Pepys generally uses “black” to mean having dark hair colour or complexion.

1893 text

The old expression for a brunette.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

9 Annotations

First Reading

Phil  •  Link

When Pepys refers to someone as being "black" he means, according to L&M's glossary, "brunette, dark in hair or complexion."

Jenny Doughty  •  Link

This usage persisted for a long time. Jane Austen uses the same expression in her letters.

vincent  •  Link

Sir Wm: Batten used the word Negroe in his Will in 1667 which kind of enforces the Idea that Black was of Hair and complexion more of the Meditteranean hue, as contrasted with the Anglo-Saxon Coloring.

vincent  •  Link

another instance of name descrp:from diary :mar 28 61
".... At last we made Mingo, Sir W. Batten

Rich Merne  •  Link

Phil et al;
Black person. I used to think that "black", at these times meant as you say, ie. dark haired. Now I'm not at all sure that this is in any way definitive in spite of L&M. Check out Shakespeare's dark Lady etc. below and tell me if it doesn't shake the theory a little.…

Pauline  •  Link

It means both
Used in referring to a person who is “brunette, dark in hair or complexion” and, as we have seen in the case of Mingo, to Africans, who are dark in hair and complexion.

Interesting that the application of the word as description easily covers the "new kid on the block" as Africans are brought or come to England, eventually falling out of use as applied to caucasians--such as Charles II--who are dark in hair or complexion.

Cactus Wren  •  Link

As late as the 1920s David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford (Jessica and Nancy Mitford's father) described a cousin's marriage to an Argentinian of entirely Spanish heritage with the phrase, "Robin's married a black."

doctus  •  Link

From dictionary excerts of Samuel Johnson. [Blac Saxon ]
1 Color of the night.
2 dark
3 cloudy of countenance; sullen
4 Horrible;wicked ; atrocious
5 Dismal; mournful
6 Black and Blue color of bruise; stripe
That be all;

Gillian Bagwell  •  Link

When Charles II escaped after the Battle of Worcester, a reward of a thousand pounds was offered for his capture, and he was described as "Charles Stuart, a black man, six feet two inches in height." He was also later sometimes referred to as the Black Boy, which has apparently lived on as the name of a few pubs.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.