Up, and with Sir J. Minnes by coach to White Hall, and there attended the King and the Duke of York in the Duke of York’s lodgings, with the rest of the Officers and many of the Commanders of the fleete, and some of our master shipwrights, to discourse the business of having the topmasts of ships made to lower abaft of the mainmast; a business I understand not, and so can give no good account; but I do see that by how much greater the Council, and the number of Counsellors is, the more confused the issue is of their councils; so that little was said to the purpose regularly, and but little use was made of it, they coming to a very broken conclusion upon it, to make trial in a ship or two. From this they fell to other talk about the fleete’s fighting this late war, and how the King’s ships have been shattered; though the King said that the world would not have it that about ten or twenty ships in any fight did do any service, and that this hath been told so to him himself, by ignorant people. The Prince, who was there, was mightily surprised at it, and seemed troubled: but the King told him that it was only discourse of the world. But Mr. Wren whispered me in the eare, and said that the Duke of Albemarle had put it into his Narrative for the House, that not above twenty-five ships fought in the engagement wherein he was, but that he was advised to leave it out; but this he did write from sea, I am sure, or words to that effect: and did displease many commanders, among others, Captain Batts, who the Duke of York said was a very stout man, all the world knew; and that another was brought into his ship that had been turned out of his place when he was a boatswain, not long before, for being a drunkard. This the Prince took notice of, and would have been angry, I think, but they let their discourse fall: but the Duke of York was earnest in it. And the Prince said to me, standing by me, “God damn me, if they will turn out every man that will be drunk, they must turn out all the commanders in the fleete. What is the matter if he be drunk, so when he comes to fight he do his work? At least, let him be punished for his drunkenness, and not put out of his command presently.” This he spoke, very much concerned for this idle fellow, one Greene. After this the King began to tell stories of the cowardice of the Spaniards in Flanders, when he was there, at the siege of Mardike and Dunkirke; which was very pretty, though he tells them but meanly. This being done I to Westminster Hall, and there staid a little: and then home, and by the way did find with difficulty the Life of Sir Philip Sidney (the book I mentioned yesterday). And the bookseller told me that he had sold four, within this week or two, which is more than ever he sold in all his life of them; and he could not imagine what should be the reason of it: but I suppose it is from the same reason of people’s observing of this part therein, touching his prophesying our present condition here in England in relation to the Dutch, which is very remarkable. So home to dinner, where Balty’s wife is come to town; she come last night and lay at my house, but being weary was gone to bed before I come home, and so I saw her not before. After dinner I took my wife and her girl out to the New Exchange, and there my wife bought herself a lace for a handkercher, which I do give her, of about 3l., for a new year’s gift, and I did buy also a lace for a band for myself, and so home, and there to the office busy late, and so home to my chamber, where busy on some accounts, and then to supper and to bed. This day my wife shows me a locket of dyamonds worth about 40l., which W. Hewer do press her to accept, and hath done for a good while, out of his gratitude for my kindness and hers to him. But I do not like that she should receive it, it not being honourable for me to do it; and so do desire her to force him to take it back again, he leaving it against her will yesterday with her. And she did this evening force him to take it back, at which she says he is troubled; but, however, it becomes me more to refuse it, than to let her accept of it. And so I am well pleased with her returning it him. It is generally believed that France is endeavouring a firmer league with us than the former, in order to his going on with his business against Spayne the next year; which I am, and so everybody else is, I think, very glad of, for all our fear is, of his invading us.
This day, at White Hall, I overheard Sir W. Coventry propose to the King his ordering of some particular thing in the Wardrobe, which was of no great value; but yet, as much as it was, it was of profit to the King and saving to his purse. The King answered to it with great indifferency, as a thing that it was no great matter whether it was done or no. Sir W. Coventry answered: “I see your Majesty do not remember the old English proverb, ‘He that will not stoop for a pin, will never be worth a pound.’” And so they parted, the King bidding him do as he would; which, methought, was an answer not like a King that did intend ever to do well.
surprised at a wren
his life of prophesy
shows me a lock
and like a thing
of great value
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 January 1668.