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 to the Painter’s about my little picture. Thence to Tom’s about business, and so to the pewterer’s, to buy a poore’s-box to put my forfeits in, upon breach of my late vows. So to the Wardrobe and dined, and thence home and to my office, and there sat looking over my papers of my voyage, when we fetched over the King, and tore so many of these that were worth nothing, as filled my closet as high as my knees. I staid doing this till 10 at night, and so home and to bed.

The little box of war in the office,
my paper voyage…
nothing filled my closet
as high as night.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 5 March 1661/62.

All the morning at home about business with my brother Tom, and then with Mr. Moore, and then I set to make some strict rules for my future practice in my expenses, which I did bind myself in the presence of God by oath to observe upon penalty therein set down, and I do not doubt but hereafter to give a good account of my time and to grow rich, for I do find a great deal more of content in these few days, that I do spend well about my business, than in all the pleasure of a whole week, besides the trouble which I remember I always have after that for the expense of my money.
Dined at home, and then up to my chamber again about business, and so to the office about despatching of the East India ships, where we staid till 8 at night, and then after I had been at Sir W. Pen’s awhile discoursing with him and Mr. Kenard the joiner about the new building in his house, I went home, where I found a vessel of oysters sent me from Chatham, so I fell to eat some and then to supper, and so after the barber had done to bed.
I am told that this day the Parliament hath voted 2s. per annum for every chimney in England, as a constant revenue for ever to the Crown.

I make a god I do not doubt
to give me all
the pleasure of a whole
trouble.
I remember ships at night
and oysters sent to bed that day
for every forever
to own.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 3 March 1661/62.

(Lord’s day). With my mind much eased talking long in bed with my wife about our frugall life for the time to come, proposing to her what I could and would do if I were worth 2,000l., that is, be a knight, and keep my coach, which pleased her, and so I do hope we shall hereafter live to save something, for I am resolved to keep myself by rules from expenses.
To church in the morning: none in the pew but myself. So home to dinner, and after dinner came Sir William and talked with me till church time, and then to church, where at our going out I was at a loss by Sir W. Pen’s putting me upon it whether to take my wife or Mrs. Martha (who alone was there), and I began to take my wife, but he jogged me, and so I took Martha, and led her down before him and my wife. So set her at home, and Sir William and my wife and I to walk in the garden, and anon hearing that Sir G. Carteret had sent to see whether we were at home or no, Sir William and I went to his house, where we waited a good while, they being at prayers, and by and by we went up to him; there the business was about hastening the East India ships, about which we are to meet to-morrow in the afternoon.
So home to my house, and Sir William supped with me, and so to bed.

Talking in bed
about our frugal life.

What I would do
if I were a knight:
keep hope
we live to save
something from time,
go out alone to the garden
and see East India—
which we are to meet
tomorrow
in bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 2 March 1661/62.

This morning I paid Sir W. Batten 40l., which I have owed him this half year, having borrowed it of him.
Then to the office all the morning, so dined at home, and after dinner comes my uncle Thomas, with whom I had some high words of difference, but ended quietly, though I fear I shall do no good by fair means upon him.
Thence my wife and I by coach, first to see my little picture that is a drawing, and thence to the Opera, and there saw “Romeo and Juliet,” the first time it was ever acted; but it is a play of itself the worst that ever I heard in my life, and the worst acted that ever I saw these people do, and I am resolved to go no more to see the first time of acting, for they were all of them out more or less. Thence home, and after supper and wrote by the post, I settled to what I had long intended, to cast up my accounts with myself, and after much pains to do it and great fear, I do find that I am 500l. in money beforehand in the world, which I was afraid I was not, but I find that I had spent above 250l. this last half year, which troubles me much, but by God’s blessing I am resolved to take up, having furnished myself with all things for a great while, and to-morrow to think upon some rules and obligations upon myself to walk by.
So with my mind eased of a great deal of trouble, though with no great content to find myself above 100l. worse now than I was half a year ago, I went to bed.

I have borrowed some quiet—
the first in my life—and am
resolved to go. I settle
my accounts with myself
and fear in hand,
furnish my mind with a tent.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 1 March 1661/62, in response to an article from the New York Times.

This morning came Mr. Berkenshaw to me and in our discourse I, finding that he cries up his rules for most perfect (though I do grant them to be very good, and the best I believe that ever yet were made), and that I could not persuade him to grant wherein they were somewhat lame, we fell to angry words, so that in a pet he flung out of my chamber and I never stopped him, having intended to put him off today, whether this had happened or no, because I think I have all the rules that he hath to give. And so there remains not the practice now to do me good, and it is not for me to continue with him at 5l. per month.
So I settled to put all his rules in fair order in a book, which was my work all the morning till dinner. After dinner to the office till late at night, and so home to write by the post, and so to bed.

I find cries
where they were words:
in a lung.
I give the remains to a book,
work all night.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 27 February 1661/62.

All the morning at the office. At noon with Mr. Moore to the Coffee-house, where among other things the great talk was of the effects of this late great wind; and I heard one say that he had five great trees standing together blown down; and, beginning to lop them, one of them, as soon as the lops were cut off, did, by the weight of the root, rise again and fasten. We have letters from the forest of Deane, that above 1000 Oakes and as many beeches are blown down in one walk there. And letters from my father tell me of 20l. hurt done to us at Brampton.
This day in the news-book I find that my Lord Buckhurst and his fellows have printed their case as they did give it in upon examination to a justice of Peace, wherein they make themselves a very good tale that they were in pursuit of thieves, and that they took this man for one of them, and so killed him; and that he himself confessed it was the first time of his robbing; and that he did pay dearly for it, for he was a dead man. But I doubt things will be proved otherwise, as they say.
Home to dinner, and by and by comes Mr. Hunt and his wife to see us and staid a good, while with us. Then parted, and I to my study in the office. The first time since the alteracon that I have begun to do business myself there, and I think I shall be well pleased with it.
At night home to supper and to bed.

In the coffee house,
talk is a great wind.
Trees blow down
and we have letters from the forest.
A thousand oaks walk to Brampton
in the news:
they make a good tale, thieves
that rob us of time.


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 25 February 1661/62.