Pepys Diary erasure project

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

In bed till 12 o’clock. This morning came several maids to my wife to be hired, and at last she pitched upon one Nell, whose mother, an old woman, came along with her, but would not be hired under half a year, which I am pleased at their drollness. This day dined by appointment with me, Dr. Thos. Pepys and my Coz: Snow, and my brother Tom, upon a fin of ling and some sounds, neither of which did I ever know before, but most excellent meat they are both, that in all my life I never eat the like fish. So after dinner came in W. Joyce and eat and drank and were merry. So up to my chamber, and put all my papers, at rights, and in the evening our maid Mary (who was with us upon trial for a month) did take leave of us, going as we suppose to be married, for the maid liked us and we her, but all she said was that she had a mind to live in a tradesman’s house where there was but one maid. So to supper and to bed.

In the old snow, a fin,
a life-like fish.
I am my papers, like a house
where there was but
one supper.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 16 October 1661.

This morning I ventured by water abroad to Westminster, but lost my labour, for Mr. Montagu was not in town. So to the Wardrobe, and there dined with my Lady, which is the first time I have seen her dine abroad since her being brought to bed of my Lady Katherine. In the afternoon Captain Ferrers and I walked abroad to several places, among others to Mr. Pim’s, my Lord’s Taylour’s, and there he went out with us to the Fountain tavern and did give us store of wine, and it being the Duke of York’s birthday, we drank the more to his health. But, Lord! what a sad story he makes of his being abused by a Dr. of Physique who is in one part of the tenement wherein he dwells. It would make one laugh, though I see he is under a great trouble in it. Thence home by link and found a good answer from my father that Sir R. Bernard do clear all things as to us and our title to Brampton, which puts my heart in great ease and quiet.

I lost my labor to the war,
my time to bed, my place
to a store of wine.
What a sad story!
I make one good thing:
a great quiet.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 14 October 1661.

(Lord’s day). Did not stir out all day, but rose and dined below, and this day left off half skirts and put on a wastecoate, and my false taby wastecoate with gold lace; and in the evening there came Sir W. Batten to see me, and sat and supped very kindly with me, and so to prayers and to bed.

No stir out of half skirts
and false lace—
an evening bat.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 13 October 1661.

In bed the greatest part of this day also, and my swelling in some measure gone. I received a letter this day from my father, that Sir R. Bernard do a little fear that my uncle has not observed exactly the custom of Brampton in his will about his lands there, which puts me to a great trouble in mind, and at night wrote to him and to my father about it, being much troubled at it.

In bed, swelling,
I measure a little fear,
observe exactly
the custom of
the mind at night.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 12 October 1661.

At the office all the morning; dined at home, and after dinner Sir W. Pen and my wife and I to the Theatre (she first going into Covent Garden to speak a word with a woman to enquire of her mother, and I in the meantime with Sir W. Pen’s coach staying at W. Joyce’s), where the King came to-day, and there was “The Traytor” most admirably acted; and a most excellent play it is. So home, and intended to be merry, it being my sixth wedding night; but by a late bruise in one of my testicles. I am in so much pain that I eat my supper and in pain to bed, yet my wife and I pretty merry.

After dinner to the garden
to speak a word
into the night.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 10 October 1661.

This morning went out about my affairs, among others to put my Theorbo out to be mended, and then at noon home again, thinking to go with Sir Williams both to dinner by invitation to Sir W. Rider’s, but at home I found Mrs. Pierce, la belle, and Madam Clifford, with whom I was forced to stay, and made them the most welcome I could; and I was (God knows) very well pleased with their beautiful company, and after dinner took them to the Theatre, and shewed them “The Chances;” and so saw them both at home and back to the Fleece tavern, in Covent Garden, where Luellin and Blurton, and my old friend Frank Bagge, was to meet me, and there staid till late very merry. Frank Bagge tells me a story of Mrs. Pepys that lived with my Lady Harvy, Mr. Montagu’s sister, a good woman; that she had been very ill, and often asked for me; that she is in good condition, and that nobody could get her to make her will; but that she did still enquire for me, and that now she is well she desires to have a chamber at my house. Now I do not know whether this is a trick of Bagge’s, or a good will of hers to do something for me; but I will not trust her, but told him I should be glad to see her, and that I would be sure to do all that I could to provide a place for her. So by coach home late.

I went among others
to be mended. But
their beautiful company

showed me an old bag—
my ill condition. Nobody
could make me desire to be.

I do not know
the trick of trust.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 9 October 1661.

At the office all the morning. After office done, went and eat some Colchester oysters with Sir W. Batten at his house, and there, with some company; dined and staid there talking all the afternoon; and late after dinner took Mrs. Martha out by coach, and carried her to the Theatre in a frolique, to my great expense, and there shewed her part of the “Beggar’s Bush,without much pleasure, but only for a frolique, and so home again.

We eat late, after
the heat in my
part of the bush,
with pleasure for
a home.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 8 October 1661.

Up in the morning and to my uncle Fenner’s, thinking to have met Peg Kite about her business but she comes not, so I went to Dr. Williams, where I found him sick in bed and was sorry for it. So about business all day, troubled in my mind till I can hear from Brampton, how things go on at Sturtlow, at the Court, which I was cleared in at night by a letter, which tells me that my cozen Tom was there to be admitted, in his father’s name, as heir-at-law, but that he was opposed, and I was admitted by proxy, which put me out of great trouble of mind.

My thinking, sick
and sorry all day,
cleared at night.

Tell me my name
and put me
out of mind.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 7 October 1661.

(Lord’s day). To church in the morning; Mr. Mills preached, who, I expect, should take in snuffe that my wife not come to his child’s christening the other day. The winter coming on, many of parish ladies are come home and appear at church again; among others, the three sisters the Thornbury’s, a very fine, and the most zealous people that ever I saw in my life, even to admiration, if it were true zeal. There was also my pretty black girl, Mrs. Dekins, and Mrs. Margaret Pen, this day come to church in a new flowered satin suit that my wife helped to buy her the other day.
So home to dinner, and to church in the afternoon to St. Gregory’s, by Paul’s, where I saw Mr. Moore in the gallery and went up to him and heard a good sermon of Dr. Buck’s, one I never heard before, a very able man. So home, and in the evening I went to my Valentine, her father and mother being out of town, to fetch her to supper to my house, and then came Sir W. Pen and would have her to his, so with much sport I got them all to mine, and we were merry, and so broke up and to bed.

I preach the winter
coming on, the thorn in life.
A black flower went to
my Valentine—
we were merry and broke.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 6 October 1661.