Pepys Diary erasure project

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

In the morning most of my disease, that is, itching and pimples, were gone. In the morning visited by Mr. Coventry and others, and very glad I am to see that I am so much inquired after and my sickness taken notice of as I did. I keep my bed all day and sweat again at night, by which I expect to be very well to-morrow.
This evening Sir W. Warren came himself to the door and left a letter and box for me, and went his way. His letter mentions his giving me and my wife a pair of gloves; but, opening the box, we found a pair of plain white gloves for my hand, and a fair state dish of silver, and cup, with my arms, ready cut upon them, worth, I believe, about 18l., which is a very noble present, and the best I ever had yet.
So after some contentful talk with my wife, she to bed and I to rest.

in the morning of my disease
I itch and pimple

sickness came for me in a pair
of plain white gloves


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 10 February 1662/63.

Could not rise and go to the Duke, as I should have done with the rest, but keep my bed and by the Apothecary’s advice, Mr. Battersby, I am to sweat soundly, and that will carry all this matter away which nature would of itself eject, but they will assist nature, it being some disorder given the blood, but by what I know not, unless it be by my late quantitys of Dantzic-girkins that I have eaten.
In the evening came Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten to see me, and Sir J. Minnes advises me to the same thing, but would not have me take anything from the apothecary, but from him, his Venice treacle being better than the others, which I did consent to and did anon take and fell into a great sweat, and about 10 or 11 o’clock came out of it and shifted myself, and slept pretty well alone, my wife lying in the red chamber above.

a pot
to carry away the blood
evening in Venice


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 9 February 1662/63.

(Lord’s day). Up, and it being a very great frost, I walked to White Hall, and to my Lord Sandwich’s by the fireside till chapel time, and so to chappell, where there preached little Dr. Duport, of Cambridge, upon Josiah’s words, — “But I and my house, we will serve the Lord.” But though a great scholler, he made the most flat dead sermon, both for matter and manner of delivery, that ever I heard, and very long beyond his hour, which made it worse.
Thence with Mr. Creed to the King’s Head ordinary, where we dined well, and after dinner Sir Thomas Willis and another stranger, and Creed and I, fell a-talking; they of the errours and corruption of the Navy, and great expence thereof, not knowing who I was, which at last I did undertake to confute, and disabuse them: and they took it very well, and I hope it was to good purpose, they being Parliament-men. By and by to my Lord’s, and with him a good while talking upon his want of money, and ways of his borrowing some, &c., and then by other visitants, I withdrew and away, Creed and I and Captn. Ferrers to the Park, and there walked finely, seeing people slide, we talking all the while; and Captn. Ferrers telling me, among other Court passages, how about a month ago, at a ball at Court, a child was dropped by one of the ladies in dancing, but nobody knew who, it being taken up by somebody in their handkercher. The next morning all the Ladies of Honour appeared early at Court for their vindication, so that nobody could tell whose this mischance should be. But it seems Mrs. Wells fell sick that afternoon, and hath disappeared ever since, so that it is concluded that it was her.
Another story was how my Lady Castlemaine, a few days since, had Mrs. Stuart to an entertainment, and at night began a frolique that they two must be married, and married they were, with ring and all other ceremonies of church service, and ribbands and a sack posset in bed, and flinging the stocking; but in the close, it is said that my Lady Castlemaine, who was the bridegroom, rose, and the King came and took her place with pretty Mrs. Stuart. This is said to be very true. Another story was how Captain Ferrers and W. Howe both have often, through my Lady Castlemaine’s window, seen her go to bed and Sir Charles Barkeley in the chamber all the while with her. But the other day Captn. Ferrers going to Sir Charles to excuse his not being so timely at his arms the other day, Sir Charles swearing and cursing told him before a great many other gentlemen that he would not suffer any man of the King’s Guards to be absent from his lodging a night without leave. Not but that, says he, once a week or so I know a gentleman must go to his whore, and I am not for denying it to any man, but however he shall be bound to ask leave to lie abroad, and to give account of his absence, that we may know what guard the King has to depend upon.
The little Duke of Monmouth, it seems, is ordered to take place of all Dukes, and so to follow Prince Rupert now, before the Duke of Buckingham, or any else.
Whether the wind and the cold did cause it or no I know not, but having been this day or two mightily troubled with an itching all over my body which I took to be a louse or two that might bite me, I found this afternoon that all my body is inflamed, and my face in a sad redness and swelling and pimpled, so that I was before we had done walking not only sick but ashamed of myself to see myself so changed in my countenance, so that after we had thus talked we parted and I walked home with much ado (Captn. Ferrers with me as far as Ludgate Hill towards Mr. Moore at the Wardrobe), the ways being so full of ice and water by peoples’ trampling. At last got home and to bed presently, and had a very bad night of it, in great pain in my stomach, and in great fever.

in a dead hour they take abuse
for their entertainment

a gentleman must lie
his mouth itching to bite

and the ways so full of people
present a great stomach


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 8 February 1662/63.

Up and to my office, whither by agreement Mr. Coventry came before the time of sitting to confer about preparing an account of the extraordinary charge of the Navy since the King’s coming, more than is properly to be applied and called the Navy charge.
So by and by we sat, and so till noon. Then home to dinner, and in the afternoon some of us met again upon something relating to the victualling, and thence to my writing of letters late, and making my Alphabet to my new Navy book very pretty. And so after writing to my father by the post about the endeavour to come to a composition with my uncle, though a very bad one, desiring him to be contented therewith, I went home to supper and to bed.

office time
is rope

and all the thin letters in my alphabet
pretty it up


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 7 February 1662/63.

Up and to my office about business, examining people what they could swear against Field, and the whole is, that he has called us cheating rogues and cheating knaves, for which we hope to be even with him.
Thence to Lincoln’s Inn Fields; and it being too soon to go to dinner, I walked up and down, and looked upon the outside of the new theatre, now a-building in Covent Garden, which will be very fine. And so to a bookseller’s in the Strand, and there bought Hudibras again, it being certainly some ill humour to be so against that which all the world cries up to be the example of wit; for which I am resolved once again to read him, and see whether I can find it or no. So to Mr. Povy’s, and there found them at dinner, and dined there, there being, among others, Mr. Williamson, Latin Secretary, who, I perceive, is a pretty knowing man and a scholler, but, it may be, thinks himself to be too much so. Thence, after dinner, to the Temple, to my cozen Roger Pepys, where met us my uncle Thomas and his son; and, after many high demands, we at last came to a kind of agreement upon very hard terms, which are to be prepared in writing against Tuesday next. But by the way promising them to pay my cozen Mary’s legacys at the time of her marriage, they afterwards told me that she was already married, and married very well, so that I must be forced to pay it in some time.
My cozen Roger was so sensible of our coming to agreement that he could not forbear weeping, and, indeed, though it is very hard, yet I am glad to my heart that we are like to end our trouble. So we parted for to-night.
And I to my Lord Sandwich and there staid, there being a Committee to sit upon the contract for the Mole, which I dare say none of us that were there understood, but yet they agreed of things as Mr. Cholmely and Sir J. Lawson demanded, who are the undertakers, and so I left them to go on to agree, for I understood it not.
So home, and being called by a coachman who had a fare in him, he carried me beyond the Old Exchange, and there set down his fare, who would not pay him what was his due, because he carried a stranger with him, and so after wrangling he was fain to be content with 6d., and being vexed the coachman would not carry me home a great while, but set me down there for the other 6d., but with fair words he was willing to it, and so I came home and to my office, setting business in order, and so to supper and to bed, my mind being in disorder as to the greatness of this day’s business that I have done, but yet glad that my trouble therein is like to be over.

what cheating rogues we are
already married to time

hard heart like a contract
none of us understood but the undertaker

who would not be content
with fair words


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 6 February 1662/63.

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and then home to dinner, and found it so well done, above what I did expect from my mayde Susan, now Jane is gone, that I did call her in and give her sixpence. Thence walked to the Temple, and there at my cozen Roger Pepys’s chamber met by appointment with my uncle Thomas and his son Thomas, and there I shewing them a true state of my uncle’s estate as he has left it with the debts, &c., lying upon it, we did come to some quiett talk and fair offers against an agreement on both sides, though I do offer quite to the losing of the profit of the whole estate for 8 or 10 years together, yet if we can gain peace, and set my mind at a little liberty, I shall be glad of it. I did give them a copy of this state, and we are to meet tomorrow with their answer.
So walked home, it being a very great frost still, and to my office, there late writing letters of office business, and so home to supper and to bed.

the morning is gone
it has left me some quiet
and a little frost


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 5 February 1662/63, and prompted by Luisa A. Igloria’s “Bequest.”

Up early and to Mr. Moore, and thence to Mr. Lovell about my law business, and from him to Paul’s School, it being Apposition-day there. I heard some of their speeches, and they were just as schoolboys’ used to be, of the seven liberal sciences; but I think not so good as ours were in our time. Away thence and to Bow Church, to the Court of Arches, where a judge sits, and his proctors about him in their habits, and their pleadings all in Latin. Here I was sworn to give a true answer to my uncle’s libells, and so paid my fee for swearing, and back again to Paul’s School, and went up to see the head forms posed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but I think they did not answer in any so well as we did, only in geography they did pretty well: Dr. Wilkins and Outram were examiners. So down to the school, where Dr. Crumlum did me much honour by telling many what a present I had made to the school, shewing my Stephanus, in four volumes, cost me 4l. 10s. He also shewed us, upon my desire, an old edition of the grammar of Colett’s, where his epistle to the children is very pretty; and in rehearsing the creed it is said “borne of the cleane Virgin Mary.” Thence with Mr. Elborough (he being all of my old acquaintance that I could meet with here) to a cook’s shop to dinner, but I found him a fool, as he ever was, or worse. Thence to my cozen Roger Pepys and Mr. Phillips about my law businesses, which stand very bad, and so home to the office, where after doing some business I went home, where I found our new mayde Mary, that is come in Jane’s place.

school used to be a time of lead

I was sworn to answer present

the grammar of children is an old shop
found in a new place


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 4 February 1662/63.

To the office all the morning, at noon to dinner, where Mr. Creed dined with me, and Mr. Ashwell, with whom after dinner I discoursed concerning his daughter coming to live with us. I find that his daughter will be very fit, I think, as any for our turn, but the conditions I know not what they will be, he leaving it wholly to her, which will be agreed on a while hence when my wife sees her. After an hour’s discourse after dinner with them, I to my office again, and there about business of the office till late, and then home to supper and to bed.

to dine well is to live

I will be fit as an urn


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 3 February 1662/63

Up, and after paying Jane her wages, I went away, because I could hardly forbear weeping, and she cried, saying it was not her fault that she went away, and indeed it is hard to say what it is, but only her not desiring to stay that she do now go.
By coach with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten to the Duke; and after discourse as usual with him in his closett, I went to my Lord’s: the King and Duke being gone to chappell, it being collar-day, it being Candlemas-day; where I staid with him a while until towards noon, there being Jonas Moore talking about some mathematical businesses, and thence I walked at noon to Mr. Povey’s, where Mr. Gawden met me, and after a neat and plenteous dinner as is usual, we fell to our victualling business, till Mr. Gawden and I did almost fall out, he defending himself in the readiness of his provision, when I know that the ships everywhere stay for them.
Thence Mr. Povey and I walked to White Hall, it being a great frost still, and after a turn in the Park seeing them slide, we met at the Committee for Tangier, a good full Committee, and agreed how to proceed in the dispatching of my Lord Rutherford, and treating about this business of Mr. Cholmely and Sir J. Lawson’s proposal for the Mole.
Thence with Mr. Coventry down to his chamber, where among other discourse he did tell me how he did make it not only his desire, but as his greatest pleasure, to make himself an interest by doing business truly and justly, though he thwarts others greater than himself, not striving to make himself friends by addresses; and by this he thinks and observes he do live as contentedly (now he finds himself secured from fear of want), and, take one time with another, as void of fear or cares, or more, than they that (as his own termes were) have quicker pleasures and sharper agonies than he.
Thence walking with Mr. Creed homewards we turned into a house and drank a cup of Cock ale and so parted, and I to the Temple, where at my cozen Roger’s chamber I met Madam Turner, and after a little stay led her home and there left her, she and her daughter having been at the play to-day at the Temple, it being a revelling time with them.
Thence called at my brother’s, who is at church, at the buriall of young Cumberland, a lusty young man.
So home and there found Jane gone, for which my wife and I are very much troubled, and myself could hardly forbear shedding tears for fear the poor wench should come to any ill condition after her being so long with me.
So to my office and setting papers to rights, and then home to supper and to bed. This day at my Lord’s I sent for Mr. Ashwell, and his wife came to me, and by discourse I perceive their daughter is very fit for my turn if my family may be as much for hers, but I doubt it will be to her loss to come to me for so small wages, but that will be considered of.

in some mathematical vision
we proceed by striving to find a void

quick pleasures and sharp agonies
turn into art after a time

who at the burial of lust
could forbear being ash


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 2 February 1662/63

(Lord’s day). Up and to church, where Mr. Mills, a good sermon, and so home and had a good dinner with my wife, with which I was pleased to see it neatly done, and this troubled me to think of parting with Jane, that is come to be a very good cook. After dinner walked to my Lord Sandwich, and staid with him in the chamber talking almost all the afternoon, he being not yet got abroad since his sickness. Many discourses we had; but, among others, how Sir R. Bernard is turned out of his Recordership of Huntingdon by the Commissioners for Regulation, &c., at which I am troubled, because he, thinking it is done by my Lord Sandwich, will act some of his revenge, it is likely, upon me in my business, so that I must cast about me to get some other counsel to rely upon.
In the evening came Mr. Povey and others to see my Lord, and they gone, my Lord and I and Povey fell to the business of Tangier, as to the victualling, and so broke up, and I, it being a fine frost, my boy lighting me I walked home, and after supper up to prayers, and then alone with my wife and Jane did fall to tell her what I did expect would become of her since, after so long being my servant, she had carried herself so as to make us be willing to put her away, and desired God to bless [her], but bid her never to let me hear what became of her, for that I could never pardon ingratitude. So I to bed, my mind much troubled for the poor girl that she leaves us, and yet she not submitting herself, for some words she spoke boldly and yet I believe innocently and out of familiarity to her mistress about us weeks ago, I could not recall my words that she should stay with me. This day Creed and I walking in White Hall garden did see the King coming privately from my Lady Castlemaine’s; which is a poor thing for a Prince to do; and I expressed my sense of it to Creed in terms which I should not have done, but that I believe he is trusty in that point.

how like a fine frost
my prayers fall on her ear

what ingratitude
the poor words of a liar

words that should stay private
expressed in rust


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 February 1662/63