Tuesday 29 December 1668

Up, and at the Office all the morning, and at noon to dinner, and there, by a pleasant mistake, find my uncle and aunt Wight, and three more of their company, come to dine with me to-day, thinking that they had been invited, which they were not; but yet we did give them a pretty good dinner, and mighty merry at the mistake. They sat most of the afternoon with us, and then parted, and my wife and I out, thinking to have gone to a play, but it was too far begun, and so to the ’Change, and there she and I bought several things, and so home, with much pleasure talking, and then to reading, and so to supper and to bed.

7 Annotations

First Reading

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Hmmn...Wonder how they managed to get that dinner appt screwed up...And how having Uncle Wight over becomes a "pleasant mistake"? Be interesting to see how Bess felt about the uninvited guests, though probably just the wrong date. Reminds me of a story in "Eleanor and Franklin" about Eleanor's appointment book getting behind and a couple showing up in fancy dress for dinner one night in Washington when FDR was Assistant Secretary of the Navy...The Roosevelts were in pyjamas and robes and servants apparently being off, Eleanor ended up hurriedly making her one culinary triumph, scrambled eggs.

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

One of the great advantages of having servants:

"Oh, by the way Mary, there'll be eight for dinner today. Sort it out please."

Goes back upstairs hastily.

Australian Susan  •  Link

The Servant Problem

Sam frequently gets haunches of venison and the like as "gifts" (with strong strings attached.....) - wonder what the servants thinks of this( "Well, it's a bit niffy, Mrs P, but if you say it's all right to cook, I'll do it"). Reminds me of a tale of my grandmother's. Her husband had been promised by a client a large turkey for Christmas. The client said someone would deliver it on Christmas Eve. So my grandmother ordered no turkey from the poulterer. Yes, the turkey arrived on Christmas Eve (in a smart horse and trap), but it was alive! The kitchen staff had to get next door's gardener to despatch it and my grandmother said she tried to avoid her cook for the next several days........

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

In the dark days of rationing after WWII our neighbours received a live duck from kind friends in the country. It pottered around their garden for several years before dying of old age.

Second Reading

RSGII  •  Link

During WWII and after, my grandfather raised chickens for the eggs and meat in his back yard. We learned very young how to dispatch, pluck and clean them for dinner. None of my descendants has a clue. We also had a fair bit of venison, properly aged for flavor.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

We had been under the impression that nothing too ponderous was going on in the Office this week, other than the re-powdering of wigs, crafting of menus for New Year and 12th Night receptions, and Sam's vague but routine mornings of "business". Also that, of late, his conferences with and that grandee were mostly about personal politics within and (from without) against the Office.

Along comes a 2½ page from "the Navy Commissioners to the Treasury Commissioners", blazoned with six signatures that seem likely to include Sam's, and that must have taken quite a bit of time to draft and re-draft. It is unusually long, crisp and to the point in its summary in the State Papers (at https://play.google.com/books/rea…), which seem to give it largely verbatim.

"We are informed by the Navy Treasurers", the Navy Coms begin with disbelieving tremors of horror as the new budget year is just 48 hours away, "that the sole fund upon which we are to be supported for the expense of the ensuing year, and for defraying the remainder of the last year's charge [debt], is an assignment upon the Customs for 200,000L." Aye, that had been good news, but - Lord in Heavens, is that the coffer's bare wood we feel under the 200k? And it's not a false bottom? Oh nooooo!

Follows a customary reminder of how discredited the deadbeat Navy is to its suppliers, but this time with revealing detail on how it really works: The Office "submitt[ed] to see the stores, through want of money, supplied at dearer rates". Simple enough; of this its critics disapproved, so "[h]aving observed the reproach our office has suffered", and trusting that the £200,000 would be followed by more, "we have resolved no more to carry on the service at any other than the market prices, without having first laid the case before his Royal Highness [York] or you". At this, HRH did caution that there might in fact not be more, and the habit of padding some extra to buy on credit shouldn't be shed so early: "We have been directed by the Lord Admiral to revive the method of governing ourselves by estimates on each particular service".

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

Estimates! Word of dread! Estimates made wrong, by recipes and a witch's brew of assumptions soon forgotten! Indeed, "the want of orderly supplies of money has occasioned the disuse of these [estimates]", though they were meant precisely to deal with want of money, but it also caused "the introduction of many irregularities, and an utter incapacity to distinguish the charge of any particular work". We imagine the clerks throwing their quills and papers in the air and dancing around the tables, maddened by the pointlessness of it all, and perhaps by the opportunities afforded by all the Estimating. Sam's frequent complaint of chaos in the books doesn't stem just from incompetent accounting (such as the shoddy ship's book he moaned about on the 18th, see https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/…), but partly from the very method by which they are kept, all this horrid guess-work, vaguely scribbled on some napkin, at how much the beer should come to.

The letter closes, of course, with a demand for more money, but with this humble suggestion: "We renew our request for a warrant that the money arising from the sale of lops, tops and bark of trees, felled in his Majesty's forests for the use of the Navy, may be employed towards defraying the charge of felling, converting and transporting the timber sent to the King's yards", likely a good part of the expenses. So it's not just the deer that feed off the bark in this winterly season.

The State Papers today also record a long memo from John Mennes on how to reform the books, which we will spare this Society. We prefer to quote a letter sent on Sunday last (27 December) by the crusty Captain Tinker from his Portsmouth arsenal, to Sam, who for the Diary had understandably favored better memories of drums, trumpets and Sir Downing's wartime anecdotes: The Papers' summary begins, "Hopes the galliot hoy that came in has brought shovels, as there are none to be had here". Sam of the coach and beautiful horses is also the go-to man for shovels, apparently, but imagine how Louis XIV would chuckle; "Beaufort! Ready the fleet! They don't even have shovels! We invade now!"

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