Pepys Diary erasure project

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

To Westminster, where at Mr. Montagu’s chamber I heard a Frenchman play, a friend of Monsieur Eschar’s, upon the guitar, most extreme well, though at the best methinks it is but a bawble.
From thence to Westminster Hall, where it was expected that the Parliament was to have been adjourned for two or three months, but something hinders it for a day or two. In the lobby I spoke with Mr. George Montagu, and advised about a ship to carry my Lord Hinchingbroke and the rest of the young gentlemen to France, and they have resolved of going in a hired vessell from Rye, and not in a man of war. He told me in discourse that my Lord Chancellor is much envied, and that many great men, such as the Duke of Buckingham and my Lord of Bristoll, do endeavour to undermine him, and that he believes it will not be done; for that the King (though he loves him not in the way of a companion, as he do these young gallants that can answer him in his pleasures), yet cannot be without him, for his policy and service. From thence to the Wardrobe, where my wife met me, it being my Lord of Sandwich’s birthday, and so we had many friends here, Mr. Townsend and his wife, and Captain Ferrers lady and Captain Isham, and were very merry, and had a good venison pasty. Mr. Pargiter, the merchant, was with us also.
After dinner Mr. Townsend was called upon by Captain Cooke: so we three went to a tavern hard by, and there he did give us a song or two; and without doubt he hath the best manner of singing in the world. Back to my wife, and with my Lady Jem. and Pall by water through bridge, and showed them the ships with great pleasure, and then took them to my house to show it them (my Lady their mother having been lately all alone to see it and my wife, in my absence in the country), and we treated them well, and were very merry. Then back again through bridge, and set them safe at home, and so my wife and I by coach home again, and after writing a letter to my father at Brampton, who, poor man, is there all alone, and I have not heard from him since my coming from him, which troubles me. To bed.

The guitar spoke
of love and war, sand and water,
and showed the ships to my wife
in my absence.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 27 July 1661.

At home all the morning, and walking met with Mr. Hill of Cambridge at Pope’s Head Alley with some women with him whom he took and me into the tavern there, and did give us wine, and would fain seem to be very knowing in the affairs of state, and tells me that yesterday put a change to the whole state of England as to the Church; for the King now would be forced to favour Presbytery, or the City would leave him: but I heed not what he says, though upon enquiry I do find that things in the Parliament are in a great disorder.
Home at noon and there found Mr. Moore, and with him to an ordinary alone and dined, and there he and I read my uncle’s will, and I had his opinion on it, and still find more and more trouble like to attend it. Back to the office all the afternoon, and that done home for all night. Having the beginning of this week made a vow to myself to drink no wine this week (finding it to unfit me to look after business), and this day breaking of it against my will, I am much troubled for it, but I hope God will forgive me.

The pope’s head took
the air alone
and dined on ice.
Unfit to sin, it troubled God.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 26 July 1661.

This morning came my box of papers from Brampton of all my uncle’s papers, which will now set me at work enough. At noon I went to the Exchange, where I met my uncle Wight, and found him so discontented about my father (whether that he takes it ill that he has not been acquainted with things, or whether he takes it ill that he has nothing left him, I cannot tell), for which I am much troubled, and so staid not long to talk with him.
Thence to my mother’s, where I found my wife and my aunt Bell and Mrs. Ramsey, and great store of tattle there was between the old women and my mother, who thinks that there is, God knows what fallen to her, which makes me mad, but it was not a proper time to speak to her of it, and so I went away with Mr. Moore, and he and I to the Theatre, and saw “The Jovial Crew,” the first time I saw it, and indeed it is as merry and the most innocent play that ever I saw, and well performed. From thence home, and wrote to my father and so to bed. Full of thoughts to think of the trouble that we shall go through before we come to see what will remain to us of all our expectations.

Morning papers exchange discontent
for a great store of tattle
and God knows what—
a mad theater.
Think of the trouble we go through
to see what will remain
of all our expectations.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 25 July 1661.

This morning my wife in bed tells me of our being robbed of our silver tankard, which vexed me all day for the negligence of my people to leave the door open.
My wife and I by water to Whitehall, where I left her to her business and I to my cozen Thomas Pepys, and discoursed with him at large about our business of my uncle’s will. He can give us no light at all into his estate, but upon the whole tells me that he do believe that he has left but little money, though something more than we have found, which is about 500l.
Here came Sir G. Lane by chance, seeing a bill upon the door to hire the house, with whom my coz and I walked all up and down, and indeed it is a very pretty place, and he do intend to leave the agreement for the House, which is 400l. fine, and 46l. rent a year to me between them. Then to the Wardrobe, but come too late, and so dined with the servants. And then to my Lady, who do shew my wife and me the greatest favour in the world, in which I take great content.
Home by water and to the office all the afternoon, which is a great pleasure to me again, to talk with persons of quality and to be in command, and I give it out among them that the estate left me is 200l. a year in land, besides moneys, because I would put an esteem upon myself.
At night home and to bed after I had set down my journals ever since my going from London this journey to this house.
This afternoon I hear that my man Will hath lost his cloak with my tankard, at which I am very glad.

Robbed of our light by the war,
too late to take
pleasure in talk,
I put on my night cloak.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 24 July 1661.

Put on my mourning. Made visits to Sir W. Pen and Batten. Then to Westminster, and at the Hall staid talking with Mrs. Michell a good while, and in the afternoon, finding myself unfit for business, I went to the Theatre, and saw “Brenoralt,” I never saw before. It seemed a good play, but ill acted; only I sat before Mrs. Palmer, the King’s mistress, and filled my eyes with her, which much pleased me. Then to my father’s, where by my desire I met my uncle Thomas, and discoursed of my uncle’s will to him, and did satisfy [him] as well as I could. So to my uncle Wight’s, but found him out of doors, but my aunt I saw and staid a while, and so home and to bed. Troubled to hear how proud and idle Pall is grown, that I am resolved not to keep her.

Mourning filled my eyes
with leased doors.
I saw how all I own
I am not to keep.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 23 July 1661.

Up by three, and going by four on my way to London; but the day proves very cold, so that having put on no stockings but thread ones under my boots, I was fain at Bigglesworth to buy a pair of coarse woollen ones, and put them on. So by degrees till I come to Hatfield before twelve o’clock, where I had a very good dinner with my hostess, at my Lord of Salisbury’s Inn, and after dinner though weary I walked all alone to the Vineyard, which is now a very beautiful place again; and coming back I met with Mr. Looker, my Lord’s gardener (a friend of Mr. Eglin’s), who showed me the house, the chappell with brave pictures, and, above all, the gardens, such as I never saw in all my life; nor so good flowers, nor so great gooseberrys, as big as nutmegs.
Back to the inn, and drank with him, and so to horse again, and with much ado got to London, and set him up at Smithfield; so called at my uncle Fenner’s, my mother’s, my Lady’s, and so home, in all which I found all things as well as I could expect. So weary and to bed.

In my cold boots
I come to a field
and a vineyard
and a garden:
no flowers.
Back to the fen
in which I found
all things.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 22 July 1661.

(Lord’s day). At home all the morning, putting my papers in order against my going to-morrow and doing many things else to that end. Had a good dinner, and Stankes and his wife with us. To my business again in the afternoon, and in the evening came the two Trices, Mr. Greene, and Mr. Philips, and so we began to argue. At last it came to some agreement that for our giving of my aunt 10l. she is to quit the house, and for other matters they are to be left to the law, which do please us all, and so we broke up, pretty well satisfyed.
Then came Mr. Barnwell and J. Bowles and supped with us, and after supper away, and so I having taken leave of them and put things in the best order I could against to-morrow I went to bed.
Old William Luffe having been here this afternoon and paid up his bond of 20l., and I did give him into his hand my uncle’s surrender of Sturtlow to me before Mr. Philips, R. Barnwell, and Mr. Pigott, which he did acknowledge to them my uncle did in his lifetime deliver to him.

In the evening we came to agreement
as a barn owl to a barn.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 21 July 1661.

Up to Huntingdon this morning to Sir Robert Bernard, with whom I met Jaspar Trice. So Sir Robert caused us to sit down together and began discourse very fairly between us, so I drew out the Will and show it him, and [he] spoke between us as well as I could desire, but could come to no issue till Tom Trice comes. Then Sir Robert and I fell to talk about the money due to us upon surrender from Piggott, 164l., which he tells me will go with debts to the heir at law, which breaks my heart on the other side.
Here I staid and dined with Sir Robert Bernard and his lady, my Lady Digby, a very good woman.
After dinner I went into the town and spent the afternoon, sometimes with Mr. Phillips, sometimes with Dr. Symcottes, Mr. Vinter, Robert Ethell, and many more friends, and at last Mr. Davenport, Phillips, Jaspar Trice, myself and others at Mother –— over against the Crown we sat and drank ale and were very merry till 9 at night, and so broke up. I walked home, and there found Tom Trice come, and he and my father gone to Goody Gorum’s, where I found them and Jaspar Trice got before me, and Mr. Greene, and there had some calm discourse, but came to no issue, and so parted. So home and to bed, being now pretty well again of my left hand, which lately was stung and very much swelled.

It is a pig heart I dine with,
sometimes in hell and others
at Mother Rum’s.
Go home and be pretty again,
my left hand.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 20 July 1661.

These four days we spent in putting things in order, letting of the crop upon the ground, agreeing with Stankes to have a care of our business in our absence, and we think ourselves in nothing happy but in lighting upon him to be our bayly; in riding to Offord and Sturtlow, and up and down all our lands, and in the evening walking, my father and I about the fields talking, and had advice from Mr. Moore from London, by my desire, that the three witnesses of the will being all legatees, will not do the will any wrong. To-night Serjeant Bernard, I hear, is come home into the country. To supper and to bed. My aunt continuing in her base, hypocritical tricks, which both Jane Perkin (of whom we make great use), and the maid do tell us every day of.

We put in the ground
our business, our absence, ourselves—
nothing but light
in the evening fields.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 16, 17, 18, 19 July 1661.

Up by three o’clock this morning, and rode to Cambridge, and was there by seven o’clock, where, after I was trimmed, I went to Christ College, and found my brother John at eight o’clock in bed, which vexed me. Then to King’s College chappell, where I found the scholars in their surplices at the service with the organs, which is a strange sight to what it used in my time to be here. Then with Dr. Fairbrother (whom I met there) to the Rose tavern, and called for some wine, and there met fortunately with Mr. Turner of our office, and sent for his wife, and were very merry (they being come to settle their son here), and sent also for Mr. Sanchy, of Magdalen, with whom and other gentlemen, friends of his, we were very merry, and I treated them as well as I could, and so at noon took horse again, having taken leave of my cozen Angier, and rode to Impington, where I found my old uncle sitting all alone, like a man out of the world: he can hardly see; but all things else he do pretty lively. Then with Dr. John Pepys and him, I read over the will, and had their advice therein, who, as to the sufficiency thereof confirmed me, and advised me as to the other parts thereof.
Having done there, I rode to Gravely with much ado to inquire for a surrender of my uncle’s in some of the copyholders’ hands there, but I can hear of none, which puts me into very great trouble of mind, and so with a sad heart rode home to Brampton, but made myself as cheerful as I could to my father, and so to bed.

Clock by clock, a strange time
called me out of the world.
I live in a sufficiency of parts:
old hands, ear,
heart as cheerful as a bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 15 July 1661
.