Samuel Pepys

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 6 February 1668

Production: George Etherege, She Would if She Could, Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, London, 6 February 1668

Text: Up, and to the office, where all the morning,, and among other things Sir H. Cholmly comes to me about a little business, and there tells me how the Parliament, which is to meet again to-day, are likely to fall heavy on the business of the Duke of Buckingham’s pardon; and I shall be glad of it: and that the King hath put out of the Court the two Hides, my Lord Chancellor’s two sons, and also the Bishops of Rochester and Winchester, the latter of whom should have preached before him yesterday, being Ash Wednesday, and had his sermon ready, but was put by; which is great news: He gone, we sat at the office all the morning, and at noon home to dinner, and my wife being gone before, I to the Duke of York’s playhouse; where a new play of Etherige’s, called “She Would if she Could;” and though I was there by two o’clock, there was 1000 people put back that could not have room in the pit: and I at last, because my wife was there, made shift to get into the 18d. box, and there saw; but, Lord! how full was the house, and how silly the play, there being nothing in the world good in it, and few people pleased in it. The King was there; but I sat mightily behind, and could see but little, and hear not all. The play being done, I into the pit to look [for] my wife, and it being dark and raining, I to look my wife out, but could not find her; and so staid going between the two doors and through the pit an hour and half, I think, after the play was done; the people staying there till the rain was over, and to talk with one another. And, among the rest, here was the Duke of Buckingham to-day openly sat in the pit; and there I found him with my Lord Buckhurst, and Sidly, and Etherige, the poet; the last of whom I did hear mightily find fault with the actors, that they were out of humour, and had not their parts perfect, and that Harris did do nothing, nor could so much as sing a ketch in it; and so was mightily concerned while all the rest did, through the whole pit, blame the play as a silly, dull thing, though there was something very roguish and witty; but the design of the play, and end, mighty insipid. At last I did find my wife staying for me in the entry; and with her was Betty Turner, Mercer, and Deb. So I got a coach, and a humour took us, and I carried them to Hercules Pillars, and there did give them a kind of a supper of about 7s., and very merry, and home round the town, not through the ruines; and it was pretty how the coachman by mistake drives us into the ruines from London-wall into Coleman Street: and would persuade me that I lived there. And the truth is, I did think that he and the linkman had contrived some roguery; but it proved only a mistake of the coachman; but it was a cunning place to have done us a mischief in, as any I know, to drive us out of the road into the ruines, and there stop, while nobody could be called to help us. But we come safe home, and there, the girls being gone home, I to the office, where a while busy, my head not being wholly free of my trouble about my prize business, I home to bed. This evening coming home I did put my hand under the coats of Mercer and did touch her thigh, but then she did put by my hand and no hurt done, but talked and sang and was merry.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. His account of the first performance of Sir George Etherege‘s comedy She Would if She Could is a particularly informative account of the Restoration theayre in performance. The Duke’s Playhouse, or Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, probably had an audience capacity of 650. The prompter John Downes‘s Roscius Anglicanus gives the forgetful cast as including Smith (Courtall), Young (Freeman), Harris (Sir Joslin Jolly), Nokes (Sir Oliver), Mrs Jenning (Ariana), Mrs Davis (Gatty), Mrs Shadwell (Lady Cockwood). Downes’ memory of the play was that “It took well, but Inferior to Love in a Tub” (Etherege’s first play).

Links: https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1668/02/06
John Downes, Roscius Anglicanus

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 18 August 1664

Production: James Shirley, The Court Secret, Bridges Street theatre, London, 18 August 1664

Text: Dined alone at home, my wife going to-day to dine with Mrs. Pierce, and thence with her and Mrs. Clerke to see a new play, “The Court Secret.”

I busy all the afternoon, toward evening to Westminster, and there in the Hall a while, and then to my barber, willing to have any opportunity to speak to Jane, but wanted it. So to Mrs. Pierces, who was come home, and she and Mrs. Clerke busy at cards, so my wife being gone home, I home, calling by the way at the Wardrobe and met Mr. Townsend, Mr. Moore and others at the Taverne thereby, and thither I to them and spoke with Mr. Townsend about my boy’s clothes, which he says shall be soon done, and then I hope I shall be settled when I have one in the house that is musicall.

So home and to supper, and then a little to my office, and then home to bed. My wife says the play she saw is the worst that ever she saw in her life.

Comments: Elisabeth Pepys (1640-1669) was the wife of the British naval administrator and diarist Samuel Pepys. She frequently attended the theatre with her husband, but at times with female friends alone or a female servant, and on this rare occasion we get to hear her view of a production. The tragicomedy The Court Secret was James Shirley‘s final play, composed before 1642 but first printed in 1653 and not performed until 1664. It was peformed by the King’s Company at the Bridges Street theatre (the first theatre on the Drury Lane site).

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/08/18/

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 1 June 1664

Production: Ben Jonson, Epicœne, or The Silent Woman, King’s House, London, 1 June 1664

Text: Thence to W. Joyce’s, where by appointment I met my wife (but neither of them at home), and she and I to the King’s house, and saw “The Silent Woman;” but methought not so well done or so good a play as I formerly thought it to be, or else I am nowadays out of humour. Before the play was done, it fell such a storm of hayle, that we in the middle of the pit were fain to rise; and all the house in a disorder, and so my wife and I out and got into a little alehouse, and staid there an hour after the play was done before we could get a coach, which at last we did (and by chance took up Joyce Norton and Mrs. Bowles. and set them at home), and so home ourselves, and I, after a little to my office, so home to supper and to bed.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. Pepys and his wife Elisabeth saw Ben Jonson‘s Epicœne at the King’s House (subsequently the Theatre Royal Drury Lane). Though the stage was roofed, the pit was open to the sky.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/06/01/

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 8 March 1664

Production: Pierre Corneille, Héraclius, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, 8 March 1664

Text: Up with some little discontent with my wife upon her saying that she had got and used some puppy-dog water, being put upon it by a desire of my aunt Wight to get some for her, who hath a mind, unknown to her husband, to get some for her ugly face. I to the office, where we sat all the morning, doing not much business through the multitude of counsellors, one hindering another. It was Mr. Coventry’s own saying to me in his coach going to the ‘Change, but I wonder that he did give me no thanks for my letter last night, but I believe he did only forget it. Thence home, whither Luellin came and dined with me, but we made no long stay at dinner; for “Heraclius” being acted, which my wife and I have a mighty mind to see, we do resolve, though not exactly agreeing with the letter of my vowe, yet altogether with the sense, to see another this month, by going hither instead of that at Court, there having been none conveniently since I made my vowe for us to see there, nor like to be this Lent, and besides we did walk home on purpose to make this going as cheap as that would have been, to have seen one at Court, and my conscience knows that it is only the saving of money and the time also that I intend by my oaths, and this has cost no more of either, so that my conscience before God do after good consultation and resolution of paying my forfeit, did my conscience accuse me of breaking my vowe, I do not find myself in the least apprehensive that I have done any violence to my oaths. The play hath one very good passage well managed in it, about two persons pretending, and yet denying themselves, to be son to the tyrant Phocas, and yet heire of Mauritius to the crowne. The garments like Romans very well. The little girle is come to act very prettily, and spoke the epilogue most admirably. But at the beginning, at the drawing up of the curtaine, there was the finest scene of the Emperor and his people about him, standing in their fixed and different pastures in their Roman habitts, above all that ever I yet saw at any of the theatres. Walked home, calling to see my brother Tom, who is in bed, and I doubt very ill of a consumption. To the office awhile, and so home to supper and to bed.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. Pepys and his wife Elizabeth saw Pierre Corneille‘s 1647 French tragedy Héraclius, on the Byzantine emperor of that name, in a version by an unknown English translator, at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, in all probability performed by the Duke’s Company. The cast is not known. Pepys had made a Lenten vow to himself to limit his theatregoing, which he got round by persuading himself that a play at a different location to one seen at court did not count.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/03/08

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 1 February 1664

Production: John Dryden and Robert Howard, The Indian Queen, Theatre Royal in Bridges Street, London, 1 February 1664

Text: Thence to Westminster Hall, and there met with diverse people, it being terme time. Among others I spoke with Mrs. Lane, of whom I doubted to hear something of the effects of our last meeting about a fortnight or three weeks ago, but to my content did not. Here I met with Mr. Pierce, who tells me of several passages at Court, among others how the King, coming the other day to his Theatre to see “The Indian Queene” (which he commends for a very fine thing), my Lady Castlemaine was in the next box before he came; and leaning over other ladies awhile to whisper to the King, she rose out of the box and went into the King’s, and set herself on the King’s right hand, between the King and the Duke of York; which, he swears, put the King himself, as well as every body else, out of countenance; and believes that she did it only to show the world that she is not out of favour yet, as was believed.

Thence with Alderman Maynell by his coach to the ‘Change, and there with several people busy, and so home to dinner, and took my wife out immediately to the King’s Theatre, it being a new month, and once a month I may go, and there saw “The Indian Queene” acted; which indeed is a most pleasant show, and beyond my expectation; the play good, but spoiled with the ryme, which breaks the sense. But above my expectation most, the eldest Marshall did do her part most excellently well as I ever heard woman in my life; but her voice not so sweet as Ianthe’s; but, however, we came home mightily contented.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. John Dryden and Robert Howard‘s play The Indian Queen is set in Mexico and Peru ahead of the Spanish conquest. The lavish production seen by Pepys was at the Theatre Royal in Bridges Street, or King’s Theatre, the first theatre on the site of what became the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Anne Marshall, one of the first British women stage actors, probably played Zempoalla. ‘Ianthe’ was Mary Saunderson Betterton.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/02/01/

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 18 February 1662

Production: William Davenant, The Law Against the Lovers, Lincoln’s Inn Fields theatre, London 18 February 1662

Text: Having agreed with Sir Wm. Pen and my wife to meet them at the Opera, and finding by my walking in the streets, which were every where full of brick-battes and tyles flung down by the extraordinary wind the last night (such as hath not been in memory before, unless at the death of the late Protector), that it was dangerous to go out of doors; and hearing how several persons had been killed to-day by the fall of things in the streets, and that the pageant in Fleetstreet is most of it blown down, and hath broke down part of several houses, among others Dick Brigden’s; and that one Lady Sanderson, a person of quality in Covent Garden, was killed by the fall of the house, in her bed, last night; I sent my boy home to forbid them to go forth. But he bringing me word that they are gone, I went thither and there saw “The Law against Lovers,” a good play and well performed, especially the little girl’s (whom I never saw act before) dancing and singing; and were it not for her, the loss of Roxalana would spoil the house. So home and to musique, and so to bed.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. The Law Against the Lovers was a play written by Sir William Davenant, which was based on Measure for Measure but added Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing. It was seen by Pepys at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields theatre, London, 18 February 1662. ‘Roxalana’ was the actress Hester Davenport.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1662/02/18

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 27 November 1661

Production: William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Vere Street Theatre, London, 27 November 1661

Text: This morning our maid Dorothy and my wife parted, which though she be a wench for her tongue not to be borne with, yet I was loth to part with her, but I took my leave kindly of her and went out to Savill’s, the painter, and there sat the first time for my face with him; thence to dinner with my Lady; and so after an hour or two’s talk in divinity with my Lady, Captain Ferrers and Mr. Moore and I to the Theatre, and there saw “Hamlett” very well done, and so I home, and found that my wife had been with my aunt Wight and Ferrers to wait on my Lady to-day this afternoon, and there danced and were very merry, and my Lady very fond as she is always of my wife. So to bed.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. He saw Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, at the Vere Street Theatre, London on 27 November 1661. The Vere Street Theatre, variously referred to as the King’s House, King’s Theatre and Theatre Royal, was a real tennis court that was used as a theatre 1660-1663. The diarist John Evelyn saw the same production of Hamlet the day before Pepys.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1661/11/27

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 2 November 1667

Production: William Shakespeare, Henry IV (i), Drury Lane, London, 2 November 1667

Text: Up, and to the office, where busy all the morning; at noon home, and after dinner my wife and Willett and I to the King’s playhouse, and there saw “Henry the Fourth:” and contrary to expectation, was pleased in nothing more than in Cartwright’s speaking of Falstaffe’s speech about “What is Honour?” The house full of Parliament-men, it being holyday with them: and it was observable how a gentleman of good habit, sitting just before us, eating of some fruit in the midst of the play, did drop down as dead, being choked; but with much ado Orange Moll did thrust her finger down his throat, and brought him to life again. After the play, we home, and I busy at the office late, and then home to supper and to bed.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. He saw Shakespeare‘s Henry the Fourth, part 1, at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, on 2 November 1667. Cartwright is the actor William Cartwright (?-1686). ‘Orange Moll’ was Mary Meggs, a former prostitute and friend of Nell Gwyn who was a seller of fruits and sweetmeats at the Theatre Royal.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1667/11/02/

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 29 September 1662

Production: William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Vere Street Theatre, London, 29 September 1662

Text: I sent for some dinner and there dined, Mrs. Margaret Pen being by, to whom I had spoke to go along with us to a play this afternoon, and then to the King’s Theatre, where we saw “Midsummer’s Night’s Dream,” which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life. I saw, I confess, some good dancing and some handsome women, which was all my pleasure.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. The performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was given by Thomas Killigrew‘s King’s Company at the Vere Street Theatre. Variously referred to as the King’s House, King’s Theatre and Theatre Royal, it was a real tennis court that was used as a theatre 1660-1663. As Pepys does not mention the play again in his diary, he was presumably as good as his word.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1662/09/29/

Pepys’ Diary

Source: Diary of Samuel Pepys, 1 January 1664

Production: John Fletcher/William Shakespeare (adap. William Davenant), Henry VIII, Lincoln’s Fields theatre, London, 1 January 1664

Text: Thence to my uncle Wight’s, where Dr. of ——, among others, dined, and his wife, a seeming proud conceited woman, I know not what to make of her, but the Dr’s. discourse did please me very well about the disease of the stone, above all things extolling Turpentine, which he told me how it may be taken in pills with great ease. There was brought to table a hot pie made of a swan I sent them yesterday, given me by Mr. Howe, but we did not eat any of it. But my wife and I rose from table, pretending business, and went to the Duke’s house, the first play I have been at these six months, according to my last vowe, and here saw the so much cried-up play of “Henry the Eighth;” which, though I went with resolution to like it, is so simple a thing made up of a great many patches, that, besides the shows and processions in it, there is nothing in the world good or well done. Thence mightily dissatisfied back at night to my uncle Wight’s, and supped with them, but against my stomach out of the offence the sight of my aunt’s hands gives me, and ending supper with a mighty laugh, the greatest I have had these many months, at my uncle’s being out in his grace after meat, we rose and broke up, and my wife and I home and to bed, being sleepy since last night.

Comments: Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a British naval administrator and diarist. He saw Shakespeare and Fletcher‘s Henry VIII, presumably in William Davenant‘s adaptation, at the Lincoln’s Inn Fields theatre, London on 1 January 1664. Thomas Betterton played Henry.

Links: http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/01/01