Sunday 3 January 1668/69

(Lord’s day). Up, and busy all the morning, getting rooms and dinner ready for my guests, which were my uncle and aunt Wight, and two of their cousins, and an old woman, and Mr. Mills and his wife; and a good dinner, and all our plate out, and mighty fine and merry, only I a little vexed at burning a new table-cloth myself, with one of my trencher-salts. Dinner done, I out with W. Hewer and Mr. Spong, who by accident come to dine with me, and good talk with him: to White Hall by coach, and there left him, and I with my Lord Brouncker to attend the Duke of York, and then up and down the House till the evening, hearing how the King do intend this frosty weather, it being this day the first, and very hard frost, that hath come this year, and very cold it is. So home; and to supper and read; and there my wife and I treating about coming to an allowance to my wife for clothes; and there I, out of my natural backwardness, did hang off, which vexed her, and did occasion some discontented talk in bed, when we went to bed; and also in the morning, but I did recover all in the morning.

14 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"I a little vexed at burning a new table-cloth myself, with one of my trencher-salts "

An individual salt dish or squat open salt cellar placed near a trencher was called a trencher salt…

Carl in Boston  •  Link

I suppose the salt was heated to keep the salt free flowing, but to burn a table cloth with a salt trencher is a little too hot. How did the servant get the trencher salt to the table without injury or noticing it was too hot? Nice to see he is getting his family life in order, and saying yes to Elizabeth's wants for clothing. Alas, she has but a few years to live. Alas for us, we have not long for this diary to live. Where will I go? What will I do?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

The allowance at last...Our Bessie with funds, let the games begin.

"Tis a very merry holiday for me..." Unthankes, beaming...


Sadly, Bess has even less than a few years...Lucky Sam to have gotten this last holiday right...Somewhat.

Ralph Berry  •  Link

"... and there I, out out my natural backwardness, did hang off,...."

What wonderful self understanding, this is one of those little gems of self admission that makes Sam's diary so delightful. In today's terms Sam would be your typical accountant, " I know I am tightfisted but its my nature"!

Mary  •  Link


A delightful term. This sense survives in the modern expression 'to be backward in coming forward.'

Art Perry  •  Link

So Sam burned a new tablecloth with the trencher salt? Was it very hot? or was open flame involved somehow?

htom  •  Link

I wonder if the trencher salt had a candle in the base?

I've missed chunks of the diary in this presentation. I hope, Phil, that you'll restart it from the beginning, keeping the comments, and allowing more to be made on that second (and hopefully subsequent) pass through The Diary. Thank you for all of your work in this.

arby  •  Link

htom, take a look at the "Site News" button at the top of the page for the current plan for the end of the Diary.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"I with my Lord Brouncker to attend the Duke of York,"

L&M transcribe "I with my Brethren to attend the Duke of York;"

George Mosley  •  Link

In re: clothing allowance.

We need to remember, when it comes to clothes, that these are the days before widespread cotton. Consequently, while linen would be used in some garments, the rest would be wool, and that means that precious few clothes could be washed.

Clothes, therefore, were often replaced. Furthermore, dyes were extremely expensive, and silks were extravagantly expensive (hence the mad, lethal efforts to colonize silk worms all over the New World) (cf. "Silk Hope" North Carolina). Prior to the English Civil War, upper gentry spent up to one third of total income on clothing, as they sought to emulate the fashions of nobility. They, in turn, did the same to emulate the crown.

Thus, clothing and fashion were a more desperate, and more desperately expensive, pursuit and friction in the 17th century than even fifty years later.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"hearing how the King do intend this frosty weather"

Does this mean all talk about what the King means to do? Surely the usual.

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"hearing how the King do intend this frosty weather"

I think Pepys lost his train of thought, Terry. Maybe he calls a Frost Fair?

Nick Hedley  •  Link

Maria Entrup-Henemann at the website… gives a discussion of a "trencher salt" as follows:
"I admired the great medieval salts which had not only a practical use but, above all, a ceremonial importance, indicating the relative status of persons by their position at the table in relation to the large salt. However this use was not very convenient, so that, at the end of the 17th century, so called trencher salts were added. Trenchers were individual slabs of hard bread or wood that served as individual plates. Finally the large salts disappeared and individual salts were placed next to each individual trencher or between two of them.

The trencher salts are the early type of salt cellars. There were no spoons in use: you had to put the salt with your knife (as long as it was clean) on the rim of the plate. The salts had no feet and show a wide range of shapes: round, oval rectangular, triangular or octagonal."

No mention of heating, though.

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