Pepys Diary erasure project

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

At home all the morning setting papers in order. At noon to the Exchange, and there met with Dr. Williams by appointment, and with him went up and down to look for an attorney, a friend of his, to advise with about our bond of my aunt Pepys of 200l., and he tells me absolutely that we shall not be forced to pay interest for the money yet. I do doubt it very much. I spent the whole afternoon drinking with him and so home. This day I counterfeited a letter to Sir W. Pen, as from the thief that stole his tankard lately, only to abuse and laugh at him.

In exchange for an absolute,
we pay interest on doubt.
I ink a letter to the thief
that stole a laugh.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 28 August 1661.

This morning to the Wardrobe, and there took leave of my Lord Hinchingbroke and his brother, and saw them go out by coach toward Rye in their way to France, whom God bless. Then I was called up to my Lady’s bedside, where we talked an hour about Mr. Edward Montagu’s disposing of the 5000l. for my Lord’s departure for Portugal, and our fears that he will not do it to my Lord’s honour, and less to his profit, which I am to enquire a little after.
Hence to the office, and there sat till noon, and then my wife and I by coach to my cozen, Thos. Pepys, the Executor, to dinner, where some ladies and my father and mother, where very merry, but methinks he makes but poor dinners for such guests, though there was a poor venison pasty.
Hence my wife and I to the Theatre, and there saw “The Joviall Crew,” where the King, Duke and Duchess, and Madame Palmer, were; and my wife, to her great content, had a full sight of them all the while. The play full of mirth. Hence to my father’s, and there staid to talk a while and so by foot home by moonshine.
In my way and at home, my wife making a sad story to me of her brother Balty’s condition, and would have me to do something for him, which I shall endeavour to do, but am afeard to meddle therein for fear I shall not be able to wipe my hands of him again, when I once concern myself for him. I went to bed, my wife all the while telling me his case with tears, which troubled me.

This is
the way
to my lady’s bed:
a pasty full
of fat, the moon
in my hands.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 August 1661.

This morning before I went out I made even with my maid Jane, who has this day been my maid three years, and is this day to go into the country to her mother. The poor girl cried, and I could hardly forbear weeping to think of her going, for though she be grown lazy and spoilt by Pall’s coming, yet I shall never have one to please us better in all things, and so harmless, while I live. So I paid her her wages and gave her 2s. 6d. over, and bade her adieu, with my mind full of trouble at her going.
Hence to my father, where he and I and Thomas together setting things even, and casting up my father’s accounts, and upon the whole I find that all he hath in money of his own due to him in the world is but 45l., and he owes about the same sum: so that I cannot but think in what a condition he had left my mother if he should have died before my uncle Robert. Hence to Tom Trice for the probate of the will and had it done to my mind, which did give my father and me good content.
From thence to my Lady at the Wardrobe and thence to the Theatre, and saw the “Antipodes,” wherein there is much mirth, but no great matter else. Hence with Mr. Bostock whom I met there (a clerk formerly of Mr. Phelps) to the Devil tavern, and there drank and so away. I to my uncle Fenner’s, where my father was with him at an alehouse, and so we three went by ourselves and sat talking a great while about a broker’s daughter that he do propose for a wife for Tom, with a great portion, but I fear it will not take, but he will do what he can. So we broke up, and going through the street we met with a mother and son, friends of my father’s man, Ned’s, who are angry at my father’s putting him away, which troubled me and my father, but all will be well as to that.
We have news this morning of my uncle Thomas and his son Thomas being gone into the country without giving notice thereof to anybody, which puts us to a stand, but I fear them not.
At night at home I found a letter from my Lord Sandwich, who is now very well again of his feaver, but not yet gone from Alicante, where he lay sick, and was twice let blood. This letter dated the 22nd July last, which puts me out of doubt of his being ill. In my coming home I called in at the Crane tavern at the Stocks by appointment, and there met and took leave of Mr. Fanshaw, who goes to-morrow and Captain Isham toward their voyage to Portugal. Here we drank a great deal of wine, I too much and Mr. Fanshaw till he could hardly go. So we took leave one of another.

The poor
shall never please us,
even in war.
The devil, our broker,
broke in the street, angry
at all the blood
we drank.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 26 August 1661.

(Lord’s day). At church in the morning, and dined at home alone with my wife very comfortably, and so again to church with her, and had a very good and pungent sermon of Mr. Mills, discoursing the necessity of restitution.
Home, and I found my Lady Batten and her daughter to look something askew upon my wife, because my wife do not buckle to them, and is not solicitous for their acquaintance, which I am not troubled at at all.
By and by comes in my father (he intends to go into the country to-morrow), and he and I among other discourse at last called Pall up to us, and there in great anger told her before my father that I would keep her no longer, and my father he said he would have nothing to do with her. At last, after we had brought down her high spirit, I got my father to yield that she should go into the country with my mother and him, and stay there awhile to see how she will demean herself. That being done, my father and I to my uncle Wight’s, and there supped, and he took his leave of them, and so I walked with [him] as far as Paul’s and there parted, and I home, my mind at some rest upon this making an end with Pall, who do trouble me exceedingly.

Alone with
my comfort,
a pungent necessity:
to look askew,
to call up an anger spirit,
to yield to the mother
of all trouble.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 August 1661.

At the office all the morning and did business; by and by we are called to Sir W. Batten’s to see the strange creature that Captain Holmes hath brought with him from Guiny; it is a great baboon, but so much like a man in most things, that though they say there is a species of them, yet I cannot believe but that it is a monster got of a man and she-baboon. I do believe that it already understands much English, and I am of the mind it might be taught to speak or make signs.
Hence the Comptroller and I to Sir Rd. Ford’s and viewed the house again, and are come to a complete end with him to give him 200l. per an. for it.
Home and there met Capt. Isham inquiring for me to take his leave of me, he being upon his voyage to Portugal, and for my letters to my Lord which are not ready. But I took him to the Mitre and gave him a glass of sack, and so adieu, and then straight to the Opera, and there saw “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” done with scenes very well, but above all, Betterton did the prince’s part beyond imagination.
Hence homeward, and met with Mr. Spong and took him to the Sampson in Paul’s churchyard, and there staid till late, and it rained hard, so we were fain to get home wet, and so to bed.

We are called
to see yet
cannot believe.
A baboon might
be taught to speak
in a glass church.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 August 1661.

This morning I went to my father’s, and there found him and my mother in a discontent, which troubles me much, and indeed she is become very simple and unquiet. Hence he and I to Dr. Williams, and found him within, and there we sat and talked a good while, and from him to Tom Trice’s to an alehouse near, and there sat and talked, and finding him fair we examined my uncle’s will before him and Dr. Williams, and had them sign the copy and so did give T. Trice the original to prove, so he took my father and me to one of the judges of the Court, and there we were sworn, and so back again to the alehouse and drank and parted.
Dr. Williams and I to a cook’s where we eat a bit of mutton, and away, I to W. Joyce’s, where by appointment my wife was, and I took her to the Opera, and shewed her “The Witts,” which I had seen already twice, and was most highly pleased with it.
So with my wife to the Wardrobe to see my Lady, and then home.

In a tent I become
simple and quiet
with rice, unoriginal
and worn as a wit
seen twice.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 August 1661.

To the Privy Seal, and sealed; so home at noon, and there took my wife by coach to my uncle Fenner’s, where there was both at his house and the Sessions, great deal of company, but poor entertainment, which I wonder at; and the house so hot, that my uncle Wight, my father and I were fain to go out, and stay at an alehouse awhile to cool ourselves. Then back again and to church, my father’s family being all in mourning, doing him the greatest honour, the world believing that he did give us it: so to church, and staid out the sermon, and then with my aunt Wight, my wife, and Pall and I to her house by coach, and there staid and supped upon a Westphalia ham, and so home and to bed.

The sea is great company
but poor entertainment.
We go out
all in mourning,
believing it a sermon and a pall.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 22 August 1661.

This morning by appointment I went to my father, and after a morning draft he and I went to Dr. Williams, but he not within we went to Mrs. Terry, a daughter of Mr. Whately’s, who lately offered a proposal of her sister for a wife for my brother Tom, and with her we discoursed about and agreed to go to her mother this afternoon to speak with her, and in the meantime went to Will. Joyce’s and to an alehouse, and drank a good while together, he being very angry that his father Fenner will give him and his brother no more for mourning than their father did give him and my aunt at their mother’s death, and a very troublesome fellow I still find him to be, that his company ever wearys me. From thence about two o’clock to Mrs. Whately’s, but she being going to dinner we went to Whitehall and there staid till past three, and here I understand by Mr. Moore that my Lady Sandwich is brought to bed yesterday of a young Lady, and is very well. So to Mrs. Whately’s again, and there were well received, and she desirous to have the thing go forward, only is afeard that her daughter is too young and portion not big enough, but offers 200l. down with her. The girl is very well favoured, and a very child, but modest, and one I think will do very well for my brother: so parted till she hears from Hatfield from her husband, who is there; but I find them very desirous of it, and so am I. Hence home to my father’s, and I to the Wardrobe, where I supped with the ladies, and hear their mother is well and the young child, and so home.

My fat hat is an angry hat,
a troublesome hat, a weary hat,
a staid hat, a yesterday hat,
a war hat, a Big Brother hat.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 21 August 1661.

At the office all the morning; at noon the children are sent for by their mother my Lady Sandwich to dinner, and my wife goes along with them by coach, and she to my father’s and dines there, and from thence with them to see Mrs. Cordery, who do invite them before my father goes into the country, and thither I should have gone too but that I am sent for to the Privy Seal, and there I found a thing of my Lord Chancellor’s to be sealed this afternoon, and so I am forced to go to Worcester House, where severall Lords are met in Council this afternoon. And while I am waiting there, in comes the King in a plain common riding-suit and velvet cap, in which he seemed a very ordinary man to one that had not known him. Here I staid till at last, hearing that my Lord Privy Seal had not the seal here, Mr. Moore and I hired a coach and went to Chelsy, and there at an alehouse sat and drank and past the time till my Lord Privy Seal came to his house, and so we to him and examined and sealed the thing, and so homewards, but when we came to look for our coach we found it gone, so we were fain to walk home afoot and saved our money.
We met with a companion that walked with us, and coming among some trees near the Neate houses, he began to whistle, which did give us some suspicion, but it proved that he that answered him was Mr. Marsh (the Lutenist) and his wife, and so we all walked to Westminster together, in our way drinking a while at my cost, and had a song of him, but his voice is quite lost.
So walked home, and there I found that my Lady do keep the children at home, and lets them not come any more hither at present, which a little troubles me to lose their company. This day my aunt Fenner dyed.

O mother, O wife,
in the country of Chance I am king
in a velvet cap.
I had a mine and sealed the thing
and save our money in trees,
which cost a song and keep
the children company.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 19 August 1661.