Friday 15 January 1668/69

Up, and by coach to Sir W. Coventry, where with him a good while in his chamber, talking of one thing or another; among others, he told me of the great factions at Court at this day, even to the sober engaging of great persons, and differences, and making the King cheap and ridiculous. It is about my Lady Harvy’s being offended at Doll Common’s acting of Sempronia, to imitate her; for which she got my Lord Chamberlain, her kinsman, to imprison Doll: when my Lady Castlemayne made the King to release her, and to order her to act it again, worse than ever, the other day, where the King himself was: and since it was acted again, and my Lady Harvy provided people to hiss her and fling oranges at her: but, it seems the heat is come to a great height, and real troubles at Court about it. Thence he and I out of doors, but he to Sir J. Duncomb, and I to White Hall through the Park, where I met the King and the Duke of York, and so walked with them, and so to White Hall, where the Duke of York met the office and did a little business; and I did give him thanks for his favour to me yesterday, at the Committee of Tangier, in my absence, Mr. Povy having given me advice of it, of the discourse there of doing something as to the putting the payment of the garrison into some undertaker’s hand, Alderman Backewell, which the Duke of York would not suffer to go on, without my presence at the debate. And he answered me just thus: that he ought to have a care of him that do the King’s business in the manner that I do, and words of more force than that. Then down with Lord Brouncker to Sir R. Murray, into the King’s little elaboratory, under his closet, a pretty place; and there saw a great many chymical glasses and things, but understood none of them. So I home and to dinner, and then out again and stop with my wife at my cozen Turner’s where I staid and sat a while, and carried The. and my wife to the Duke of York’s house, to “Macbeth,” and myself to White Hall, to the Lords of the Treasury, about Tangier business; and there was by at much merry discourse between them and my Lord Anglesey, who made sport of our new Treasurers, and called them his deputys, and much of that kind. And having done my own business, I away back, and carried my cozen Turner and sister Dyke to a friend’s house, where they were to sup, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields; and I to the Duke of York’s house and saw the last two acts, and so carried The. thither, and so home with my wife, who read to me late, and so to supper and to bed. This day The. Turner shewed me at the play my Lady Portman, who has grown out of my knowledge.


15 Jan 2012, 11:35 p.m. - Robert Gertz

...and there saw a great many chymical glasses and things, but understood none of them..." Ye olde Meth lab eh, Charlie? *** A pity we don't get the witty if bratty The Turner's take on "Macbeth" from Sam...

16 Jan 2012, 12:25 a.m. - Robert Gertz

Not to mention Theophilia being a bright girl, I wonder if she'd noticed Sam and Bess having any troubles between them...Though with the Pepys, one day Bess is ready to let rip with hot tongs, the next Sam is expressing puzzlement at how poorly other couples get along when he and the Missus enjoy such contentment.

16 Jan 2012, 11:53 a.m. - Stan Oram

I never realised that a Laboratory was somewhere one went to 'elaborate' on an idea!

16 Jan 2012, 2:16 p.m. - languagehat

It's not; it's someplace one goes to work (Latin laborare). "Elaboratory" is a rival that appeared later, had some success, and died out in the nineteenth century. Odd that he has nothing to say about "Macbeth"; offhand, I can't remember his mentioning a play he's seen without at least a brief commendation or condemnation.

16 Jan 2012, 3:29 p.m. - A. De Araujo

"and fling oranges at her" It must have been orange peels,after all oranges besides being expensive could have hurt.

16 Jan 2012, 6:12 p.m. - Todd Bernhardt

Interesting uses of the word "undertaker" here -- can anyone provide additional background on it? Likewise, can anyone provide an explanation of "grown out of my knowledge"? Another example of James's loyalty to, and advocacy of, his man Pepys ... no wonder why Sam stuck by James's side when the going got tough in '88.

16 Jan 2012, 6:48 p.m. - Terry Foreman

“undertaker” = contractor; parliamentary manager (L&M Select Glossary)

16 Jan 2012, 6:48 p.m. - Michiel van der Leeuw

There's something very wrong with the "oranges" link...

16 Jan 2012, 7:09 p.m. - Terry Foreman

"my Lord Anglesey...made sport of our new Treasurers, and called them his deputys" L&M note Anglesey, suspended as Treasurer of the Navy, was not yet dismissed.

16 Jan 2012, 8:07 p.m. - Todd Bernhardt

Thanks, Terry!

19 Jan 2012, 2:19 a.m. - Todd Bernhardt

Anyone know what "grown out of my knowledge" means? Thanks in advance...

20 Jan 2012, 9:04 p.m. - AnnieC

Todd, I took it to mean that she had put on so much weight that Sam didn't recognise her at first. Just guessing.

22 Jan 2012, 10:41 p.m. - Todd Bernhardt

Good a guess as any, AnnieC! Thank you.

23 Jan 2012, 2:54 a.m. - Bryan M

“grown out of my knowledge” The geneological website below has an entry on Sir John Cutler that states his daughter Elizabeth was probably born between 1643 and 1650. If Sam hadn't seen her for half a dozen or more years she would have grown from a teenager to young married woman. http://www.tim.ukpub.net/pl_tree/ps03/ps03_400.html

24 Jan 2012, 1:42 a.m. - Todd Bernhardt

Thank you, Bryan! Makes even more sense.

15 Feb 2017, 3:29 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"It is about my Lady Harvy’s being offended at Doll Common’s acting of Sempronia , to imitate her; for which she got my Lord Chamberlain, her kinsman, to imprison Doll: when my Lady Castlemayne made the King to release her, and to order her to act it again, worse than ever, the other day, where the King himself was: and since it was acted again, and my Lady Harvy provided people to hiss her and fling oranges at her: but, it seems the heat is come to a great height, and real troubles at Court about it." L&M unpack: Lady Harvey (Hervey), whose influence at court, especially with the Queen, infuriated Lady Castlemaine, was said to boast of having made one secretary of state (Trevor), of having control of the other (Arlington), and of having placed her husband (Sir Daniel Harvey) as ambassador to Turkey and her brother (Ralph Mountagu) as ambassador to France: Sandwich MSS Journals, ix. 122-4. https://archive.org/stream/lifeofedwardmont02harruoft/lifeofedwardmont02harruoft_djvu.txt 'Doll Common' was the name given to Mrs Corey of the King's Company, from the character in Jonson's Alchemist. Sempronia (a character in Jonson's Catiline) was an aging courtesan who posed as 'a great stateswoman'. When examined by the Lord Chamberlain (Manchester, Lady Harvey's second cousin), Mrs Corey, according to Sandwich, was 'bold and Sawcye'.

15 Feb 2017, 3:45 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"Then down with Lord Brouncker to Sir R. Murray, into the King’s little elaboratory, under his closet, a pretty place; and there saw a great many chymical glasses and things, but understood none of them." L&M note Charles was interested in several branches of science, particularly chemistry and anatomy. Sir Robert Moray [Royal Society President] seems to have had charge of the King's laboratory.

15 Feb 2017, 4:05 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"my Lord Anglesey, who made sport of our new Treasurers, and called them his deputys" Anglesey, suspended from the office of Treasurer of the Navy , had not been dismissed (L&M) but his joint successors -- Sir Thomas Littleton and Sir Thomas Osborne -- had been named..

16 Jan 2022, 10:53 a.m. - Stephane Chenard

And so Sam, quite possibly led by the King himself and at the least with a royal invitation that surely wasn't handed to everybody, got to see Charles' Alchemycal elaboratorium this morning. He was evidently less interested in the "pretty place" and its "things", than in the fascinating case of My Lady Harvey vs. My Lady Castlemaine, confirming along the way that his interest in the Sciences isn't all that deep -- not for him either Oldenburg's readings of Helvetius or Boyle's tedious tinkering with air-pumps, as he seems to attend the Society mainly when there's a vote or a dinner. Sam's terse, annoyingly incurious and dumbfounded 25 words will for centuries be Evidence A of Charles' interest in the Art. Evidence B will be the installation in 1661, as one of the first acts of the Restoration, of "apothecary-in-ordinary" Nicaise Le Fevre, a.k.a. Nicolas Le Fébure; on how Le Febre/Le Fébure was likely rather more than the royal pill-maker, see J.A. Mendelsohn's "Alchemy and Politics in England 1649-1655", Past and Present, 135 (1), 30–78, 1992 (doi:10.1093/past/135.1.30). Evidence C, detailed for instance at https://www.flandershealth.us/lead-poisoning/the-strange-death-of-king-charles-ii.html, are the severall symptoms of mercury poisoning found in Charles II's later autopsy.

16 Jan 2022, 10:53 a.m. - Stephane Chenard

Jonathan Hughes, in "The Rise of Alchemy in Fourteenth-Century England" (Continuum, 2012, excerpted at https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/the-rise-of-alchemy-in-fourteenth-century-england-plantagenet-kings-and-the-search-for-the-philosophers-stone/ch1-introduction) quotes 1660s wag Thomas Vaughan on how the Restoration was "seen in terms of the resurrection of the dead king and his body politic to the original purity of gold", such an Alchemical allegory that "it was partly to underline this point that Charles II maintained his own alchemical laboratories". Mendelsohn's article notes that Charles' first instructions to Le Fevre were to "recreate the celebrated cordial of Sir Walter Raleigh", which apparently was, then was handed in little vials to quality visitors and may still have been dripping from the retorts in 1669; but he also confirms that the pure-as-gold political methaphor was widespread. Alchemy had, at least in previous years, been considered something Phanatiques and Puritans liked to indulge in, and so sulphurous in more ways than one, but by 1669 it had been largely depoliticized, and there was a "laboratory craze" among the Quality. Charles' affair with the crucibles and the furnace was famous enough, Mendelsohn writes, that "that same year [1669] Louis XIV conducted secret diplomacy with Charles through an agent, the abbe Pregnani, who came under the pretext of assisting the king in his chymical activities". All the same we'd have expected Sam to display at least his usual frisson at how he's trusted at the Top. A pity also that Sam didn't get into distillation, and putrefaction and projection like the rest of London society. Phant'sy how the Diary would be even more fun than it is.

16 Jan 2022, 8:11 p.m. - San Diego Sarah

It's amazing Charles II didn't blow up Whitehall! He probably learned about Nicolas Flamel when he and James lived in Paris. Flamel was probably born at Pontoise towards the middle of the 14th century, and was a bookseller with a stall backing onto the columns of Saint-Jacques la Boucherie in Paris. Flamel's myth and books and "science" were ground zero in Paris. http://www.alchemylab.com/flamel.htm Smart of Louis XIV to exploit Charles' poverty, curiosity and religious inclinations all at the same time.

17 Jan 2022, 9:43 a.m. - Stephane Chenard

Perhaps Charles heard of Flamel in Paris, indeed, and it's perhaps no accident that Charles returned from Paris with Le Fébure in his bags. His enduring reputation as a top alchemist was at an all-time high when Charles was in the best place to hear of it. It was also likely something between an exaggeration and a complete hoax, and interestingly, according to the Hughes book we quoteth, it may have been manufactured as a defence against England: For "the French were so jealous of this reputation and the status enjoyed by such late medieval English alchemists as George Ripley that an elaborate hoax was perpetuated in the seventeenth century in which alchemical works and a colourful autobiography were foisted on to a late-fourteenth-century wealthy bookseller by the name of Nicholas Flamel" (alas, the source on this machination is paywalled, but enough to make us want to get the book now). Even Isaac Newton fell for it (so says John Maynard Keynes, referenced at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Flamel). Charles in any case was hardly the only king, or the first one in England, to have had a lab and a man in a pointy hat on the staff (think John Dee). It seemed the prudent thing to do, if anything, just in case somebody did find the Stone and started making gold; and so perhaps Sam's slightly dismissive entry was a case of "duh, of course the king has a lab, now can we please talk of Lady Castlemaine?" A French manoeuver to get London to source its men-in-pointy-hats from Paris wouldn't be too shoddy as French manoeuvers go, we think.

19 Jan 2022, 12:25 a.m. - San Diego Sarah

The Abbe Pregnani ... Reputed to be "a great fortune teller" according to this book; Monmouth tried him out and reported back to Charles II that he was legit. So Charles invited Pregnani to Newmark with his books to caste the Royal horoscope. But Charles also tested his ability by asking the Abbe to predict the winner of three races, and Monmouth lost money by following his advice. Then the Abbe fell out with Buckingham and got sent home. I wonder what happened to the horoscope ... presumably not treasonous if the monarch castes it himself. https://www.google.com/books/edition/Royal_and_Republican_France/DLAaAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=the+abbe+Pregnani,+French+alchemist&pg=PA64&printsec=frontcover

19 Jan 2022, 2:09 a.m. - San Diego Sarah

"... at the Committee of Tangier, in my absence, Mr. Povy having given me advice of it, of the discourse there of doing something as to the putting the payment of the garrison into some undertaker’s hand, Alderman Backewell, which the Duke of York would not suffer to go on, without my presence at the debate." Ignore my theories yesterday about Pepys being on the matt today for the victualling of Tangier and his outrageous profits. A series of coincidences which were not about Tangier's food after all. Smart of James to insist on everyone involved being in the room to discuss such matters. Presumably the gold coins go out on the same ships as the food.

19 Jan 2022, 2:53 a.m. - San Diego Sarah

Alchemy was all the rage in 1669, according to this article: "Newton believed that the ancient alchemists knew how to make gold but that the secret had been lost. Nor was he alone in this belief. ..., the great Robert Boyle thought it was possible, and John Locke the philosopher believed likewise. Indeed, Newton even cautioned Boyle about the need to remain silent about their alchemical interests. "Newton first experimented with mercury by dissolving it in nitric acid and then adding other things to the solution. When such experiments produced nothing worthwhile he turned to heating mercury with various metals in a furnace, and his assistant and room-mate John Wickins tells how he would sometimes work through the night. In one of his experiments he produced a kind of 'living' mercury that made gold swell. When nothing came of this, he turned his attention to antimony and by 1670 he had made the so-called Star Regulus, a dramatic form of antimony." https://www.flandershealth.us/lead-poisoning/the-madness-of-isaac-newton.html But it wasn't just the FRS/University group ... Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon's father-in-law by his third wife, Flower Backhurst, was a prominent gentleman alchemist who rarely left his manor, but knew everyone. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-985 And George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham dabbled. So besides being alcoholics, they had mercury and lead in their brains. It's amazing more things didn't go wrong!

19 Jan 2022, 3:12 a.m. - San Diego Sarah

Pepys seems to have escaped his jailor today. Will this continue?