Chris Gutteridge's favourite quotes from Samuel Pepys' diary


I have owned a copy of Samuel Pepys' Diary ever since the Latham & Mathews edition was published in the 1970s. It was always exciting when a new volume appeared in print! Since then, I have read it many times. I started again recently when I had nothing else to read, and decided to post some of the entries here that have particularly amused me. I'll continue to pass snippets on from time to time as the whim takes me.

6 January 1659/60

I went home and took my wife and went to my cosen, Thomas Pepys, and found them just sat down to dinner, which was very good; only the venison pasty was palpable beef, which was not handsome.

20th January 1659/60

...and from thence after a great and good dinner Mr. Falconberge would go drink a cup of ale at a place where I had like to have shit in a skimmer that lay over the house of office.

3rd February 1659/60

So to White Hall; where I staid to hear the trumpets and kettle-drums, and then the other drums, which are much cried up, though I think it dull, vulgar musique.

7th February 1659/60

Mr. Moore told me of a picture hung up at the Exchange of a great pair of buttocks shooting of a turd into Lawson's mouth, and over it was wrote "The thanks of the house."

15th August 1660

Here I lay all night in the old chamber which I had now given up to W. Howe, with whom I did intend to lie, but he and I fell to play with one another, so that I made him to go lie with Mr. Sheply. So I lay alone all night.

20th September 1660

This morning one came to me to advise with me where to make me a window into my cellar in lieu of one which Sir W. Batten had stopped up, and going down into my cellar to look I stepped into a great heap of turds by which I found that Mr. Turner's house of office is full and comes into my cellar, which do trouble me, but I shall have it helped.

14 Februaury 1660/61 Valentine's day.

Up earely and to Sir W. Battens. But would not go in till I asked whether they that opened the door was a man or a woman. And Mingo, who was there, answered "a Woman;" which, with his tone, made me laugh.

Batten's black manservant shows his sense of humour (traditionally, the first person of the opposite sex one saw on Valentine's day became one's Valentine).

6th April 1661

...and among other things met with Mr. Townsend, who told of his mistake the other day, to put both his legs through one of his knees of his breeches, and went so all day.

17th April 1661

Then comes Mr. Allen of Chatham, and I took him to the Mitre and there did drink with him, and did get of him the song that pleased me so well there the other day, of Shitten come Shites the beginning of love.

Here's the link to the ballad Pepys is referring to: http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/ballad/32895/xml

4th July 1661

Here Mr. Batersby the apothecary was, who told me that if my uncle had the emerods (which I think he had) and that now they are stopped, he will lay his life that bleeding behind by leeches will cure him, but I am resolved not to meddle in it.

27 July 1661

To Westminster; where at Mr. Mountagu's chamber I heard a Frenchman play .... upon the Gittar most extreme well; though, at the best, methinks it is but a bawble.

(It'll never catch on!)

23 September 1661

...so rode easily to Welling - where we supped well and had two beds in the room and so lay single; and must remember it that, of all the nights that ever I slept in my life, I never did pass a night with more epicurism of sleep - there being now and then a noise of people stirring that waked me; and then it was a very rainy night; and then I was a little weary, that what between waking and then sleeping again, one after another, I never had so much content in all my life. And so my wife says it was with her.

4 October 1661

I home - where I find my wife vexed at her people for grumbling to eat Suffolk cheese - which I also am vexed at.

17 October 1661

At noon, my wife being gone to my Cosen Snow's with Dr. Tho. Pepys and my brother Tom. to a venison pasty (which proved a pasty of salted pork)...

...he tells me it is a very poor dirty place - I mean the City and Court of Lisbone. That the King is a very rude and simple fellow; and for reviling of somebody a little while ago and calling of him cuckold, was run into the cods with a sword, and had been killed had he not told them that he was their king.

13 November 1661

To bed, and this night begin to lie in the little green Chamber where the maids lie; but we could not a great while get Nell to lie there, because I lie there and my wife; but at last, when she saw she must lie there or sit up, she with much ado came to bed.

22 November 1661

...and then my wife and I to church and there in the pew, with the rest of the company, was Captain Holmes in his gold-laced suit; at which I was troubled, because of the old business which he attempted upon my wife. So with my mind troubled, I sat still; but by and by I took occasion from the rain now holding up (it raining when we came into the church) to put my wife in mind of going to the christening (which she was invited to) of N. Osbornes child. Which she did; and so went out of the pew and my mind was eased.

1 January 1661/62

Waking this morning out of my sleep on a sudden, I did with my elbow hit my wife a great blow over her face and nose, which waked her with pain - at which I was sorry. And to sleep again.

19 January 1661/62
Lords=day.

To church in the morning, where Mr. Mills preached upon Christ's being offered up for our sins. And there, proveing the æquity with what Justice God would lay our sins upon his Son, he did make such a sermon (among other things, pleading from God's universal Soverainty over all his Creatures, the power he has of commanding what he would of his Son, by the same rule as that he might have made us all and the whole world from the beginning to have been in hell, arguing from the power the potter has over his clay), that I could have wished he had let it alone. And speaking again, that God the Father is now so satisfyd by our Security for our debt, that we might say at the last day, as many of us as have interest in Christ's death - Lord, we owe thee nothing - our debt is paid - we are not beholden to thee for anything, for thy debt is paid to thee to the full - which methinks were very bold words.

4 February 1661/62

...at noon to my Lord Crewes - where one Mr. Templer (an ingenious [man] and a person of honour he seems to be) dined; and discoursing of the nature of Serpents, he told us some that in the waste places of Lancashire do grow to a great bigness, and that do feed upon larkes, which they take thus - they observe when the lark is soared to the highest, and do crawle till they come to be just underneath them; and there they place themselfs with their mouths uppermost, and there (as is conceived) they do eject poyson up to the bird; for the bird doth suddenly come down again in its course of a circle, and falls directly into the mouth of the serpent - which is very strange. He is a great traveller; and speaking of the Tarantula, he says that all the harvest long (about which times they are most busy) there are fidlers go up and down the fields everywhere, [in] expectation of being hired by those that are stung.

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