Pepys Diary erasure project

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

At the office all the morning, at noon to the Change, and then home again. To dinner, where my uncle Fenner by appointment came and dined with me, thinking to go together to my aunt Kite’s that is dead; but before we had dined comes Sir R. Slingsby and his lady, and a great deal of company, to take my wife and I out by barge to shew them the King’s and Duke’s yachts. So I was forced to leave my uncle and brother Tom at dinner and go forth with them, and we had great pleasure, seeing all four yachts, viz., these two and the two Dutch ones. And so home again, and after writing letters by post, to bed.

I change
by appointment,
think the dead.

But before the seeing,
the writing.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 14 September 1661.

This morning I was sent for by my uncle Fenner to come and advise about the buriall of my aunt, the butcher, who died yesterday; and from thence to the Anchor, by Doctor’s Commons, and there Dr. Williams and I did write a letter for my purpose to Mr. Sedgewick, of Cambridge, about Gravely business, and after that I left him and an attorney with him and went to the Wardrobe, where I found my wife, and thence she and I to the water to spend the afternoon in pleasure; and so we went to old George’s, and there eat as much as we would of a hot shoulder of mutton, and so to boat again and home. So to bed, my mind very full of business and trouble.

For the burial
of an anchor,
let the water eat
as much as a bed
full of trouble.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 13 September 1661.

Though it was an office day, yet I was forced to go to the Privy Seal, at which I was all the morning, and from thence to my Lady’s to dinner at the Wardrobe; and in my way upon the Thames, I saw the King’s new pleasure-boat that is come now for the King to take pleasure in above bridge; and also two Gundaloes that are lately brought, which are very rich and fine.
After dinner I went into my Lady’s chamber where I found her up now out of her childbed, which I was glad to see, and after an hour’s talk with her I took leave and to Tom Trice again, and sat talking and drinking with him about our business a great while. I do find I am likely to be forced to pay interest for the 200l. By and by in comes my uncle Thomas, and as he was always a close cunning fellow, so he carries himself to me, and says nothing of what his endeavours are, though to my trouble I know that he is about recovering of Gravely, but neither I nor he began any discourse of the business. From thence to Dr. Williams (at the little blind alehouse in Shoe Lane, at the Gridiron, a place I am ashamed to be seen to go into), and there with some bland counsel of his we discuss our matters, but I find men of so different minds that by my troth I know not what to trust to.
It being late I took leave, and by link home and called at Sir W. Batten’s, and there hear that Sir W. Pen do take our jest of the tankard very ill, which I am sorry for.

In my new boat I am glad to leave
business a while
like a cunning fellow in a grave

or a little blind shoe,
ashamed to be bland.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 12 September 1661.

Early to my cozen Thomas Trice to discourse about our affairs, and he did make demand of the 200l. and the interest thereof. But for the 200l. I did agree to pay him, but for the other I did desire to be advised. So from him to Dr. Williams, who did carry me into his garden, where he hath abundance of grapes; and did show me how a dog that he hath do kill all the cats that come thither to kill his pigeons, and do afterwards bury them; and do it with so much care that they shall be quite covered; that if but the tip of the tail hangs out he will take up the cat again, and dig the hole deeper. Which is very strange; and he tells me that he do believe that he hath killed above 100 cats. After he was ready we went up and down to inquire about my affairs and then parted, and to the Wardrobe, and there took Mr. Moore to Tom Trice, who promised to let Mr. Moore have copies of the bond and my aunt’s deed of gift, and so I took him home to my house to dinner, where I found my wife’s brother, Balty, as fine as hands could make him, and his servant, a Frenchman, to wait on him, and come to have my wife to visit a young lady which he is a servant to, and have hope to trepan and get for his wife. I did give way for my wife to go with him, and so after dinner they went, and Mr. Moore and I out again, he about his business and I to Dr. Williams: to talk with him again, and he and I walking through Lincoln’s Fields observed at the Opera a new play, “Twelfth Night” was acted there, and the King there; so I, against my own mind and resolution, could not forbear to go in, which did make the play seem a burthen to me, and I took no pleasure at all in it; and so after it was done went home with my mind troubled for my going thither, after my swearing to my wife that I would never go to a play without her. So that what with this and things going so cross to me as to matters of my uncle’s estate, makes me very much troubled in my mind, and so to bed. My wife was with her brother to see his mistress today, and says she is young, rich, and handsome, but not likely for him to get.

I am a dog, come to kill
that tip of the tail again
and dig the hole deeper.

Strange to so trepan
my own never mind.
My mist is rich.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 11 September 1661.

At the office all the morn, dined at home; then my wife into Wood Street to buy a chest, and thence to buy other things at my uncle Fenner’s (though by reason of rain we had ill walking), thence to my brother Tom’s, and there discoursed with him about business, and so to the Wardrobe to see my Lady, and after supper with the young ladies, bought a link and carried it myself till I met one that would light me home for the link. So he light me home with his own, and then I did give him mine. This night I found Mary, my cozen W. Joyce’s maid, come to me to be my cook maid, and so my house is full again.
So to bed.

In my chest, a thin rain.
In the disco, the young ladies bought me,
light for night.
I found my Zen
useful in bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 10 September 1661.

To the Privy Seal in the morning, but my Lord did not come, so I went with Captain Morrice at his desire into the King’s Privy Kitchen to Mr. Sayres, the Master Cook, and there we had a good slice of beef or two to our breakfast, and from thence he took us into the wine cellar where, by my troth, we were very merry, and I drank too much wine, and all along had great and particular kindness from Mr. Sayres, but I drank so much wine that I was not fit for business, and therefore at noon I went and walked in Westminster Hall a while, and thence to Salisbury Court play house, where was acted the first time “‘Tis pity Shee’s a Whore,” a simple play and ill acted, only it was my fortune to sit by a most pretty and most ingenious lady, which pleased me much.
Thence home, and found Sir Williams both and much more company gone to the Dolphin to drink the 30s. that we got the other day of Sir W. Pen about his tankard. Here was Sir R. Slingsby, Holmes, Captn. Allen, Mr. Turner, his wife and daughter, my Lady Batten, and Mrs. Martha, &c., and an excellent company of fiddlers; so we exceeding merry till late; and then we begun to tell Sir W. Pen the business, but he had been drinking to-day, and so is almost gone, that we could not make him understand it, which caused us more sport. But so much the better, for I believe when he do come to understand it he will be angry, he has so talked of the business himself and the letter up and down that he will be ashamed to be found abused in it. So home and to bed.

A whore for drink
is my pen, but ink
is used so much better
in a letter.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 9 September 1661.

(Lord’s day).
To church, it being a very wet night last night and to-day, dined at home, and so to church again with my wife in the afternoon, and coming home again found our new maid Doll asleep, that she could not hear to let us in, so that we were fain to send the boy in at a window to open the door to us.
So up to my chamber all alone, and troubled in mind to think how much of late I have addicted myself to expense and pleasure, that now I can hardly reclaim myself to look after my great business of settling Gravely business, until now almost too late. I pray God give me grace to begin now to look after my business, but it always was, and I fear will ever be, my foible that after I am once got behind-hand with business, I am hard to set to it again to recover it.
In the evening I begun to look over my accounts and upon the whole I do find myself, by what I can yet see, worth near 600l., for which God be blessed, which put me into great comfort. So to supper and to bed.

Wet with my wife in the wind,
gravely I pray
God give me grace—
and cover, and comfort.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 8 September 1661.

At the office all the morning. At noon Mr. Moore dined with me, and then in comes Wm. Joyce to answer a letter of mine I wrote this morning to him about a maid of his that my wife had hired, and she sent us word that she was hired to stay longer with her master, which mistake he came to clear himself of; and I took it very kindly. So I having appointed the young ladies at the Wardrobe to go with them to a play to-day, I left him and my brother Tom who came along with him to dine, and my wife and I took them to the Theatre, where we seated ourselves close by the King, and Duke of York, and Madame Palmer, which was great content; and, indeed, I can never enough admire her beauty. And here was “Bartholomew Fayre,” with the puppet-show, acted to-day, which had not been these forty years (it being so satyricall against Puritanism, they durst not till now, which is strange they should already dare to do it, and the King do countenance it), but I do never a whit like it the better for the puppets, but rather the worse.
Thence home with the ladies, it being by reason of our staying a great while for the King’s coming, and the length of the play, near nine o’clock before it was done, and so in their coach home, and still in discontent with my wife, to bed, and rose so this morning also.

I answer a word as red as war
with play. We can act
like puppets, or be
content to be.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 7 September 1661.

To the Privy Seal this morning about business, in my way taking leave of my mother, who goes to Brampton to-day. But doing my business at the Privy Seal pretty soon, I took boat and went to my uncle Fenner’s, and there I found my mother and my wife and Pall (of whom I had this morning at my own house taken leave, and given her 20s. and good counsel how to carry herself to my father and mother), and so I took them, it being late, to Beard’s, where they were staid for, and so I put them into the waggon, and saw them going presently, Pall crying exceedingly. Then in with my wife, my aunt Bell and Charles Pepys, whom we met there, and drank, and so to my uncle Fenner’s to dinner (in the way meeting a French footman with feathers, who was in quest of my wife, and spoke with her privately, but I could not tell what it was, only my wife promised to go to some place to-morrow morning, which do trouble my mind how to know whither it was), where both his sons and daughters were, and there we were merry and dined.
After dinner news was brought that my aunt Kite, the butcher’s widow in London, is sick ready to die and sends for my uncle and me to come to take charge of things, and to be entrusted with the care of her daughter. But I through want of time to undertake such a business, I was taken up by Antony Joyce, which came at last to very high words, which made me very angry, and I did not think that he would ever have been such a fool to meddle with other people’s business, but I saw he spoke worse to his father than to me and therefore I bore it the better, but all the company was offended with him, so we parted angry he and I, and so my wife and I to the fair, and I showed her the Italians dancing the ropes, and the women that do strange tumbling tricks and so by foot home vexed in my mind about Antony Joyce.

A man with feathers was in quest
of a kite, but through want of time
was taken up by joy.

High words would have been better,
but all the company was dancing
and tumbling, vexed about joy.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 5 September 1661.