Pepys Diary erasure project

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

…which I did, and by water betimes to the Tower and so home, where I shifted myself, being to dine abroad, and so being also trimmed, which is a thing I have very seldom done of late, I set to my office and then met and sit all the morning, and at noon we all to the Trinity House, where we treated, very dearly, I believe, the officers of the Ordnance; where was Sir W. Compton and the rest and the Lieutenant of the Tower.
We had much and good music, which was my best entertainment. Sir Wm. Compton I heard talk with great pleasure of the difference between the fleet now and in Queen Elisabeth’s days; where, in 88, she had but 36 sail great and small, in the world; and ten rounds of powder was their allowance at that time against the Spaniard. After Sir W. Compton and Mr. Coventry, and some of the best of the rest were gone, I grew weary of staying with Sir Williams both, and the more for that my Lady Batten and her crew, at least half a score, come into the room, and I believe we shall pay size for it; but ‘tis very pleasant to see her in her hair under her hood, and how by little and little she would fain be a gallant; but, Lord! the company she keeps about her are like herself, that she may be known by them what she is. Being quite weary I stole from them and to my office, where I did business till 9 at night, and so to my lodgings to bed.

the road is a thing
I seldom sit on

where I hear the difference
between fleet and gone

weary of staying
to pay for air

how little I would keep
like an office at night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 4 September 1662.

Up betimes, but now the days begin to shorten, and so whereas I used to rise by four o’clock, it is not broad daylight now till after five o’clock, so that it is after five before I do rise. To my office, and about 8 o’clock I went over to Redriffe, and walked to Deptford, where I found Mr. Coventry and Sir W. Pen beginning the pay, it being my desire to be there to-day because it is the first pay that Mr. Coventry has been at, and I would be thought to be as much with Mr. Coventry as I can. Here we staid till noon, and by that time paid off the Breda, and then to dinner at the tavern, where I have obtained that our commons is not so large as they used to be, which I am glad to see. After dinner by water to the office, and there we met and sold the Weymouth, Successe, and Fellowship hulkes, where pleasant to see how backward men are at first to bid; and yet when the candle is going out, how they bawl and dispute afterwards who bid the most first.
And here I observed one man cunninger than the rest that was sure to bid the last man, and to carry it; and inquiring the reason, he told me that just as the flame goes out the smoke descends, which is a thing I never observed before, and by that he do know the instant when to bid last, which is very pretty. In our discourse in the boat Mr. Coventry told us how the Fanatiques and the Presbyters, that did intend to rise about this time, did choose this day as the most auspicious to them in their endeavours against monarchy: it being fatal twice to the King, and the day of Oliver’s death. But, blessed be God! all is likely to be quiet, I hope.
After the sale I walked to my brother’s, in my way meeting with Dr. Fairbrother, of whom I enquired what news in Church matters. He tells me, what I heard confirmed since, that it was fully resolved by the King’s new Council that an indulgence should be granted the Presbyters; but upon the Bishop of London’s speech (who is now one of the most powerful men in England with the King), their minds were wholly turned. And it is said that my Lord Albemarle did oppose him most; but that I do believe is only in appearance. He told me also that most of the Presbyters now begin to wish they had complied, now they see that no Indulgence will be granted them, which they hoped for; and that the Bishop of London hath taken good care that places are supplied with very good and able men, which is the only thing that will keep all quiet.
I took him in the tavern at Puddle dock, but neither he nor I drank any of the wine we called for, but left it, and so after discourse parted, and Mr. Townsend not being at home I went to my brother’s, and there heard how his love matter proceeded, which do not displease me, and so by water to White Hall to my Lord’s lodgings, where he being to go to Hinchingbroke to-morrow morning, I staid and fiddled with Will. Howe some new tunes very pleasant, and then my Lord came in and had much kind talk with him, and then to bed with Mr. Moore there alone. So having taken my leave of my Lord before I went to bed, I resolved to rise early and be gone without more speaking to him

Now the days begin to shorten
and when the candle is going out

the smoke descends
like a mind turned quiet

and we hear love take leave
without speaking…


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 3 September 1662.

Up betimes at my lodging and to my office and among my workmen, and then with Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen by coach to St. James’s, this being the first day of our meeting there by the Duke’s order; but when we come, we found him going out by coach with his Duchess, and he told us he was to go abroad with the Queen to-day (to Durdans, it seems, to dine with my Lord Barkeley, where I have been very merry when I was a little boy); so we went and staid a little at Mr. Coventry’s chamber, and I to my Lord Sandwich’s, who is gone to wait upon the King and Queen today. And so Mr. Paget being there, Will Howe and I and he played over some things of Locke’s that we used to play at sea, that pleased us three well, it being the first music I have heard a great while, so much has my business of late taken me off from all my former delights.
By and by by water home, and there dined alone, and after dinner with my brother Tom’s two men I removed all my goods out of Sir W. Pen’s house into one room that I have with much ado got ready at my house, and so I am to be quit of any further obligation to him. So to my office, but missing my key, which I had in my hand just now, makes me very angry and out of order, it being a thing that I hate in others, and more in myself, to be careless of keys, I thinking another not fit to be trusted that leaves a key behind their hole. One thing more vexes me: my wife writes me from the country that her boy plays the rogue there, and she is weary of him, and complains also of her maid Sarah, of which I am also very sorry.
Being thus out of temper, I could do little at my office, but went home and eat a bit, and so to my lodging to bed.

When I was a boy we used to play
at sea, that first music.
So has business taken me
from all my former delights.

I am quit of any obligation
to my missing key.
My hand writes me from
the country of temper.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 1 September 1662.

(Lord’s day). Waked early, but being in a strange house, did not rise till 7 o’clock almost, and so rose and read over my oaths, and whiled away an hour thinking upon businesses till Will came to get me ready, and so got ready and to my office, and thence to church. After sermon home and dined alone. News is brought me that Sir W. Pen is come. But I would take no notice thereof till after dinner, and then sent him word that I would wait on him, but he is gone to bed. So to my office, and there made my monthly accounts, and find myself worth in money about 686l. 19s. 2½d., for which God be praised.
And indeed greatly I hope to thank Almighty God, who do most manifestly bless me in my endeavours to do the duties of my office, I now saving money, and my expenses being little.
My wife is still in the country; my house all in dirt; but my work in a good forwardness, and will be much to my mind at last.
In the afternoon to church, and there heard a simple sermon of a stranger upon David’s words, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the way of the ungodly,” &c., and the best of his sermon was the degrees of walking, standing, and sitting, showing how by steps and degrees sinners do grow in wickedness.
After sermon to my brother Tom’s, who I found has taken physic to-day, and I talked with him about his country mistress, and read Cook’s letter, wherein I am well satisfied, and will appear in promoting it; so back and to Mr. Rawlinson’s, and there supped with him, and in came my uncle Wight and my aunt. Our discourse of the discontents that are abroad, among, and by reason of the Presbyters. Some were clapped up to-day, and strict watch is kept in the City by the train-bands, and letters of a plot are taken. God preserve us! for all these things bode very ill. So home, and after going to welcome home Sir W. Pen, who was unready, going to bed, I staid with him a little while, and so to my lodging and to bed.

an oath came to get me
but I made myself hope

bless me
in the dirt of a stranger

bless the man I talk with
about his country on the train

preserve us for all
unready going


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 31 August 1662.

Up betimes among my workmen, and so to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon rose and had news that Sir W. Pen would be in town from Ireland, which I much wonder at, he giving so little notice of it, and it troubled me exceedingly what to do for a lodging, and more what to do with my goods, that are all in his house; but at last I resolved to let them lie there till Monday, and so got Griffin to get a lodging as near as he could, which is without a door of our back door upon Tower Hill, a chamber where John Davis, one of our clerks, do lie in, but he do provide himself elsewhere, and I am to have his chamber. So at the office all the afternoon and the evening till past 10 at night expecting Sir W. Pen’s coming, but he not coming to-night I went thither and there lay very well, and like my lodging well enough. My man Will after he had got me to bed did go home and lay there, and my maid Jane lay among my goods at Sir W. Pen’s.

morning news—
I wonder what to do
what to do in a lodging
without a door
where I lie in amber


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 30 August 1662.

Up betimes and among my workmen, where I did stay with them the greatest part of the morning, only a little at the office, and so to dinner alone at home, and so to my workmen again, finding my presence to carry on the work both to my mind and with more haste, and I thank God I am pleased with it.
At night, the workmen being gone, I went to my office, and among other businesses did begin to-night with Mr. Lewes to look into the nature of a purser’s account, and the business of victualling, in which there is great variety; but I find I shall understand it, and be able to do service there also. So being weary and chill, being in some fear of an ague, I went home and to bed.

I eat alone with haste
night and other night

in nature there is great variety
but in fear, a home


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 29 August 1662.

I observe that Will, whom I used to call two or three times in a morning, would now wake of himself and rise without calling. Which though angry I was glad to see. So I rose and among my workmen, in my gown, without a doublet, an hour or two or more, till I was afraid of getting an ague, and so to the office, and there we sat all the morning, and at noon Mr. Coventry and I dined at Sir W. Batten’s, where I have now dined three days together, and so in the afternoon again we sat, which we intend to do two afternoons in a week besides our other sitting.
In the evening we rose, and I to see how my work goes on, and so to my office, writing by the post and doing other matters, and so home and to bed late.

I used to wake without my work
without a double all day
sitting in me


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 28 August 1662.

Up and among my workmen, my work going on still very well. So to my office all the morning, and dined again with Sir W. Batten, his Lady being in the country. Among other stories, he told us of the Mayor of Bristoll’s reading a pass with the bottom upwards; and a barber that could not read, that flung a letter in the kennel when one came to desire him to read the superscription, saying, “Do you think I stand here to read letters?” Among my workmen again, pleasing myself all the afternoon there, and so to the office doing business till past 9 at night, and so home and to bed. This afternoon Mrs. Hunt came to see me, and I did give her a Muske Millon. To-day my hogshead of sherry I have sold to Sir W. Batten, and am glad of my money instead of wine.
After I had wrote this at my office (as I have of late altogether done since my wife has been in the country) I went into my house, and Will having been making up books at Deptford with other clerks all day, I did not think he was come home, but was in fear for him, it being very late, what was become of him. But when I came home I found him there at his ease in his study, which vexed me cruelly, that he should no more mind me, but to let me be all alone at the office waiting for him. Whereupon I struck him, and did stay up till 12 o’clock at night chiding him for it, and did in plain terms tell him that I would not be served so, and that I am resolved to look out some boy that I may have the bringing up of after my own mind, and which I do intend to do, for I do find that he has got a taste of liberty since he came to me that he will not leave. Having discharged my mind, I went to bed.

reading to the hogs
as I have done
my books come to taste
of liberty


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 August 1662.

Up betimes and among my works and workmen, and with great pleasure seeing them go on merrily, and a good many hands, which I perceive makes good riddance, and so to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon dined alone with Sir W. Batten, which I have not done a great while, but his lady being out of the way I was the willinger to do it, and after dinner he and I by water to Deptford, and there found Sir G. Carteret and my Lady at dinner, and so we sat down and eat another dinner of venison with them, and so we went to the payhouse, and there staid till 10 o’clock at night paying off the Martin and Kinsale, being small but troublesome ships to pay, and so in the dark by water home to the Custom House, and so got a lanthorn to light us home, there being Mr. Morrice the wine cooper with us, he having been at Deptford to view some of the King’s casks we have to sell.
So to bed.

in many hands
I perceive a dance
of great use
and small trouble
dark and light
ice
wine


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 26 August 1662.