Monday 28 December 1668

Up, called up by drums and trumpets; these things and boxes [??] having cost me much money this Christmas already, and will do more. My wife down by water to see her mother, and I with W. Hewer all day together in my closet making some advance in the settling of my accounts, which have been so long unevened that it troubles me how to set them right, having not the use of my eyes to help me. My wife at night home, and tells me how much her mother prays for me and is troubled for my eyes; and I am glad to have friendship with them, and believe they are truly glad to see their daughter come to live so well as she do. So spent the night in talking, and so to supper and to bed.

29 Annotations

First Reading

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Glad to have friendship with the in-laws...At a distance. No suggestion that they might join for dinner there or at the in-laws?...I wonder how Sam manages it, especially now that Bess is firmly in charge of all domestic travel and entertainment. I can only guess Bess herself is very opposed to having him associate with them...Perhaps Alex is much too given to requesting assistance with new inventions and schemes? Or perhaps it's a religious issue? Surely if Bess wanted Sam to see them, she could make him this Xmas.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Ossory to Ormond
Written from: [Dublin]
Date: 28 December 1668

That part of the Duke's letter of 15th inst, which was written in cypher, has given Lord Ossory especial pleasure.

The libel concerning the Duke consists only of certain heads [of accusation] formerly mentioned by the writer, as having been seen in the hands of some members of Parliament, and for which Sir Charles Wheeler and Mr Seymour took pains to obtain credit.…

Bill Burns  •  Link

"boxes": Christmas box - a gift, usually monetary, to servants or tradespeople. First cite in the Oxford English Dictionary is:

"1611 Cotgr. Tirelire, a Christmas box; a box having a cleft on the lid, or in the side, for money to enter it; used in France by begging Fryers, and here by Butlers, and Prentices, etc."

Chris Squire  •  Link

ˈChristmas-box, n.
3. A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.

These gratuities have traditionally been asked from householders by letter-carriers, policemen, lamp-lighters, scavengers, butchers' and bakers' boys, tradesmen's carmen, etc., and from tradesmen by the servants of households that deal with them, etc. They are thus practically identical with the Christmas-box collected by apprentices from their masters' customers in sense 1, exc. that the name is now given to the individual donation; and hence, vulgarly and in dialect use it is often equivalent to ‘Christmas present.’
From ‘box n. . . [1668 S. Pepys Diary 28 Dec. (1976) IX. 403 Called up by drums and trumpets; these things and boxes having cost me much money this Christmas.
1712 R. Steele Spectator No. 509. ⁋3 The beadles & officers have the impudence at Christmas to ask for their box.] [OED]

Jenny  •  Link

Boxing Day (26 December) is a public holiday in New Zealand (and I believe in the UK). As a child I thought it had something to do with boxing, the sport, and couldn't work it out at all. It is, indeed, the day on which servants, tradespeople, office workers etc received a gift. It was still common when I was young to give a gift to the postman, the milkman and other tradespeople at Christmas.

Office bonuses are often given just before Christmas - a relic I suppose of the old tradition.

mary k mcintyre  •  Link

Boxing day also a gov't holiday in Canada... in most of the Commonwealth countries, I expect. Cdn retailers kick off their big post-Xmas sales on Boxing Day, much as their US counterparts do with "Black Friday" sales on the day after their Thanksgiving.

Jenny  •  Link

Yes, Mary, the Boxing Day sales when you can buy everything you bought for Christmas at half price!

Mary  •  Link

In England we still tend to give a Christmas box (i.e. monetary gift) to the milkman, the postman and, above all, the dustmen (otherwise known as Community Hygiene Operatives). My milkman then responds with a special 'thank-you' card.

Beryl  •  Link

In France a monetary gift is given to the postman and the fireman, [very popular people in France]

Australian Susan  •  Link

The pompiers in parts of France come round their local houses selling calendars and having a drink. Gets quite entertaining towards the end of their round. The calendars are pictures of fire-engines and other rescue vehicles. Not exactly scintillating. Over here in Oz, the firemen sell calendars before Christmas, but they are of semi-naked firemen with hoses etc. Bess would have liked them, i think. Not sure if there ever was a tradition of giving Christmases boxes to tradespersons in Australia, but there hasn't been in the time we have lived here (20 years). It was important (when i was a child in the UK) to give a box to the coalman or you risked having coal bits dropped all over your path when they made their next delivery. Sam gets coal deliveries doesn't he? Wonder if he tips them at Christmas?

ONeville  •  Link

The Christmas Box tradition no doubt provided a significant income for those receiving and was jealously guarded. Dustmen, for example, would not normally come into direct contact with their patrons, who were requested to beware impostors.…

Carl in Boston  •  Link

Now I know about Boxing Day, something I never understood before.

Betsy  •  Link

This post made me realize that I forgot to give anything to the postman for Christmas. Not to mention the trash man. Good thing there aren't lamplighters anymore, or I'd probably stiff him, too.

Clement  •  Link

Friendship with the in-laws--Is there any indication that Bess shared her recent agony over Sam's philandering with her parents?

AnnieC  •  Link

My local rubbish collector gets lots of "boxes" from householders in Christmas week because he is such a lovely man, always cheerful and obliging.

George Mosley  •  Link

Christmas Box and Trade:

The Christmas box, outside of the gratuity, was a way for the tradesmen themselves to reward apprentices without showing favoritism. It was also a way for each of the gratuities to go into the box, traditionally, during Advent and then have the box (made of clay) broken open by the workers for a share and share alike bonus. This was once a way for the shop owner to reflect prosperity and give thanks to the labor.

It then became an occasion for rather strenuous celebration among the working classes, especially those notorious "idle apprentices" who apparently caused much trouble to ordinary citizens. For those who would not be in a shop position, the gratuity must have developed. It is, of course, a bit of class consciousness for Pepys to resent what was not very far his social inferior's due.

ticea  •  Link

Why would Sam pay to be "called up by drums and trumpets"?

Don McCahill  •  Link

England still has milkmen? That went out of style in the 70s in most of Canada.

I remember as a boy in the early 70s making a killing at Christmas time from my newspaper delivery route. My weekly take was $4 a week, but for Christmas it was around $50 with the tips. (Never referred to as boxes though).

Mary  •  Link

[I don't know whether the whole of England still has milkmen, but ours delivers to the doorstep three times a week and we are very glad to have his services].

As for the drums and trumpets, I suspect that they were operating on the same sort of basis as carol singers did and do: we play, you pay.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"My wife down by water to see her mother"

L&M note Elizabeth's parents now apparently lived with Balty and his wife, who were settled in Deptford. Recall Samuel's contemplating the dismal prospect of "going to live at Deptford at her brother’s, till I can clear my accounts, and rid my hands of the town"…

Clive Foden  •  Link

Perhaps it is a case of "You pay or we'll play". (I'm a musician at the Tudor re-enactments at Kentwell Hall and play both instruments mentioned, so no offence is intended!)
Yes, we still have a milkman who does sterling service as a sort of unpaid social eye for our widespread community too.

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"called up by drums and trumpets"

27 December 1666, Pepys and the rest of the Navy board compound on Seething Lane were "Up; and called up by the King’s trumpets, which cost me 10s."… See the informative annotations at…

Michael Robinson posts: "L&M note this as "A Christmas box" and I assume they trailed round likely contributors in Whitehall and other similar residences. The Sergeant-trumpeter, Gervase Price, was an acquaintance."

Was Pepys (ex officio as Clerk of Acts?) the sponsor of such community revels?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Was Pepys (ex officio as Clerk of Acts?) the sponsor of such community revels?"

Or was it his turn to pay off the King's herald trumpet ensemble and their accompanying drums? A seasonal a forced transfer of money: the monarch as a traveling charity?

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Why would Sam pay to be "called up by drums and trumpets"?

According to Wikipedia: 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.…

See this definition at… :

1670 Moral State Eng. 132 The Weights of the Town who played upon Cornets and Haut-bois.
later a band :b. pl. A band of musicians and singers who perambulate the streets by night at the approach of Christmas and the New Year playing and singing carols and other seasonable music for gratuities.

Pepys mentioned them on July 27, 1663:
"... but it being much a warmer day than yesterday there was great store of gallant company, more than then, to my greater pleasure. There was at a distance, under one of the trees on the common, a company got together that sung. I, at the distance, and so all the rest being a quarter of a mile off, took them for the Waytes, so I rode up to them, and found them only voices, some citizens met by chance, that sung four or five parts excellently. I have not been more pleased with a snap of musique, considering the circumstances of the time and place, in all my life anything so pleasant."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"I am glad to have friendship with them, and believe they are truly glad to see their daughter come to live so well as she do."

On the material end of things I think you provided for Elizabeth handsomely, Mr. Pepys ... did she wear her pearl necklace often?…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"I with W. Hewer all day together in my closet making some advance in the settling of my accounts, which have been so long unevened that it troubles me how to set them right, having not the use of my eyes to help me."

Ah, that's the excuse. We've been wondering how big the pile of gold in the basement was by now. Thank God for Hewer ... he was Pepys' son in so many ways.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

This musing is outside the Diary years of course, but when Pepys' lovely house burned down, and presumably he lost everything including Elizabeth's paintings, how did he move the gold and silver plate out of the basement? And I believe much of his library survived ... the books would have had to be carried downstairs for two storeys by my calculations.

I hope they hurry up with time travel ... there are so many things I'd love to know.

SPOILERS: "Pepys discontinued his diary on 31 May 1669, believing that he was about to go blind, which in fact never happened. By that time he had written well over 1,000,000 words, on over 3,000 pages. That same year Elizabeth, his wife, died on 10 November. Her body was buried in the church of St. Olave, Hart Street.

"Pepys continued to work at the Navy Office. It had occupied various sites since the 16th century. The offices in which Pepys worked had been acquired by the Government in 1654. The office, which stood on the east side of Seething Lane, was destroyed by fire on 29 January 1673, destroying 30 homes nearby. Some of the official records were destroyed, as were some engravings that belonged to Pepys. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the fire and Pepys stayed with his friends, the Houblons, in Winchester Street for a few months. Eventually, a new building was erected in 1683 but, by that time, Pepys had moved away."


Ashley Smith  •  Link

I hope they hurry up with time travel ... there are so many things I'd love to know.

Me too Sarah !

Ashley Smith  •  Link

I think the first thing (and probably only) I would do with a time machine is fix Sam's eyes somehow. Lens replacement? Then drop a hint to Sam that he has to continue to write his diary until the day he dies. Pretty please Sam !

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