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 by and by comes my uncle Thomas, to whom I paid 10l. for his last half year’s annuity, and did get his and his son’s hand and seal for the confirming to us Piggott’s mortgage, which was forgot to be expressed in our late agreement with him, though intended, and therefore they might have cavilled at it, if they would.
Thence abroad calling at several places upon some errands, among others to my brother Tom’s barber and had my hair cut, while his boy played on the viallin, a plain boy, but has a very good genius, and understands the book very well, but to see what a shift he made for a string of red silk was very pleasant. Thence to my Lord Crew’s. My Lord not being come home, I met and staid below with Captain Ferrers, who was come to wait upon my Lady Jemimah to St. James’s, she being one of the four ladies that hold up the mantle at the christening this afternoon of the Duke’s child (a boy).
In discourse of the ladies at Court, Captain Ferrers tells me that my Lady Castlemaine is now as great again as ever she was; and that her going away was only a fit of her own upon some slighting words of the King, so that she called for her coach at a quarter of an hour’s warning, and went to Richmond; and the King the next morning, under pretence of going a-hunting, went to see her and make friends, and never was a-hunting at all. After which she came back to Court, and commands the King as much as ever, and hath and doth what she will.
No longer ago than last night, there was a private entertainment made for the King and Queen at the Duke of Buckingham’s, and she was not invited: but being at my Lady Suffolk’s, her aunt’s (where my Lady Jemimah and Lord Sandwich dined) yesterday, she was heard to say, “Well; much good may it do them, and for all that I will be as merry as they:” and so she went home and caused a great supper to be prepared. And after the King had been with the Queen at Wallingford House, he came to my Lady Castlemaine’s, and was there all night, and my Lord Sandwich with him, which was the reason my Lord lay in town all night, which he has not done a great while before.
He tells me he believes that, as soon as the King can get a husband for Mrs. Stewart however, my Lady Castlemaine’s nose will be out of joynt; for that she comes to be in great esteem, and is more handsome than she.
I found by his words that my Lord Sandwich finds some pleasure in the country where he now is, whether he means one of the daughters of the house or no I know not, but hope the contrary, that he thinks he is very well pleased with staying there, but yet upon breaking up of the Parliament, which the King by a message to-day says shall be on Monday next, he resolves to go.
Ned Pickering, the coxcomb, notwithstanding all his hopes of my Lord’s assistance, wherein I am sorry to hear my Lord has much concerned himself, is defeated of the place he expected under the Queen.
He came hither by and by and brought some jewells for my Lady Jem. to put on, with which and her other clothes she looks passing well.
I staid and dined with my Lord Crew, who whether he was not so well pleased with me as he used to be, or that his head was full of business, as I believe it was, he hardly spoke one word to me all dinner time, we dining alone, only young Jack Crew, Sir Thomas’s son, with us.
After dinner I bade him farewell. Sir Thomas I hear has gone this morning ill to bed, so I had no mind to see him.
Thence homewards, and in the way first called at Wotton’s, the shoemaker’s, who tells me the reason of Harris’s going from Sir Wm. Davenant’s house, that he grew very proud and demanded 20l. for himself extraordinary, more than Betterton or any body else, upon every new play, and 10l. upon every revive; which with other things Sir W. Davenant would not give him, and so he swore he would never act there more, in expectation of being received in the other House; but the King will not suffer it, upon Sir W. Davenant’s desire that he would not, for then he might shut up house, and that is true. He tells me that his going is at present a great loss to the House, and that he fears he hath a stipend from the other House privately.
He tells the that the fellow grew very proud of late, the King and every body else crying him up so high, and that above Betterton, he being a more ayery man, as he is indeed. But yet Betterton, he says, they all say do act: some parts that none but himself can do.
Thence to my bookseller’s, and found my Waggoners done. The very binding cost me 14s., but they are well done, and so with a porter home with them, and so by water to Ratcliffe, and there went to speak with Cumberford the platt-maker, and there saw his manner of working, which is very fine and laborious. So down to Deptford, reading Ben Jonson’s “Devil is an asse,” and so to see Sir W. Pen, who I find walking out of doors a little, but could not stand long; but in doors and I with him, and staid a great while talking, I taking a liberty to tell him my thoughts in things of the office; that when he comes abroad again, he may know what to think of me, and to value me as he ought. Walked home as I used to do, and being weary, and after some discourse with Mr. Barrow, who came to see and take his leave of me, he being to-morrow to set out toward the Isle of Man, I went to bed.
This day I hear that the Moores have made some attaques upon the outworks of Tangier; but my Lord Tiviott; with the loss of about 200 men, did beat them off, and killed many of them.
To-morrow the King and Queen for certain go down to Tunbridge. But the King comes back again against Monday to raise the Parliament.

to whom might it call
her hair of red silk

no Christ is ever as light
as a private joy

that comes to be
more than pleasure

the country
where now is

not staying there
but breaking up

we put on other clothes
full of morning

who would not
who could not take
that loss


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 22 July 1663.

And so lay long in the morning, till I heard people knock at my door, and I took it to be about 8 o’clock (but afterwards found myself a little mistaken), and so I rose and ranted at Will and the maid, and swore I could find my heart to kick them down stairs, which the maid mumbled at mightily. It was my brother, who staid and talked with me, his chief business being about his going about to build his house new at the top, which will be a great charge for him, and above his judgment.
By and by comes Mr. Deane, of Woolwich, with his draught of a ship, and the bend and main lines in the body of a ship very finely, and which do please me mightily, and so am resolved to study hard, and learn of him to understand a body, and I find him a very pretty fellow in it, and rational, but a little conceited, but that’s no matter to me. At noon, by my Lady Batten’s desire, I went over the water to Mr. Castle’s, who brings his wife home to his own house to-day, where I found a great many good old women, and my Lady, Sir W. Batten, and Sir J. Minnes.
A good, handsome, plain dinner, and then walked in the garden; which is pleasant enough, more than I expected there, and so Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, and I by water to the office, and there sat, and then I by water to the Temple about my law business, and back again home and wrote letters to my father and wife about my desire that they should observe the feast at Brampton, and have my Lady and the family, and so home to supper and bed, my head aching all the day from my last night’s bad rest, and yesterday’s distempering myself with over walking, and to-day knocking my head against a low door in Mr. Castle’s house.
This day the Parliament kept a fast for the present unseasonable weather.

in the morning a new draft
of the lines in the body

I study hard to understand it
but desire brings many hands

and more than I expected
the letters feast or fast


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 21 July 1663.

Up and to my office, and then walked to Woolwich, reading Bacon’s “Faber fortunae,”1 which the oftener I read the more I admire. There found Captain Cocke, and up and down to many places to look after matters, and so walked back again with him to his house, and there dined very finely. With much ado obtained an excuse from drinking of wine, and did only taste a drop of Sack which he had for his lady, who is, he fears, a little consumptive, and her beauty begins to want its colour. It was Malago Sack, which, he says, is certainly 30 years old, and I tasted a drop of it, and it was excellent wine, like a spirit rather than wine.
Thence by water to the office, and taking some papers by water to White Hall and St. James’s, but there being no meeting with the Duke to-day, I returned by water and down to Greenwich, to look after some blocks that I saw a load carried off by a cart from Woolwich, the King’s Yard. But I could not find them, and so returned, and being heartily weary I made haste to bed, and being in bed made Will read and construe three or four Latin verses in the Bible, and chide him for forgetting his grammar. So to sleep, and sleep ill all the night, being so weary, and feverish with it.

up and down
to many places

a sack which begins
to want its color

like a spirit of water
returned to the yard

the heart has read
a true grammar in it


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 20 July 1663.

(Lord’s day). Lay very long in pleasant dreams till Church time, and so up, and it being foul weather so that I cannot walk as I intended to meet my Cozen Roger at Thomas Pepys’s house (whither he rode last night), to Hatcham, I went to church, where a sober Doctor made a good sermon. So home to dinner alone, and then to read a little, and so to church again, where the Scot made an ordinary sermon, and so home to my office, and there read over my vows and increased them by a vow against all strong drink till November next of any sort or quantity, by which I shall try how I can forbear it. God send it may not prejudice my health, and then I care not. Then I fell to read over a silly play writ by a person of honour (which is, I find, as much as to say a coxcomb), called “Love a la Mode”.
And that being ended, home, and played on my lute and sung psalms till bedtime, then to prayers and to bed.

in a dream a doctor
made me drink

any bear may heal
which is to say love

and that being ended
time


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 19 July 1663.

Up and to my office, where all the morning, and Sir J. Minnes and I did a little, and but a little business at the office. So I eat a bit of victuals at home, and so abroad to several places, as my bookseller’s, and then to Thomson the instrument maker’s to bespeak a ruler for my pocket for timber, &c., which I believe he will do to my mind. So to the Temple, Wardrobe, and lastly to Westminster Hall, where I expected some bands made me by Mrs. Lane, and while she went to the starchers for them, I staid at Mrs. Howlett’s, who with her husband were abroad, and only their daughter (which I call my wife) was in the shop, and I took occasion to buy a pair of gloves to talk to her, and I find her a pretty spoken girl, and will prove a mighty handsome wench. I could love her very well.
By and by Mrs. Lane comes, and my bands not being done she and I posted and met at the Crown in the Palace Yard, where we eat a chicken I sent for, and drank, and were mighty merry, and I had my full liberty of towzing her and doing what I would, but the last thing of all; for I felt as much as I would and made her feel my thing also, and put the end of it to her breast and by and by to her very belly — of which I am heartily ashamed. But I do resolve never to do more so.
But, Lord! to see what a mind she has to a husband, and how she showed me her hands to tell her her fortune, and every thing that she asked ended always whom and when she was to marry. And I pleased her so well, saying as I know she would have me, and then she would say that she had been with all the artists in town, and they always told her the same things, as that she should live long, and rich, and have a good husband, but few children, and a great fit of sickness, and 20 other things, which she says she has always been told by others.
Here I staid late before my bands were done, and then they came, and so I by water to the Temple, and thence walked home, all in a sweat with my tumbling of her and walking, and so a little supper and to bed, fearful of having taken cold.

a pair of hands
could love very well

all felt and feel
end and band

how her hands ask
always to marry

always to live
and have 20 other things


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 18 July 1663.

Up, and after doing some business at my office, Creed came to me, and I took him to my viall maker’s, and there I heard the famous Mr. Stefkins play admirably well, and yet I found it as it is always, I over expected. I took him to the tavern and found him a temperate sober man, at least he seems so to me. I commit the direction of my viall to him.
Thence to the Change, and so home, Creed and I to dinner, and after dinner Sir W. Warren came to me, and he and I in my closet about his last night’s contract, and from thence to discourse of measuring of timber, wherein I made him see that I could understand the matter well, and did both learn of and teach him something. Creed being gone through my staying talking to him so long, I went alone by water down to Redriffe, and so to sit and talk with Sir W. Pen, where I did speak very plainly concerning my thoughts of Sir G. Carteret and Sir J. Minnes. So as it may cost me some trouble if he should tell them again, but he said as much or more to me concerning them both, which I may remember if ever it should come forth, and nothing but what is true and my real opinion of them, that they neither do understand to this day Creed’s accounts, nor do deserve to be employed in their places without better care, but that the King had better give them greater salaries to stand still and do nothing.
Thence coming home I was saluted by Bagwell and his wife (the woman I have a kindness for), and they would have me into their little house, which I was willing enough to, and did salute his wife. They had got wine for me, and I perceive live prettily, and I believe the woman a virtuous modest woman.
Her husband walked through to Redriffe with me, telling me things that I asked of in the yard, and so by water home, it being likely to rain again to-night, which God forbid. To supper and to bed.

from timber I learn
a thin plain thought

which I may remember
if ever it should come forth

in a true place
to stand still and do nothing

and I have a little wine
like rain for supper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 17 July 1663.

Up and dispatched things into the country and to my father’s, and two keggs of Sturgeon and a dozen bottles of wine to Cambridge for my cozen Roger Pepys, which I give him. By and by down by water on several Deall ships, and stood upon a stage in one place seeing calkers sheathing of a ship. Then at Wapping to my carver’s about my Viall head. So home, and thence to my Viall maker’s in Bishopsgate Street; his name is Wise, who is a pretty fellow at it. Thence to the Exchange, and so home to dinner, and then to my office, where a full board, and busy all the afternoon, and among other things made a great contract with Sir W. Warren for 40,000 deals Swinsound, at 3l. 17s. 0d. per hundred. In the morning before I went on the water I was at Thames Street about some pitch, and there meeting Anthony Joyce, I took him and Mr. Stacy, the Tarr merchant, to the tavern, where Stacy told me many old stories of my Lady Batten’s former poor condition, and how her former husband broke, and how she came to her state.
At night, after office done, I went to Sir W. Batten’s, where my Lady and I [had] some high words about emptying our house of office, where I did tell her my mind, and at last agreed that it should be done through my office, and so all well. So home to bed.

I give my viol head
to my viol maker

his name is wise
who deals in sound

a pitch merchant
here for some high words


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 16 July 1663.

Up and all the morning at the office, among other things with Cooper the Purveyor, whose dullness in his proceeding in his work I was vexed at, and find that though he understands it may be as much as other men that profess skill in timber, yet I perceive that many things, they do by rote, and very dully.
Thence home to dinner, whither Captain Grove came and dined with me, he going into the country to-day; among other discourse he told me of discourse very much to my honour, both as to my care and ability, happening at the Duke of Albemarle’s table the other day, both from the Duke, and the Duchess themselves; and how I paid so much a year to him whose place it was of right, and that Mr. Coventry did report thus of me; which was greatly to my content, knowing how against their minds I was brought into the Navy.
Thence by water to Westminster, and there spent a good deal of time walking in the Hall, which is going to be repaired, and, God forgive me, had a mind to have got Mrs. Lane abroad, or fallen in with any woman else (in that hot humour). But it so happened she could not go out, nor I meet with any body else, and so I walked homeward, and in my way did many and great businesses of my own at the Temple among my lawyers and others to my great content, thanking God that I did not fall into any company to occasion spending time and money. To supper, and then to a little viall and to bed, sporting in my fancy with the Queen.

all the dull work that may kill
I do dully

I am going into the country
the old marl of knowing

how I ought to walk
to be repaired

with any humor
with any other time


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 15 July 1663.

Up a little late, last night recovering my sleepiness for the night before, which was lost, and so to my office to put papers and things to right, and making up my journal from Wednesday last to this day.
All the morning at my office doing of business; at noon Mr. Hunt came to me, and he and I to the Exchange, and a Coffee House, and drank there, and thence to my house to dinner, whither my uncle Thomas came, and he tells me that he is going down to Wisbech, there to try what he can recover of my uncle Day’s estate, and seems to have good arguments for what he do go about, in which I wish him good speed. I made him almost foxed, the poor man having but a bad head, and not used I believe nowadays to drink much wine. So after dinner, they being gone, I to my office, and so home to bed.
This day I hear the judges, according to order yesterday, did bring into the Lords’ House their reasons of their judgment in the business between my Lord Bristoll and the Chancellor; and the Lords do concur with the Judges that the articles are not treason, nor regularly brought into the House, and so voted that a Committee should be chosen to examine them; but nothing to be done therein till the next sitting of this Parliament (which is like to be adjourned in a day or two), and in the mean time the two Lords to, remain without prejudice done to either of them.

last night in sleep I lost my papers
my morning
my change
my dinner
my cover
my head
and my sons that are nothing
like me


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 14 July 1663.

So, it being high day, I put in to shore and to bed for two hours just, and so up again, and with the Storekeeper and Clerk of the Rope-yard up and down the Dock and Rope-house, and by and by mustered the Yard, and instructed the Clerks of the Cheque in my new way of Callbook, and that and other things done, to the Hill-house, and there we eat something, and so by barge to Rochester, and there took coach hired for our passage to London, and Mrs. Allen, the clerk of the Rope-yard’s wife with us, desiring her passage, and it being a most pleasant and warm day, we got by four o’clock home. In our way she telling us in what condition Becky Allen is married against all expectation a fellow that proves to be a coxcomb and worth little if any thing at all, and yet are entered into a way of living above their condition that will ruin them presently, for which, for the lady’s sake, I am much troubled.
Home I found all well there, and after dressing myself, I walked to the Temple; and there, from my cozen Roger, hear that the judges have this day brought in their answer to the Lords, That the articles against my Lord Chancellor are not Treason; and to-morrow they are to bring in their arguments to the House for the same.
This day also the King did send by my Lord Chamberlain to the Lords, to tell them from him, that the most of the articles against my Lord Chancellor he himself knows to be false. Thence by water to Whitehall, and so walked to St. James’s, but missed Mr. Coventry.
I met the Queen-Mother walking in the Pell Mell, led by my Lord St. Alban’s. And finding many coaches at the Gate, I found upon enquiry that the Duchess is brought to bed of a boy.
And hearing that the King and Queen are rode abroad with the Ladies of Honour to the Park, and seeing a great crowd of gallants staying here to see their return, I also staid walking up and down, and among others spying a man like Mr. Pembleton (though I have little reason to think it should be he, speaking and discoursing long with my Lord D’Aubigne), yet how my blood did rise in my face, and I fell into a sweat from my old jealousy and hate, which I pray God remove from me.
By and by the King and Queen, who looked in this dress (a white laced waistcoat and a crimson short pettycoat, and her hair dressed ci la negligence) mighty pretty; and the King rode hand in hand with her. Here was also my Lady Castlemaine rode among the rest of the ladies; but the King took, methought, no notice of her; nor when they ‘light did any body press (as she seemed to expect, and staid for it) to take her down, but was taken down by her own gentleman. She looked mighty out of humour, and had a yellow plume in her hat (which all took notice of), and yet is very handsome, but very melancholy: nor did any body speak to her, or she so much as smile or speak to any body. I followed them up into White Hall, and into the Queen’s presence, where all the ladies walked, talking and fiddling with their hats and feathers, and changing and trying one another’s by one another’s heads, and laughing. But it was the finest sight to me, considering their great beautys and dress, that ever I did see in all my life. But, above all, Mrs. Stewart in this dress, with her hat cocked and a red plume, with her sweet eye, little Roman nose, and excellent taille, is now the greatest beauty I ever saw, I think, in my life; and, if ever woman can, do exceed my Lady Castlemaine, at least in this dress nor do I wonder if the King changes, which I verily believe is the reason of his coldness to my Lady Castlemaine.
Here late, with much ado I left to look upon them, and went away, and by water, in a boat with other strange company, there being no other to be had, and out of him into a sculler half to the bridge, and so home and to Sir W. Batten, where I staid telling him and Sir J. Minnes and Mrs. Turner, with great mirth, my being frighted at Chatham by young Edgeborough, and so home to supper and to bed, before I sleep fancying myself to sport with Mrs. Stewart with great pleasure.

a pleasant day is worth little
to the lords of chance

that great crowd
like lousy hair dressed in feathers

hanging one another’s heads
and laughing to see a wart a red eye

no beauty left to look upon
and no other mirth


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 13 July 1663.