Note: It is not a very well-known fact that Samuel Pepys, the famed diarist, had a younger brother, John. The reasons for this lack of public notoriety are twofold: the first is that the relationship was not acknowledged by Samuel – he does not mention his sibling once in the Diary. The second is that John did not even spell his surname the same way – well didn’t the famed Ben Jonson say that it was a dull man indeed who could only spell a word in one way?
Why didn’t Samuel recognize his brother? The reason is that John was the black sheep of the family. It must be admitted that Samuel himself was no slouch on the sexual front, but at least his ‘adventures’ were with women. John’s inclination lay in another direction. John also kept a diary, not as faithfully as Samuel’s but certainly with as much frankness as his elder brother.
About dating. Though on the Continent January 1st had long been adopted as the beginning of the year, until 1752 in Britain New Year’s Day fell on March 25th. By modern reckoning, the second entry in John’s diary would be dated 1665.
December 26th: Yesterday being Christmas I did make a gift of a plum pudding to Charles Haskins, a comely lad who hath been most accommodating of my pleasures, and also a pious resolution not to visit Holywell Walk (known commonly as Cocksuck Lane) and also eschew the dangerous environs of Vauxhall Gardens, for at least a month. These resolutions being made I did feel much enlightened of the mind and heart. Walked out but it being a very hard frost and, as I find myself as heretofore in cold weather to begin to burn within and pimples and pricks all over my body, my pores with cold being shut up so walked home. I did celebrate the occasion by a dinner of a whole pullet, some excellent oysters and a sweet pastry stuffed with berries. And so to bed.
January 1st: This being according to the Roman calendar the first day of the 5th Year of the reign of his Majesty Charles II, whom God preserve in health (and merriment) and the Feast of Our Lord’s Circumcision, I forgot my most pious resolution, and so up betimes and to Holywell Walk, where I did find no person about – of either sex, due no doubt to the earliness of the hour, but I was eager. Walked up and down until a heavy rain falling, I went home. Broke my fast and then, the rain having ceased to Vauxhall Gardens by water, my waterman a pleasantly proportioned youth with stout arms and thighs, but little conversation. Although I did offer him a shilling, he would not play and set me down a little surlily too soon so that I had to walk a mile to the Gardens. Will remember not to hire this waterman again. Anyway he was ugly of face and had had the smallpox, the marks of which disfigured his features.
Walked up and down in the Garden, the rain having cleared and the weather being bright and fine, even though the month but January. Few persons around though I did see a gentleman according to his clothes. I did salute him and, seeing that he indicated, by the placing of his thumb in the armpits of his coat while tapping his fingers on his chest, that he was willing and available broached the subject of a room to repair to.
He was a well-set up man of a few years older than I but finely proportioned. His name was Mr Wren and he had some lodgings nearby. On the way we conversed right merrily about buildings and architecture about which he knows a great deal and also astronomy, of which he is professor at Oxford. Although I must confess to knowing little about either subject, I think I made intelligent comment, or otherwise he was very kind, for he did not mock me in any way.
We reached his lodgings and I confess I was disappointed for they were not much less mean than my own and I had expected something more grand. But the rooms were well-appointed and in the bedroom at the top of the house was a fine bed and a window overlooking the Town with a good view of the houses around and even St Paul’s Church in the distance. Mr Wren stood looking out for a time which displeased me a little for I was lying on the bed, my breeches unlaced and with only my shirt and underdrawers and indeed in an eager state.
But Mr Wren was still in his coat and breeches, only his cloak was laid by. “So many mean buildings, and higgledy-piggledy streets,” he quoth, looking out, and sighed. “If only there were a fire which would remove them all, how I would be able to design grand houses, broad thoroughfares and even a new Cathedral in the Palladian style.”
But I was not in the mood for Palladian architecture being more concerned with a structure of my own. Eventually Mr Wren joined me on the bed and soon we did sport a good while, though I was disappointed by the size of his needle. Nevertheless as mine did most of the work, eventually plunging to find the mark, we both achieved a goodly pleasure. Sadly we shall not be able to repeat the experience as he must to Paris soon for some work there.
At last I left but having by exerting myself in our endeavours hurt my testicles, I worried but I hope they will cease the pain without swelling. So home out of sorts, to supper and to bed where I did to some extent regret the breaking of my pious resolutions so soon after the making of them, yet enjoyed my encounter with Mr Wren full well, apart from the pain afterwards.
March 16th: I to my barber’s, where I was trimmed and shaved. Gervas told me of recent articles in the Nicholas Bourne newsletters in which a Man was whipped from Temple-bar to Charing-Cross, for falsely accusing one Johnson of Sodomy. And later a report which I copy here verbatim that ‘on Thursday between 10 and 11 at Night, a Person sitting in Lincolns-Inn House of Office, a Young Man happened to go into the same Box, whom the other Welcomed, and afterwards entered into a discourse with him, pretending great kindness for him, &c. But at last discovered to him his Inclination, to Commit the filthy Sin of Sodomy, with him, and made an Attempt to force him: But the Young Man crying out, some of the Porters and Watchmen of the Inn, as well as some of the Young Gentlemen came to his Assistance; and soon Cooled the Sparks Courage, by Ducking him in the said offices, and afterwards left him to shift for himself.’
We certainly live in a cruel country where a gentleman’s inclinations can be so punished should he try to express them.
March 17th: Betimes, feeling eager, I to Vauxhall Gardens where I did meet and had discourse with a young gentleman of some 18 years whose fresh complexion and youthful good looks did much enamour him to me. I patted the back of my hand and showed my kerchief through the skirts of my coat but he ignored me, shewing no interest. Much frustrated I turned to go when I did see my young man in conversation with a gentleman I knew and had had congress with on a previous occasion. On their parting, for they did not go off together, I asked my acquaintance, who the young man was and he told me it was none other than John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. At present he is off to the Dutch Wars and so his appearances in London are infrequent. He is also a poet and hath been published so I to the booksellers where I found a small booklet, though elegantly bound, of his works which I did purchase though I could ill afford it. My poor uncle’s inheritance being half spent, but I always carry his memory in my heart because he, being unmarried, ever favoured me over my elder brother. I have invested in a ship which goes to the Indies and, God willing, will return with spices unless the Dutch ambush and sink it.
Later, to Cocksuck Lane where I did find a working man, somewhat gruff and ill-natured, though as eager as I was with a large needle which he thrust mightily into me, and which I did enjoy. We achieved congress in the shelter of a lean-to shed which had been used for the purpose (and others) many times before judging from the state of the floor and the mighty stink of the place. I gave him 6d and he did express himself mightily pleased.
On the way home I compared where, had things been different, I might have gone into a fine bedroom with the Earl yesterday and how I had had to make do with the privy of the working man. So are the classes differentiated with and must suffer accordingly. Determined that I will make up my own lodgings so that I can take back friends in comfort.
The bed hath need of a new mattress, it being mightily spotted and the hangings are threadbare. A good Persian rug would cover the deficiencies of the floor and I am determined that my books shall be put into a case so that they can be seen and admired. I did read and commit to memory some verses from John Wilmot so that, should I meet with him again, I can quote him and make a good impression.
March 18th: A fine Spring morning so to Vauxhall Gardens in the hope of seeing the Earl. I was wearing my new silk suit, the plain black one, but very rich camelott and noble, the coat trimmed with gold buttons and gold broad lace round my hands, very rich and fine. I did receive many appraising looks but they were from coxcombs with white painted faces and many beauty spots, so I did not return the looks. Did not see my Lord Earl, who is perhaps off to the Wars, so, much out of sorts, I by water (waterman old but with strong muscles) to town where I did purchase stuffs for the hangings in my lodgings and made a good bargain so pleased on this account but out of sorts in not finding my gentleman.
I to the Swan at five, and there sent for a bit of meat and dined, and had my feel of the rounded cheeks of the young waiter of the house there and the cleft between, but nothing more as he had to work late. Made a resolution to return there anon and so home where I did rearrange my books in their case and to bed.
March 25th: A propitious beginning to the New Year, I do hope. Up betimes and, it being a fine warm day for Spring, did go by water to Vauxhall Gardens where, to my great joy, did espy the Earl walking towards me on the path. Was perturbed in my mind as to whether I should greet him but he, approaching, did smile at me and I did quote from his poem the following verses:
My path is lost, my wandering steps do stray;
I cannot go, nor can I safely stay;
Whom should I seek but thee, my path, my way?
And yet thou turn’st thy face away and fly’st me!
And yet I sue for grace and thou deny’st me!
Speak, art thou angry, Love, or only try’st me?
Who was to say that, by these words, I did refer to my feelings towards him (for I am indeed enamoured of him) or just quoting from his poem. But he greeted me warmly and complimented me on my diction, and I of his poetry which put us both in mighty good humour so that we walked together, I glancing at him from time to time for I am mighty smitten. I noted full well that his breeches (of the finest silk) do show him to be mighty well endowed in those parts, but I was not forward with him, touching him not except on the arm, the which he returned with familiarity.
We did discuss the news of the day – especially the trouble with the Dutch whose predations on our fleet grow immense, but at the end of the walk, he did not invite me further though he did express a hope that we should meet again. To which I heartily agreed, but home by water, me very eager from the meeting and the excitement thereof. The waterman, being a young fellow, I did offer a shilling if he would play and, he being willing, we did it, by hand, on the boat in the middle of the river which is the first time I have done it so. I did not suck him, for he was unwashed. His needle was firm and proud and his emission considerable – as was mine.
March 28th: Great joy abounding for my ship is safely to port and with it cargoes of prolific goods which will enrich me a great deal if sold wisely. I have a 300th part of the cargo, and I thank God for it. Can now afford and pay for the refurbishing of my lodgings.
April 6th: My hangings around the bed and at the windows are complete and attached. They look exceedingly fine and I should not be ashamed to entertain my Lord of Rochester. Unfortunately I have not seen him for nigh on a fortnight, though I have visited the Gardens on many an occasion with variable success.
Him being lacking, I did invite a fellow, the young waiter from the Swan, whose duty being over, was free and willing. I did eat there first and then invited him back, but was a disappointment as he came soon and then desired no more play and although his cheeks were full and round he would not allow me to pierce them. But he is a cheery fellow and, after I had pointed them out, he did praise my new hangings saying they were fit for a grand palace, but when I asked him which palaces he had seen, he admitted to not knowing any, so I was not altogether content.
April 8th: Much pleased for going betimes to the Gardens did espy my Earl walking, though he was with another, whom he did introduce as Henry Vaughan, a poet from Wales, a peevish fellow who seemed displeased when my Earl did greet me fulsomely, kissing me on the cheeks, and saying I was a ‘Great Friend’. At the end of the Walk, when Vaughan would have gone on, my Earl did express a willingness to return again with me, the which I concurred heartily so that, parting from Vaughan, we did walk and talk right merrily, he joking and I laughing and taking liberties with his body, all as in a pleasantry.
And I did clutch him to me on one occasion, laughing with merriment at a jest he made, and did feel his member, methinks, grown long and hard, though I was not sure so dared not take it further. At length, he did say he had an appointment at Court and duties in the Army and we parted, I think he reluctantly, I certainly so.
Then by water to home, though first to the bookseller where I found a small volume of the said Vaughan’s works but did not buy, thinking them inferior to my Earl’s verses.
I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great ring of pure and soulless light.
Lord what a piddling conceit for a couplet. Though I would have experienced ‘Eternity’ one night if I had my Wilmot in bed.
Without thy light what light remains in me?
Thou art my life; my way, my light’s in thee;
I live, I move, and by thy beams I see.
May 1st: My courtship of my Earl proceeds but slowly, his military duties keeping him away. I have met with him but three times this last month and though our conversations have been merry, at the end he says but farewell and I do not dare to ask him to my lodgings, even though newly provisioned with the hangings and a fine piece of Turkish carpet, which was cheaper than the Persian, though perhaps my Earl might think it ordinary. I am determined though to make an assault the next time.
June 16th: Where is my Earl? He hath entirely forgotten me and I have had recourse to Cocksuck Lane many times in my frustration. Met several fellows who were willing but I always afeared that, doing it there in a House of Office or some other secluded place I will be discovered and ruined. My waiter from the Swan keeps me company ofttimes but has not yet let me pierce his peach,
Perhaps my Lord Wilmot hath gone out of town as the plague is with us again or perhaps he is injured in the Wars, but if so, surely I would have heard. The Bills of Mortality this month was 684, of which number 267 were deaths from the plague. I thank the Lord that there hath been none in my parish so far which is a great blessing for all of us. With Mortality so near, many were in church, this being the Lord’s Day. The parson gave a poor and tedious sermon so that, directly it was over, I to the Gardens where I walked in the fresh air, the birds singing sweetly. I had scarcely made one circuit when I saw my Lord Earl though with the offensive Henry Vaughan who clings to him like a leech. But I up to the Earl and greeted him thus:
Why dost thou shade thy lovely face? O why
Does that eclipsing hand of thine deny
The sunshine of the Sun’s enlivening eye?
The execrable Vaughan, I could tell, was displeased, but my Earl smiled and kissed me in greeting. The three of us walked, conversing, though Vaughan sulked and uttered scarcely a word but we two were right merry, so that I did grow emboldened and, when we had reached the end of the Walk, I did ask him to my lodgings, intending that we should leave Vaughan and return together. But Vaughan reminded my Earl that they had promised to dine together at his sister’s house so regretfully my Earl refused. But he did say he would enjoy a visit on another occasion and this I had to be content with – though I was not.
My waterman was ill-kempt and ugly and my waiter at the Swan was away sick (May the Good Lord protect him from the plague) so I was alone and stayed at home, the weather being rainy of a sudden, much out of sorts.
June 17th: My waiter at the Swan returned fit and well after a bruising of the body caused by his falling down some steps. I much relieved at his return for I would have missed his company.
July 22nd: Up betimes and heard sounds of the flute from the street outside. Going down, I did see a young boy, of some six years of age, blowing on a penny whistle and making a sweet sound. “Ho, lad” quoth I, “That is a pretty tune, and thou a pretty player. What is thy name?”
“Harry Purcell, sir,” he said.
“And that a right pretty tune, young Master Purcell,” quoth I, “but I do not recognize it. What is its title?”
“It is one of my own making,” replied the boy.
“Indeed,” quoth I, “then thou art a right merry fellow and wilt have a famous future, if thou canst make up tunes like that.” I ruffled his hair and gave him 6d, the former of which seemed to displease him, for he was a grave fellow, though the latter brought a smile.
From home walked round to White Hall, the Park being quite locked up; and I observed a house shut up this day in the Pell Mell, where heretofore in Cromwell’s time we young men used to keep our weekly clubs. Then by water to the Harp and Ball, and thence had my waiter from the Swan meet me at the New Exchange, and there took coach and I with great pleasure took the ayre to Highgate, and thence to Hampstead, much pleased with his company, handsome and compliant, and had what pleasure almost I would with him in the greenwood, and so at night, weary and sweaty, it being very hot beyond bearing, we back again, and I set him down in St. Martin’s Lane. And then home and so to bed.
August 15th: I to Vauxhall, where to the Spring garden; but I do not see one guest there, the town being so empty of any body to come thither. I was much troubled this day to hear at Westminster how the officers do bury the dead in the open Tuttle-fields, pretending want of room elsewhere; whereas the New Chappell churchyard was walled-in at the public charge in the last plague time, merely for want of room and now none, but such as are able to pay dear for it, can be buried there.
So walked to Redriffe and the coffee shop for news of my investments, where I hear the sickness is, and indeed is scattered almost every where, there dying 1089 of the plague this week. Mr Robert Hooke, chemist and physicist who this year hath published his book, ‘Micrographia’, did this day give me a bottle of plague-water home with me but I do have doubts of its efficacy as I hear others have taken of it yet still died of the plague.
But, Lord! to see how the plague spreads. It being now all over King’s Street, at the Axe, and next door to it, and in other places. The sickness is got into the parish next door to ours this week, and is got, indeed, every where; so that I begin to think of setting things in order, which I pray God enable me to put both as to soul and body.
September 21st: To Gravesend yesterday where the ship I have invested in is moored in the estuary. It is indeed a pretty vessel, named ‘The Magdalen’, but Lord it would appear a tiny one on the mighty ocean. Aboard at the invitation of the Captain, by name Robert Kingley, and there did eat a goodly repast, roast mutton, with two officers, the rest being ashore. I asked whether this was the victuals eaten on the voyage and received a mighty laugh. “Salt beef and pemmican,” was the answer.
Afterwards they showed me round the vessel and named the parts but I became confused and after calling the poop deck the aftercastle or some such thing and receiving such a joshing, I became silent and out of sorts.
Later I was cheered by some of the sailors who danced a hornpipe to the music of a fiddle-player, rough in tone but in tune to the dance. There was one sailor which I did notice who had bright yellow hair, tied at the back in a little pigtail who danced better than all the rest and whose tight breeches did show all that he had. I kept my gaze on him, for he had a handsome cast of features and a ready smile, and was pleased to see he met my eyes without embarrassment and smiled sweetly. He was a goodly lad. They did sing shanties which is the name they give to songs used to keep time while hauling on ropes etc. We drank rum, a spirit I have not tasted before and which comes from the Americas. It is strong and before long we were right merry so that the time passed and it was too late to return to London.
Captain Kingley asked whether I would stay at the Inn in Gravesend but I expressed a liking to stay aboard overnight if he could find me a spare cabin to which he readily agreed though saying that, given the choice, he would prefer a bed on land. Still I insisted so he instructed me to be led to a cabin. My yellow-haired sailor being standing close by, he told this one to show me to the cabin and I went willingly, the sailor’s breeches from the back being as ready to show what was underneath as from the front.
As we climbed down one of the companion ways, my sailor did suddenly pause – whether on purpose or not, I do not know – and I bumped into him, I clutching at him to keep my balance, and he holding me for the same purpose.
“And not even at sea,” he said and his voice was pleasant and smooth spoken. “Hold up, sir, and we’ll soon have you in your bunk.”
Pretending to be less stable than I was, I leant against him and he supported me to the cabin which we entered. I then staggered across to the bunk and fell on it, making a vain intent to undress, before falling back. As I hoped my sailor started to remove my shoes, coat and shirt. There was a pause and then I felt his hands at the fastenings of my breeches. I was full eager and his hand brushed my needle and then took hold of my bollocks. Instantly I responded and pulled him onto the bunk with me where we grappled for a time until we were both naked. He smelled sweet and tasted salty and I wondered whether he washed in sea water. But he was right eager and we jousted with our needles and our tongues and eventually put them where we wanted and thus gave each other the greatest of pleasures. His body was smooth which I enjoy and, from his expressions and his caresses, he also liked my body, and especially the private parts.
At last we lay back in each other’s arms, and there was just room for us to lie alongside. “Will you stay the night?” I asked. And when he nodded, I wondered whether he wouldn’t be missed. “There is no problem,” he quoth. “I rarely sleep in my own bunk, especially when we are at sea. No one will notice if I am missing.”
So, overnight, we did enjoy each other until I was quite sore. Before the sun was up, he went out, first kissing me full squarely and though I was tired, I missed his presence. So he went and I did not even know his name, nor he mine.
Late in the morning the Captain returned and, though I was tired, we discussed what spices and riches he would bring back from India and the Spice Isles, but I could scarce keep my eyes open and the Captain joshed me, saying that I should have slept at the Inn where I would have had better rest. He was of course right but I preferred my choice.
So home by coach, though it was an uncomfortable ride and I slept in my own bed all day being wondrously tired.
November 23rd: Up; and put on my coloured silk suit very fine, and my new periwig, bought a good while since, but durst not wear, because the plague was in Westminster when I bought it; and it is a wonder what will be the fashion after the plague is done, as to periwigs, for nobody will dare to buy any hair, for fear of the infection, that it had been cut off of the heads of people dead of the plague. But, Lord! what a sad time it is to see no boats upon the River; and grass grows all up and down White Hall court, and nobody but poor wretches in the streets!
To Vauxhall but not by water as I could find no waterman to convey me thence. Cold and I am glad of it as the plague diminishes when the frost is about. Whom should I see but my Lord Earl walking and looking both fit and well. He greeted me, kissing me on both cheeks and asking me where I had been these past months. Where had I been? I quoted him:
My path is lost, my wandering steps do stray;
I cannot go, nor can I safely stay;
Whom should I seek but thee, my path, my way?
which amused him mightily.
I did ask him of his military adventures and he told me of engagements with the Dutch and how they do maraud our vessels incontinently.
“Come let us drink,” quoth he and we repaired to a tavern close by where he bought a fine wine. We sat opposite each other and it was the first opportunity I had had to look directly into my Earl’s face. The only imperfection I could see was a slight irregularity in one eyebrow which gave him a quizzical look. His nose was straight and the lips of his mouth full and sensuous. He was truly beautiful without being effeminate.
I tasted the wine. It was good and sweet and warmed my throat as it went down. It tasted of dried fruit and balmy Mediterranean sunshine.
“My Lord Earl,” I began but was interrupted.
“Call me John,” he said. “Are we not friends? And I shall call thee Jack. A toast to our friendship.”
He held up his glass and quoted:
“Cupid and Bacchus my saints are,
May drink and love still reign,
With wine I wash away my cares,
And then to cunt again.”
The wine and his expression of friendship making me bold, I said, “A cunt being any hole where thou canst place thy prick.”
He gave me a sharp look and then broke into a laugh. “I like thee, Jack. I see we think alike.” But I was not sure that he fully realized what I did mean. So we did drink and had a right merry time until I, greatly daring, and feeling the touch of his knees under the table, laid my hand on one of them, making a quip as I did so. I feared he might withdraw but instead he extended his legs that I might go further up until I reached his needle, much erect, and of a goodly size, the hardness amongst the soft material of his breeches. He did respond and soon we were feeling and rubbing though through the clothes.
Mightily excited but then some trash entered the room making a great noise and commotion so that we were forced to leave. I asked whether he would come back to my lodgings and indeed I could see he would fain have done so but when he asked where it was and I told him the parish, he was sore afraid as it is next to a plague parish.
He explained that his house is full of relatives so we were forced to part, much to my displeasure. I had been looking forward to bedding my Lord Earl for many a month, but perhaps it is fated that we shall never do so.
Much out of sorts I to the Swan to dine, where even my waiter is not free so at last I home, and so to bed, where I had to satisfy myself by hand.
December 15th: To the coffee house this morning, when in comes a gentleman with disastrous news. It is said that the Captain of a merchant ship, ‘the Amazon’, passed the ship, ‘the Magdalen’, in which I had a great investment, in the Azores during a fog. It appeared that the Magdalen was sinking, the square topsail being down. The Amazon turned and attempted a rescue but lost the other ship in the fog. If this is true, my fortune is lost and I am little more than a pauper.
Lord, this hath been a bad year.
January 1st: Oh how different are my feelings from those I held last January. I have heard nothing more of ‘the Magdalen’ and must assume that all is lost – including my yellow-haired sailor, which is to my great regret – and may the Lord have mercy on his soul. But I have lost the majority of my inheritance and all that I built up from previous investments and sales. Now I must get a job as perhaps a clerk in some dark office where my fingers will become ink-stained and my brain addled from adding up columns of figures. Also, I shall have to sell my new hangings and carpet even if I can afford to keep in my old lodgings.
January 14th: To hear that poor Payne, my waiter at the Swan, hath buried a child, and is dying himself. To hear that a labourer I sent but the other day to Dagenhams, to know how they did there, is dead of the plague; and that one of my own watermen, that carried me daily, fell sick as soon as he had landed me on Friday morning last, when I had been all night upon the water (and I believe he did get his infection that day at Brainford), and is now dead of the plague. This must surely be the lowest point of the times.
February 2nd: Let joy be unconfined. The Magdalen has made port safely and this news confirmed by the Captain who came to London yesterday bearing a great list of goods for sale. The mast had indeed broken but they had managed to reach a foreign port where it was mended. My fortune is made as is those of the other investors. The Captain returns to Portsmouth and I am determined to return to the ship with him – he returns tomorrow. Is my yellow-haired sailor still aboard. I cannot ask as I do not even know his name.
Plague lists are down for which the Lord be praised, the good news of the decrease of the plague this week to 70, and but 253 in all; which is the least Mortality Bill hath been known these last years.
February 3rd: To Portsmouth by coach, a journey which took all day with two stops and was most exhausting. We arrived aching and sweaty and to the Inn where I bathed in warm water and booked a room for the night. Thence to the ship where I viewed the cargoes, bales of cotton and silk piece goods, crates of spices, the scents of which did permeate the whole ship, blocks of indigo, and saltpetre – certainly enough to make my fortune, even though I was but a part investor. I looked hard at the sailors, could not find mine and feared the worst. Until at last I saw him though his skin was brown and weathered, yet did he smile as before and I was eager. He, recognizing me, did come close and I was able to speak with him. Could he get off the ship tonight? He could. Would he come to the Inn to spend the night? He would. This conversation carried on in whispers and very much sotto voce.
At the Inn we did eat and my sailor, whose name is Billy, seemed to enjoy the food though I was anxious to finish and eat of other fare. Billy is anxious to chatter and, after a glass or two of wine, he told me of various adventures on the voyage. He swears he saw a mermaid which had a great tail and was monstrous ugly and a giant squid which did appear one evening at dusk and waved its tentacles at the mariners. As to the accident with the sail and the broken mast, this happened during a storm and the mast came tumbling down not far from Billy himself. The Magdalen limped on and saw the Amazon passing them in the fog and then disappearing in spite of the mariners’ shouts and their making it to port and eventual repair.
I was entranced by the boy’s enthusiasm and his smiling face as he told of his hazards. He was just as enthusiastic when I got him to bed bouncing like a young animal on the mattress. Then he dragged me onto the bed and started taking off my clothes with too much abandon so that I had to reprove him or they would be torn. But soon I was as eager and I stripped off his tight breeches releasing his springing pego (as he called it). Only then was he quiet, but not for long for I tumbled him about, turning him over, tickling his waist and licking him everywhere, tasting the salty taste of him.
How he wriggled and laughed and protested at my nimble fingers and tongue and soon he was at it with me so that we were entwined like one thing with four arms and four legs and two tongues and two pegos, and four places to put them. So that they slid in and out willy nilly.
And at last with great cries, which I feared might have been heard by the other customers at the Inn, we came off and lay back exhausted.
But that was not an end to it, for I had brought upstairs a bottle of wine which we drank from so that soon we were eager again and betimes were eager yet again and all through the night though not so loudly did we frolic so that, as day dawned, we were truly exhausted.
Yet Billy had to go to his parents who live in Deal in Kent and had to take the coach. I gave him 5s with which he was truly pleased but he had been a game bedfellow with goodly sport and indeed I felt well-disposed to him, wishing I could take him back to London with me. I asked him if he would like to be my servant and he was drawn but I could tell the sea was in his blood, as they say, and he enjoyed the adventures so I bade him farewell and, after breaking his fast with some cold mutton, he left. I wonder if I shall see him again.
March 10th: To the King’s Playhouse, there to see “Vulpone,” an old but most excellent play; the best I think I ever saw, and well acted. It is a bitter comedy dealing with intrigue and shows lawyers full of hypocrisy and a miser as hero. Afterwards did meet the actor who played Vulpone’s creature, Mosca, the fly. He is a foppish fellow much given to waving of his hands and with a high, fluting voice who pursued me into the darkness of the hall and there did fondle my person to my displeasure, at the same time slobbering with his lips upon my face. Much out of sorts I attempted to escape and managed to do so with the loss of only a piece of lace which my abuser rent from my neckerchief.
May 22nd: To the coffee house in St Peter’s Street where a gentleman in secret told me of a House of mollies which might claim my interest. “There you will find,” he quoth, “persons of like inclination who have freedom to carry out their desires, they being on private ground so having no fear of discovery.” I, being some months celibate, felt a great desire to investigate so in the evening, I to Lad Lane (most apt appellation indeed) where a woman of vast girth did let me in on payment of a guinea.
In a well-appointed room I did find several gentlemen and some stable lads and pretty-faced link boys (though some did rely less on their features than on their well-muscled stature or indeed length of pintle for their attraction). Under sturdy breeches it was possible to find some pleasant surprises and none seemed averse to ‘going upstairs’ to do what was required. Wine was provided (at a charge) and many made merry with some mock marriage ceremonies and indeed one couple who made a pantomime of a birth with much merriment to all concerned. I did perceive that the ‘child’ born was a bottle of hock wrapped in swaddling clothes, the ‘birth’ being accompanied by much groaning and shrieking from the ‘mother’.
I had pleasure with a link boy who reminded me a little of my sailor Billy, both having yellow hair and a friendly smile. So, satisfied, I to home and thence to bed.
June 19th: A delightful thing it is to see the town full of people again as now it is; and shops begin to open, though in many places seven or eight together, and more, all shut; but yet the town is full, compared with what it used to be. A fine day with the sun full strong and I toVauxhall now open and there met my lord Earl (John Wilmot) again. We greeted each other with great cordiality and repaired to a tavern. Lord how he drinks for a young man – he is but eighteen years of age, yet I had difficulty keeping up with his imbibing. He becomes more eager as he drinks and we had great merriment, he quoting some of his poetry that I had not heard before. It was a poetry giving but not one for the faint-hearted or mealy-mouthed.
It seems that my lord Earl doth like both male and female, as he said in one verse which I asked him to repeat so that I could commit it to memory:
Nor shall our love-fits, Chloris, be forgot,
When each the well-looked linkboy strove t’enjoy,
And the best kiss was the deciding lot
Whether the boy fucked you, or I the boy.
But more often, it seemeth he inclines towards the male, as he made clear in his poem:
Love a woman? You’re an ass!
‘Tis a most insipid passion
To choose out for your happiness
The silliest part of God’s creation.
Then give me health, wealth, mirth, and wine,
And, if busy love entrenches,
There’s a sweet, soft page of mine
Does the trick worth forty wenches.
The last lines with which I agree full well.
Amongst the merriment, I told him of my visit to the molly house and he was up and eager to visit the premises in Lad Lane. So, therefore we went by coach. It being still early, there were but few link boys, stable hands and watermen in evidence but my fair-haired link boy was there and my lord Earl chose a stable lad who was dark and did smell of horses. We went upstairs and, at my Earl’s suggestion, did choose a room together so that the four of us made great sport on a single bed. Lord knows who did what to whom for there were bare limbs and erect pegos everywhere and rough working men’s limbs clasped and rubbed against the delicate aristocratic skin – and mine indeed somewhere in between – which was where I had the greatest pleasure.
September 2nd: I was aroused at three in the morning by the squalling of my landlady who lives on the ground floor that she could see a great fire in the City. So I rose and slipped on my night-gown, and went to the window, and thought it to be on the backside of Marke-lane at the farthest. I thought it far enough off; and so went to bed again and to sleep. About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off. By and by a neighbour comes and tells me that he hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish-street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge;
A watcher tells me that it begun this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish-street already. So I down to the waterside, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. The Swan where I do eat ofttimes, already burned that way, and the fire running further. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down.
The houses, too, are very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tar, in Thames-street; and warehouses of oil, and wines, and brandy, and other things. Here I saw a familiar figure and it was Mr Christopher Wren whom I had met last year, the handsome man, prettily dressed but dirty, who was walking about the streets. When I did speak with him he exclaimed about the narrowness of the streets and how the flames did leap across. And how the houses were built of things combustible so that they so easily caught fire, and how he had a plan to rebuild after the fire was out.
I wondered at this, that he had a plan so soon with the fire so recently started and remembered how, when I had seen him last, he had wished the town to be burnt. But I dismissed my thoughts as unworthy.
When I reminded him that he had, on our previous meeting, suggested that a great fire would clear the town so that it could be rebuilt, he was quiet and said but that things would be different hereafter. And to see the churches all filling with goods by people who themselves should have been quietly there on this day (the Lord’s Day).
So we drew near the fire as we could for smoke; and all over the Thames, with one’s face in the wind, you were almost burned with a shower of firedrops. This is very true; so as houses were burned by these drops and flakes of fire, three or four, nay, five or six houses, one from another. The churches, houses, and all on fire and flaming at once; and a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruins.
September 3rd: Up by break of day to get away the remainder of my things; which I did by a lighter at the Iron gate and my hands so few, that it was the afternoon before we could get them all away. Only now and then walking into the garden, and saw how horridly the sky looks, all on a fire in the night, was enough to put us out of our wits; and, indeed, it was extremely dreadful, for it looks just as if it was at us; and the whole heaven on fire.
Now begins the practice of blowing up of houses in Tower-street, those next the Tower, which at first did frighten people more than anything, but it stopped the fire where it was done, it bringing down the houses and anything to burn.
Met again with Mr Wren who was still walking the streets and looking at the fire and how it progressed. He and I did walk together for much of the day. At night lay down a little upon a quilt of Wren’s in his office, all my own things being packed up or gone; having fed upon the remains of yesterday’s dinner, having no fire nor dishes, nor any opportunity of dressing any thing.
Looked at the drawings on Wren’s desk. Very meticulous, all straight lines and elegant curves. It seems he must have worked on his plans for many years and I wondered whether he had forecast the fire in his mind.
I lay down in his lodgings again upon Wren’s quilt, being mighty weary, and sore in my feet with going till I was hardly able to stand. Nonetheless I expected him to join me and was eager in expectation. But all night, or so it seemed, he added to his plans, marking where the fire had reached and what it had destroyed. Lord, the man is truly obsessed with his plans.
September 4th: Home; and whereas I expected to have seen our house on fire, it being now about seven o’clock, it was not. But going to the fire, I find by the blowing up of houses, and the great help given by the workmen out of the King’s yards, there is a good stop given to it, as well as at Marke-lane end as ours; it having only burned the dyall of Barking Church, and part of the porch, and was there quenched. I up to the top of Barking steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw; every where great fires, oil-cellars, and brimstone, and other things burning and the stink thereof in my nose so that I could not get rid of it. I became afeared to stay there long, and therefore down again as fast as I could, the fire being spread as far as I could see it.
But as I walked away, the cinders under my feet, there was a shout from behind and I felt two arms grasping me round the waist and dragging me aside. As I was flung back a burning beam crashed down on the very spot where I had stood one second before. I turned to face my rescuer and faced a stalwart young man, his cheek dirtied with ash but good looking.
Almost out of breath from my narrow escape I expressed my thanks and searched my pockets for remuneration but he would have none of it, maintaining that it was pure humanity that had guided him.
Would he partake of dinner, I asked, anxious to make some recompense.
That he would gladly, he quoth and we repaired, out of the danger zone, to a tavern which was still selling food where we partook of a pullet, and a leg of lamb, moderately will dressed.
My rescuer, one Grinling Gibbons, was but 17 years of age. “Whence came the name, Grinling,” I asked. It was Dutch, he told me though from his accent I would not have known it. Was he not afraid in these times of the Dutch War, I asked but he told me we was a sculptor and woodcarver and worked for the King at Windsor.
I would have asked him back to my lodgings except that it is now bare and without furnishings. We though did what we could under the shelter of the table board and we parted agreeably.
September 6th: Up by five o’clock; and, blessed be God! find all well, and by water to Paul’s Wharf. Walked thence, and saw, all the town burned, and a miserable sight of Paul’s church; with all the roofs fallen, and the body of the quire fallen into St. Faith’s; Paul’s school also, Ludgate, and Fleet-street, and the church, and a good part of the Temple the like.
All through the town there is talk of the French or the Dutch having a hand in it. And it is a proper time for discontents; but all men’s minds are full of care to protect themselves, and save their goods: the militia is in arms everywhere. To avoid the smell and taste of the fire I to Lad Lane where I searched but found no one. Perhaps all people of like mind are fled though there is no sign of the Fire in these parts.
September 9th: The fire is out and we are left to contemplate the sad sight of the ruins of our City, scarcely a street of which is left untouched. Thank the Lord, my lodgings are untouched and I have removed back the hangings etc. which I took away earlier.
November 12th: An adventure with Footpaddery. This after noon, I to Gravesend on business as to my goods being sold and my share of the investment paid. But the moneys were not ready and so I had to return without which was a blessing though I did not realize it at the time and was much out of sorts on the return journey. The coach was full and it was nigh on dark and we were approaching Bow, when there was a shout of, ‘Stand and Deliver’ and three horsemen, swathed with cloths round their faces leaving only their eyes bare stood in front of the coach. They seemed drunk for there was a smell of wine or beer about them. One of the highwaymen was tall and well-formed and had an educated voice, perhaps a gentleman fallen on hard times.
But the pistols they waved in front of us brooked no denial and we swiftly emptied our pockets, I being thankful that I had not the results of my investment about my person but just a few pounds, though these I was loth to lose. Afterwards, as he told me, Sir David Dalrymple, one of the gentlemen travellers in the coach, lost, he thought, about 3 l. in Money, a Snuffbox and Pocketbook while Mr. Hide of Hackney, they had from him ten Pounds, and a Watch so in all they had very small booty. Mr. Hide has told me since, that he had about him at that time 300 l. in Bank Notes, but they missed them.
We thought we had been rescued for the Watch poured in upon us from all parts; yet at the fire of a highwaymen’s pistol over the brave Watch’s heads, they retired as fast, and gave the highwaymen an opportunity of getting clear which they did with all speed.
But I must tell you a strange thing. As the tall highwaymen stood in front of me, taking my money, I saw him wink his eye, looking me up and down and resting on my fork. As he was directly in front and hidden from the rest I, greatly daring, placed my hand on his groin, finding his pego hard and strong. Of course I could do nothing more than give it a good exploration, and he returned the gesture by returning me my money. So ended my adventure but I was forced to condemn the miscreants after they had left.
December 31st: Thus ends this year of public wonder and mischief to this nation, and,
therefore, generally wished by all people to have an end but to me it hath been good with my financial position being set fair and my physical desires being mostly satisfied without harm. God protect us all from what the next year will bring.
Author’s Note: There is of course absolutely no evidence to show that Mr Wren (later Sir Christopher Wren) was gay or that he had a hand in the starting of the Great Fire of London, though he did present his plan for the rebuilding of London only three days after the fire was extinguished. John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, though, was certainly bisexual. He was married and had children though his poems indicate a predilection more for males than females. His language was robust and the examples I give are as he wrote them.
John Vaughan was indeed Welsh. Grinling Gibbons became famous for his wood carving and indeed his work is included in the new St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Wren. Henry Purcell whom we meet as a young boy, grew up to be the great composer of, for instance, ‘Dido and Aeneas’.
Maiden Lane with Lad Lane are no longer in existence, and Buckingham Palace now occupies the area. There were certainly names of streets indicating their use. Gropecunt Lane, for example, was changed to Grub Street in London in the 19th century. Only one Gropecunt Lane still exists. It is in Shrewsbury.
I have ‘telescoped’ real events into the two years of my ‘Diary’. The highwayman episode actually occurred some years later, though highwaymen were active in the 1660s. The ‘Molly houses’ were active in the early 1700s (and raided) though probably they may have made their appearance – or something very like them – much earlier. Occasional appearances of link boys (employed to light the way at night time before the introduction of street lighting), stable lads, watermen, sailors, waiters and highwaymen were my invention, though there is evidence in contemporary texts of their use as rent boys.
Original sources include the diaries and writings of the real Samuel Pepys, John Evelyn, John Vaughan, John Wilmot, Thomas Vincent amongst others.
© Michael Gouda