Favorite passages from Pepys’s Diary

What follows are some of my favorite passages from Samuel Pepys’s Diary (written between 1660 and 1669).

«My wife and I by coach to the Opera and there saw Romeo and Julett, the first time it was ever acted. But it is the play of itself the worst that ever I heard in my life, and the worst acted that ever I saw these people do; and I am resolved to go no more to see the first time of acting, for they were all of them out more or less.» (1662-03-01)

«I set to make some strict rules for my future practice in my expenses, which I did bind myself in the presence of God by oath to observe, upon penaltys therein set down. And I do not doubt but hereafter to give a good account of my time and to grow rich—for I do find a great deal more of content in those few days that I do spend well about my business then in all the pleasures of a whole week.» (1662-03-03)

«To the pewterers to buy a poore’s box to put my forfeites in, upon breach of my late vowes.» (1662-03-05)

«This being a very pleasant life that we now lead, and have long done; the Lord be blessed and make us thankful. But though I am much against too much spending, yet I do think it best to enjoy some degree of pleasure, now that we have health, money and opportunities, rather then to leave pleasures to old age or poverty, when we cannot have them so properly.» (1662-05-20)

«By and by comes Mr. Cooper, mate of the Royall Charles, of whom I intend to learn mathematiques, and do begin with him to-day, he being a very able man, and no great matter, I suppose, will content him. After an hour’s being with him at arithmetique (my first attempt being to learn the multiplication-table); then we parted till to-morrow.» (1662-07-04)

«then came again to the Hall and fell to talk with Mrs. Lane, and after great talk that she never went abroad with any man as she used heretofore to do, I with one word got her to go with me and to meet me at the further Rhenish wine-house, where I did give her a Lobster and do so touse her and feel her all over, making her believe how fair and good a skin she has, and indeed she has a very white thigh and leg, but monstrous fat.» (1663-06-29)

«We went into the butty and there stayed and talked, and then into the hall again; and there wine was offered and they drunk, I only drinking some hypocras, which doth not break my vowe, it being, to the best of my present judgment, only a mixed compound drink, and not any wine—if I am mistaken, God forgive me; but I hope and do think I am not.» (1663-10-29)

«I found that my coming in a perriwigg did not prove so strange to the world as I was afeared it would, for I thought that all the hurch would presently have cast their eye all upon me—but I found no such thing.» (1663-11-08)

«This morning I begun a practice which I find, by the ease I do it with, that I shall continue, it saving me money and time‚—that is, to trimme myself with a razer—which pleases me mightily.» (1664-01-06)

«This evening, being in an humor of making all things even and clear in the world, I tore some old papers; among others, a romance which (under the title of Love a Cheate) I begun ten year ago at Cambridge; and at this time, reading it over tonight, I liked it very well and wondered a little at myself at my vein at that time when I wrote it, doubting that I cannot do so well now if I would try.» (1664-01-30)

«we made no long stay at dinner, for Heraclius being acted, which my wife and I have a nighty mind to see, we do resolve, though not exactly agreeing with the letter of my vowe, yet altogether with the sense, to see another thins month—by going hither instead if that at Court, there having been none conveniently since I made my vow for us to see there, nor like to be this Lent; and besides, we did walk home on purpose to make this going as cheap as that would have been to have seem one at Court; and my conscience knows that it is only the saving of money and the time also that I entend by my oaths, and this hath cost no more of either—so that my conscience before God doth, after good consultation and resolution of paying my forfeit did my conscience accuse me of breaking my vow, I do not find myself in the least apprehensive that I have done any vyolence to my oaths.» (1664-03-08)

«Dr Pierson, the minister of the parish, did read the service for buriall and so I saw my poor brother laid into the grave; and so all broke up and I and my wife and Madam Turner and her family to my brother’s, and by and by fell to a barrell of oysters, cake, and cheese of Mr Honiwoods, with him in his chamber and below—being too merry for so late a sad work; but Lord, to see how the world makes nothing of the memory of a man an hour after he is dead. And endeed, I must blame myself; for though at the sight of him, dead and dying, I had real grief fo ra while, while he was in my sight, yet presently after and ever since, I have had very little grief for him.» (1664-03-18)

«And upon my being very angry, she doth protest she will here lay up something for herself to buy her a necklace with—which madded me and doth still trouble me, for I fear she will forget by degrees the way of living cheap and under a sense of want.» (1664-09-29)

«the modesty and gravity of this business was so decent, that it was to me, endeed, ten times more delightful then if it had been twenty times more merry and joviall.» (1665-07-31)

«Among other humours, Mr Eveling’s repeating of some verses made up of nothing but the various acceptations of ‘may’ and ‘can’, and doing it so aptly, upon occasion of something of that nature, and so fast, did make us all die almost with laughing, and did so stop the mouth of Sir J. Mennes in the middle of all his mirth (and in a thing agreeing with his own manner of genius) that I never saw any man so outdone in all my life; and Sir J. Mennes’s mirth too, to see himself outdone, was the crown of all our mirth.» (1665-09-10)

«Lay very long in bed, discoursing with Mr Hill of most things of a man’s life, and how little merit doth prevail in the world, but only favour—and that for myself, chance without merit brought me in, and that diligence only keeps me so, and will, living as I do among so many lazy people, that the diligent man becomes necessary, that they cannot do anything without him.» (1665-11-01)

«When I consider the manner of my going hither, with a coach and four horses, and servans and a woman with us, and coming hither, being so much made of, and used with that state, and all fine weather, and no fears nor cares ypon me, I do think myself obliged to think myself happy, and do look upon myself at this time in the happiest occasion a man can be; and whereas we take pains in expectation of future comfort and ease, I have taught myself to reflect ypon myself at present as happy and enjoy myself in that consideration, and not only please myself with thoughts of future wealth, and forget the pleasures we at present enjoy.» (1666-02-26)

«Infinitely satisfied, I and my wife with all this; she being in all points mightily pleased too, which added to my pleasure.» (1666-02-26)

«God forgive me, I do still see that my nature is not to be quite conquered, but will esteem pleasure above all things; though, yet in the middle of it, it hath reluctancy after my business, which is neglected by my fallowing my pleasure. However, music and women I cannot but give way to, whatever my business is.» (1666-03-09)

«I to St Margaret’s Westminster, and there saw at church my pretty Betty Michell. And thence to the Abbey, and so to Mrs Martin and there did what je voudrais avec her, both devante and backward, which is also muy bon plazer.» (1666-06-03)

«Walking here in the galleries, I find the Ladies of Honour dressed in their riding garbs, with coats and doublets with deep skirts, just for all the world like men, and buttoned their doublets up the breast, with perriwigs and with hats; so that, only for a long petticoat dragging under their men’s coats, nobody could take them for women in any point whatever—which was an odde sight, and a sight did not please me.» (1666-06-12)

«and I confess, their cries were so sad for money, and laying down the condition of their families and their husbands, and what they have done and suffered for the King, and how ill they are used by us, and how well the Duch are used here by the allowance of their masters, and what their husbands are offered to serve the Duch abroad, that I do most heartily pity them, and was ready to cry to hear them—but cannot help them; however, when the rest was gone, I did call one to me, that I heard complain only and pity her husband, and did give her some money; and she blessed me and went away.» (1666-07-10)

«Here, very pretty discours of Dr Charleton concerning Nature’s fashioning every creature’s teeth according to the food she intends them. And that man’s, it is plain, was not for flesh, but for fruit. And that he can at any time tell the food of a beast unknown, by the teeth.» (1666-07-28)

«strange tu hear my Lord Lauderdale say himself, that he had rather hear a catt mew then the best musique in the world—and the better the music, the more sick it makes him. And that of all instruments, he hates the lute most; and next to that, the baggpipe.» (1666-07-28)

«music is the thing of the world that I love most, and all the pleasure almost that I can now take.» (1666-07-30)

«I did never observe how much easier a man doth speak, when he knows all the company to be below him, then in him; for though he spoke endeed excellent well, yet his manner and freedom of doing it, as if he played with it and was informing only all the rest of the company, was mighty pretty.» (1666-10-12/13)

«So home, it being the last play now that I am to see till a fortnight hence, I being from the last night entered into my vows for the year coming on. So home from the office to write over fair my vows for this year, and then to supper and to bed—in great peace of mind, having now done it and brought myself into order again and a resolution of keeping it—and having entered my journall to this night.» (1667-01-07)

«With Creed to Westminster Hall, and there up and down and hear that Prince Rupert is still better and better. My Lord [Belasyse] carried me and set me down at the New Exchange; where I stayed at Pottle’s shop till B. Michell came, which she did about 5 a-clock and was surprised not to trover mi moher there. But I did make an excuse good enough, and so I took ella down and over the way to the cabinet-makers, and there bought a dressing gox for her of 20s, but would required an hour’s time to make fit. This I was glad of, thinking to have got ella to andar to a casa de biber; but ella would not, so I did not much press it but suffered ella to andar a la casa de uno de sos hermanos, and I passed my time walking up and down. By and by Betty comes, and here we stayed in the shop and above, seeing the workmen work; which was pretty, and some exceeding good work and very pleasant to see them do it—till it was late, quite dark. And the mistress of the shop took us tinto the kitchen and there talked and used us very prettily; and took her for my wife, which I owned and her big belly; and there very merry till my thing done; and then took coach and home, in the way tomando su mano and putting it where I used to do; which ella did suffer, but not avec tant de freedom as heretofore, I perceiving plainly she had alguns apprehensions de me, but I did begin to fear that su marido might go to my house to enquire por ella, and there trovando mi moher at home, would not only think himself, but give my femme occasion to think strange things. This did trouble me mightily; so though ella would not seem to have me trouble myself about it, yet did agree to the stopping the coach at the street’s end; and yo allais con ella home and there presently hear by him that he had newly sent su maid to my house to see for her mistress. This doth much perplex me, and I did go presently home (Betty whispering me, behind the tergo de her mari, that if I would say that we did come home by water, ella could make up la cosa well satis). And there in a sweat did walk in the entry antes my door, thinking what I should say a my femme; and as God would have it, while I was in this case (the worst in reference a my femme that ever I was in my life), a little woman comes trumbling to the entry steps in the dark; whom asking whom wshe was, she enquired for my house; so knowing her fvoice and telling her su dona is come home, she went away. But Lord, in what a trouble was I when she was gone, to recollect whether this was not the second time of her coming; but at last concluding that she had not been here before, I did bless myself in my good fortune in getting home before her, and do verily believe she had loitered some time by the way, which was my great good fortune; and so I in a-door and there find all well.» (1667-02-17)

«my Lord Chancellor did say, though he was in other things in an ill humour, that no man in England was of more method nor made himself better understood then myself.» (1667-02-14)

«and up to walk up and down the garden with my father, to talk of all our concernments—about a husband for my sister, whereof there is at present no appearance. But we must endeavour to find her one now, for she grows old and ugly.» (1667-10-10)

«And here do see what creatures widows are in weeping for their husbands, and then presently leaving off; but I cannot wonder at it, the cares of the world taking place of all other passions.» (1667-10-17)

«This morning, to my astonishment, I hear that yesterday my Lord Chancellor is voted to have matter against him for an impeachment of high treason, and that this day the impeachment is to be carried up to the House of Lords—which is very high and I am troubled at it—for God knows what will fallow, since they that do this must do more, to secure themselfs against any that will revenge this, if it ever come in their power.» (1667-11-12)

«On this occasion Dr Whistler told a pretty story related by Muffett, a good author, of Dr Cayus that built Key’s College: that being very old and lively only at that time upon woman’s milk, he, while he fed upon the milk of a angry fretful woman, was so himself; and then being advised to take of a good-natured patient woman, he did become so, beyond the common temper of his age.» (1667-11-21)

«Thence, after the play, stayed till Harris was undressed (there being acted The Tempest) and so he withal, all by coaches hom, where we find my house with good fires and candles ready, and our office the like, and the two Mercers, and Betty Turner, Pendleton, and W. Batelier; and so with much pleasure we into the [office] and there fell to dancing, having extraordinary music, two violins and a bass viallin and theorbo (four hands), the Duke of Buckingham’s musique, the best in towne, sent me by Greeting; and there we set in to dancing. By and by to my house to a very good supper, and mighty merry and good music playing; and after supper to dancing and singing till about 12 at night; and then we had a good sack-posset for them and an excellent cake, cost me near 20s of our Jane’s making, which was cut into twenty pieces, there being by this time so many of our company by the coming in of young Goodyer and some others of our neighbours, young men that could dance, hearing of our dancing and anon comes in Mrs Turner the mother and brings with her Mrs Hollworthy, which pleased me mightily; and so to dancing again and singing with extraordinary great pleasure, till about 2 in the morning; and then broke up, and Mrs Pierce and her family and Harris and Knip by coach home, as late as it was; and they gone, I took Mrs Truner and Hollworthy home to my house and there gave them wine and sweetmeats. They being gone, I paid the fiddler 3l among the four, and so away to bed, weary and mightily pleased; and have the happiness to reflect upon it as I do sometimes on other things, as going to a play or the like, to be the greatest real comforts that I am to expect in the world, and that it is that that we do really labour in the hopes of; and so I do really enjoy myself, and understand that if I do not do it now, I shall not hereafter, it may be, be able to pay for it or have health to take pleasure in it, and so fool myself with vain expectation of pleasure and go without it.» (1668-01-06)

«Up, and at my chamber all the morning and the office, doing business and also reading a little of L’Escolle des Filles, which is a mighty lewd book, but yet not amiss for a sober man once to read over to inform himself in the villainy of the world.» (1668–02-09)

«but what did please me beyond anything in the whole world was the wind musique when the Angell comes down, which is so sweet that it ravished me; and endeed, in a word, did wrap up my soul so that it made me really sick, just as I have formerly been when in love with my wife; that neither then, nor all the evening going home and at home, I was able to think of anything, but remained all night transported, so as I could not believe that ever any music hath that real command over the soul of a man as this did upon me[.]» (1668-02-27)

«I must here remember that I have laid with my moher as a husband more times since this falling-out then in I believe twelve months before—and with more pleasure to her then I think in all the time of our marriage before.» (1668-11-14)

«And so home, and there told my wife a fair tale, God knows, how I spent the whole day; with which the poor wretch was satisfied, ot at least seemed so; and so to supper and to bed, she having been mighty busy all day in getting of her house in order against tomorrow, to hang up our new hangings and furnishing our best chamber.» (1668-11-18)

«and then the Duke of York in good humour did fall to tell us many fine stories of the wars in Flanders, and how the Spaniards are the [best] disciplined foot in the world—will refuse no extraordinary service if commanded, but scorn to be paid for it, as in other countries, though at the same time they will beg in the streets. Not a soldier will carry you a cloak-bag for money for the world, though he will beg a penny, and will do the thing if commanded by his commander.» (1668-12-20)