Pepys Diary erasure project

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

(Lord’s day). Last night being very rainy [the rain] broke into my house, the gutter being stopped, and spoiled all my ceilings almost. At church in the morning, and dined at home with my wife. After dinner to Sir W. Batten’s, where I found Sir W. Pen and Captain Holmes. Here we were very merry with Sir W. Pen about the loss of his tankard, though all be but a cheat, and he do not yet understand it; but the tankard was stole by Sir W. Batten, and the letter, as from the thief, wrote by me, which makes very good sport.
Here I staid all the afternoon, and then Captain Holmes and I by coach to White Hall; in our way, I found him by discourse, to be a great friend of my Lord’s, and he told me there was many did seek to remove him; but they were old seamen, such as Sir J. Minnes (but he would name no more, though I do believe Sir W. Batten is one of them that do envy him), but he says he knows that the King do so love him, and the Duke of York too, that there is no fear of him. He seems to be very well acquainted with the King’s mind, and with all the several factions at Court, and spoke all with so much frankness, that I do take him to be my Lord’s good friend, and one able to do him great service, being a cunning fellow, and one (by his own confession to me) that can put on two several faces, and look his enemies in the face with as much love as his friends. But, good God! what an age is this, and what a world is this! that a man cannot live without playing the knave and dissimulation. At Whitehall we parted, and I to Mrs. Pierce’s, meeting her and Madam Clifford in the street, and there staid talking and laughing with them a good while, and so back to my mother’s, and there supped, and so home and to bed.

I do not yet understand the sea.
A cunning fellow
can put on several faces,
but what world is this
without dissimulation
to meet a cliff and laugh?


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 September 1661.

At home and the office all the morning, and at noon comes Luellin to me, and he and I to the tavern and after that to Bartholomew fair, and there upon his motion to a pitiful alehouse, where we had a dirty slut or two come up that were whores, but my very heart went against them, so that I took no pleasure but a great deal of trouble in being there and getting from thence for fear of being seen. From hence he and I walked towards Ludgate and parted. I back again to the fair all alone, and there met with my Ladies Jemimah and Paulina, with Mr. Pickering and Madamoiselle, at seeing the monkeys dance, which was much to see, when they could be brought to do so, but it troubled me to sit among such nasty company. After that with them into Christ’s Hospitall, and there Mr. Pickering bought them some fairings, and I did give every one of them a bauble, which was the little globes of glass with things hanging in them, which pleased the ladies very well.
After that home with them in their coach, and there was called up to my Lady, and she would have me stay to talk with her, which I did I think a full hour. And the poor lady did with so much innocency tell me how Mrs. Crispe had told her that she did intend, by means of a lady that lies at her house, to get the King to be godfather to the young lady that she is in childbed now of; but to see in what a manner my Lady told it me, protesting that she sweat in the very telling of it, was the greatest pleasure to me in the world to see the simplicity and harmlessness of a lady.
Then down to supper with the ladies, and so home, Mr. Moore (as he and I cannot easily part) leading me as far as Fenchurch Street to the Mitre, where we drank a glass of wine and so parted, and I home and to bed.
Thus ends the month. My maid Jane newly gone, and Pall left now to do all the work till another maid comes, which shall not be till she goes away into the country with my mother. Myself and wife in good health. My Lord Sandwich in the Straits and newly recovered of a great sickness at Alicante. My father gone to settle at Brampton, and myself under much business and trouble for to settle things in the estate to our content. But what is worst, I find myself lately too much given to seeing of plays, and expense, and pleasure, which makes me forget my business, which I must labour to amend.
No money comes in, so that I have been forced to borrow a great deal for my own expenses, and to furnish my father, to leave things in order. I have some trouble about my brother Tom, who is now left to keep my father’s trade, in which I have great fears that he will miscarry for want of brains and care.
At Court things are in very ill condition, there being so much emulacion, poverty, and the vices of drinking, swearing, and loose amours, that I know not what will be the end of it, but confusion. And the Clergy so high, that all people that I meet with do protest against their practice. In short, I see no content or satisfaction any where, in any one sort of people.
The Benevolence proves so little, and an occasion of so much discontent every where; that it had better it had never been set up. I think to subscribe 20l.. We are at our Office quiet, only for lack of money all things go to rack. Our very bills offered to be sold upon the Exchange at 10 per cent. loss. We are upon getting Sir R. Ford’s house added to our Office. But I see so many difficulties will follow in pleasing of one another in the dividing of it, and in becoming bound personally to pay the rent of 200l. per annum, that I do believe it will yet scarce come to pass.
The season very sickly every where of strange and fatal fevers.

We monkeys dance
with little globes of glass,
get and forget, our getting
a fatal fever.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 31 August 1661.

At noon my wife and I met at the Wardrobe, and there dined with the children, and after dinner up to my Lady’s bedside, and talked and laughed a good while. Then my wife end I to Drury Lane to the French comedy, which was so ill done, and the scenes and company and every thing else so nasty and out of order and poor, that I was sick all the while in my mind to be there. Here my wife met with a son of my Lord Somersett, whom she knew in France, a pretty man; I showed him no great countenance, to avoyd further acquaintance. That done, there being nothing pleasant but the foolery of the farce, we went home.

At war with the bed
and the scenes and company and everything
else in my mind, I count to one.
Here: be nothing
but the farce.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 30 August 1661.

At the office all the morning, and at noon my father, mother, and my aunt Bell (the first time that ever she was at my house) come to dine with me, and were very merry. After dinner the two women went to visit my aunt Wight, &c., and my father about other business, and I abroad to my bookseller, and there staid till four o’clock, at which time by appointment I went to meet my father at my uncle Fenner’s. So thither I went and with him to an alehouse, and there came Mr. Evans, the taylor, whose daughter we have had a mind to get for a wife for Tom, and then my father, and there we sat a good while and talked about the business; in fine he told us that he hath not to except against us or our motion, but that the estate that God hath blessed him with is too great to give where there is nothing in present possession but a trade and house; and so we friendly ended. There parted, my father and I together, and walked a little way, and then at Holborn he and I took leave of one another, he being to go to Brampton (to settle things against my mother comes) tomorrow morning.
So I home.

On the clock,
by appointment, I talk
to God. There is nothing
but us together,
born to one another,
to settle against.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 29 August 1661.

At home all the morning setting papers in order. At noon to the Exchange, and there met with Dr. Williams by appointment, and with him went up and down to look for an attorney, a friend of his, to advise with about our bond of my aunt Pepys of 200l., and he tells me absolutely that we shall not be forced to pay interest for the money yet. I do doubt it very much. I spent the whole afternoon drinking with him and so home. This day I counterfeited a letter to Sir W. Pen, as from the thief that stole his tankard lately, only to abuse and laugh at him.

In exchange for an absolute,
we pay interest on doubt.
I ink a letter to the thief
that stole a laugh.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 28 August 1661.

This morning to the Wardrobe, and there took leave of my Lord Hinchingbroke and his brother, and saw them go out by coach toward Rye in their way to France, whom God bless. Then I was called up to my Lady’s bedside, where we talked an hour about Mr. Edward Montagu’s disposing of the 5000l. for my Lord’s departure for Portugal, and our fears that he will not do it to my Lord’s honour, and less to his profit, which I am to enquire a little after.
Hence to the office, and there sat till noon, and then my wife and I by coach to my cozen, Thos. Pepys, the Executor, to dinner, where some ladies and my father and mother, where very merry, but methinks he makes but poor dinners for such guests, though there was a poor venison pasty.
Hence my wife and I to the Theatre, and there saw “The Joviall Crew,” where the King, Duke and Duchess, and Madame Palmer, were; and my wife, to her great content, had a full sight of them all the while. The play full of mirth. Hence to my father’s, and there staid to talk a while and so by foot home by moonshine.
In my way and at home, my wife making a sad story to me of her brother Balty’s condition, and would have me to do something for him, which I shall endeavour to do, but am afeard to meddle therein for fear I shall not be able to wipe my hands of him again, when I once concern myself for him. I went to bed, my wife all the while telling me his case with tears, which troubled me.

This is
the way
to my lady’s bed:
a pasty full
of fat, the moon
in my hands.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 August 1661.

This morning before I went out I made even with my maid Jane, who has this day been my maid three years, and is this day to go into the country to her mother. The poor girl cried, and I could hardly forbear weeping to think of her going, for though she be grown lazy and spoilt by Pall’s coming, yet I shall never have one to please us better in all things, and so harmless, while I live. So I paid her her wages and gave her 2s. 6d. over, and bade her adieu, with my mind full of trouble at her going.
Hence to my father, where he and I and Thomas together setting things even, and casting up my father’s accounts, and upon the whole I find that all he hath in money of his own due to him in the world is but 45l., and he owes about the same sum: so that I cannot but think in what a condition he had left my mother if he should have died before my uncle Robert. Hence to Tom Trice for the probate of the will and had it done to my mind, which did give my father and me good content.
From thence to my Lady at the Wardrobe and thence to the Theatre, and saw the “Antipodes,” wherein there is much mirth, but no great matter else. Hence with Mr. Bostock whom I met there (a clerk formerly of Mr. Phelps) to the Devil tavern, and there drank and so away. I to my uncle Fenner’s, where my father was with him at an alehouse, and so we three went by ourselves and sat talking a great while about a broker’s daughter that he do propose for a wife for Tom, with a great portion, but I fear it will not take, but he will do what he can. So we broke up, and going through the street we met with a mother and son, friends of my father’s man, Ned’s, who are angry at my father’s putting him away, which troubled me and my father, but all will be well as to that.
We have news this morning of my uncle Thomas and his son Thomas being gone into the country without giving notice thereof to anybody, which puts us to a stand, but I fear them not.
At night at home I found a letter from my Lord Sandwich, who is now very well again of his feaver, but not yet gone from Alicante, where he lay sick, and was twice let blood. This letter dated the 22nd July last, which puts me out of doubt of his being ill. In my coming home I called in at the Crane tavern at the Stocks by appointment, and there met and took leave of Mr. Fanshaw, who goes to-morrow and Captain Isham toward their voyage to Portugal. Here we drank a great deal of wine, I too much and Mr. Fanshaw till he could hardly go. So we took leave one of another.

The poor
shall never please us,
even in war.
The devil, our broker,
broke in the street, angry
at all the blood
we drank.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 26 August 1661.

(Lord’s day). At church in the morning, and dined at home alone with my wife very comfortably, and so again to church with her, and had a very good and pungent sermon of Mr. Mills, discoursing the necessity of restitution.
Home, and I found my Lady Batten and her daughter to look something askew upon my wife, because my wife do not buckle to them, and is not solicitous for their acquaintance, which I am not troubled at at all.
By and by comes in my father (he intends to go into the country to-morrow), and he and I among other discourse at last called Pall up to us, and there in great anger told her before my father that I would keep her no longer, and my father he said he would have nothing to do with her. At last, after we had brought down her high spirit, I got my father to yield that she should go into the country with my mother and him, and stay there awhile to see how she will demean herself. That being done, my father and I to my uncle Wight’s, and there supped, and he took his leave of them, and so I walked with [him] as far as Paul’s and there parted, and I home, my mind at some rest upon this making an end with Pall, who do trouble me exceedingly.

Alone with
my comfort,
a pungent necessity:
to look askew,
to call up an anger spirit,
to yield to the mother
of all trouble.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 August 1661.

At the office all the morning and did business; by and by we are called to Sir W. Batten’s to see the strange creature that Captain Holmes hath brought with him from Guiny; it is a great baboon, but so much like a man in most things, that though they say there is a species of them, yet I cannot believe but that it is a monster got of a man and she-baboon. I do believe that it already understands much English, and I am of the mind it might be taught to speak or make signs.
Hence the Comptroller and I to Sir Rd. Ford’s and viewed the house again, and are come to a complete end with him to give him 200l. per an. for it.
Home and there met Capt. Isham inquiring for me to take his leave of me, he being upon his voyage to Portugal, and for my letters to my Lord which are not ready. But I took him to the Mitre and gave him a glass of sack, and so adieu, and then straight to the Opera, and there saw “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” done with scenes very well, but above all, Betterton did the prince’s part beyond imagination.
Hence homeward, and met with Mr. Spong and took him to the Sampson in Paul’s churchyard, and there staid till late, and it rained hard, so we were fain to get home wet, and so to bed.

We are called
to see yet
cannot believe.
A baboon might
be taught to speak
in a glass church.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 August 1661.

This morning I went to my father’s, and there found him and my mother in a discontent, which troubles me much, and indeed she is become very simple and unquiet. Hence he and I to Dr. Williams, and found him within, and there we sat and talked a good while, and from him to Tom Trice’s to an alehouse near, and there sat and talked, and finding him fair we examined my uncle’s will before him and Dr. Williams, and had them sign the copy and so did give T. Trice the original to prove, so he took my father and me to one of the judges of the Court, and there we were sworn, and so back again to the alehouse and drank and parted.
Dr. Williams and I to a cook’s where we eat a bit of mutton, and away, I to W. Joyce’s, where by appointment my wife was, and I took her to the Opera, and shewed her “The Witts,” which I had seen already twice, and was most highly pleased with it.
So with my wife to the Wardrobe to see my Lady, and then home.

In a tent I become
simple and quiet
with rice, unoriginal
and worn as a wit
seen twice.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 August 1661.