Pepys Diary erasure project

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

Sir W. Pen and I by coach to St. James’s, and there to the Duke’s Chamber, who had been a-hunting this morning and is come back again. Thence to Westminster, where I met Mr. Moore, and hear that Mr. Watkins is suddenly dead since my going. To dinner to my Lady Sandwich, and Sir Thomas Crew’s children coming thither, I took them and all my Ladys to the Tower and showed them the lions and all that was to be shown, and so took them to my house, and there made much of them, and so saw them back to my Lady’s. Sir Thomas Crew’s children being as pretty and the best behaved that ever I saw of their age.
Thence, at the goldsmith’s, took my picture in little, which is now done, home with me, and pleases me exceedingly and my wife. So to supper and to bed, it being exceeding hot.

I am he who had
been hunting and
is come back dead
to all I own,
to my house made
of children and gold,
to my picture
which is now
done with me.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 3 May 1662.

Early to coach again and to Kingston, where we baited a little, and presently to coach again and got early to London, and I found all well at home, and Mr. Hunt and his wife had dined with my wife to-day, and been very kind to my wife in my absence. After I had washed myself, it having been the hottest day that has been this year, I took them all by coach to Mrs. Hunt’s, and I to Dr. Clerke’s lady, and gave her her letter and token. She is a very fine woman, and what with her person and the number of fine ladies that were with her, I was much out of countenance, and could hardly carry myself like a man among them; but however, I staid till my courage was up again, and talked to them, and viewed her house, which is most pleasant, and so drank and good-night. And so to my Lord’s lodgings, where by chance I spied my Lady’s coach, and found her and my Lady Wright there, and so I spoke to them, and they being gone went to Mr. Hunt’s for my wife, and so home and to bed.

Lit again.
If my absence were
with her
I could carry my age.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 2 May 1662.

This morning Sir G. Carteret came down to the yard, and there we mustered over all the men and determined of some regulations in the yard, and then to dinner, all the officers of the yard with us, and after dinner walk to Portsmouth, there to pay off the Success, which we did pretty early, and so I took leave of Sir W. Pen, he desiring to know whither I went, but I would not tell him. I went to the ladies, and there took them and walked to the Mayor’s to show them the present, and then to the Dock, where Mr. Tippets made much of them, and thence back again, the Doctor being come to us to their lodgings, whither came our supper by my appointment, and we very merry, playing at cards and laughing very merry till 12 o’clock at night, and so having staid so long (which we had resolved to stay till they bade us be gone), which yet they did not do but by consent, we bade them good night, and so past the guards, and went to the Doctor’s lodgings, and there lay with him, our discourse being much about the quality of the lady with Mrs. Pierce, she being somewhat old and handsome, and painted and fine, and had a very handsome maid with her, which we take to be the marks of a bawd. But Mrs. Pierce says she is a stranger to her and met by chance in the coach, and pretends to be a dresser. Her name is Eastwood. So to sleep in a bad bed about one o’clock in the morning.
This afternoon after dinner comes Mr. Stephenson, one of the burgesses of the town, to tell me that the Mayor and burgesses did desire my acceptance of a burgess-ship, and were ready at the Mayor’s to make me one. So I went, and there they were all ready, and did with much civility give me my oath, and after the oath, did by custom shake me all by the hand. So I took them to a tavern and made them drink, and paying the reckoning, went away. They having first in the tavern made Mr. Waith also a burgess, he coming in while we were drinking. It cost me a piece in gold to the Town Clerk, and 10s. to the Bayliffes, and spent 6s.

Morning came
to the yard but not
to the doctor, night
having stayed to guard
the doctor’s lodgings:
an old, painted dresser,
a bad bed, a clock
ready to shake.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 April 1662.

At the pay all the morning, and so to dinner; and then to it again in the afternoon, and after our work was done, Sir G. Carteret, Sir W. Pen and I walked forth, and I spied Mrs. Pierce and another lady passing by. So I left them and went to the ladies, and walked with them up and down, and took them to Mrs. Stephens, and there gave them wine and sweetmeats, and were very merry; and then comes the Doctor, and we carried them by coach to their lodging, which was very poor, but the best they could get, and such as made much mirth among us. So I appointed one to watch when the gates of the town were ready to be shut, and to give us notice; and so the Doctor and I staid with them playing and laughing, and at last were forced to bid good night for fear of being locked into the town all night. So we walked to the yard, designing how to prevent our going to London tomorrow, that we might be merry with these ladies, which I did. So to supper and merrily to bed.

Our work was art,
we gave meat to the poor

but the best gates of the town shut
for fear of the town—

a design to prevent tomorrow,
that we might err.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 29 April 1662.

The Doctor and I begun philosophy discourse exceeding pleasant. He offers to bring me into the college of virtuosoes and my Lord Brouncker’s acquaintance, and to show me some anatomy, which makes me very glad; and I shall endeavour it when I come to London. Sir W. Pen much troubled upon letters came last night. Showed me one of Dr. Owen’s to his son, whereby it appears his son is much perverted in his opinion by him; which I now perceive is one thing that hath put Sir William so long off the hooks. By coach to the Pay-house, and so to work again, and then to dinner, and to it again, and so in the evening to the yard, and supper and bed.

The gun, a virtuoso in anatomy,
makes an end to much
bled-upon letters

as night appears
in one thin hook.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 28 April 1662.

(Sunday). Sir W. Pen got trimmed before me, and so took the coach to Portsmouth to wait on my Lord Steward to church, and sent the coach for me back again. So I rode to church, and met my Lord Chamberlain upon the walls of the garrison, who owned and spoke to me. I followed him in the crowd of gallants through the Queen’s lodgings to chappell; the rooms being all rarely furnished, and escaped hardly being set on fire yesterday. At chappell we had a most excellent and eloquent sermon. And here I spoke and saluted Mrs. Pierce, but being in haste could not learn of her where her lodgings are, which vexes me. Thence took Ned Pickering to dinner with us, and the two Marshes, father and Son, dined with us, and very merry. After dinner Sir W. Batten and I, the Doctor, and Ned Pickering by coach to the Yard, and there on board the Swallow in the dock hear our navy chaplain preach a sad sermon, full of nonsense and false Latin; but prayed for the Right Honourable the principal officers. After sermon took him to Mr. Tippets’s to drink a glass of wine, and so at 4 back again by coach to Portsmouth, and then visited the Mayor, Mr. Timbrell, our anchor-smith, who showed us the present they have for the Queen; which is a salt-sellar of silver, the walls christall, with four eagles and four greyhounds standing up at the top to bear up a dish; which indeed is one of the neatest pieces of plate that ever I saw, and the case is very pretty also.
This evening came a merchantman in the harbour, which we hired at London to carry horses to Portugall; but, Lord! what running there was to the seaside to hear what news, thinking it had come from the Queen. In the evening Sir George, Sir W. Pen and I walked round the walls, and thence we two with the Doctor to the yard, and so to supper and to bed.

Before the mouth,
who owned me?

We set fire to the marsh
and to the swallow,

full of false Latin.
Our anchor is a salt-cellar.

At evening in the harbor,
horses run to the sea.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 27April 1662.

Sir George and I, and his clerk Mr. Stephens, and Mr. Holt our guide, over to Gosport; and so rode to Southampton. In our way, besides my Lord Southampton’s parks and lands, which in one view we could see 6,000l. per annum, we observed a little church-yard, where the graves are accustomed to be all sowed with sage. At Southampton we went to the Mayor’s and there dined, and had sturgeon of their own catching the last week, which do not happen in twenty years, and it was well ordered. They brought us also some caveare, which I attempted to order, but all to no purpose, for they had neither given it salt enough, nor are the seedes of the roe broke, but are all in berryes. The towne is one most gallant street, and is walled round with stone, &c., and Bevis’s picture upon one of the gates; many old walls of religious houses, and the key, well worth seeing. After dinner to horse again, being in nothing troubled but the badness of my hat, which I borrowed to save my beaver. Home by night and wrote letters to London, and so with Sir W. Pen to the Dock to bed.

A little churchyard:
graves tempt
with stone and gates,
old walls
and seeing nothing.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 26 April 1662.

All the morning at Portsmouth, at the Pay, and then to dinner, and again to the Pay; and at night got the Doctor to go lie with me, and much pleased with his company; but I was much troubled in my eyes, by reason of the healths I have this day been forced to drink.

The morning a mouth
and night the doctor
to lie with me,
ease my eyes,
heal this day.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 25 April 1662.

Up and to Sir G. Carteret’s lodgings at Mrs. Stephens’s, where we keep our table all the time we are here. Thence all of us to the Pay-house; but the books not being ready, we went to church to the lecture, where there was my Lord Ormond and Manchester, and much London company, though not so much as I expected. Here we had a very good sermon upon this text: “In love serving one another;” which pleased me very well. No news of the Queen at all. So to dinner; and then to the Pay all the afternoon. Then W. Pen and I walked to the King’s Yard, and there lay at Mr. Tippets’s, where exceeding well treated.

Where we keep time,
we are not ready.

Where we love, we exceed,
we eat…


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 24 April 1662.