The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 2 Hyde Park

Samuel Pepys in Hyde Park

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Numberless entries in Pepys' Diary describe visits to Hyde Park. His drives there in fine and wet weather, the company he met, whether his wife looked well or was in a good or ill temper, and the latest gossip the outing afforded, are all noted. Many times he regrets not having a coach of his own, and does not conceal the feelings of wounded pride it occasioned. Once he naively explains that having taken his wife and a friend to the Park "in a hackney," and they not in smart clothes, he "was ashamed to go into the tour [Ring], but went round the Park, and so, with pleasure, home." His delight when he possessed a coach is unbounded. He made frequent visits to the coach-builder, and watched the final coat of varnish to "make it more and more yellow," and at last on May Day, 1669, he describes his first appearance in his own carriage: "At noon home to dinner, and there find my wife extraordinary fine with her flowered tabby gown that she made two years ago, now laced exceeding pretty, and indeed was fine all over, and mighty earnest to go; though the day was very lowering; and she would have me put on my fine suit, which I did. And so anon, we went alone through the town with our new liveries of serge and the horses' manes and tails tied with red ribbons, and the standards gilt with varnish, and all clean, and green reines, that people did mightily look upon us; and the truth is I did not see any coach more pretty, though more gay than ours, all that day... the day being unpleasing though the Park full of Coaches, but dusty, and windy, and cold, and now and then a little dribbling of rain; and what made it worse, there were so many hackney coaches as spoiled the sight of the gentlemen's, and so we had little pleasure. But here was Mr. Batelier and his sister in a borrowed coach by themselves, and I took them and we to the lodge: and at the door did give them a syllabub and other things, cost me 12s. and pretty merry." What an amusing picture, not only of Hyde Park in 1669 but of human nature of all time! - the start, the pride and delight with their new acquisition, the little annoyances, the marred pleasures, the ungenerous dislike of the less fortunate who could not afford coaches of their own, whose ranks he had swelled the very last drive he had taken. Then the little kindness and the refreshment, so that the story ends merrily.