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Pepys and Money

Peter Skuse

Our Treasurer Peter Skuse gave a very interesting and well researched talk to Club members attending the 2014 AGM on aspects of Pepys and his money. An appropriate subject for our Club Treasurer.

The notes for this talk are provided below :

Extracts from the Diary relating to money —

The Diary notes that Pepys’s wealth at the end of 1660 was £300; this rose to £500 at year-end 1661; then 1662: £650; 1663: £800; 1664: £1350; 1665: £4900; and 1666: £6200. Pepys does not record figures for the later diary years, but extrapolation suggests he was worth around £25000 when the diary ends.

His attitude to spending varies as we progress through the years. For example —

7 FEBRUARY 1660. . . . I went to Wills, where I stayed at cards till 10 a-clock; lost half a crown

16 FEBRUARY 1660. . . . I, by having but 3d in my pocket, made shift to spend no more; whereas if I had had more I had spent more, as the rest did. So that I see it is an advantage to a man to carry little in his pocket.

9 MAY 1660. . . . After dinner to nine-pins and lost 5s. [though he was with Capt.Cuttance]

Pepys was assiduous in accounting, as this reveals —

4 APRIL 1660. . . . I did give Davis, their servant, 5l-10s to give to Mr.Moore from me, in part of the 7l: that I borrowed of him; and he is to discount the rest out of the 36s. that he doth owe me.
Then he was perhaps injudicious in purchases —

27 JUNE 1661 This day Mr.Holden sent me a beaver [hat], which costs me 4l-5s-0d.
1 JULY 1661. Monday. This morning I went up and down into the City to buy several things (as I have lately done for my house): among other things, a fair chest of drawers for my own chamber . . . 33s, and an Indian gown for myself . . . 34s.
. . . as we then read —

31 July 1661 This night I was forced to borrow 40l of Sir Wm. Batten.

We notice that throughout the diary years, Pepys is more willing to spend on himself than to lay out on his wife —

17 SEPTEMBER 1660 . . .I did give my wife 15l this morning to go to buy mourning things for her and I, which she did . . . . Home by link with my money under my arm. So to bed, after I had looked over the things my wife hath bought today; with which being not very well pleased, they costing too much, I went to bed in a discontent.

27 OCTOBER 1660. . . .I called at Pauls churchyard and there I bought Alsted, Encyclopaedia,#4 which cost me 38s.

18 NOVEMBER 1662… my wife came home, having been abroad today, laying out above 12l in linen and a Copper and a pot and bedstead and other household stuff, which troubles me

His Valentines cost him, which he accepts without demur —

18 FEBRUARY 1661. In the afternoon my wife and I and Mrs.Martha Batten, my Valentine, to the Exchange; and there, upon a pair of embroidered and six pair of plain white gloves, I laid out 40s. upon her.

Pepys loved books, some just for the binding! Yet it is sometimes a love-hate relationship —

22 FEBRUARY 1664. did buy two books of cities stitched together, cost me 9s. 6d; and when I came home, thought of my vow and paid 5s. into my poor-box for it, hoping in God that I shall forfeit no more in that kind
Then he is sometimes hooked into one that he didn’t enjoy, but decides to dispose of it sensibly —

26 DECEMBER 1662…. met … we falling into a discourse of a new book of Drollery in verse called Hudebras, I would needs go find it out; and met with it at the Temple, cost me 2s-6d. But when I came to read it, it is so silly. . . that I am ashamed of it; and by and by meeting at Mr.Townsends at dinner, I sold it to him for 18d
and justifies the larger sums spent —

22 JULY 1663. . . . Thence to my bookseller’s and find my Waggoners done, the very binding cost me 14s.—but they are well done,

8 APRIL 1667. . . to my new bookseller’s, and there I did agree for Rycaut’s late history of the Turkish Policy, which costs me 55s; whereas it was sold plain before the late fire for 8s, and bound and coloured as this is for 20s
As we saw above, he admits to errors of judgment, but also rejoices when his choice is the right choice —

8 APRIL 1667. . . to my new bookseller’s, and there I did agree for Rycaut’s late history of the Turkish Policy, which costs me 55s; whereas it was sold plain before the late fire for 8s, and bound and coloured as this is for 20s . .

22 FEBRUARY 1668. . . through Duck lane; and there did buy Kircher’s Musurgia, cost me 35s, a book I am mighty glad of.

28 MAY 1668. . . . pleased that this morning my bookseller brings me home Marcennus’s book of music, which costs me 3l.2s.0d but is a very fine book

3 SEPTEMBER 1668. . . calling on several businesses, and particularly my bookseller’s, among others, for Hobbs’s Leviathan, which is now mightily called for; and what was heretofore sold for 8s I now give 24s at the second hand, and is sold for 30s, it being a book the Bishops will not let be printed again

Pepys could be generous to strangers and to his own servants, but never less than prudent —

5 JANUARY 1662 . . . For his work this past year I gave [the sexton] 3s, and have the last week given the Clerk 2s, which I set down that I may know what to do the next year, if it please the Lord that I live so long.

24 DECEMBER 1662 . . . [he] sent me, against Christmas, a great Chine of beef and three dozen of Tongues. I did give 5s to the man that brought it and half-crown to the porters.

4 APRIL 1663 . . . home and find the house as clean as if nothing had been done there today from top to bottom—which made us give the Cooke 12d a piece, each of us.

Sometimes though, he needed a prompt —

30 MAY 1663. . . . Here was a fellow that said grace so long, like a prayer; I believe the fellow is a cunning fellow, and yet I by my brother’s desire did give him a crown, he being in great want
and at other times recognised the need —

12 MARCH 1667. . . (This day a poor seaman, almost starved for want of food, lay in our yard a_dying; I sent him half_a_crown, and we ordered his ticket to be paid.)

In the section of the Diary which details his family’s journeying in the West Country, his notes suggest these were tips rather than actual costs —

Friday 5th June 1668 At Barnet for milk 6d. On the highway to menders of the high_way 6d.

Monday 8th June 1668 Father’s servants 14s 0d (father having in the garden told me bad stories of my wife’s ill words); One that helped at the horses 1s 0d Menders of the highway 2s 0d . . . Did give the sexton’s boy 1s 0d . . . . So to see Christ Church with my wife I seeing several others very fine alone with WH before dinner and did give the boy, 1s 0d that went with me (before dinner)June 10th Weds. did give the poor (which they would not take but in their box.) 2s_6d.

Thursday 11th June 1668 saddle horses very dear. Boy that fetched went to look for them— 6d. Stonehenge Give the shepherd woman for leading our horses 4d . . . to Servants 1s 6d; Poor 1s 0d . . . Poor woman in the street 1s 0d; . . . Wash Woman 1s 0d

Saturday 13th June 1668 . . . a fine ship. Spoke with the foreman and did give the boys that kept the cabin 2s 0d

Sunday. 14th June 1668 [Bath] The sexton of the church 1s 0d. Monday 15th June 1668 [Bath] . . .to the Poor 6d; Woman to lay my footcloth 1s 0d; So to our Inn and . . . Poor 1s 0d; . . . to the poor and menders of the highway 3s_0d; at Marlborough had music whose innocence pleased me and I did give them 3s 0d.

Gloves were expensive! They are mentioned from time to time in the Diary but vary in price according to the material and demands they are likely to be put to —

18 FEBRUARY 1661. In the afternoon my wife and I and Mrs.Martha Batten, my Valentine, to the Exchange; and there, upon a pair of embroidered and six pair of plain white gloves, I laid out 40s. upon her.

10 APRIL 1663. . . . met my wife, and walked to the New Exchange; there laid out 10s upon pendents and painted leather_gloves, very pretty and all the mode . . .

8 SEPTEMBER 1667. . . I met Sir G Downing, who would speak with me; and first, to enquire what I paid for my Kids-leather gloves I had on my hands, and showed me others on his, as handsome, as good in all points, cost him but 12d a pair, and mine me 2s.

Sat. 11 April 1668 gloves 0-6s-6d Bacon & anchovies 0_13s_0d
And his heart was won over, and gloves got bought that way too —

6 SEPTEMBER 1664. . . . So home, having called upon Doll, our pretty Change woman, for a pair of gloves trimmed with yellow ribbon (to match the petticoat she bought yesterday), which costs me 20s. But she is so pretty, that, God forgive me, I could not think it too much; which is a strange slavery that I stand in to beauty, that I value nothing near it. . . .

You notice Pepys costs the food he eats too —

Sat. 11 April 1668 gloves 0-6s-6d Bacon & anchovies 0_13s

23 SEPTEMBER 1661 we put in and eat a mouthful of porke, which they made us pay 14d for, which vexed us much (fair at Baldock)

6 NOVEMBER 1661. . . . met Mr.Davenport and a friend of his . . . and I did give them good wine… anchovies… pickled oysters…and … did give them a barrel of good ones and a great deal[more] wine, and were very merry; and cost me a good deal of money.

So, today, how much would a good meal cost? £40 a head in a travellers’ Inn?

10 DECEMBER 1662…. We had a good dinner, cost us 5l-6s (whereof my share 26s.)

7 SEPTEMBER 1663. . . . went all alone to the black spread Eagle in Bride lane and there had a chop of veal and some bread, cheese and beer, cost me a shilling to my dinner . .

4 OCTOBER 1667. . . to an ordinary hard by the Temple_gate, where I have heretofore been, and there dined; cost me 10d..
And if you prepared it at home for a party of folk? £20 a head?

13 JANUARY 1663. … bought . . . oysters … a hash of rabbits and lamb, and a rare chine of beef . . . a great dish of roasted fowl, cost me about 30s, and a tart; and then fruit and cheese. My dinner was noble and enough.. . . At night to supper; had a good sack_posset and cold meat … I believe this day’s feast will cost me near 5l which works out at 12 full meals: 8s a head.
Club members enjoy Pepys and his inner thoughts revealed by his Diary:

22 APRIL 1663. . . we saw but part of Wit without money—which I do not much like; but coming late put me out of tune, and it costing me four half_Crowns for myself and company . . .

6 JANUARY 1663. Thence into Wood Street and there bought a fine table for my dining room, costs me 50s. . . . myself somewhat vexed at my wife’s neglect in leaving of her scarf, waistcoat, and night_dressings in the coach today, though I confess she did give them to me to look after, yet it was her fault not to see that I did take them out of the coach. …. it might be as good as 25s. loss or thereabouts.

The thorny problem of lending money: how willing was our diarist?

9 DECEMBER 1667. . . This morning I was troubled with my Lord Hinchingbrooke sending to borrow 200l of me; but I did answer that I had none, nor could borrow any, for I am resolved I will not be undone for anybody, though I would do much for my Lord Sandwich; for it is to answer a bill of exchange of his. And I perceive he hath made use of all other means in the world to do it. But I am resolved to serve him, but not ruin myself, as it may be to part with so much of the little I have by me to keep, if I should by any turn of times lose the rest. 13 DECEMBER 1667. . . After dinner comes Mr.Moore, and he and I alone a while, he telling me my Lord Sandwichs credit is like to be undone if the bill of 200l . . . be not paid tomorrow . . . So finding that Creed hath supplied them with 150l in their straits, . . I am very willing to serve my Lord, though not in this kind . . . because of some plate that was lodged the other day with me . . . which may be . . . security for my money . .

6 JUNE 1662…. This day, at my father’s desire, I lent my brother Tom 20l

20 APRIL 1663 . . . [my father] must either think of lessening his charge or I must be forced to spare money out of my purse to help him through; which I would willing do, as far as 20l goes.

18 AUGUST 1664. . . By and by [Mr Reeves] comes to tell me that he had present occasion for 6l to make up a sum, and that he would pay me in a day or two; but I had the unusual wit to deny him

Clothes maketh man . . . and Elizabeth too. Guess whom Pepys spends most on —

8 OCTOBER 1662 … this night my scallop, bought and got made by Captain Ferrer’s lady, is sent, and I brought it home— a very neat one; it cost me about 3l— and 3l more I have given him to buy me another

12 OCTOBER 1663. to Mr— , the great lace_man in Cheapside, and bought one cost me 4l, more by 20s. then I intended; but when I came to see them, I was resolved to buy one worth wearing with credit.

1 JUNE 1665. . . after dinner I put on my new silk Camelott Suit, the best that ever I wore in my life, the suit costing me above 24l.

17 JULY 1666. . . . bought a common riding-cloak for myself, to save my best. It cost me but 30s, and will do my turn mighty well . . .

29 OCTOBER 1666. . . in the Hall bought me a velvet riding cap, cost me 20s

5 OCTOBER 1667. . . by coach to Temple_bar to a India shop and there bought a gown and Sash, which cost me 26s
and for Elizabeth?

7 DECEMBER 1661. . . . my wife and I were talking about buying of a fine Scallop which is brought her this morning by a woman to be sold, which is to cost her 45s.

1 MARCH 1665. Up—and this day being the day that, by a promise a great while ago made to my wife, I was to give her 20l to layout in clothes against Easter, she did, notwithstanding last night’s falling_out, come to peace with me and I with her, but did boggle mightily at the parting with my money
[typically, one in six purchases of clothing items is for his wife.]
Sometimes, Elizabeth goes shopping for her husband’s attire —

17 MAY 1665. . . —I find my wife and Mercer, having with [my tailor] agreed upon two rich silk suits for me; which is fit for me to have, but yet the money is too much, I doubt, to layout altogether; but it is done, and so let it be—
Music demands Pepys pays out, but he loves it so!

25 JUNE 1661 This morning came Mr.Goodgroome to me, recommended by Mr.Madge.#2 With whom I agreed presently to give him 20s. entrance; which I then did, and 20s. a month more to teach me to sing

28 OCTOBER 1661. . . . to Pauls churchyard to Hunts, and there find my Theorbo done. Which pleases me very well, and costs me 26s to the altering, but now he tells me it is as good a Lute as any is in England, and is worth well 10l.

24 FEBRUARY 1662. Long with Mr.Birchensha … at my Musique practice, finishing my song of Gaze not on swans in two parts, which pleases me well.#1 And I did give him 5l for this month or five weeks that he hath taught me, which is a great deal of money and troubled me to part with it.

Pepys was perhaps more generous as he became richer, allowing Elizabeth more, especially after the Big Mistake with Deb, but he had his conditions —

11 JANUARY 1669. . . Thence to the New Exchange to buy some things; and among others, my wife did give me my pair of gloves, which by contract she is to give me in her 30l a year . . .
and retained his predilection for nice things —

1 JANUARY 1669. . . to the New Exchange . . . to the cabinet_shops to look out, and did agree for a Cabinet to give my wife for a New_year’s gift; and I did buy one, cost me 11l, which is very pretty, of Walnut_tree . .

22 JANUARY 1669. . . to get a new looking_glass for my dining_room, and some pewter and good wine against tomorrow. And so home, where I had the looking-glass set up; cost me 6l-7s-6d.

10 FEBRUARY 1669 . . .This day at dinner, I sent to Mr.Spong to come to me to Hercules_pillars; who came to us, and there did bring with him my new Parallelogram of brass, which I was mightily pleased with; and paid for it 25s . . .

15 FEBRUARY 1669 . . . I did this day call at the New Exchange and bought her a pair of green silk stockings#1 and garters and shoe_strings, and two pair of Jessimy-gloves, all coming to about 28s . . .

17 FEBRUARY 1669 . . . I did reckon this night what I owed [Batelier] and I do find that the things my wife, of her own head, hath taken (together with my own, which comes not to above 5l) comes to above 22l But it is the last, and so I am the better contented, and they are things that are not trifles, but clothes, gloves, shoes, hoods, &c . . .
Here is a hint that sometimes he bought food for home consumption that often did not please his wife —

29 AUGUST 1663. . . I myself bought, while my wife was gone to another shop, a leg of beef, a good one, for sixpence, and my wife says is worth my money
Now for the monetary gain that came from his office; in most cases he was offered goods in kind, but money would also change hands. While at sea collecting King Charles, he became familiar, but many months further on, he is still somewhat surprised —

4 JANUARY 1661. I paid 12s for [an] ounce and a half of gilt . . .. But strange it was to me to see what a company of small Fees I was called upon by a great many to pay there;
Those of us who acquire paintings from galleries often feel artwork is overpriced, yet when seeing something admirable . . .

11 APRIL 1669. . . .my wife and I out by coach, and Balty with us, [to] a Dutchman [painter] newly come over, one Verelst, who took us to his lodging close by and did show us a little flower-pott of his doing, the finest thing that ever I think I saw in my life, the drops of Dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced again and again to put my finger to it to feel whether my eyes were deceived or no. He doth ask 70l for it; I had the vanity to bid him 20l, but a better picture I never saw in my whole life.

There is evidence of growing class-consciousness in Pepys as he rises —

20 OCTOBER 1668. . . . I walked out to several places to pay debts, and among other things to look out for a coach; and saw many, and did light on one, for which I bid 50l, which doth please me mightily . . .

4 DECEMBER 1668. . . mighty proud [my aunt] is of her wedding_ring, being lately set with Diamonds; cost her about 12l. And I did commend it mightily to her, but do not think it very suitable for one of our quality. . .
or even in his early Diary years —

19 JANUARY 1661. I was troubled to be seen by four of our office Clerkes, which sat in the half-crown box and I in 1s-6d
The poor can scrape by, with early recycling —

25 MARCH 1661 he could get sometimes three or four bushels of rags in a day, and gat 3d a bushel for them. And many other discourses, what and how many ways there are for poor children to get their livings honestly

While Pepys himself is worried by the coal price rise —

8 DECEMBER 1666. . . the City in great want, coals being at 3l 3s per Chaldron [3000 lbs] as I am told. 27 APRIL 1667.. . I got in some coals at 23s per chaldron, a good bargain I thank God, having not been put to buy a coal all this dear time, that during this war poor people have been forced to give 45s and 50s and 3l. [This works out at about 10d / cwt, about 50kg]

13 SEPTEMBER 1667. Called up by people come to deliver in ten chaldron of coals, brought in one of our prizes from Newcastle; the rest we intend to sell, we having above ten chaldron between us. They sell at about 28s or 29s per chaldron [now just 1s cwt]

Prices today vary from being from fifty times their 1665 equivalent, to three hundred times as much, according to the goods/items. Consider Pepys’s starting salary of £50 earned during 1659, and compare with a similar starting salary today of maybe £12500. A quality suit bought by Pepys 350 years ago at £24/10/0 would now be about £1200, only 50 times as much. A small book at 2s might now be £20 as a hardback: a 200-fold increase. Tuppence for a decent loaf of bread, now around £1.50 new-baked as it would have been then – around 180 times dearer today. And as for gloves: what Pepys paid 350 years ago — in Primark they are still that price, with a multiplier over the centuries of . . . ONE.