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Pepys Diary 1665, footnote

By Christopher Potter, Jun 7 2014 10:00AM

Volume VI page 253, editors' footnote: 'Peter the Great, who lived at Sayes Court, in 1698 is said to have had himself pushed through this hedge in a wheelbarrow for fun.'

This in reference to Pepys' friendship with fellow diarist John Evelyn, who at this time was the owner of Sayes Court in Deptford. (Did they know they each kept a diary? Doesn't seem very likely given Pepys' secretiveness, and that his diary wasn't discovered until Victorian times. - By the way, the diary was not published unexpurgated until the late 20th century.)

In the 1664 edition of his book Sylva, Evelyn describes the 'famous' holly hedge at Sayes Court. (According to this elegaic and litotic entry in Wikipedia: '[Sayes Court is] now completely buried beneath Convoys Wharf and the rundown and vandalised Sayes Court Park, the area shows little sign of its former glory, despite having been a key factor in the creation of the National Trust.' ) At that time the hedge was 160' long, 7' high, 5' thick. By the time of the 1706 edition 400' long, 9' high and 5' thick, presumably close to its dimensions when Peter the Great was pushed through. At least it had grown no thicker, only longer and taller.

The footnote begs the question, what was Peter the Great doing living in Deptford in 1698? In 1698 he was 26. Have just read on Wikipedia (what did we ever do before?) that Peter was touring Europe when in 1698 (how soon after the hijinx in the wheelbarrow I wonder?) that 'he was forced to rush home by a rebellion of the Streltsy'. (Streltsy? You'll have to look that one up yourself.)

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