Throwback Thursday: Give the angry man a hat

I've always believed it's bad idea to apologise with a gift. 

A gift is a symbolic, shorthand way of publicly expressing a private feeling. If there is one occasion to avoid shortcuts and symbols it is during an apology. 

Plus, who wants to be reminded of the time they were wronged? Plus, an apology gift has never worked...or has it?

One historical figure proves me wrong: Samuel Pepys. 

Samuel Pepys

Generally speaking, the diary of a civil servant is unlikely to arouse or sustain high levels of interest. The diary of Samuel Pepys is different.

Born during the English Civil  War, Pepys lived through the Great Fire of London, survived both the plague and numerous extramarital encounters and wrote all about it in his diary.

One diary entry contains our historical gift. 

Sunday 1st November 1663

(Lord’s day). This morning my brother’s man […]  brought me as a gift from my brother, a velvet hat, very fine to ride in, and the fashion, which pleases me very well, to which end, I believe, he sent it me, for he knows I had lately been angry with him.

It’s not clear what brother Thomas did to make Samuel angry but the velvet hat was able to placate him. 

It seems like a fitting gift given that both sons took an interest in fashion. Thomas followed his father into the tailoring trade and Samuel placed a number of orders for clothing with Thomas. One such order includes a rather opulent 'gowne of purple shagg, trimmed with gold'. 

Sadly, Thomas followed a less fortunate path than his brother, dying young and in debt. 

I tried to find a picture of a velvet hat from around that time but didn't have much luck. I found this picture on Pinterest which gives an overview of hats between 1600 and 1700. 

1660s fashion Laughing Heart

The National Maritime Museum is holding a major exhibition on Samuel Pepys, his life and times. It runs until the 28th March. Find out more

If you're interested in reading the diary of Samuel Pepys, I'll put a link to it below:

Throwback Thursday: River gift to the gods

The Museum of London is home to this piece of pewter. I know it doesn’t look like much of a gift.

© Museum of London

It was uncovered in 1989 during an excavation of the old Roman shore line of the River Thames.

The Thames has transported princesses to palaces and traitors to the tower. It has been skated on, fished in and used to take away the things Londoner’s would rather forget.

But this object wasn’t intended to be part of the city’s detritus.

After archaeologists washed away the centuries of river silt, this piece of pewter, measuring 13cm by 5cm, was identified as an amulet, an object designed to protect the wearer from harm. It was rolled up and worn round the neck.

It is inscribed with thirty lines of Greek, which you can barely make out, a prayer invoking the gods to protect an individual named Demetrios from the plague.

The pestilence Demetrios sought protection from is now referred to as the Antonine Plague. It  took place between 160-185 A.D and it spread across Europe as quickly as the Roman armies did.

A translation  of the Greek by Oxford classicist, Dr. Roger Tomlin reveals that the gods are called on to send away ‘infiltrating pain, heavy-spiriting, flesh-wasting, melting, from the hollows of the veins’ to ‘drive away the cloud of plague’ and to ‘bring help’.

It sounds desperate and it was. An estimated five million people died of the Antonine plague.  

How the amulet came to end up in the river is as much up for debate as how Demetrios, likely Greek in origin, came to be in London. Though one view, based on similar finds elsewhere in Europe, suggests that it was thrown into the river as a votive: a gift to the gods.

It sounds like a primitive belief but when we consider just how many of us throw pennies into fountains, make wishes when we blow out candles and still ask gods to help us in desperate times, Demetrios and his beliefs don't seem so remote.

People obviously survived the plague. I wonder if the amulet worked for Demetrios.

Museum of London
150 London Wall
020 7001 9844