Pepys Diary erasure project

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

Up early to put things in order in my chamber, and then to my Lord’s, with whom I spoke about several things, and so up and down in several places about business with Mr. Creed, among others to Mr. Wotton’s the shoemaker, and there drank our morning draft, and then home about noon, and by and by comes my father by appointment to dine with me, which we did very merrily, I desiring to make him as merry as I can, while the poor man is in town. After dinner comes my uncle Wight and sat awhile and talked with us, and thence we three to the Mum House at Leadenhall, and there sat awhile. Then I left them, and to the Wardrobe, where I found my Lord gone to Hampton Court. Here I staid all the afternoon till late with Creed and Captain Ferrers, thinking whether we should go to-morrow together to Hampton Court, but Ferrers his wife coming in by and by to the house with the young ladies (with whom she had been abroad), she was unwilling to go, whereupon I was willing to put off our going, and so home, but still my mind was hankering after our going to-morrow. So to bed.

Thin things:
lace in a shoe,
a noon appointment,
a poor-house robe,
a reed
and the road I still
hanker after.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 28 May 1662.

To my Lord this morning, and thence to my brother’s, where I found my father, poor man, come, which I was glad to see. I staid with him till noon, and then he went to my cozen Scott’s to dinner, who had invited him. He tells me his alterations of the house and garden at Brampton, which please me well.
I could not go with him, and so we parted at Ludgate, and I home to dinner, and to the office all the afternoon, and musique in my chamber alone at night, and so to bed.

O the rot
where we invite
use and ease.

We part
after music in
a one-night bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 May 1662.

(Lord’s day). To trimming myself, which I have this week done every morning, with a pumice stone, which I learnt of Mr. Marsh, when I was last at Portsmouth; and I find it very easy, speedy, and cleanly, and shall continue the practice of it. To church, and heard a good sermon of Mr. Woodcocke’s at our church; only in his latter prayer for a woman in childbed, he prayed that God would deliver her from the hereditary curse of child-bearing, which seemed a pretty strange expression. Dined at home, and Mr. Creed with me. This day I had the first dish of pease I have had this year. After discourse he and I abroad, and walked up and down, and looked into many churches, among others Mr. Baxter’s at Blackfryers. Then to the Wardrobe, where I found my Lord takes physic, so I did not see him, but with Captn. Ferrers in Mr. George Montagu’s coach to Charing Cross; and there at the Triumph tavern he showed me some Portugall ladys, which are come to town before the Queen. They are not handsome, and their farthingales a strange dress. Many ladies and persons of quality come to see them. I find nothing in them that is pleasing; and I see they have learnt to kiss and look freely up and down already, and I do believe will soon forget the recluse practice of their own country. They complain much for lack of good water to drink. So to the Wardrobe back on foot and supped with my Lady, and so home, and after a walk upon the leads with my wife, to prayers and bed.
The King’s guards and some City companies do walk up and down the town these five or six days; which makes me think, and they do say, there are some plots in laying. God keep us.

A stone in a dish of peas,
I have come far.
Ladies look freely
up and down at me
and some walk
up and down the town,
which makes me think.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 May 1662.

To the Wardrobe, and there again spoke with my Lord, and saw W. Howe, who is grown a very pretty and is a sober fellow. Thence abroad with Mr. Creed, of whom I informed myself of all I had a mind to know. Among other things, the great difficulty my Lord hath been in all this summer for lack of good and full orders from the King; and I doubt our Lords of the Councell do not mind things as the late powers did, but their pleasures or profit more. That the Juego de Toros is a simple sport, yet the greatest in Spain. That the Queen hath given no rewards to any of the captains or officers, but only to my Lord Sandwich; and that was a bag of gold, which was no honourable present, of about 1400l. sterling. How recluse the Queen hath ever been, and all the voyage never come upon the deck, nor put her head out of her cabin; but did love my Lord’s musique, and would send for it down to the state-room, and she sit in her cabin within hearing of it. That my Lord was forced to have some clashing with the Council of Portugall about payment of the portion, before he could get it; which was, besides Tangier and a free trade in the Indys, two millions of crowns, half now, and the other half in twelve months. But they have brought but little money; but the rest in sugars and other commoditys, and bills of exchange. That the King of Portugall is a very fool almost, and his mother do all, and he is a very poor Prince.
After a morning draft at the Star in Cheapside, I took him to the Exchange, thence home, but my wife having dined, I took him to Fish Street, and there we had a couple of lobsters, and dined upon them, and much discourse. And so I to the office, and that being done, Sir W. Pen and I to Deptford by water to Captain Rooth’s to see him, he being very sick, and by land home, calling at Halfway house, where we eat and drank. So home and to bed.

How I inform myself!
A mind to know
is no mind—
sand to the Indies,
the morning star to a fish.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 May 1662.

At the office good part of the morning, and then about noon with my wife on foot to the Wardrobe. My wife went up to the dining room to my Lady Paulina, and I staid below talking with Mr. Moore in the parley, reading of the King’s and Chancellor’s late speeches at the proroguing of the Houses of Parliament. And while I was reading, news was brought me that my Lord Sandwich is come and gone up to my Lady, which put me into great suspense of joy, so I went up waiting my Lord’s coming out of my Lady’s chamber, which by and by he did, and looks very well, and my soul is glad to see him. He very merry, and hath left the King and Queen at Portsmouth, and is come up to stay here till next Wednesday, and then to meet the King and Queen at Hampton Court.
So to dinner, Mr. Browne, Clerk of the House of Lords, and his wife and brother there also; and my Lord mighty merry; among other things, saying that the Queen is a very agreeable lady, and paints still. After dinner I showed him my letter from Teddiman about the news from Argier, which pleases him exceedingly; and he writ one to the Duke of York about it, and sent it express.
There coming much company after dinner to my Lord, my wife and I slunk away to the Opera, where we saw “Witt in a Constable,” the first time that it is acted; but so silly a play I never saw I think in my life. After it was done, my wife and I to the puppet play in Covent Garden, which I saw the other day, and indeed it is very pleasant. Here among the fidlers I first saw a dulcimere played on with sticks knocking of the strings, and is very pretty. So by water home, and supped with Sir William Pen very merry, and so to bed.

The good foot is put
into a suspense of joy:
out and up. Am I
a lunk to think
my life as a puppet
is pleasant,
among mere sticks
knocking the strings?


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 May 1662.

This morning comes an order from the Secretary of State, Nicholas, for me to let one Mr. Lee, a Councellor, to view what papers I have relating to passages of the late times, wherein Sir H. Vane’s hand is employed, in order to the drawing up his charge; which I did, and at noon he, with Sir W. Pen and his daughter, dined with me, and he to his work again, and we by coach to the Theatre and saw “Love in a Maze.” The play hath little in it but Lacy’s part of a country fellow, which he did to admiration. So home, and supped with Sir W. Pen, where Sir W. Batten and Captn. Cocke came to us, to whom I have lately been a great stranger. This night we had each of us a letter from Captain Teddiman from the Streights, of a peace made upon good terms, by Sir J. Lawson, with the Argier men, which is most excellent news. He hath also sent each of us some anchovies, olives, and muscatt; but I know not yet what that is, and am ashamed to ask.
After supper home, and to bed, resolving to make up this week in seeing plays and pleasure, and so fall to business next week again for a great while.

This morning paper
is raw theater—
love in a maze
of strange straits.
A peace made
upon good terms
is news.
Each of us lives
but is ashamed to be,
resolving to see
pleasure fall.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 22 May 1662.

My wife and I by water to Westminster, and after she had seen her father (of whom lately I have heard nothing at all what he does or her mother), she comes to me to my Lord’s lodgings, where she and I staid walking in White Hall garden. And in the Privy-garden saw the finest smocks and linnen petticoats of my Lady Castlemaine’s, laced with rich lace at the bottom, that ever I saw; and did me good to look upon them. So to Wilkinson’s, she and I and Sarah to dinner, where I had a good quarter of lamb and a salat. Here Sarah told me how the King dined at my Lady Castlemaine’s, and supped, every day and night the last week; and that the night that the bonfires were made for joy of the Queen’s arrivall, the King was there; but there was no fire at her door, though at all the rest of the doors almost in the street; which was much observed: and that the King and she did send for a pair of scales and weighed one another; and she, being with child, was said to be heaviest. But she is now a most disconsolate creature, and comes not out of doors, since the King’s going.
But we went to the Theatre to “The French Dancing Master,” and there with much pleasure gazed upon her (Lady Castlemaine); but it troubles us to see her look dejectedly and slighted by people already. The play pleased us very well; but Lacy’s part, the Dancing Master, the best in the world.
Thence to my brother Tom’s, in expectation to have met my father to-night come out of the country, but he is not yet come, but here we found my uncle Fenner and his old wife, whom I had not seen since the wedding dinner, nor care to see her. They being gone, my wife and I went and saw Mrs. Turner, whom we found not well, and her two boys Charles and Will come out of the country, grown very plain boys after three years being under their father’s care in Yorkshire. Thence to Tom’s again, and there supped well, my she cozen Scott being there and my father being not come, we walked home and to bed.

Water comes
to my garden
in the finest coat
laced with rich lace.

And on the night of the fire,
all the doors in the street
dancing with light…

The world is an old wife
not seen since the wedding.
We turn a country into a cot
and not a bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 21 May 1662.

Sir W. Pen and I did a little business at the office, and so home again. Then comes Dean Fuller after we had dined, but I got something for him, and very merry we were for an hour or two, and I am most pleased with his company and goodness. At last parted, and my wife and I by coach to the Opera, and there saw the 2nd part of “The Siege of Rhodes,” but it is not so well done as when Roxalana was there, who, it is said, is now owned by my Lord of Oxford. Thence to Tower-wharf, and there took boat, and we all walked to Halfeway House, and there eat and drank, and were pleasant, and so finally home again in the evening, and so good night, this being a very pleasant life that we now lead, and have long done; the Lord be blessed, and make us thankful. But, though I am much against too much spending, yet I do think it best to enjoy some degree of pleasure now that we have health, money, and opportunity, rather than to leave pleasures to old age or poverty, when we cannot have them so properly.

A full ox is said
to tower, half house
and rank as night.
Life be blessed, but I am much
against too much,
now that we leave pleasure
to the rope.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 20 May 1662.

Long in bed, sometimes scolding with my wife, and then pleased again, and at last up, and put on my riding cloth suit, and a camelott coat new, which pleases me well enough. To the Temple about my replication, and so to my brother Tom’s, and there hear that my father will be in town this week. So home, the shops being but some shut and some open. I hear that the House of Commons do think much that they should be forced to huddle over business this morning against the afternoon, for the King to pass their Acts, that he may go out of town. But he, I hear since, was forced to stay till almost nine o’clock at night before he could have done, and then he prorogued them; and so to Gilford, and lay there. Home, and Mr. Hunt dined with me, and were merry. After dinner Sir W. Pen and his daughter, and I and my wife by coach to the Theatre, and there in a box saw “The Little Thief” well done. Thence to Moorefields, and walked and eat some cheesecake and gammon of bacon, but when I was come home I was sick, forced to vomit it up again. So my wife walking and singing upon the leads till very late, it being pleasant and moonshine, and so to bed.

Cold in my hut
I huddle over the clock—
rogue theater, thief
of wife and moons.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 19 May 1662.