Born-again naturalists

Up betimes, and to my office about business (Sir W. Coventry having sent me word that he is gone down to the fleete to see how matters stand, and to be back again speedily); and with the same expectation of congratulating ourselves with the victory that I had yesterday. But my Lord Bruncker and Sir T. H. that come from Court, tell me quite contrary newes, which astonishes me: that is to say, that we are beaten, lost many ships and good commanders; have not taken one ship of the enemy’s; and so can only report ourselves a victory; nor is it certain that we were left masters of the field. But, above all, that The Prince run on shore upon the Galloper, and there stuck; was endeavoured to be fetched off by the Dutch, but could not; and so they burned her; and Sir G. Ascue is taken prisoner, and carried into Holland. This newes do much trouble me, and the thoughts of the ill consequences of it, and the pride and presumption that brought us to it.
At noon to the ‘Change, and there find the discourse of towne, and their countenances much changed; but yet not very plain. So home to dinner all alone, my father and people being gone all to Woolwich to see the launching of the new ship The Greenwich, built by Chr. Pett. I left alone with little Mrs. Tooker, whom I kept with me in my chamber all the afternoon, and did what I would with her.
By and by comes Mr. Wayth to me; and discoursing of our ill successe, he tells me plainly from Captain Page’s own mouth (who hath lost his arm in the fight), that the Dutch did pursue us two hours before they left us, and then they suffered us to go on homewards, and they retreated towards their coast: which is very sad newes.
Then to my office and anon to White Hall, late, to the Duke of York to see what commands he hath and to pray a meeting to-morrow for Tangier in behalf of Mr. Yeabsly, which I did do and do find the Duke much damped in his discourse, touching the late fight, and all the Court talk sadly of it. The Duke did give me several letters he had received from the fleete, and Sir W. Coventry and Sir W. Pen, who are gone down thither, for me to pick out some works to be done for the setting out the fleete again; and so I took them home with me, and was drawing out an abstract of them till midnight. And as to newes, I do find great reason to think that we are beaten in every respect, and that we are the losers. The Prince upon the Galloper, where both the Royall Charles and Royall Katharine had come twice aground, but got off. The Essex carried into Holland; the Swiftsure missing (Sir William Barkeley) ever since the beginning of the fight. Captains Bacon, Tearne, Wood, Mootham, Whitty, and Coppin, slayne. The Duke of Albemarle writes, that he never fought with worse officers in his life, not above twenty of them behaving themselves like men. Sir William Clerke lost his leg; and in two days died. The Loyall George, Seven Oakes, and Swiftsure, are still missing, having never, as the Generall writes himself, engaged with them.
It was as great an alteration to find myself required to write a sad letter instead of a triumphant one to my Lady Sandwich this night, as ever on any occasion I had in my life.
So late home and to bed.

we are not ourselves
in a field

but taken prisoner we find
a green page to retreat to

touching an abstract ground
like oaks engaged
with the night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 7 June 1666.

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