Where the dead

The latest videohaiku uses footage shot in Kensal Green Cemetery, the oldest of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian garden cemeteries, which is just a half mile from my wife’s house. The footage reminded me initially somehow of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 (“That time of year thou mayst in me behold…”) — time and timelessness being hard not to think about in a cemetery in any season.

Sleep was of course the dominant metaphor for death in the Victorian era, a fact that was brought home in a lecture we attended at another of the Magnificent Seven last week, Brompton Cemetery, about the once-popular custom of posing the recently deceased for photographs. Hopefully the faceless figure in the video suggests something of my feelings about our fondness for euphemisms around death. I also gave the video misty edges as a general nod to Arcadian sentimentality.

I can’t help thinking though that this would be greatly improved by the addition of a black metal soundtrack…

Love song

(Fast-day for the fire). Up with Sir W. Batten by water to White Hall, and anon had a meeting before the Duke of York, where pretty to see how Sir W. Batten, that carried the surveys of all the fleete with him, to shew their ill condition to the Duke of York, when he found the Prince there, did not speak one word, though the meeting was of his asking — for nothing else. And when I asked him, he told me he knew the Prince too well to anger him, so that he was afeard to do it. Thence with him to Westminster, to the parish church, where the Parliament-men, and Stillingfleete in the pulpit. So full, no standing there; so he and I to eat herrings at the Dog Taverne. And then to church again, and there was Mr. Frampton in the pulpit, they cry up so much, a young man, and of a mighty ready tongue. I heard a little of his sermon, and liked it; but the crowd so great, I could not stay. So to the Swan, and ‘baise la fille‘, and drank, and then home by coach, and took father, wife, brother, and W. Hewer to Islington, where I find mine host dead. Here eat and drank, and merry; and so home, and to the office a while, and then to Sir W. Batten to talk a while, and with Captain Cocke into the office to hear his newes, who is mighty conversant with Garraway and those people, who tells me what they object as to the maladministration of things as to money. But that they mean well, and will do well; but their reckonings are very good, and show great faults, as I will insert here. They say the king hath had towards this war expressly thus much
Royal Ayde
2,450,000l.
More
1,250,000
Three months’ tax given the King by a power of raising a month’s tax of 70,000l. every year for three years
0,210,000
Customes, out of which the King did promise to pay 240,000l., which for two years comes to
0,480,000
Prizes, which they moderately reckon at
0,300,000
A debt declared by the Navy, by us
0,900,000
5,590,000
The whole charge of the Navy, as we state it for two years and a month, hath been but
3,200,000
So what is become of all this sum?
2,390,000
He and I did bemoan our public condition. He tells me the Duke of Albemarle is under a cloud, and they have a mind at Court to lay him aside. This I know not; but all things are not right with him, and I am glad of it, but sorry for the time. So home to supper, and to bed, it being my wedding night, but how many years I cannot tell; but my wife says ten.

I am a dog and you a crow
we find dead things

that we will eat
as customs ate us

as we become this sum of a cloud
and our wedding night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 10 October 1666.

Formic

Up and to the office, where we sat the first day since the fire, I think. At noon home, and my uncle Thomas was there, and dined with my brother and I (my father and I were gone abroad), and then to the office again in the afternoon, and there close all day long, and did much business. At night to Sir W. Batten, where Sir R. Ford did occasion some discourse of sending a convoy to the Maderas; and this did put us upon some new thoughts of sending our privateer thither on merchants’ accounts, which I have more mind to, the profit being certain and occasion honest withall. So home, and to supper with my father, and then to set my remainder of my books gilt in order with much pleasure, and so late to bed.

office fire
on the road a long convoy
of ants

I have more mind
to fit in a nest


Erasure poem (tanka) derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 9 October 1666.

Pepys pilgrimage

Samuel Pepys bust at Seething Lane

On Wednesday, Rachel and I made our way over to the Museum of London to gawk at the silver plate recently identified as having belonged to Samuel Pepys.

The silver trencher plate is one of three in existence known to have belonged to Pepys — although it was only recently recognised as such — and is the only one on display in the UK.

It bears Pepys’ coat of arms and was made in a workshop in Foster Lane, near St Paul’s Cathedral and the museum where it now resides, in 1681/2. Cutlery scratch marks are visible in its surface, suggesting it was one of the pieces Pepys was referring to in his diary when he boasted that he served his guests on silver plates rather than pewter.

Well, if it was made in 1681 or 2, it couldn’t have featured in the diary, though there’s no doubt he was very proud of his silver. At any rate, it was such an impressive object I walked right past it and had to ask Rachel where the hell it was. My photo is, um, not good:

Pepys plate at Museum of London

I thought this ceramic plate on display nearby captured the spirit of the age much better:

plate in Museum of London

Coolest of all, perhaps, was this copy of astrologer William Lilly’s 1651 book Monarchy or No Monarchy, which was said to predict the Great Fire:

astrologist William Lilly's 1651 book predicting the Great Fire

Pepys’ dairy accounts of the actual conflagration were extensively drawn upon for the museum’s looped six-minute film. I sometimes wonder whether his diary would be nearly as famous had he not had the (mis)fortune to live through the great plague in 1665 and the fire the next year.

We decided sort of on the spur of the moment to go back to Seething Lane and see whether the gardens on the site of Pepys’ office were accessible. On our previous attempt at a Pepys pilgrimage three years ago, the site had been all torn up and walled off for some sort of construction, and we feared the worse.

Our route took us past the the Guildhall, and I couldn’t resist another selfie with the Pepys bust there. This is Sam at the peak of his power and influence — not the young man on the make of the diary period.

selfie with Pepys bust  at London Guildhall

As we rounded the corner from Hart Street to Seething Lane, Rachel noticed that St. Olave’s — Pepys’ church — was actually open. We hadn’t gotten into that last time either. So we were finally able to see the sculptor John Bushnell’s bust of Elizabeth Pepys that the grieving Sam had paid for after her early death in 1669, high on the wall to the left of the altar.

St. Olave's on Hart Street interior - Elizabeth Pepys memorial close-up

A more modern memorial to Sam himself, paid for by public subscription at the instigation of his Victorian-era editor Wheatley — the diary edition I’m erasing — isn’t nearly as impressive:

St. Olave's on Hart Street - Sam Pepys memorial

But the church has plenty of other fascinating details, such as this window from the Clothworkers’ guild, which evidently had teasel as its emblem:

St. Olave's on Hart Street window

And it was great to see that it was still very much a functioning Anglican church, not merely a tourist attraction. See my album on Flickr for more photos.

The churchyard was also charming, and included an herb garden in tribute to another famous parishioner, William Turner (1510-1568), the father of English botany. There was also a labyrinth, and Rachel didn’t object to my filming her feet as she walked it. Naturally, I had to turn it into another videohaiku:

The site of the Naval Board offices was right across the narrow Seething Lane, and Pepys had arranged for a converted walkway connecting them so the great men could walk to their gallery in church without getting rained on. Such is the enduring interest in Pepys that even the location of that former entrance is memorialized…

Pepys entrance to St. Olave's

…as is, of course, the site of the navy office, which survived the Great Fire only to be destroyed in another fire seven years later.

site of Naval Board offices

The reason the Seething Lane gardens had to be destroyed and replaced was to build an underground parking garage for the adjacent building, formerly the headquarters of the Port of London Authority, but now London’s second Four Seasons Hotel,

Seething Lane Gardens Pepys bust and Four Seasons back door

this one owned and operated by a Chinese corporation…

Seething Lane Gardens dedication

…which has done a decent job with it. To quote the wonderful London travel blog IanVisits:

The word ‘Seething’ may originate from a medieval word ‘sifethen’ meaning ‘full of chaff’, so-called after a nearby Corn Market.

Seething Lane Gardens have a curious history, but suffice to say it was once the topic of a planning dispute, and, with a slight gap, the fine of one red rose has been paid annually to the Lord Mayor. That’s since 1381, and the Knollys Rose ceremony still takes place each year.

In addition to the roses though, it’s famous for its association with the diarist Samuel Pepys, who lived in the same street and said he buried his exceptionally expensive Parmesan cheeses in his own back garden to protect them from the Great Fire of London.

Imagine our delight to look down and see Pepys’ buried cheese memorialized in a flagstone:

Seething Lane Gardens paving stone

This was just one in a whole series of flagstone engravings relating to Pepys, the Naval Board, the fire and the plague. Check out, for example, this excellent flea:

Seething Lane Gardens paving stone

And here’s a depiction of Pepys’ shorthand original of the diary:

Seething Lane Gardens paving stone

There’s no key to the paving stones anywhere, so if you’re not a Pepys fan, some are likely to be mystifying. This for example clearly depicts the removal of his kidney stone, which diary readers will know was a very big deal to him — he marked the anniversary of the operation every year with a party:

Seething Lane Gardens paving stone

I have photos of most of the stones on Flickr. As for the garden, Ian nails it:

Although I would have to say the current garden is rather pleasing, it’s of a style that’s increasingly generic – of raised beds with lots of paving, and hence not that interesting.

What does make this one stand out a bit is the paving […]

Sadly, the Knollys Rose has not been immortalized in stone, but some of the plants looked distinctly rose-like, so the ceremony should resume this year.

The garden was designed by the landscape architects, Capita Symonds.

The cost of the landscaping works came in at £1.25 million, paid for by the hotel development.

Pepys bust in Seething Lane Gardens

Walking to the Bank tube station at rush hour, we were impressed by the crowds of business-suited young and middle-aged City men, some scurrying, a few sauntering, many smoking (an unusual sight elsewhere these days). Palimpsest as London may be, some things don’t seem to change very much over the centuries.

Herbivory

Up and to my office, called up by Commissioner Middleton, newly come to town, but staid not with me; so I to my office busy all the morning. Towards noon, by water to Westminster Hall, and there by several hear that the Parliament do resolve to do something to retrench Sir G. Carteret’s great salary; but cannot hear of any thing bad they can lay to his charge. The House did this day order to be engrossed the Bill against importing Irish cattle; a thing, it seems, carried on by the Western Parliament-men, wholly against the sense of most of the rest of the House; who think if you do this, you give the Irish again cause to rebel. Thus plenty on both sides makes us mad. The Committee of the Canary Company of both factions come to me for my Cozen Roger that is of the Committee. Thence with [Sir] W. Coventry when the House rose and [Sir] W. Batten to St. James’s, and there agreed of and signed our paper of extraordinaries, and there left them, and I to Unthanke’s, where Mr. Falconbridge’s girle is, and by and by comes my wife, who likes her well, though I confess I cannot (though she be of my finding out and sings pretty well), because she will be raised from so mean a condition to so high all of a sudden; but she will be much to our profit, more than Mercer, less expense. Here we bespoke anew gowne for her, and to come to us on Friday. She being gone, my wife and I home by coach, and then I presently by water with Mr. Pierce to Westminster Hall, he in the way telling me how the Duke of York and Duke of Albemarle do not agree. The Duke of York is wholly given up to this bitch of Denham. The Duke of Albemarle and Prince Rupert do less agree. So that we are all in pieces, and nobody knows what will be done the next year. The King hath yesterday in Council declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes, which he will never alter. It will be a vest, I know not well how; but it is to teach the nobility thrift, and will do good. By and by comes down from the Committee W. Coventry, and I find him troubled at several things happened this afternoon, which vexes me also; our business looking worse and worse, and our worke growing on our hands. Time spending, and no money to set anything in hand with; the end thereof must be speedy ruine. The Dutch insult and have taken off Bruant’s head, which they have not dared to do (though found guilty of the fault he did die for, of something of the Prince of Orange’s faction) till just now, which speaks more confidence in our being worse than before. Alderman Maynell, I hear, is dead. Thence returned in the darke by coach all alone, full of thoughts of the consequences of this ill complexion of affairs, and how to save myself and the little I have, which if I can do, I have cause to bless God that I am so well, and shall be well contented to retreat to Brampton, and spend the rest of my days there. So to my office, and did some business, and finished my Journall with resolutions, if God bless me, to apply myself soberly to settle all matters for myself, and expect the event of all with comfort. So home to supper and to bed.

noon
and the cattle come for the rose

like a sudden rift
growing in a ruin

and have taken
off a head

which speaks dark thoughts
to itself


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 8 October 1666.

Storm light

(Lord’s day). Up, and after visiting my father in his chamber, to church, and then home to dinner. Little Michell and his wife come to dine with us, which they did, and then presently after dinner I with Sir J. Minnes to White Hall, where met by Sir W. Batten and Lord Bruncker, to attend the King and Duke of York at the Cabinet; but nobody had determined what to speak of, but only in general to ask for money. So I was forced immediately to prepare in my mind a method of discoursing. And anon we were called in to the Green Room, where the King, Duke of York, Prince Rupert, Lord Chancellor, Lord Treasurer, Duke of Albemarle, [Sirs] G. Carteret, W. Coventry, Morrice. Nobody beginning, I did, and made a current, and I thought a good speech, laying open the ill state of the Navy: by the greatness of the debt; greatness of work to do against next yeare; the time and materials it would take; and our incapacity, through a total want of money. I had no sooner done, but Prince Rupert rose up and told the King in a heat, that whatever the gentleman had said, he had brought home his fleete in as good a condition as ever any fleete was brought home; that twenty boats would be as many as the fleete would want: and all the anchors and cables left in the storm might be taken up again. This arose from my saying, among other things we had to do, that the fleete was come in — the greatest fleete that ever his Majesty had yet together, and that in as bad condition as the enemy or weather could put it; and to use Sir W. Pen’s words, who is upon the place taking a survey, he dreads the reports he is to receive from the Surveyors of its defects. I therefore did only answer, that I was sorry for his Highness’s offence, but that what I said was but the report we received from those entrusted in the fleete to inform us. He muttered and repeated what he had said; and so, after a long silence on all hands, nobody, not so much as the Duke of Albemarle, seconding the Prince, nor taking notice of what he said, we withdrew. I was not a little troubled at this passage, and the more when speaking with Jacke Fenn about it, he told me that the Prince will be asking now who this Pepys is, and find him to be a creature of my Lord Sandwich’s, and therefore this was done only to disparage him. Anon they broke, up, and Sir W. Coventry come out; so I asked his advice. He told me he had said something to salve it, which was, that his Highnesse had, he believed, rightly informed the King that the fleete is come in good condition to have staid out yet longer, and have fought the enemy, but yet that Mr. Pepys his meaning might be, that, though in so good condition, if they should come in and lie all the winter, we shall be very loth to send them to sea for another year’s service with[out] great repairs. He said it would be no hurt if I went to him, and showed him the report himself brought up from the fleete, where every ship, by the Commander’s report, do need more or less, and not to mention more of Sir W. Pen for doing him a mischief. So I said I would, but do not think that all this will redound to my hurt, because the truth of what I said will soon appear. Thence, having been informed that, after all this pains, the King hath found out how to supply us with 5 or 6000l., when 100,000l. were at this time but absolutely necessary, and we mentioned 50,000l.. This is every day a greater and greater omen of ruine. God fit us for it! Sir J. Minnes and I home (it raining) by coach, calling only on Sir G. Carteret at his lodging (who is I find troubled at my Lord Treasurer and Sir Ph. Warwicke bungling in his accounts), and come home to supper with my father, and then all to bed. I made my brother in his cassocke to say grace this day, but I like his voice so ill that I begin to be sorry he hath taken this order upon him.

the green time of the storm
had the greatest weather

silence is a creature
of the winter air

but all this rain
is home to my voice


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 7 October 1666.

Connoisseur

Up, and having seen my brother in his cassocke, which I am not the most satisfied in, being doubtfull at this time what course to have him profess too soon. To the office and there busy about a list of the extraordinaries of the charge of the fleete this war; and was led to go to the office of the ordnance to be satisfied in something, and find their accounts and books kept in mighty good order, but that they can give no light, nor will the nature of their affairs permit it to tell what the charge of the ordnance comes to a man a month. So home again and to dinner, there coming Creed to me; but what with business and my hatred to the man, I did not spend any time with him, but after dinner [my] wife and he and I took coach and to Westminster, but he ‘light about Paul’s, and set her at her tailor’s, and myself to St. James’s, but there missing W. Coventry, returned and took up my wife, and calling at the Exchange home, whither Sir H. Cholmly come to visit me, but my business suffered me not to stay with him. So he gone I by water to Westminster Hall and thence to St. James’s, and there found W. Coventry waiting for me, and I did give him a good account to his mind of the business he expected about extraordinaries and then fell to other talke, among others, our sad condition contracted by want of a Comptroller; and it was his words, that he believes, besides all the shame and trouble he hath brought on the office, the King had better have given 100,000l. than ever have had him there. He did discourse about some of these discontented Parliament-men, and says that Birch is a false rogue, but that Garraway is a man that hath not been well used by the Court, though very stout to death, and hath suffered all that is possible for the King from the beginning. But discontented as he is, yet he never knew a Session of Parliament but he hath done some good deed for the King before it rose. I told him the passage Cocke told me of his having begged a brace of bucks of the Lord Arlington for him, and when it come to him, he sent it back again. Sir W. Coventry told me, it is much to be pitied that the King should lose the service of a man so able and faithfull; and that he ought to be brought over, but that it is always observed, that by bringing over one discontented man, you raise up three in his room; which is a State lesson I never knew before. But when others discover your fear, and that discontent procures favour, they will be discontented too, and impose on you. Thence to White Hall and got a coach and home, and there did business late, and so home and set up my little books of one of my presses come home gilt, which pleases me mightily, and then to bed. This morning my wife told me of a fine gentlewoman my Lady Pen tells her of, for 20l. per annum, that sings, dances, plays on four or five instruments and many other fine things, which pleases me mightily: and she sent to have her see her, which she did this afternoon; but sings basely, and is a tawdry wench that would take 8l., but [neither] my wife nor I think her fit to come.

my cassock is doubt
I profess no light
or nature or other
false way out

death is the one
king of the faithful

but I serve you
my little books
my instruments and other
fine things


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 6 October 1666.

200 years

View on Vimeo.

A brief videohaiku tribute to the 200th anniversary of John Keats composing “To Autumn” in September 1819. I’d thought about going to the Keats house next to Hampstead Heath to shoot video, but instead I was charmed by this tiny square of wildflowers that someone had protected in the middle of the sidewalk on a busy street (Kilburn Lane) closer to home. It speaks to me of how greatly wild spaces have diminished in the last two centuries, and much British people still love nature despite having so little of it left.

Martyrdom

Up, and with my father talking awhile, then to the office, and there troubled with a message from Lord Peterborough about money; but I did give as kind answer as I could, though I hate him. Then to Sir G. Carteret to discourse about paying of part of the great ships come in, and so home again to compare the comparison of the two Dutch wars’ charges for [Sir] W. Coventry, and then by water (and saw old Mr. Michell digging like a painfull father for his son) to him, and find him at dinner. After dinner to look over my papers, and comparing them with some notes of his and brought me, the sight of some good Navy notes of his which I shall get. Then examined and liked well my notes, and away together to White Hall, in the way discoursing the inconvenience of the King’s being thus subject to an account, but it will be remedied for the time to come, he thinks, if we can get this over, and I find he will have the Comptroller’s business better done, swearing he will never be for a wit to be employed on business again. Thence I home, and back again to White Hall, and meeting Sir H. Cholmly to White Hall; there walked till night that the Committee come down, and there Sir W. Coventry tells me that the Subcommittee have made their report to the Grand Committee, and in pretty kind terms, and have agreed upon allowing us 4l. per head, which I am sure will do the business, but he had endeavoured to have got more, but this do well, and he and I are both mighty glad it is come to this, and the heat of the present business seems almost over. But I have more worke cut out for me, to prepare a list of the extraordinaries, not to be included within the 4l., against Monday. So I away from him, and met with the Vice-Chamberlain, and I told him when I had this evening in coming hither met with Captain Cocke, and he told me of a wild motion made in the House of Lords by the Duke of Buckingham for all men that had cheated the King to be declared traitors and felons, and that my Lord Sandwich was named. This put me into a great pain, so the Vice-Chamberlain, who had heard nothing of it, having been all day in the City, away with me to White Hall; and there come to me and told me that, upon Lord Ashly’s asking their direction whether, being a peere, he should bring in his accounts to the Commons, which they did give way to, the Duke of Buckingham did move that, for the time to come, what I have written above might be declared by some fuller law than heretofore. Lord Ashly answered, that it was not the fault of the present laws, but want of proof; and so said the Lord Chancellor. He answered, that a better law, he thought, might be made so the House laughing, did refer it to him to bring in a Bill to that purpose, and this was all. So I away with joyful heart home, calling on Cocke and telling him the same. So I away home to the office to clear my Journall for five days, and so home to supper and to bed, my father who had staid out late and troubled me thereat being come home well and gone to bed, which pleases me also. This day, coming home, Mr. Kirton’s kinsman, my bookseller, come in my way; and so I am told by him that Mr. Kirton is utterly undone, and made 2 or 3000l. worse than nothing, from being worth 7 or 8,000l.. That the goods laid in the Churchyarde fired through the windows those in St. Fayth’s church; and those coming to the warehouses’ doors fired them, and burned all the books and the pillars of the church, so as the roof falling down, broke quite down, which it did not do in the other places of the church, which is alike pillared (which I knew not before); but being not burned, they stand still. He do believe there is above; 50,000l. of books burned; all the great booksellers almost undone: not only these, but their warehouses at their Hall, and under Christchurch, and elsewhere being all burned. A great want thereof there will be of books, specially Latin books and foreign books; and, among others, the Polyglottes and new Bible, which he believes will be presently worth 40l. a-piece.

digging like a father
for his son

I find my notes
for the subcommittee on pain

all the old accounts of a heart
clear as windows in a church

and the doors burned
and the roof falling down


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 5 October 1666.

The system

Up, and mighty betimes, to W. Coventry, to give him an account of yesterday’s work, which do give him good content. He did then tell me his speech lately to the House in his owne vindication about the report of his selling of places, he having a small occasion offered him by chance, which he did desire, and took, and did it to his content, and, he says, to the House’s seeming to approve of it by their hum. He confessed how long he had done it, and how he desired to have something else; and, since then, he had taken nothing, and challenged all the world. I was glad of this also. Thence up to the Duke of York, by appointment, with fellow officers, to complaine, but to no purpose, of want of money, and so away. I to Sir G. Carteret, to his lodging, and here discoursed much of the want of money and our being designed for destruction. How the King hath lost his power, by submitting himself to this way of examining his accounts, and is become but as a private man. He says the King is troubled at it, but they talk an entry shall be made, that it is not to be brought into example; that the King must, if they do not agree presently, make them a courageous speech, which he says he may do, the City of London being now burned, and himself master of an army, better than any prince before him, and so I believe. Thence home, about noon, to dinner. After dinner the book binder come, and I sent by him some more books to gild. I to the office all day, and spent most of it with Sir W. Warren, whom I have had no discourse with a great while, and when all is done I do find him a mighty wise man as any I know, and his counsel as much to be followed. Late with Mr. Hater upon comparing the charge and husbandry of the last Dutch war with ours now, and do find good roome to think we have done little worse than they, whereof good use may and will be made. So home to supper, and to bed.

workplaces hum
with want of money

our design for destruction
bled the present better
than any noon

when all is done we have done
little worse than the mad


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 4 October 1666.