Pepys Diary erasure project

Since January 1, 2013, a daily exercise in erasure poetry based on the 17th-century Diary of Samuel Pepys.

In the morning again at looking over my last night’s papers, and by and by comes Mr. Moore, who finds that my papers may do me much good. He staid and dined with me, and we had a good surloyne of rost beefe, the first that ever I had of my own buying since I kept house; and after dinner he and I to the Temple, and there showed Mr. Smallwood my papers, who likes them well, and so I left them with him, and went with Mr. Moore to Gray’s Inn to his chamber, and there he shewed me his old Camden’s “Britannica”, which I intend to buy of him, and so took it away with me, and left it at St. Paul’s Churchyard to be bound, and so home and to the office all the afternoon; it being the first afternoon that we have sat, which we are now to do always, so long as the Parliament sits, who this day have voted the King 120,000l.1 to be raised to pay his debts. And after the office with Sir W. Batten to the Dolphin, and drank and left him there, and I again to the Temple about my business, and so on foot home again and to bed.

My papers find me
in my own house.

I show my papers
like an old bound foot.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 21 November 1661.

To Westminster Hall by water in the morning, where I saw the King going in his barge to the Parliament House; this being the first day of their meeting again. And the Bishops, I hear, do take their places in the Lords House this day. I walked long in the Hall, but hear nothing of news, but what Ned Pickering tells me, which I am troubled at, that Sir J. Minnes should send word to the King, that if he did not remove all my Lord Sandwich’s captains out of this fleet, he believed the King would not be master of the fleet at its coming again: and so do endeavour to bring disgrace upon my Lord. But I hope all that will not do, for the King loves him.
Hence by water to the Wardrobe, and dined with my Lady, my Lady Wright being there too, whom I find to be a witty but very conceited woman and proud. And after dinner Mr. Moore and I to the Temple, and there he read my bill and likes it well enough, and so we came back again, he with me as far as the lower end of Cheapside, and there I gave him a pint of sack and parted, and I home, and went seriously to look over my papers touching T. Trice, and I think I have found some that will go near to do me more good in this difference of ours than all I have before. So to bed with my mind cheery upon it, and lay long reading Hobbs his “Liberty and Necessity,” and a little but very shrewd piece, and so to sleep.

To take the place
of news, what word
would do
to bring disgrace?
All love war
like a cheap
pint of cheer.
Reading is a necessity
to sleep.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 20 November 1661.

At the office all the morning, and coming home found Mr. Hunt with my wife in the chamber alone, which God forgive me did trouble my head, but remembering that it was washing and that there was no place else with a fire for him to be in, it being also cold weather, I was at ease again. He dined with us, and after dinner took coach and carried him with us as far as my cozen Scott’s, where we set him down and parted, and my wife and I staid there at the christening of my cozens boy, where my cozen Samuel Pepys, of Ireland, and I were godfathers, and I did name the child Samuel. There was a company of pretty women there in the chamber, but we staid not, but went with the minister into another room and eat and drank, and at last, when most of the women were gone, Sam and I went into my cozen Scott, who was got off her bed, and so we staid and talked and were very merry, my she-cozen, Stradwick, being godmother. And then I left my wife to go home by coach, and I walked to the Temple about my law business, and there received a subpoena for T. Trice. I carried it myself to him at the usual house at Doctors Commons and did give it him, and so home and to bed. It cost me 20s., between the midwife and the two nurses to-day.

At the office, all
hunt for ash—no fire.
The company is
another gone god.
I receive a subpoena for it,
give it a bed
between the midwife and the day.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 19 November 1661.

(Lord’s day). To our own church, and at noon, by invitation, Sir W. Pen dined with me, and I took Mrs. Hester, my Lady Batten’s kinswoman, to dinner from church with me, and we were very merry. So to church again, and heard a simple fellow upon the praise of Church musique, and exclaiming against men’s wearing their hats on in the church, but I slept part of the sermon, till latter prayer and blessing and all was done without waking which I never did in my life. So home, and by and by comes my uncle Wight and my aunt and Mr. Norbury and his lady, and we drank hard and were very merry till supper time, and then we parted, my wife and I being invited to Sir W. Pen’s, where we also were very merry, and so home to prayers and to bed.

A simple church:
men in hats blessing
without waking.
I bury my pen
and pray to Bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 17 November 1661.

At home all the morning, and at noon with my wife to the Wardrobe to dinner, and there, did shew herself to my Lady in the handkercher that she bought the lace for the other day, and indeed it is very handsome. Here I left my wife and went to my Lord Privy Seal to Whitehall, and there did give him a copy of the Fees of the office as I have received them, and he was well pleased with it. So to the Opera, where I met my wife and Captain Ferrers and Madamoiselle Le Blanc, and there did see the second part of “The Siege of Rhodes” very well done; and so by coach set her home, and the coach driving down the hill through Thames Street, which I think never any coach did before from that place to the bridge-foot, but going up Fish Street Hill his horses were so tired, that they could not be got to go up the hill, though all the street boys and men did beat and whip them. At last I was fain to send my boy for a link, and so light out of the coach till we got to another at the corner of Fenchurch Street, and so home, and to bed.

all morning in her hands
a sea with one fish


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 15 November 1661.

At the office all the morning. At noon I went by appointment to the Sun in Fish Street to a dinner of young Mr. Bernard’s for myself, Mr. Phillips, Davenport, Weaver, &c., where we had a most excellent dinner, but a pie of such pleasant variety of good things, as in all my life I never tasted. Hither came to me Captain Lambert to take his leave of me, he being this day to set sail for the Straights. We drank his farewell and a health to all our friends, and were very merry, and drank wine enough. Hence to the Temple to Mr. Turner about drawing up my bill in Chancery against T. Trice, and so to Salisbury Court, where Mrs. Turner is come to town to-night, but very ill still of an ague, which I was sorry to see. So to the Wardrobe and talked with my Lady, and so home and to bed.

A sun for myself—
pie of a life I never tasted.

I am captain. I set sail
for the farewell chance.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 14 November 1661.

By appointment, we all went this morning to wait upon the Duke of York, which we did in his chamber, as he was dressing himself in his riding suit to go this day by sea to the Downs. He is in mourning for his wife’s grandmother, which is thought a great piece of fondness. After we had given him our letter relating the bad condition of the Navy for want of money, he referred it to his coming back and so parted, and I to Whitehall and to see la belle Pierce, and so on foot to my Lord Crew’s, where I found him come to his new house, which is next to that he lived in last; here I was well received by my Lord and Sir Thomas, with whom I had great talk: and he tells me in good earnest that he do believe the Parliament (which comes to sit again the next week), will be troublesome to the Court and Clergy, which God forbid! But they see things carried so by my Lord Chancellor and some others, that get money themselves, that they will not endure it. From thence to the Theatre, and there saw “Father’s own Son” again, and so it raining very hard I went home by coach, with my mind very heavy for this my expensefull life, which will undo me, I fear, after all my hopes, if I do not take up, for now I am coming to lay out a great deal of money in clothes for my wife, I must forbear other expenses.
To bed, and this night began to lie in the little green chamber, where the maids lie, but we could not a great while get Nell to lie there, because I lie there and my wife, but at last, when she saw she must lie there or sit up, she, with much ado, came to bed.

The sea is given
our letter relating the bad
condition of the money,
and it is well received.

I lie to God
but not to the rain,
my mind full of money—
a little green chamber.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 13 November 1661.

At the office all the morning. Dined at home alone. So abroad with Sir W. Pen. My wife and I to “Bartholomew Fayre,” with puppets which I had seen once before, and the play without puppets often, but though I love the play as much as ever I did, yet I do not like the puppets at all, but think it to be a lessening to it. Thence to the Greyhound in Fleet Street, and there drank some raspberry sack and eat some sasages, and so home very merry.
This day Holmes come to town; and we do expect hourly to hear what usage he hath from the Duke and the King about this late business of letting the Swedish Embassador go by him without striking his flag.

At the office, a play
with puppets. But
like puppets we do expect
a letting go.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 12 November 1661.