Pepys Diary erasure project

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

This morning Mr. Coventry and all our company met at the office about some business of the victualling, which being dispatched we parted.
I to my Lord Crew’s to dinner (in my way calling upon my brother Tom, with whom I staid a good while and talked, and find him a man like to do well, which contents me much), where used with much respect, and talking with him about my Lord’s debts, and whether we should make use of an offer of Sir G. Carteret’s to lend my Lady 4 or 500l., he told me by no means, we must not oblige my Lord to him, and by the by he made a question whether it was not my Lord’s interest a little to appear to the King in debt, and for people to clamor against him as well as others for their money, that by that means the King and the world may see that he do lay out for the King’s honour upon his own main stock, which many he tells me do, that in fine if there be occasion he and I will be bound for it.
Thence to Sir Thomas Crew’s lodgings. He hath been ill, and continues so, under fits of apoplexy. Among other things, he and I did discourse much of Mr. Montagu’s base doings, and the dishonour that he will do my Lord, as well as cheating him of 2 or 3,000l., which is too true.
Thence to the play, where coming late, and meeting with Sir W. Pen, who had got room for my wife and his daughter in the pit, he and I into one of the boxes, and there we sat and heard “The Little Thiefe,” a pretty play and well done.
Thence home, and walked in the garden with them, and then to the house to supper and sat late talking, and so to bed.

His oven
is calling to him
like the clamor of things to a thief:
a well-done supper
in bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 31 March 1662.

Up early. This being, by God’s great blessing, the fourth solemn day of my cutting for the stone this day four years, and am by God’s mercy in very good health, and like to do well, the Lord’s name be praised for it. To the office and Sir G. Carteret’s all the morning about business. At noon come my good guests, Madame Turner, The., and Cozen Norton, and a gentleman, one Mr. Lewin of the King’s LifeGuard; by the same token he told us of one of his fellows killed this morning in a duel. I had a pretty dinner for them, viz., a brace of stewed carps, six roasted chickens, and a jowl of salmon, hot, for the first course; a tanzy and two neats’ tongues, and cheese the second; and were very merry all the afternoon, talking and singing and piping upon the flageolette. In the evening they went with great pleasure away, and I with great content and my wife walked half an hour in the garden, and so home to supper and to bed.
We had a man-cook to dress dinner to-day, and sent for Jane to help us, and my wife and she agreed at 3l. a year (she would not serve under) till both could be better provided, and so she stays with us, and I hope we shall do well if poor Sarah were but rid of her ague.

God’s solemn stone,
like a man killed
in a duel or
a stewed tongue
singing with pleasure,
stays with us
and poor.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 26 March 1662.

Lady Day. All the morning at the office. Dined with my wife at home. Then to the office, where (while Sir Wms both did examine the Victuallers account) I sat in my closet drawing letters and other businesses — being much troubled for want of an order of the Councells lately sent us, about making of boates for some ships now going to Jamaica. At last, late at night, I had a Copy sent me of it by Sir G. Lane from the Council Chamber. With my mind well at ease, home and to supper and bed.

I sat in my closet
drawing ships
going to Jamaica.

Late at night
I had a copy
of my mind.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 25 March 1662.

Early Sir G. Carteret, both Sir Williams and I on board the Experiment, to dispatch her away, she being to carry things to the Madeiras with the East Indy fleet. Here (Sir W. Pen going to Deptford to send more hands) we staid till noon talking, and eating and drinking a good ham of English bacon, and having put things in very good order home, where I found Jane, my old maid, come out of the country, and I have a mind to have her again.
By and by comes La Belle Pierce to see my wife, and to bring her a pair of peruques of hair, as the fashion now is for ladies to wear; which are pretty, and are of my wife’s own hair, or else I should not endure them. After a good whiles stay, I went to see if any play was acted, and I found none upon the post, it being Passion week. So home again, and took water with them towards Westminster; but as we put off with the boat Griffin came after me to tell me that Sir G. Carteret and the rest were at the office, so I intended to see them through the bridge and come back again, but the tide being against us, when we were almost through we were carried back again with much danger, and Mrs. Pierce was much afeard and frightened. So I carried them to the other side and walked to the Beare, and sent them away, and so back again myself to the office, but finding nobody there I went again to the Old Swan, and thence by water to the New Exchange, and there found them, and thence by coach carried my wife to Bowes to buy something, and while they were there went to Westminster Hall, and there bought Mr. Grant’s book of observations upon the weekly bills of mortality, which appear to me upon first sight to be very pretty.
So back again and took my wife, calling at my brother Tom’s, whom I found full of work, which I am glad of, and thence at the New Exchange and so home, and I to Sir W. Batten’s, and supped there out of pure hunger and to save getting anything ready at home, which is a thing I do not nor shall not use to do.
So home and to bed.

An experiment:
hands talking,
we frighten the bear
back into a book.
The bills of mortality
appear to be full
of pure hunger.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 24 March 1661/62.

(Lord’s day). This morning was brought me my boy’s fine livery, which is very handsome, and I do think to keep to black and gold lace upon gray, being the colour of my arms, for ever. To church in the morning, and so home with Sir W. Batten, and there eat some boiled great oysters, and so home, and while I was at dinner with my wife I was sick, and was forced to vomit up my oysters again, and then I was well.
By and by a coach came to call me by my appointment, and so my wife and I carried to Westminster to Mrs. Hunt’s, and I to Whitehall, Worcester House, and to my Lord Treasurer’s to have found Sir G. Carteret, but missed in all these places. So back to White Hall, and there met with Captn. Isham, this day come from Lisbon, with letters from the Queen to the King. And he did give me letters which speak that our fleet is all at Lisbon; and that the Queen do not intend to embarque sooner than tomorrow come fortnight.
So having sent for my wife, she and I to my Lady Sandwich, and after a short visit away home. She home, and I to Sir G. Carteret’s about business, and so home too, and Sarah having her fit we went to bed.

I live in black,
the color of oil:
oy! I was sick
and oy! I was well,
found but missed
all places here
with letters from home
to home.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 23 March 1661/62.

At the office all the morning. At noon Sir Williams both and I by water down to the Lewes, Captain Dekins, his ship, a merchantman, where we met the owners, Sir John Lewes and Alderman Lewes, and several other great merchants; among others one Jefferys, a merry man that is a fumbler, and he and I called brothers, and he made all the mirth in the company. We had a very fine dinner, and all our wives’ healths, with seven or nine guns apiece; and exceeding merry we were, and so home by barge again, and I vexed to find Griffin leave the office door open, and had a design to have carried away the screw or the carpet in revenge to him, but at last I would not, but sent for him and chid him, and so to supper and to bed, having drank a great deal of wine.

Water to the ship, we met
the owners—we
brothers in the company—
and all our guns
were open
to revenge.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 22 March 1661/62.