Saturday 23 January 1668/69

Up, and again to look after the setting things right against dinner, which I did to very good content. So to the office, where all the morning till noon, when word brought me to the Board that my Lord Sandwich was come; so I presently rose, leaving the Board ready to rise, and there I found my Lord Sandwich, Peterborough, and Sir Charles Harbord; and presently after them comes my Lord Hinchingbroke, Mr. Sidney, and Sir William Godolphin. And after greeting them, and some time spent in talk, dinner was brought up, one dish after another, but a dish at a time, but all so good; but, above all things, the variety of wines, and excellent of their kind, I had for them, and all in so good order, that they were mightily pleased, and myself full of content at it: and indeed it was, of a dinner of about six or eight dishes, as noble as any man need to have, I think; at least, all was done in the noblest manner that ever I had any, and I have rarely seen in my life better anywhere else, even at the Court. After dinner, my Lords to cards, and the rest of us sitting about them and talking, and looking on my books and pictures, and my wife’s drawings, which they commend mightily; and mighty merry all day long, with exceeding great content, and so till seven at night; and so took their leaves, it being dark and foul weather. Thus was this entertainment over, the best of its kind, and the fullest of honour and content to me, that ever I had in my life: and shall not easily have so good again. The truth is, I have some fear that I am more behind-hand in the world for these last two years, since I have not, or for some time could not, look after my accounts, which do a little allay my pleasure. But I do trust in God I am pretty well yet, and resolve, in a very little time, to look into my accounts, and see how they stand. So to my wife’s chamber, and there supped, and got her cut my hair and look my shirt, for I have itched mightily these 6 or 7 days, and when all comes to all she finds that I am lousy, having found in my head and body about twenty lice, little and great, which I wonder at, being more than I have had I believe these 20 years. I did think I might have got them from the little boy, but they did presently look him, and found none. So how they come I know not, but presently did shift myself, and so shall be rid of them, and cut my hair close to my head, and so with much content to bed.

21 Annotations

First Reading

Michael L  •  Link

The evening's festivities sound like a huge success and a very proud achievement in Pepys' life. Let's hope he tipped the staff commensurately.

E.  •  Link

The devolution from high to low, from pinnacle of civilized life to lowest animal concern, in this passage is beyond art.

Chris Squire  •  Link

At this date the 'evening’s festivities' actually started in soon after mid-day and went on (says Mr P) ' . . all day long . . till seven at night . . '. The dinner hour shifted later and later during the following centuries and shifts today, so that I, for example, dine at 9.30 pm and think nothing of it.

‘shift, v. Etym: Old English sciftan. . Old Frisian skifta to determine . .
. . 9.c. refl. To change one's clothing; to put on fresh clothing, esp. undergarments ..
1530 J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 703/1 In the sommer season I love to shyfte me often.
. . 1719 D. Defoe Life Robinson Crusoe 53, I was wet, and had no Clothes to shift me . .’ [OED]

Dorothy  •  Link

Maybe it is just my modern attitudes, but I would expect a host to clean himself and his clothes before a party, not afterward -- especially if he suspected he had something like lice! I hope he didn't send any of his guests home infested.

Jenny  •  Link

Chris, my stomach would think my throat was cut if I had to wait until 9.30 to dine!

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Well, if only Deb were here to comb your hair regularly, Sam, you wouldn't be "lousy." A louse, yes, but...

Linda F  •  Link

He says nothing of any remedy beyond cutting his hair and changing his shirt, and has referred in the past to having his head combed for lice. So was the goal to control rather than eliminate infestation?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"dinner was brought up, one dish after another, but a dish at a time,...a dinner of about six or eight dishes"

L&M note the division of a dinner into courses in this way -- a French fashion -- was still a novelty.

Two decades ago I was taking care of my sons -- sans their Mom --, when, during dinner, the elder said, "Hey, Dad, this is rather fancy!" "How so?" "You know, , one dish at a time!" How at age 9 he knew it was "fancy" I'll never know; and the truth was I could not get everything hot at the same time. Poor kitchen help.

Tony Eldridge  •  Link

Probably for the first time, Sam would have been pleased to have had Will Hewer to provide an alibi in the matter of the lice. At least Will could confirm that Sam had not been consorting with any rough women.

I imagine the source could well be the recent visits to the theatres.

Don McCahill  •  Link

Has Sam ever mentioned bathing? I suspect that a hot bath would do wonders against the lice.

Barry P. Reich  •  Link

I would have thought that "escorts in Leeds" would find the subject matter and discourse on this blog rather tame.

Nate  •  Link

"Has Sam ever mentioned bathing? I suspect that a hot bath would do wonders against the lice."

Not much and for good reason!

JWB  •  Link

Note that our 'early modern man' & member of the Royal Society seeks cause of his infestation. It had long been belived that lice generated spontaneously from human sweat.

arby  •  Link

When I moved to Kentucky in the mid-70s, it was fairly common to hear "evening" referring to any time after noon, as in "Your appointment is at one this evening." Pretty rare now though.

Australian Susan  •  Link

NB Head lice and body lice are two different species. And then there are genital ones. (crabs). Sam seems fairly inured to having permanent head lice and only gets concerned when the infestation gets overwhelming (hot weather), when he sends his periwggs off to be cleansed. He gets a maid to comb his hair for nits fairly regularly (until recently, an occasion for intimate fondling by Sam). Body lice seem to engender instant disgust, however, and a need to be rid of them. Body lice often live in the seams of clothes and Sam seems to know this as he changes (shifts) his clothes, which presumably then got laundered. Hitting laundry with a stick on a rock as happens in so many countries is partly to do battle against lice in clothing.

Jackie  •  Link

Has anybody managed to read this entry without scratching?

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Hitting laundry with a stick on a rock as happens in so many countries is partly to do battle against lice in clothing."

Elizabeth and the maids have recently been taking the Pepys laundry to a public wash ground rather than filling up the house with wet clothing. Since it takes at least 2 days for things to dry, which takes up a lot of space, I'm wondering who guarded it over night ... never mind keep it dry if there was one of England's frequent showers?

This article has a woodcut showing a 17th century public washing ground, with some stories about the lengths poor people went to because they needed clothing. Pepys gets a mention of course. You can see there was a lot of pounding and hitting the laundry, as Australian Susan mentions.

Providing staff with clothing and uniforms was more of a bonus than I had previously appreciated.…

Harry R  •  Link

There's a disappointing lack of detail here, especially considering how much thought and preparation must have gone into the day. What were the courses, what were the wines and in what good order were they served? What was the conversation at the table? What card games were played and did they play for high stakes? Sam doesn't commend anyone for the proceedings having gone so well, he just tells of his contentment, everything done in the noblest manner, the company mighty merry etc and we are left to imagine just how swell a party it was.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I suspect this dinner was a bit of a peace offering to Sandwich: his two sons, three trusted young colleagues, and the former Gov. of Tangier, Lord Peterborough, with whom Sandwich must have spent a lot of time in less hospitable surroundings.

Can't think of any other reason Sam would pull together this particular group for such an epic production, besides wanting to "stroke" any hurt feelings he might have caused this last week opposing Sandwich's suggestion to promote Harbord and Pepys and cut out the current Governor from getting his hands on the troops' pay. But he didn't need the sons or Godolphin to do that.

And maybe he wanted to educate Hinchingbrooke that "uncle" Sam was someone to be regarded, and to remember to invite him and Elizabeth to the christening. A little respect is due, kid.…

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