Pepys Diary erasure project

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

Up and to my office early, and there all the morning alone till dinner, and after dinner to my office again, and about 3 o’clock with my wife by water to Westminster, where I staid in the Hall while my wife went to see her father and mother, and she returning we by water home again, and by and by comes Mr. Cooper, so he and I to our mathematiques, and so supper and to bed.
My morning’s work at the office was to put the new books of my office into order, and writing on the backsides what books they be, and transcribing out of some old books some things into them.

Water into water
comes to be
my morning’s work:
books into books out of books.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 7 July 1662.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed to-day with my wife merry and pleasant, and then rose and settled my accounts with my wife for housekeeping, and do see that my kitchen, besides wine, fire, candle, sope, and many other things, comes to about 30s. a week, or a little over.
To church, where Mr. Mills made a lazy sermon. So home to dinner, where my brother Tom dined with me, and so my wife and I to church again in the afternoon, and that done I walked to the Wardrobe and spent my time with Mr. Creed and Mr. Moore talking about business; so up to supper with my Lady, who tells me, with much trouble, that my Lady Castlemaine is still as great with the King, and that the King comes as often to her as ever he did, at which, God forgive me, I am well pleased.
It began to rain, and so I borrowed a hat and cloak of Mr. Moore and walked home, where I found Captain Ferrer with my wife, and after speaking a matter of an hour with him he went home and we all to bed.
Jack Cole, my old friend, found me out at the Wardrobe; and, among other things, he told me that certainly most of the chief ministers of London would fling up their livings; and that, soon or late, the issue thereof would be sad to the King and Court.

Bed and rose,
wine, fire, candle, soap
and many other things…
Time and trouble
give me rain and a hat
and I am
a sad king.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 6 July 1662.

To my office all the morning, to get things ready against our sitting, and by and by we sat and did business all the morning, and at noon had Sir W. Pen, who I hate with all my heart for his base treacherous tricks, but yet I think it not policy to declare it yet, and his son William, to my house to dinner, where was also Mr. Creed and my cozen Harry Alcocke. I having some venison given me a day or two ago, and so I had a shoulder roasted, another baked, and the umbles baked in a pie, and all very well done. We were merry as I could be in that company, and the more because I would not seem otherwise to Sir W. Pen, he being within a day or two to go for Ireland.
After dinner he and his son went away, and Mr. Creed would, with all his rhetoric, have persuaded me to have gone to a play; and in good earnest I find my nature desirous to have gone, notwithstanding my promise and my business, to which I have lately kept myself so close, but I did refuse it, and I hope shall ever do so, and above all things it is considerable that my mind was never in my life in so good a condition of quiet as it has been since I have followed my business and seen myself to get greater and greater fitness in my employment, and honour every day more than other. So at my office all the afternoon, and then my mathematiques at night with Mr. Cooper, and so to supper and to bed.

all morning
in a baked land
with nature so close
and so considerable
my mind was
never quiet


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 5 July 1662.

Up by five o’clock, and after my journall put in order, to my office about my business, which I am resolved to follow, for every day I see what ground I get by it. By and by comes Mr. Cooper, mate of the Royall Charles, of whom I intend to learn mathematiques, and do begin with him to-day, he being a very able man, and no great matter, I suppose, will content him. After an hour’s being with him at arithmetique (my first attempt being to learn the multiplication-table); then we parted till to-morrow. And so to my business at my office again till noon, about which time Sir W. Warren did come to me about business, and did begin to instruct me in the nature of fine timber and deals, telling me the nature of every sort; and from that we fell to discourse of Sir W. Batten’s corruption and the people that he employs, and from one discourse to another of the kind. I was much pleased with his company, and so staid talking with him all alone at my office till 4 in the afternoon, without eating or drinking all day, and then parted, and I home to eat a bit, and so back again to my office; and toward the evening came Mr. Sheply, who is to go out of town to-morrow, and so he and I with much ado settled his accounts with my Lord, which, though they be true and honest, yet so obscure, that it vexes me to see in what manner they are kept. He being gone, and leave taken of him as of a man likely not to come to London again a great while, I eat a bit of bread and butter, and so to bed. This day I sent my brother Tom, at his request, my father’s old Bass Viall which he and I have kept so long, but I fear Tom will do little good at it.

solve for y
what ground comes
to matter

I will learn
the multiplication
of noon

instruct me
in the nature of the nature
that we fell from

so obscure
that x
like an old bass viol


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 4 July 1662.

Up by four o’clock and to my office till 8 o’clock, writing over two copies of our contract with Sir W. Rider, &c., for 500 ton of hempe, which, because it is a secret, I have the trouble of writing over as well as drawing.
Then home to dress myself, and so to the office, where another fray between Sir R. Ford and myself about his yarn, wherein I find the board to yield on my side, and was glad thereof, though troubled that the office should fall upon me of disobliging Sir Richard.
At noon we all by invitation dined at the Dolphin with the Officers of the Ordnance; where Sir W. Compton, Mr. O’Neale, and other great persons, were, and a very great dinner, but I drank as I still do but my allowance of wine.
After dinner, was brought to Sir W. Compton a gun to discharge seven times, the best of all devices that ever I saw, and very serviceable, and not a bawble; for it is much approved of, and many thereof made.
Thence to my office all the afternoon as long as I could see, about setting many businesses in order. In the evening came Mr. Lewis to me, and very ingeniously did enquire whether I ever did look into the business of the Chest at Chatham; and after my readiness to be informed did appear to him, he did produce a paper, wherein he stated the government of the Chest to me; and upon the whole did tell me how it hath ever been abused, and to this day is; and what a meritorious act it would be to look after it; which I am resolved to do, if God bless me; and do thank him very much for it.
So home, and after a turn or two upon the leads with my wife, who has lately had but little of my company, since I begun to follow my business, but is contented therewith since she sees how I spend my time, and so to bed.

Writing is a secret
as glad as a gun to discharge
and not a bauble.

I look into my ear,
produce a paper to tell me
how to see.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 3 July 1662.

Up while the chimes went four, and to put down my journal, and so to my office, to read over such instructions as concern the officers of the Yard; for I am much upon seeing into the miscarriages there. By and by, by appointment, comes Commissioner Pett; and then a messenger from Mr. Coventry, who sits in his boat expecting us, and so we down to him at the Tower, and there took water all, and to Deptford (he in our passage taking notice how much difference there is between the old Captains for obedience and order, and the King’s new Captains, which I am very glad to hear him confess); and there we went into the Store-house, and viewed first the provisions there, and then his books, but Mr. Davis himself was not there, he having a kinswoman in the house dead, for which, when by and by I saw him, he do trouble himself most ridiculously, as if there was never another woman in the world; in which so much laziness, as also in the Clerkes of the Cheque and Survey (which after one another we did examine), as that I do not perceive that there is one-third of their duties performed; but I perceive, to my great content, Mr. Coventry will have things reformed.
So Mr. Coventry to London, and Pett and I to the Pay, where Sir Williams both were paying off the Royal James still, and so to dinner, and to the Pay again, where I did relieve several of my Lord Sandwich’s people, but was sorry to see them so peremptory, and at every word would, complain to my Lord, as if they shall have such a command over my Lord. In the evening I went forth and took a walk with Mr. Davis, and told him what had passed at his office to-day, and did give him my advice, and so with the rest by barge home and to bed.

The messenger
sits in his boat
expecting us.
How much
difference there is
between the old
and the dead!
As if there was never
another world
but my things—
and as if they
shall pass
with me.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 2 July 1662.

To the office, and there we sat till past noon, and then Captain Cuttance and I by water to Deptford, where the Royal James (in which my Lord went out the last voyage, though [he] came back in the Charles) was paying off by Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen.
So to dinner, where I had Mr. Sheply to dine with us, and from thence I sent to my Lord to know whether she should be a first rate, as the men would have her, or a second. He answered that we should forbear paying the officers and such whose pay differed upon the rate of the ship, till he could speak with his Royal Highness.
To the Pay again after dinner, and seeing of Cooper, the mate of the ship, whom I knew in the Charles, I spoke to him about teaching the mathematiques, and do please myself in my thoughts of learning of him, and bade him come to me in a day or two.
Towards evening I left them, and to Redriffe by land, Mr. Cowly, the Clerk of the Cheque, with me, discoursing concerning the abuses of the yard, in which he did give me much light. So by water home, and after half an hour sitting talking with my wife, who was afeard I did intend to go with my Lord to fetch the Queen mother over, in which I did clear her doubts, I went to bed by daylight, in order to my rising early to-morrow.

At noon the captain
would have her teach
the mathematics of evening—
the red land, the coursing water,
a moth in clear daylight
rising early.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 1 July 1662.

Up betimes, and to my office, where I found Griffen’s girl making it clean, but, God forgive me! what a mind I had to her, but did not meddle with her. She being gone, I fell upon boring holes for me to see from my closet into the great office, without going forth, wherein I please myself much.
So settled to business, and at noon with my wife to the Wardrobe, and there dined, and staid talking all the afternoon with my Lord, and about four o’clock took coach with my wife and Lady, and went toward my house, calling at my Lady Carteret’s, who was within by chance (she keeping altogether at Deptford for a month or two), and so we sat with her a little. Among other things told my Lady how my Lady Fanshaw is fallen out with her only for speaking in behalf of the French, which my Lady wonders at, they having been formerly like sisters, but we see there is no true lasting friendship in the world.
Thence to my house, where I took great pride to lead her through the Court by the hand, she being very fine, and her page carrying up her train.
She staid a little at my house, and then walked through the garden, and took water, and went first on board the King’s pleasure boat, which pleased her much. Then to Greenwich Park; and with much ado she was able to walk up to the top of the hill, and so down again, and took boat, and so through bridge to Blackfryers, and home, she being much pleased with the ramble in every particular of it. So we supped with her, and then walked home, and to bed.
Observations
This I take to be as bad a juncture as ever I observed. The King and his new Queen minding their pleasures at Hampton Court. All people discontented; some that the King do not gratify them enough; and the others, Fanatiques of all sorts, that the King do take away their liberty of conscience; and the height of the Bishops, who I fear will ruin all again. They do much cry up the manner of Sir H. Vane’s death, and he deserves it. They clamour against the chimney-money, and say they will not pay it without force. And in the mean time, like to have war abroad; and Portugall to assist, when we have not money to pay for any ordinary layings-out at home.
Myself all in dirt about building of my house and Sir W. Batten’s a story higher. Into a good way, fallen on minding my business and saving money, which God encrease; and I do take great delight in it, and see the benefit of it. In a longing mind of going to see Brampton, but cannot get three days time, do what I can.
In very good health, my wife and myself.

Time gone, I fell upon
boring holes in the clock
and calling it chance,
keeping a month or two with me
like water in a boat, black
with every particular of home.
I observed the fanatics
who cry up death say
they will not pay for time,
like a road when we have
no money for ordinary dirt.
Building my house
a story higher, saving light,
I long to see time heal.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 June 1662.