Monday, September 29, 2008

Today's Pepys Quote

October 13th, 1660:
I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-General Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy. It is said, that he said that he was sure to come shortly at the right hand of Christ to judge them that now had judged him, and that his wife do expect his coming again. Thus it was my chance to see the King beheaded at White Hall, and to see the first blood shed in revenge for the King at Charing Cross. Setting up shelves in my study.
From "The Diary of Samuel Pepys," Everyman's Library.

10 comments:

Gary said...

I had occasion to look into drawing and quartering a couple of months ago (Wikipedia is amazing!).

Reserved for traitors, it's a multi-step execution meant to deter all but the most determined anarchists. Believe me, nobody seeing such a spectacle would ever forget it.

Pepys' entry was m-i-l-d compared to the Wikipedia explanation of the entire procedure. Thanks for keeping it brief, Sammy.

Wild times indeed!

What else from Pepys do you have in store for us, Muffy?

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I think there should be a "Samuel Pepys Desk Calendar," with a pithy quote on every page. But most of the quotes would be about all the money he was making at his lucrative new job (which I don't quite understand as yet).

Wikipedia's "Drawn and quartered" entry was how I discovered Pepys in the first place! Sadly, their quotation from him did not include the final line about him putting up shelves.

Drawing and quartering sounds awful and nearly impossible. It must have taken so much effort. No wonder they rarely did it "properly."

Gary said...

I'm not a huge advocate of capital punishment (but I believe that it has its proper place in society when warranted).

That said, it seems that the spectacle of public execution is much diminished in our time. The axeman gave way to the surgically-precise guillotine. And hanging by strangulation gave way to the hangman's noose, usually ensuring a quick death.

I remember a PBS presentation of Moll Flanders some years ago. The hanging scene there showed one of the female convicts jerking and swinging at the end of the rope ("Lookit 'er dance!" they shouted).

Now that doesn't compare to the horrors of ye olde drawing and quartering. But considering that the crime may have been as comparatively minor as stealing a loaf of bread, this protracted death-by-strangling hanging shows a great absence of mercy.

Methinks Mr. Pepys, witnessing an execution by lethal injection behind prison walls, would come away disappointed, if not feeling downright cheated out of a spectacle.

Kimber said...

I can't believe you left out this little tidbit:

"After that I went by water home, where I was angry with my wife for her things lying about, and in my passion kicked the little fine basket, which I bought her in Holland, and broke it, which troubled me after I had done it."

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Yes, you might say that capital punishment loses whatever purpose it has when it becomes a private, mechanical affair.

Even so, I wonder how much of an effect those spectacles ever really had. People were still rebellious and treasonous and -- yes -- still stealing bread.

And Pepys -- who himself was worried about a regicidal comment he once made as a schoolboy -- seemed unmoved by it all. In a later entry he goes up a tower to see the quartered limbs of one of the victims, but talks more about the impressive view of London from that point.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Kim, I'm afraid I'm reading an abridged version! If I could get all nine volumes I would, and I'm sure there would be many more gems like the one about the basket.

In one entry he mentions that he and a friend "ate about 200 walnuts," with a footnote from the editor saying this made him very sick the next day, the details best left abridged. I was like, "No, I want to hear about the walnuts!!!"

Mantelli said...

Now I wonder about the shelves in his study.

I read the Pepys Blog regularly, which is a fun way to read the diary.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Pepys Blog, I had no idea, that's great!

"(Lord's Day) I did visit the Towere to take some heads of Fanatiques, paying 3d which pleased me. The heads proved most squishy, however, and therefore unsuited for shelving. I fear I will not make use of the study for several weeks, as the smell so pungent of rot."

Anonymous said...

the smell so pungent of rot - his office is in your laundry room?

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Oooooo!