Pepys Diary erasure project

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

So soon as word was brought me that Mr. Coventry was come with the barge to the Tower, I went to him, and found him reading of the Psalms in short hand (which he is now busy about), and had good sport about the long marks that are made there for sentences in divinity, which he is never like to make use of. Here he and I sat till the Comptroller came and then we put off for Deptford, where we went on board the King’s pleasure boat that Commissioner Pett is making, and indeed it will be a most pretty thing.
From thence to Commr. Pett’s lodging, and there had a good breakfast, and in came the two Sir Wms. from Walthamstow, and so we sat down and did a great deal of public business about the fitting of the fleet that is now going out.
That done we went to the Globe and there had a good dinner, and by and by took barge again and so home. By the way they would have me sing, which I did to Mr. Coventry, who went up to Sir William Batten’s, and there we staid and talked a good while, and then broke up and I home, and then to my father’s and there lay with my wife.

I read in shorthand
the long sentences
like a troll on board
the King’s boat,
making a pretty deal
of public sin—
fitting in.
I gain a home.
They have me sing.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 16 April 1661.

From my father’s, it being a very foul morning for the King and Lords to go to Windsor, I went to the office and there met Mr. Coventry and Sir Robt. Slingsby, but did no business, but only appoint to go to Deptford together tomorrow. Mr. Coventry being gone, and I having at home laid up 200l. which I had brought this morning home from Alderman Backwell’s, I went home by coach with Sir R. Slingsby and dined with him, and had a very good dinner. His lady seems a good woman and very desirous they were to hear this noon by the post how the election has gone at Newcastle, wherein he is concerned, but the letters are not come yet.
To my uncle Wight’s, and after a little stay with them he and I to Mr. Rawlinson’s, and there staid all the afternoon, it being very foul, and had a little talk with him what good I might make of these ships that go to Portugal by venturing some money by them, and he will give me an answer to it shortly. So home and sent for the Barber, and after that to bed.

A morning wind
did business in the alder.

Coach dined with post—
where the letters come.

A stay had a little talk
with a ship.

So money will give me
an answer shortly.


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

(Easter. Lord’s day). In the morning towards my father’s, and by the way heard Mr. Jacomb, at Ludgate, upon these words, “Christ loved you and therefore let us love one another,” and made a lazy sermon, like a Presbyterian. Then to my father’s and dined there, and Dr. Fairbrother (lately come to town) with us. After dinner I went to the Temple and there heard Dr. Griffith, a good sermon for the day; so with Mr. Moore (whom I met there) to my Lord’s, and there he shewed me a copy of my Lord Chancellor’s patent for Earl, and I read the preamble, which is very short, modest, and good.
Here my Lord saw us and spoke to me about getting Mr. Moore to come and govern his house while he goes to sea, which I promised him to do and did afterwards speak to Mr. Moore, and he is willing.
Then hearing that Mr. Barnwell was come, with some of my Lord’s little children, yesterday to town, to see the Coronacion, I went and found them at the Goat, at Charing Cross, and there I went and drank with them a good while, whom I found in very good health and very merry. Then to my father’s, and after supper seemed willing to go home, and my wife seeming to be so too I went away in a discontent, but she, poor wretch, followed me as far in the rain and dark as Fleet Bridge to fetch me back again, and so I did, and lay with her to-night, which I have not done these eight or ten days before.

The Way is like a patent to govern sea
or a barn with children
or a goat merry in the rain.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 14 April 1661.

To Whitehall by water from Towre-wharf, where we could not pass the ordinary way, because they were mending of the great stone steps against the Coronacion. With Sir W. Pen, then to my Lord’s, and thence with Capt. Cuttance and Capt. Clark to drink our morning draught together, and before we could get back again my Lord was gone out. So to Whitehall again and, met with my Lord above with the Duke; and after a little talk with him, I went to the Banquethouse, and there saw the King heal, the first time that ever I saw him do it; which he did with great gravity, and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one. That done to my Lord’s and dined there, and so by water with parson Turner towards London, and upon my telling of him of Mr. Moore to be a fit man to do his business with Bishop Wren, about which he was going, he went back out of my boat into another to Whitehall, and so I forwards home and there by and by took coach with Sir W. Pen and Captain Terne and went to the buriall of Captain Robert Blake, at Wapping, and there had each of us a ring, but it being dirty, we would not go to church with them, but with our coach we returned home, and there staid a little, and then he and I alone to the Dolphin (Sir W. Batten being this day gone with his wife to Walthamstow to keep Easter), and there had a supper by ourselves, we both being very hungry, and staying there late drinking I became very sleepy, and so we went home and I to bed.

We could not mend
the great stone.
I saw the king heal it
with simple water
and go to the burial of dirt.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 April 1661.

Up among my workmen, and about 7 o’clock comes my wife to see me and my brother John with her, who I am glad to see, but I sent them away because of going to the office, and there dined with Sir W. Batten, all fish dinner, it being Good Friday.
Then home and looking over my workmen, and then into the City and saw in what forwardness all things are for the Coronacion, which will be very magnificent. Then back again home and to my chamber, to set down in my diary all my late journey, which I do with great pleasure; and while I am now writing comes one with a tickett to invite me to Captain Robert Blake’s buriall, for whose death I am very sorry, and do much wonder at it, he being a little while since a very likely man to live as any I knew. Since my going out of town, there is one Alexander Rosse taken and sent to the Counter by Sir Thomas Allen, for counterfeiting my hand to a ticket, and we this day at the office have given order to Mr. Smith to prosecute him. To bed.

I am the way
and the fish
in Good Friday,
the work and the war,
magnificent in
my journey to death
like a counterfeit day.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 12 April 1661.

At 2 o’clock, with very great mirth, we went to our lodging and to bed, and lay till 7, and then called up by Sir W. Batten, so I arose and we did some business, and then came Captn. Allen, and he and I withdrew and sang a song or two, and among others took pleasure in “Goe and bee hanged, that’s good-bye.”
The young ladies come too, and so I did again please myself with Mrs. Rebecca, and about 9 o’clock, after we had breakfasted, we sett forth for London, and indeed I was a little troubled to part with Mrs. Rebecca, for which God forgive me. Thus we went away through Rochester, calling and taking leave of Mr. Alcock at the door, Capt. Cuttance going with us. We baited at Dartford, and thence to London.
But of all the journeys that ever I made this was the merriest, and I was in a strange mood for mirth. Among other things, I got my Lady to let her maid, Mrs. Anne, to ride all the way on horseback, and she rides exceeding well; and so I called her my clerk, that she went to wait upon me.
I met two little schoolboys going with pitchers of ale to their schoolmaster to break up against Easter, and I did drink of some of one of them and give him two pence.
By and by we come to two little girls keeping cows, and I saw one of them very pretty, so I had a mind to make her ask my blessing, and telling her that I was her godfather, she asked me innocently whether I was not Ned Wooding, and I said that I was, so she kneeled down and very simply called, “Pray, godfather, pray to God to bless me,” which made us very merry, and I gave her twopence.
In several places, I asked women whether they would sell me their children, but they denied me all, but said they would give me one to keep for them, if I would.
Mrs. Anne and I rode under the man that hangs upon Shooter’s Hill, and a filthy sight it was to see how his flesh is shrunk to his bones.
So home and I found all well, and a deal of work done since I went.
I sent to see how my wife do, who is well, and my brother John come from Cambridge.
To Sir W. Batten’s and there supped, and very merry with the young ladies. So to bed very sleepy for last night’s work, concluding that it is the pleasantest journey in all respects that ever I had in my life.

Go and be hanged, we call
to a clerk, to a schoolmaster,
to two cows in the wood,
to God, to children, to the man
that hangs on Shooter’s Hill,
filthy flesh shrunk to his bones.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 11 April 1661.

In the morning to see the Dockhouses. First, Mr. Pett’s, the builder, and there was very kindly received, and among other things he did offer my Lady Batten a parrot, the best I ever saw, that knew Mingo so soon as it saw him, having been bred formerly in the house with them; but for talking and singing I never heard the like. My Lady did accept of it.
Then to see Commissioner Pett’s house, he and his family being absent, and here I wondered how my Lady Batten walked up and down with envious looks to see how neat and rich everything is (and indeed both the house and garden is most handsome), saying that she would get it, for it belonged formerly to the Surveyor of the Navy.
Then on board the Prince, now in the dock, and indeed it has one and no more rich cabins for carved work, but no gold in her.
After that back home, and there eat a little dinner. Then to Rochester, and there saw the Cathedrall, which is now fitting for use, and the organ then a-tuning. Then away thence, observing the great doors of the church, which, they say, was covered with the skins of the Danes, and also had much mirth at a tomb, on which was “Come sweet Jesu,” and I read “Come sweet Mall,” &c., at which Captain Pett and I had good laughter.
So to the Salutacion tavern, where Mr. Alcock and many of the town came and entertained us with wine and oysters and other things, and hither come Sir John Minnes to us, who is come to-day to see “the Henery,” in which he intends to ride as Vice-Admiral in the narrow seas all this summer. Here much mirth, but I was a little troubled to stay too long, because of going to Hempson’s, which afterwards we did, and found it in all things a most pretty house, and rarely furnished, only it had a most ill access on all sides to it, which is a greatest fault that I think can be in a house.
Here we had, for my sake, two fiddles, the one a base viall, on which he that played, played well some lyra lessons, but both together made the worst musique that ever I heard.
We had a fine collacion, but I took little pleasure in that, for the illness of the musique and for the intentness of my mind upon Mrs. Rebecca Allen.
After we had done eating, the ladies went to dance, and among the men we had, I was forced to dance too; and did make an ugly shift. Mrs. R. Allen danced very well, and seems the best humoured woman that ever I saw. About 9 o’clock Sir William and my Lady went home, and we continued dancing an hour or two, and so broke up very pleasant and merry, and so walked home, I leading Mrs. Rebecca, who seemed, I know not why, in that and other things, to be desirous of my favours and would in all things show me respects.
Going home, she would needs have me sing, and I did pretty well and was highly esteemed by them.
So to Captain Allen’s (where we were last night, and heard him play on the harpsicon, and I find him to be a perfect good musician), and there, having no mind to leave Mrs. Rebecca, what with talk and singing (her father and I), Mrs. Turner and I staid there till 2 o’clock in the morning and was most exceeding merry, and I had the opportunity of kissing Mrs. Rebecca very often.
Among other things Captain Pett was saying that he thought that he had got his wife with child since I came thither. Which I took hold of and was merrily asking him what he would take to have it said for my honour that it was of my getting? He merrily answered that he would if I would promise to be godfather to it if it did come within the time just, and I said that I would. So that I must remember to compute it when the time comes.

I offer a parrot my garden
and a church my mind.
The ladies dance
and the men dance too,
desirous of favors, exceeding a kiss,
asking god to compute it
when the time comes.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 10 April 1661.

…and lay and slept well till 3 in the morning, and then waking, and by the light of the moon I saw my pillow (which overnight I flung from me) stand upright, but not bethinking myself what it might be, I was a little afeard, but sleep overcame all and so lay till high morning, at which time I had a candle brought me and a good fire made, and in general it was a great pleasure all the time I staid here to see how I am respected and honoured by all people; and I find that I begin to know now how to receive so much reverence, which at the beginning I could not tell how to do.
Sir William and I by coach to the dock and there viewed all the storehouses and the old goods that are this day to be sold, which was great pleasure to me, and so back again by coach home, where we had a good dinner, and among other strangers that come, there was Mr. Hempson and his wife, a pretty woman, and speaks Latin; Mr. Allen and two daughters of his, both very tall and the youngest very handsome, so much as I could not forbear to love her exceedingly, having, among other things, the best hand that ever I saw.
After dinner, we went to fit books and things (Tom Hater being this morning come to us) for the sale, by an inch of candle, and very good sport we and the ladies that stood by had, to see the people bid. Among other things sold there was all the State’s arms, which Sir W. Batten bought; intending to set up some of the images in his garden, and the rest to burn on the Coronacion night. The sale being done, the ladies and I and Captain Pett and Mr. Castle took barge and down we went to see the Sovereign, which we did, taking great pleasure therein, singing all the way, and, among other pleasures, I put my Lady, Mrs. Turner, Mrs. Hempson, and the two Mrs. Allens into the lanthorn and I went in and kissed them, demanding it as a fee due to a principall officer, with all which we were exceeding merry, and drunk some bottles of wine and neat’s tongue, &c. Then back again home and so supped, and after much mirth to bed.

By the light of the moon,
my little candle is a stranger.
The pretty woman speaks Latin
and I love her books
by an inch of candle,
see the images burn
in the sovereign, singing tongue.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 9 April 1661.

Up early, my Lady Batten knocking at her door that comes into one of my chambers. I did give directions to my people and workmen, and so about 8 o’clock we took barge at the Tower, Sir William Batten and his lady, Mrs. Turner, Mr. Fowler and I. A very pleasant passage and so to Gravesend, where we dined, and from thence a coach took them and me, and Mr. Fowler with some others came from Rochester to meet us, on horseback. At Rochester, where alight at Mr. Alcock’s and there drank and had good sport, with his bringing out so many sorts of cheese. Then to the Hillhouse at Chatham, where I never was before, and I found a pretty pleasant house and am pleased with the arms that hang up there. Here we supped very merry, and late to bed; Sir William telling me that old Edgeborrow, his predecessor, did die and walk in my chamber, did make me some what afeard, but not so much as for mirth’s sake I did seem. So to bed in the treasurer’s chamber…

Knock on a clock, owe an owl.

 
A sage and an owl meet where a light is out.

 
Never was a house pleased with the arms that hang there.

 
We die in fear, not for mirth’s sake.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 8 April 1661.

(Lord’s day). All the morning at home making up my accounts (God forgive me!) to give up to my Lord this afternoon. Then about 11 o’clock out of doors towards Westminster and put in at Paul’s, where I saw our minister, Mr. Mills, preaching before my Lord Mayor. So to White Hall, and there I met with Dr. Fuller of Twickenham, newly come from Ireland; and took him to my Lord’s, where he and I dined; and he did give my Lord and me a good account of the condition of Ireland, and how it come to pass, through the joyning of the Fanatiques and the Presbyterians, that the latter and the former are in their declaration put together under the names of Fanatiques.
After dinner, my Lord and I and Mr. Shepley did look over our accounts and settle matters of money between us; and my Lord did tell me much of his mind about getting money and other things of his family, &c. Then to my father’s, where I found Mr. Hunt and his wife at supper with my father and mother and my wife, where after supper I left them and so home, and then I went to Sir W. Batten’s and resolved of a journey tomorrow to Chatham, and so home and to bed.

God give me
the clock of a minister,
the ire of an ass, the joy
of fanatics and a mind
to journey at home.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 7 April 1661.