Thursday 7 January 1668/69

Up, and to the office, where busy all the morning, and then at noon home to dinner, and thence my wife and I to the King’s playhouse, and there saw “The Island Princesse,” the first time I ever saw it; and it is a pretty good play, many good things being in it, and a good scene of a town on fire. We sat in an upper box, and the jade Nell come and sat in the next box; a bold merry slut, who lay laughing there upon people; and with a comrade of hers of the Duke’s house, that come in to see the play. Thence home and to the office to do some business, and so home to supper and to bed.

13 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Royal Society today at Arundel House — from the Hooke Folio Online

Ian 7 --- 1668[/69] The Curator made an Expt to proue that the strength of a body moued in a duplicate proportion to its velocity but the expt not suceeding by reason as was supposed by mr Hooke of the frost disordering the instrument employed it was orderd it Should be repeated next Day. --

The same shewed a Way whereby a Segment of a sphericall glass may be made to magnify an obiect to the very edges, and soe to perform the effect of a conick Section. It was observed by seuerall of the company that it Succeed accordingly, it being performed by meanes of water poured vpon the sphericall glasse.

The Curator was desired to shew it again at the next meeting. -- 2 letters of Heuelius. 1. &c the 2d dated, ipso die Solstitii Brumalis [ Winter solstice ] 1668. containing an answer to some querys made by Mr Hooke concerning his Cometography [… ] formerly sent him [vide Letter book.]…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"a good scene of a town on fire."

L&M note the fire scene occurs in Act II, sc. iii, where the chief town of Ternata is set on fire. Burning sulpher and aqua vitae were used to imitate conflagration on the Restoration stage, but here Pepys is probably referring to a painted drop-scene, such as was later illustrated by an engraving in a 1711 edition of Beaumont and Fletcher *Works*.

Chris Squire  •  Link

‘jade, n.1 Etym: Of unknown origin . .
2. a. A term of reprobation applied to a woman. Also used playfully, like hussy or minx.
1560 Nice Wanton in W. C. Hazlitt Dodsley's Sel. Coll. Old Eng. Plays (1874) II. 179 Such a jade she is, and so curst a quean, She would out-scold the devil's dame I ween.
. . 1668 S. Pepys Diary 14 Jan. (1976) IX. 24 [Mrs] Pierce says that she [sc. Miss Davis] is a most homely jade as ever she saw.’

‘slut, n. Etym: Of doubtful origin
. . 2. a. A woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade.
c1450 Cov. Myst. (Shaks. Soc.) 218 Com forth, thou sloveyn! com forthe, thou slutte!
. . 1621 R. Burton Anat. Melancholy i. ii. iv. i. 191 A peevish drunken flurt, a waspish cholerick slut . . ‘


A. De Araujo  •  Link

"and the jade Nell"
Now,who should play Nell? Methinks Cameron Diaz.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Nell Gywn's fall from Pepysian grace...Gee,not long ago Sam and Bess were proud as punch to be getting backstage kisses from the famous actress and Sam marvelled over her comedic ability. Now, suddenly, she's fallen to "jade"?

Ah. Diary casting...Well, if you insist... Now if only he were younger...Jonathan Pryce as Sam...Perhaps as older Sam, with Ewan McGregor as young Sam. Charlotte Gainsbourg as Bess. Colin Firth as Lord Sandwich. Maybe for fun, Emma Thompson as Lady Castlemaine?...Fun to see her in such a part. Ciaran Hynds as John Pepys Sr.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Nell Gywn’s fall from Pepysian grace…"

If SP sill felt that old adulation of Nell, could he afford to admit it, even to his Diary?

Teresa Forster  •  Link

"Nell Gwyn's fall from Pepysian grace..."

"If SP still felt that old adulation of Nell, could he afford to admit it, even to his diary?"

He hasn't flinched from revealing his true feelings so far, so I suppose we may assume he's recording his true feelings here.

FJA  •  Link

Re: "...his true feelings here."
Ah, but as sincere as he may feel them today, how "true" will he be tomorrow?

Jenny  •  Link

I don't think Nell has fallen from grace in Sam's eyes. I think the words "jade" and "slut" are used affectionately here. It is very common in "English" countries to use derogatory expressions as terms of affection. For example, "how are you, you old bastard?".

languagehat  •  Link

I agree with Jenny; Sam does not sound at all (to me) like he's putting her down.

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas and New Year's festivities, falls on January 6.

January 7 marks the start of the Epiphany, and a return to work ... but of course not everyone was happy about that, especially the men who worked the soggy, frozen land.

Many women, especially unmarried women, toiled indoors at their spinning wheels, making cloth. So synonymous was spinning with single women that it spawned the word spinster.

These working women dutifully returned to work on January 7, which became known as St. Distaff’s Day.

But there is no Saint named Distaff.

The distaff was an important tool used in the first process of making cloth. It is used during the spinning of wool or flax into thread. The distraff is used to hold the wool or flax so that the spinner can easily reach it or keep it out of the way as they spin the thread. The distaff is often tucked into the waistband, leaving both hands free, or it can be worn like a ring on the finger.
The "canonisation" of the distaff shows the importance of the tool, and of how important their job was, and thus the meaning of this return to work day.

To the still idle men who wanted the fun and games to continue, St. Distaff’s Day provided an opportunity for further (probably drunken) fun.

In 1648 the Devonshire poet and country cleric, Robert Herrick, included in his "Hesperides" a short poem, 'Saint Distaff’s Day or the Morrow After Twelfth Day' in which he described the reception that the returning spinners could face;

‘If the maides a spinning-goe
burn the flax and fire the tow:
scorch their plackets, but beware
that ye singe no maiden-haire’.

So St. Distaff’s Day could be another day for male mischief making.
It's tempting to think the spinsters, trying to save their precious handiwork from the flames, would also throw some cold buckets of water over their tormentors to sober them up.

For this and other ancient Christmas traditions, see…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Nell Gwyn sat in the box next to the Pepys. She and an actor were talking and laughing at people in the theater, which must have prevented the Pepys from hearing the dialog, while noting their enjoyment and merriment.

I read jade and slut as being affectionate comments on Nell's bad teenage behavior.

Stephane Chenard  •  Link

L&M strike us as those literary types who didn't pay attention in science class, for "burning sulpher and aqua vitae [ethyl alcohol]" would combust with eerie little blue flames, barely visible, unspectacular and not evocative of burning wood, and as the former would convert to pungent effluvia of sulpher dioxide, its main effect would be to send everyone fleeing the theater, wheezing and rubbing their eyes. Obviously half of Westminster could then burn along with the abandoned decor.

Not that cities on fire aren't reasonably commonplace; if memory serves, just last month the Gazette had a terse paragraph to inform us that Moscow had burned to the ground again. In the play, what's burning is the town of Ternate, in the Moluccas, a bizarre and pagan place that not many Europeans might empathize with. Even so, we marvel that it took, at most, less than 2½ years after the Great Fire for someone to dare show "a town on fire" on a London stage, and for such a perceptive, involved and consummate Londoner as Sam to just find it "a good scene".

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