Up by times; and not daring to go by land, did (Griffin going along with me for fear), slip to White Hall by water; where to Mr. Coventry, and, as we used to do, to the Duke; the other of my fellows being come. But we said nothing of our business, the Duke being sent for to the King, that he could not stay to speak with us. This morning came my Lord Windsor to kiss the Duke’s hand, being returned from Jamaica. He tells the Duke, that from such a degree of latitude going thither he begun to be sick, and was never well till his coming so far back again, and then presently begun to be well. He told the Duke of their taking the fort of St. Jago, upon Cuba, by his men; but, upon the whole, I believe that he did matters like a young lord, and was weary of being upon service out of his own country, where he might have pleasure. For methought it was a shame to see him this very afternoon, being the first day of his coming to town, to be at a playhouse.
Thence to my Lord Sandwich, who though he has been abroad again two or three days is falling ill again, and is let blood this morning, though I hope it is only a great cold that he has got.
It was a great trouble to me (and I had great apprehensions of it) that my Lord desired me to go to Westminster Hall, to the Parliament-house door, about business; and to Sir Wm. Wheeler, which I told him I would do, but durst not go for fear of being taken by these rogues; but was forced to go to White Hall and take boat, and so land below the Tower at the Iron-gate; and so the back way over Little Tower Hill; and with my cloak over my face, took one of the watermen along with me, and staid behind a wall in the New-buildings behind our garden, while he went to see whether any body stood within the Merchants’ Gate, under which we pass to go into our garden, and there standing but a little dirty boy before the gate, did make me quake and sweat to think he might be a Trepan. But there was nobody, and so I got safe into the garden, and coming to open my office door, something behind it fell in the opening, which made me start. So that God knows in what a sad condition I should be in if I were truly in the condition that many a poor man is for debt: and therefore ought to bless God that I have no such reall reason, and to endeavour to keep myself, by my good deportment and good husbandry, out of any such condition.
At home I found Mr. Creed with my wife, and so he dined with us, I finding by a note that Mr. Clerke in my absence hath left here, that I am free; and that he hath stopped all matters in Court; I was very glad of it, and immediately had a light thought of taking pleasure to rejoice my heart, and so resolved to take my wife to a play at Court to-night, and the rather because it is my birthday, being this day thirty years old, for which let me praise God.
While my wife dressed herself, Creed and I walked out to see what play was acted to-day, and we find it “The Slighted Mayde.” But, Lord! to see that though I did know myself to be out of danger, yet I durst not go through the street, but round by the garden into Tower Street.
By and by took coach, and to the Duke’s house, where we saw it well acted, though the play hath little good in it, being most pleased to see the little girl dance in boy’s apparel, she having very fine legs, only bends in the hams, as I perceive all women do. The play being done, we took coach and to Court, and there got good places, and saw “The Wilde Gallant,” performed by the King’s house, but it was ill acted, and the play so poor a thing as I never saw in my life almost, and so little answering the name, that from beginning to end, I could not, nor can at this time, tell certainly which was the Wild Gallant. The King did not seem pleased at all, all the whole play, nor any body else, though Mr. Clerke whom we met here did commend it to us. My Lady Castlemaine was all worth seeing tonight, and little Steward. —[Mrs. Stuart]— Mrs. Wells do appear at Court again, and looks well; so that, it may be, the late report of laying the dropped child to her was not true.
It being done, we got a coach and got well home about 12 at night. Now as my mind was but very ill satisfied with these two plays themselves, so was I in the midst of them sad to think of the spending so much money and venturing upon the breach of my vow, which I found myself sorry for, I bless God, though my nature would well be contented to follow the pleasure still. But I did make payment of my forfeiture presently, though I hope to save it back again by forbearing two plays at Court for this one at the Theatre, or else to forbear that to the Theatre which I am to have at Easter. But it being my birthday and my day of liberty regained to me, and lastly, the last play that is likely to be acted at Court before Easter, because of the Lent coming in, I was the easier content to fling away so much money.
So to bed.
This day I was told that my Lady Castlemaine hath all the King’s Christmas presents, made him by the peers, given to her, which is a most abominable thing; and that at the great ball she was much richer in jewells than the Queen and Duchess put both together.
Taken from The Diary of Samuel Pepys (Monday 23 February 1662/63). For full text and notes, see pepysdiary.com.
Image: "Charles II. introducing Lady Castlemaine at Court". Illustration from John Cassell's Illustrated History of England (W Kent, 1857/1858).