too, that Turenne being now become a Catholique, he is likely to get over the head of Colbert, their interests being contrary; the latter to promote trade1 and the sea, which, says the Duke of York, is that that we have most cause to fear; and Turenne to employ the King and his forces by land, to encrease his conquests. Thence to the coach to my wife, and so home, and there with W. Hewer to my office and to do some business, and so set down my Journall for four or five days, and then home to supper and read a little, and to bed.

W. Hewer tells me to-day that he hears that the King of France hath declared in print, that he do intend this next summer to forbid his Commanders to strike —[Strike topsails]— to us, but that both we and the Dutch shall strike to him; and that he hath made his captains swear it already, that they will observe it: which is a great thing if he do it, as I know nothing to hinder him.


25 Annotations

Terry Fpreman  •  Link

John Evelyn's Diary

20th December, 1668. I dined with my Lord Cornbury, at Clarendon House, now
bravely furnished, especially with the pictures of most of our ancient and
modern wits, poets, philosophers, famous and learned Englishmen; which
collection of the Chancellor's I much commended, and gave his Lordship a
catalogue of more to be added.

http://goo.gl/eySTk

Kim Oliver  •  Link

I am writing a newletter for the Adjunct Faculty and Alumni of the SUNY College of Optometry. The current topic is Mr. Pepys vision problems. In fact, one of the authors cited as a reference in the article “Pepys Big Brown Eyes” is one of the College’s faculty (Groffman). I did not find any specific topics (under health or otherwise) about Pepys vision problems.

I am a lurker an have been reading this diary since it started. My “call” name is Pepyspal, which, in truth, I surely am. I have made one or two posts. Can you help find specific dates where Sam made comments on his eyes?

Jim  •  Link

Kim,
You could do a search of the diary entries for "eyes".

Katherine  •  Link

Is the King of France saying he won't fight naval battles against the Dutch and English next summer? If so, why?

andy  •  Link

the lawyers, who govern the world

As a BA in psychology I always remember the joke about stopping experimentation on rats because there are some things that rats won't do, so finding new experimental subjects in - which profession?

Happy Christmas to all my lawyer friends!

courtney  •  Link

Katherine...the way i read it is this: topsails are the sails most used for manoevering a ship, the last to be taken in. He is saying that the english and dutch are to give in to france, that france won't surrender.

Jeremy  •  Link

Katherine
Striking topsails to a vessel of another navy is a salute, a tribute paid to a superior power. Thus the king of France is demanding that his captains refuse to 'strike' to English and Dutch ships which must instead 'strike' to the French. Failure to do so is interpreted as an act of hostility.

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

"as troublesome a talking coxcombe as ever he was, and yet once in a year I like him well enough."

I'll bet that rings a bell with many of us - especially in the season of goodwill.

Stan Oram  •  Link

Kim,
As well as searching the diary for 'eyes' as Jim suggests, you might also try searching for 'tubes'.
The entry for Friday 31 July 1668 carries a footnote thus:
An account of these tubulous spectacles (“An easy help for decayed sight”) is given in “The Philosophical Transactions,” No. 37, pp. 727,731 (Hutton’s Abridgment, vol. i., p. 266). See Diary, August 12th and 23rd, post. ↩

If you open the page there may be a link directly to this item.

Carl in Boston  •  Link

A Carol for the Season (March of the Kings)
Lurkers arise, your posts we won't despise
This diary is closing, there's no more supposing
Lurkers arise, let's talk about his eyes
The tubes for peeping, the fine print receding.
Duke of York, the French he gives the Fork
Annoy le Anglais, Le French have many ways

TonyC  •  Link

I think that in this context the stiking of sails means the taking down of sails whilst in battle, indicating surrender of a ship, usually to preserve the ship and lives of the remaining crew. The King of France is trying to stiffen the backbone of his admirals. Incidentally, being a lawyer, I like this day's entry!

TonyC  •  Link

And Pepys is admitting that the English fleet is no match for the French if the French do not surrender.

Dorothy  •  Link

I am sure someone explained this, but I must have missed it. Why can't we go 'round again and reread the diary? I found this site only this year. It's not fair!

Larry Hill  •  Link

Failure to do so is interpreted as an act of hostility.
_____________________________________________________

And if his captains do surrender, the King of France will regard it as an act of cowardice perhaps?

Mary  •  Link

In answer to Dorothy.

If you look at the headings under "Latest Site News" to the right of today's entry and click on "End of the Diary in London....." you will find the answer to your question.

Michael L  •  Link

Striking the topsail (lowering the topsail) is a form of naval salute. Its use diminishes the power of movement of the ship doing the striking, and thereby puts it at the mercy of the other ship. Striking is therefore a sign of submission and respect. Its use here in this entry is not as a surrender in battle, but a sign of respect between two ships meeting in peacetime.

Related actions are firing one's guns (thereby temporarily disarming the ship until they may be reloaded) and striking the flag (running it down the flagpole). All of these gestures were taken very seriously in Pepys' day. Indeed, arguments over who must strike the flag to whom were among the issues that led to the Anglo-Dutch wars, of recent memory to readers of this diary.

Pepys' entry today implies that King Louis wants other countries to pay homage to his fleet at sea, but that he refuses to do likewise to them.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"the three great trades of the world are, the lawyers, who govern the world; the churchmen, who enjoy the world; and a sort of fools whom they call souldiers, who make it their work to defend the world."

L&M: This appears to be a version of a late-medieval proverb:. One variant runs:

The King rules all;
the ploughman works for all;
the priest prays for all;
the soldier fights for all.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"W. Hewer tells me to-day that he hears that the King of France hath declared in print, that he do intend this next summer to forbid his Commanders to strike —[Strike topsails]— to us, but that both we and the Dutch shall strike to him"

L&M: No such declaration has been traced. (A similar, unfounded report had circulated in September.) Negotiations were now on foot which led to an agreement between Charles and Louis in the summer of 1669 by which the ships of neither country were to demand salutes from each other in the Mediterranean http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1669/05/26/?c=540…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"the Duke of York in good humour did fall to tell us many fine stories of the wars in Flanders, and how the Spaniards are the [best] disciplined foot in the world"

L&M: The Duke had served with the Spaniards in two campaigns in 1657-8.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"He told us, too, that Turenne being now become a Catholique, he is likely to get over the head of Colbert, their interests being contrary;"

L&M: Turenne (under whom the Duke had served in 1652-5) had become a Roman Catholic in the previous October. His political influence never rivalled that of Colbert.

Eric the Bish  •  Link

Few ships have topsails now, but the custom of saluting is maintained by dipping the ensign to a warship of one’s own nation. The flag is lowered a few feet, and kept down until the salute is returned in the same way. Once the warship’s flag is re-hoisted the first vessel re-hoists and the salute is complete. The Royal Navy certainly still take such courtesies very seriously. A sailing dinghy, without an ensign, salutes by letting the sheets fly (so the sails flap); a rowing boat by lifting the oats to the vertical, but I doubt one warship in 100 would recognise the salute. :)

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Having boarded this great Train (of coaches, of course) in 1665, may we join those voices of the past to beg and pray that the wheel keeps turning beyond the you-know-what prophesied for May 1669.

There will be further occasion to discuss this End of the World as it draws nearer, but maybe it is not too early to humbly suggest that, at that point when Sam rests his quill (and his eyes), be appended the shorter, briefer, more obscure but also very interesting diary he did keep on his mission to Tangiers from 30 July 1683 to 1 December 1684? That would be 16 months of nearly virgin Pepysland to travel, comment upon and contrast with 14 years ago. It's full of exotica, unfairly dismissed as a footnote to the Great Work, hard to find, and would feel indeed as a Reprieve...

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

How touching are the anecdotes which his Royal Highness told today, in the safety of his private bubble. The world, reduced to the lawyers, churchmen and souldiers, is so much simpler without the vulgar ploughmen who constitute by far the majority of its population. From Whitehall they seem invisible.

Occasionally they do surface, with pitchforks and bad manners, and we do not resist quoting this State Paper, a report written today from Pembroke to John Williamson, on how a ship cast onshore, "laden with wine and fruit (...) fell into the hands of the rude multitude [urgh!] who turned the wines out to carry the casks away". That says something about either the quality of the wines, or the earthy priorities of the rude multitude. (Apparently they showed less interest in the fruit).

Also admirable is the Duke's fondness for the Spanish troops in Flanders. True enough, while the Gazette (perhaps a bit selective in this case) often tells of plunder and atrocities by the French, such reports seem rarer in the Spaniards' case, and in Franche Comté the locals were not exactly welcoming Louis' troops as liberators when they overran the Spaniards earlier this year. But the Spanish troops in Flanders came across as less than happy and indifferent to money when Dom Juan, expected to show up with the pay after the treaty of Aachen was signed, chose instead to stay home.

HRH may also have paused to reflect that the Spaniards, being the occupying colonial power in the Low Countries, may not have to beg very hard for the Dutch they encounter in the street to get the message, and may also not feel obliged to carry their bags in return.

Sam Ursu  •  Link

As noted, "striking topsails" is equivalent to bowing or taking the knee. It shows respect and obedience while, at the same time, making yourself vulnerable to an attack.

What's interesting is just how much the American colonists loathed this tradition. Hence:

"Historically, various countries have attempted to claim sovereignty over portions of the high seas and required that foreign ships passing through those seas salute the ships and forts of the coastal states by lowering their flags, taking in their sails, and so on. Over the centuries, such claims came to be rejected."

As such, American warships never struck topsails (or the modern equivalent - dipping the ensign flag) to any foreign warship. Much more on this here:

https://www.seaflags.us/customs/customs.html

In other words, Pepys was making an illusion to France "bending the knee" to Britain.

Sam Ursu  •  Link

Or an allusion, if I could spell right :P

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