Monday, October 15, 2012

The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 33% Complete

Again, the weekend worked wonders for my reading percentage.  I'm now up to 33%, officially 1/3 of the way there!  And the weather here in Seattle is terrible again, which really makes me want to do nothing but read a good book.
Today for our vocabulary word we have an interesting word and an etymology of an interesting phrase.  While reading the diary, I came across the term "umble pie."  Of course I immediately thought, as you probably did, of the phrase "humble pie."  But in this context Pepys was referring to an actual pie, one which he ate.  So I looked it up, and "umbles" (sometimes also "numbles") is an archaic term for the entrails of an animal, especially a deer, used for food.  So then I looked up the etymology of "humble pie" and it is, or was, a pun with umble pie, which was a cheap (for obvious reasons!) pie often eaten by poor people.
Our quote for today requires a bit of back story.  In 1663, when this portion of the diary was written, the King of England was Charles II.  His wife was Catherine of Braganza.  Charles, like virtually all his peers, was not a faithful husband and in fact had at least twelve illegitimate children, while having none with his wife.  One of his favorite mistresses was Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine, whom Pepys refers to as "my Lady Castlemaine."   In order to be near his lady friend, Charles ordered his wife to make Lady Castlemaine one of her ladies-in-waiting.   So Pepys writes:
"A gentleman in our company...confirms my Lady Castlemaine's being gone from Court, but knows not the reason; he told us of one wipe the Queen a little while ago did give her, when she came in and found the Queen under the dresser's hands, and had been so long: 'I wonder your Majesty,' says she, 'can have the patience to sit so long a-dressing?' -- 'I have so much reason to use patience,' says the Queen, 'that I can very well bear with it.'"
Although Pepys is a fan of Lady Castlemaine, I found myself cheering here for the scorned wife and her little biting comment.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Read it first for some insight to the Great Plague of London (1665); reread it after reading Claire Tomlinson's biography of Pepy's.

  2. Hey Joe, thanks for the comment. I am rather wishing I had read a biography of Pepys before reading the book; some parts of it might make more sense. But I'm still really enjoying it.