|On this page are a few choice entries from The Diary of Samuel Pepys (Robert Latham and William Matthews eds., eleven volumes, London, 1971.) They cover the period 1660-1669. Like most people in this period, Pepys spent a great deal of time in taverns, socialising. The early entries show him attempting to forswear drink and the theatre so that he can apply himself more to his business and the accumulation of wealth.|
09 February, 1660
‘Went to bed with my head not well, by my too much drinking today. An I had a boyle under my chin which troubled me cruelly.'
12 February 1660
It is the Lord's day, and Pepys is searching with Mr Kirton's apprentice for a tavern that is open. They are shut by law during hours of divine service, although the fact that they are trying to find one open suggests not all followed suit . Pepys appears to have no particular opinion about this law, even though it is an obvious inconvenience to him, or what the significance in religious terms of his attempts to side-step it might be.
26 February, 1660
A Sunday a fortnight later, yet we find Pepys drinking without any apparent difficulty. He is in Cambridge, waiting with an acquaintance in the Rose tavern for Mr Pechell who has gone to church, ‘where we sat and drank till sermon done; and then Mr. Pechell came to us and we three sat drinking the King's and his whole family's health till it begin to be dark.'
What might seem to us a delightful irony - Pepys is waiting in the tavern for a drinking partner to return from church - goes unnoticed. Pepys stresses his loyalty to the King throughout the diaries, and here we can see that it is typically done through drinking healths, an act that had obvious importance as a political act withing the period. On May 1st and 2nd later this year he tells of people going down on their knees to drink the King's health. This particular Sunday drinking session ends, but Pepys returns later the same day with his father and some others, without revealing to them that he has already been there. Pepys does not explain why he fails to admit this. However, he does tell us that he treats them to ‘a quart or two of wine', and when he goes to his cousin's for supper, he has two bottles of wine brought over from the same tavern. This was a common practice, as was sending wine as a gift - Pepys had received a dozen bottles of sack from his Lord Montagu on January 2nd this year. Pepys notes that ‘I had not the wit to let them know at table that it was I that paid for them, and so I lost my thanks for them', a typical Pepys entry, showing his preoccupation with gaining the good opinion of others, which we usually see in a context concerning his own social and career advancement.
09 August, 1660
This day, at the Leg, King Street, is one of the few times he appears in a tavern with his wife Elizabeth. As to women in general being found at inns, taverns and alehouses, where they are mentioned Pepys does not note the occurrences down as in any way unusual. An entry for 04 October 1665 states: ‘Thence to the King's-head to dinner, where we three [Mr. Andrews; Mr Gawden], and Creed and my wife and her woman, dined mighty merry - and sat long talking; and so in the afternoon broke up...' However, respectability is still to be guaranteed by male guardianship - Pepys does not record an instance of women alone; and women serving in these places are invariably prey to sexual comment, as an entry on 21 March 1663 reveals: ‘Here [Westminster Hall] I met with Chetwind, Parry, and several others, and went to a little house behind the Lords' house to drink some Wormewood ale, which doubtless was a bawdy house - the mistress of the house having that look and dress.' A few years later, Pepys goes to a tavern, simply ‘to get a sight of the pretty mistress of the house', but finds she scolds too much and thinks that she is probably an ‘ill-natured devil' so that he makes no effort to speak to her.
17 August 1660
Pepys has been drinking at the Half Moon tavern in the Strand. ‘This night I saw Mr. Creed show many the strangest evasions to shift off his drink that ever I saw in my life.' The editor explains the significance of this. ‘It was often customary for each member of a drinking party in turn to propose and pay for a toast: to "shift it off" was to miss one's turn.' Mr Creed, (aptly enough), is a Puritan, and the editor also indicates that Creed may have refused the toasts ‘on principle'. Like many of his time, Pepys believes Puritans to be out-and-out hypocrites, and he often rejoices when he finds Creed acting against avowed principles, as on 12 May in the following year when he finds Creed going to a drinking house on a Sunday, whereas previously he would rather have hanged himself than done this. On October 11th in this year, Pepys is drinking healths with Creed and another Puritan, Mr Blackburne, at the Rhenish wine-house, and he notes that the latter took part in the toasting, which he had formerly refused to do, further grist to the anti- Puritan mill.
22 September 1660
This entry provides an example of just how badly Pepys could be affected by drinking: ‘To Westminster to my Lord's; and there in the house of office vomited up all my breakfast, my stomach being ill all this day by reason of the last night's debauch.' It is also an example of how his drinking habits could not help but permeate his working life - not just in the social transactions conducted in taverns, but in his bodily health. He is in an even worse state the morning of 24 April the following year, when he wakes to find himself ‘wet with my spewing. Thus did the day end, with joy everywhere...' - a reference to the previous night's celebrations of Coronation Day. Pepys certainly drank hard in the name of the King, but with a suppressed admiration for Cromwell in his youth, it may be a case of Pepys covering his back.
14 November 1660
‘So home to dinner; and after that to the office till late at night; and so Sir W. Pen, the Comptroller and I to the Dolphin, where we found Sir W. Batten (who is seldom a night from hence); and there we did drink a great Quantity of Sack. And did tell many merry stories, and in good humours we were all. So home to bed.'
Falstaff's favourite tipple is still going strong.
02 December 1660
An instance of Saturday Night/Sunday Morning as Pepys has yet another hangover: ‘My head not very well and my body of of [?] order by last night's drinking - which is my great folly.' His battle with drink is at this stage a fairly unequal one.
Pepys in laddish mode tells a story of how a Mr Blurton tricked the landlady of the Fleece into thinking him a doctor, and eventually 'got the sight of her thing below, and did handle it - and he swears the next time that he will do more'.
02 April 1661
As if it is some revelation, Pepys notes how men who are normally ‘wise', ‘do now in their drink betwitt and reproach one another with their former conditions and their actions as to public concernments, till I was shamed to see it.'
03 April 1661
Pepys suffers the following morning with another hangover. But Pepys discovers yet something else new about the properties of alcohol. Penn gets him to ‘drink two good draughts of sack today, to cure me of last night's disease - which I thought strange, but I think find it true.'
31 December 1661
A sad day: ‘I have newly taken a solemne oath about abstaining from plays and wine, which I am resolved to keep according to the letter of the oath, which I keepe by me.'
26 January 1662
Pepys gives himself a moral boost for his oath-taking, as the benefits begin to materialise: ‘But thanks be to God, since my leaving drinking of wine, I do find myself much better and to mind my business better and to spend less money, and less time lost in idle company.' It is almost as if Pepys were familiar with early Stuart legislation against idle tippling and haunting of ale- houses and taverns, for having forsworn such behaviour his business and economy begin to thrive.
29 September 1662 (Michaelmas day)
‘This day my oaths for drinking of wine and going to plays are out, and so I do resolve to take a liberty today and then to fall to them again.' The boom-bust nature of Pepys's plan appears to be the only way to cope with the contradictions of his own predilections to drink and theatre, against his ambitious career and monetary aspirations, and against his Puritan self. The following day he notes how easily he returned to his drinking and theatre-going, but this only strengthens his resolve ‘to bring myself to mind my business'.
He is on his way home when he meets Sir W. Batten, turns back to a coffee-house ‘and there drunk more, till I was almost sick.' The irony of this is that he has just bought a self-help pamphlet, Audly's Way to be Rich, and the editor wryly quotes from this, ‘Cf. Audley's warning.... "Drink not the third glass."' Pepys however appears to forego the wine, although he can still drink ‘fine Lambeth ale', and is occasionally reminded of the dangers of drink in social life.
In this and the previous year he appears to largely have won his battle against the demon drink. Taverns now take on a different function - they are places to conduct affairs. It is his infidelity with one Mrs Lane that begins to be more troublesome than the drinking, and he even takes an oath for this, limiting his time with her to fifteen minutes (05 April 1664).
15 August 1664
Pepys goes to the Trumpett, where he meets Mrs Lane. ‘I had my pleasure of her...'
03 November 1664
‘At noon to the Change; and thence by appointment was met with Bagwells wife, and she followed me into Moorefields and then into a drinking-house - and all alone eat and drank together. I did caress her; but though I did make some offer, did not receive any compliance from her in what was bad, but very modestly she denied me; which I was glad to see and shall value her the better for it - and I hope never tempt her to any evil more.'
Pepys moves from one woman to the next, one minute with Mrs Lane and the next flirting with a prostitute (23 July 1664). In addition to the use of shorthand, he further codes his records by using some pigeon-European language of his own invention, a mixture of French and Spanish, to 'hide' his amours.
15 November 1664
He meets up with Mrs Bagwell who ‘with much ado fallowed me through Moor-fields to a blind alehouse, and there I did caress her and eat and drank...' He eventually gets what he wants: ‘by degrees I did arrive at what I would'. In the context of other diary entries it is clear that ‘what I would' is some kind of sexual event, although the entry is evasive in that what he ‘arrives at' is not specified. A blind alehouse would be a dark, out-of-the-way drinking place, but any activity would still be public. It is unlikely (though not impossible) that there would have been a separate room where they could go privately for sexual intercourse, as they might in a tavern or an inn.
15 December 1664
‘...and I thence to Moorefields, and there up and down to several houses to drink, to look for a place pour rancontrer la femme de que je sais quoy against next Monday, but could meet none...' Pepys is basically cruising the alehouses looking for women. Four days later he is using alehouses again, but this time he is with Mrs Bagwell. He believes that she does not want to do too much because they (he) cannot find a decent place for their tryst. But the next day, 20 December, he manages something at her house. Pepys's inability to find a suitable drinking place hints at more than simply a lack - Pepys, one can only presume, with his wide knowledge of drinking places, would surely have known places where he could easily have booked private rooms. Perhaps he is too guilty to plan anything in advance, or is never in a position to do so. The latter seems unlikely, however, as the next entry shows.
02 January 1665
Pepys plans another liaison, this time with Jane Welch, at an alehouse the following Sunday, but the alehouse is shut (by law) when the time comes around, and Jane is nowhere to be seen.
24 September 1665
An odd entry. Pepys goes to a blind alehouse to buy 20-25lb of cloves from some ‘wretched seamen'. They offer him what they think is 20lb, but Pepys discovers them to weigh 25lb. ‘But it would never have been allowed by my conscience to have wronged the poor wretches, who told us how dangerously they had got some and dearly paid for the rest of these goods.'
02 September 1666
Pepys views the great fire of London from an alehouse.
10 October 1666
We have the complete set of contradictions on this day. He hears a sermon, goes off to the Swan, and then kisses ‘la fille' (Sarah Udal). He then travels to Islington with a few people ‘where I find mine Host dead. Here eat and drank, and merry; and so home and to the office a while.'
Pepys appears rather indifferent to the host's death. He has a few asides throughout the diaries on the life of a Host, but appears to have no emotional view of their particular lot. If anything, he has a slightly derogatory attitude, which is perhaps evinced in two entries later that year for December. On the 3rd we get ‘Thence at noon home, and there find Kate Joyce, who dined with me. Her husband and she are weary of their new life of being an Inn Keeper, and will leave it, and would fain get some office; but I know none the fool is fit for.'
02 January 1667
‘So down to the Hall and to the Rose tavern, while Doll Lane came to me and we did biber a good deal de vino, et jo did give ella 12 solidos para comprar ella some gans for a new ano's gift. I did tocar et no mas su cosa, but in fit time and place jo creo que je pouvais faire whatever I would con ella' (which I roughly translate as ‘we drank a lot of wine, and I gave her 12 shillings? to buy some things for a new year's gift. I touched her "thing" but did nothing else, although at another time and place I believe I could do whatever I want with her'.)
24 February 1667
Pepys records the death of the mistress of the Bear tavern, and is somewhat affected by her departure, as she had often tried to kill herself. But Pepys is also drawn to comment on how profitable or otherwise inn-keeping can be. On 30 January 1668, he notes that ‘a little Ordinary in Hercules- Pillars-Ally, the Crowne, (a poor sorry place)' brings in six-hundred pounds a year, ‘which is very strange'.
The remainder of the entries for this year are rather cursory with respect to drinking places. There is a brawl in his street at the Three Tuns tavern door in which one brother kills another. The event does not seem to bother Pepys over much because the next day, 10 May, he dines at the very same place and then goes to church to see the corpse! Pepys casually comments that in fact the brother meant to kill the coachman, who did not please him, but the brother stepped in and was killed instead. On Sunday of that week, 12 May, Pepys goes to an ordinary kept by a periwig maker in an ugly street in Covent garden, where he has a good meal. On May 15 Sir J. Mennes has to rush into the Devil tavern ‘to shit', the effect on his belly of drinking some whey. 21 May there is discussion of Sir W. Penn's rise and the significance of him drinking to the King, then turning Roundhead. The ‘coffee-house' talk throughout the year comes to be a nostalgic indulgence of how wonderful things were in Cromwell's time (e.g. 12 July and 09 August), and how ‘the King and Court were never in the world so bad as they are now for gaming, swearing, whoring, and drinking, and the most abominable vices that ever were in the world - so that all must come to nought.'
18 February 1668
Yesterday Pepys was in the Swan kissing the maid Sarah. Today he goes to the Dog tavern where he meets Doll Lane (Mrs Martin), ‘and she tells me she is my valentine; and there I did tocar sa cosa and might have done whatever else yo voudrais, but there was nothing but only chairs in the room and so we were unable para hazer algo.' This hints at the fact that Pepys has been in this situation before, entertaining privately, and that there is (usually) furniture appropriate for his wishes which is here absent. Curiously, Pepys appears to make no attempt to change the arrangements, for a month later, 18th March, he again meets Doll Lane at the Dog tavern, ‘and there yo did hazer what I did desire with her and did it backward, not having convenience to do it the other way.' Presumably Pepys and Doll are prevented from a more congenial position yet again by a lack of appropriate furniture. However, Pepys may have warmed to this position because a few days later, 21st March, he goes to see Doll Lane at her house, where, we might presume, there is furniture enough for any position they wish. ‘Here yo did hazar la cosa with Mrs Martin backward'.
The constraints of tavern space upon sexual activity may have thus encouraged Pepys and Doll to become more sexually adventurous.
This is the last year of diary entries. The usual reason given for Pepys giving up his daily records is that his eyes were failing and that he put this down to his diary-keeping and having to strain his eyes at work. However, it may be worth considering that Pepys entertained another notion. As early as 25 April 1662 Pepys recorded ‘I was much troubled in my eyes, by reason of the healths I have this day been forced to drink.' Did Pepys give up diary writing because of his drinking? The most reasonable explanation was that alcohol exacerbated the problem rather than caused it. Ollard notes the early blame Pepys gives to drinking, and the corresponding subsidence of sore eyes with his greater sobriety, but indicates that Pepys's later understanding is to blame the ‘long hours of close work, much of it by candlelight', and such a view cannot really be disputed. However, only a couple of months before Pepys signs off, he writes for 28 March, 1669: ‘and so, that being done and my journall writ, my eyes being very bad and every day worse and worse, I home. But I find it most certain that strang drinks do make my eyes sore, as they have done heretofore always, when I was in the country, when my eyes were at the best - there strang beere would make my eyes sore.' It is plausible that Pepys held both views - candlelight and alcohol - and that the threat of blindness, along with the curtailment of his beloved journal, was some kind of moral judgement for his enjoyment of strong drinks.
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