Pepys Diary erasure project

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

At the office all the morning, dined at home with my wife. After dinner with her by coach to see Mr. Moore, who continues ill. I took his books of accounts, and did discourse with him about my Lord’s and my own businesses, and there being Mr. Battersby by, did take notice of my having paid him the 100l. borrowed of him, which they both did confess and promise to return me my bond. Thence by water with Will. Howe to Westminster, and there staying a little while in the Hall (my wife’s father and mother being abroad, and so she returning presently) thence by coach to my Lord’s, and there I left money for Captain Ferrers to buy me two bands. So towards the New Exchange, and there while my wife was buying things I walked up and down with Dr. Williams, talking about my law businesses, and thence took him to my brother’s, and there gave him a glass of wine, and so parted, and then by coach with my wife home, and Sir J. M. and Sir W. B. being come from Chatham Pay I did go see them for complaisance, and so home and to bed.

after-dinner discourse
about how to stay lit:
the mother talking
to the wine

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 7 October 1662.

Sir W. Pen and I early to St. James’s by water, where Mr. Coventry, finding the Duke in bed, and not very well, we did not stay to speak with him, but to White Hall, and there took boat and down to Woolwich we went. In our way Mr. Coventry telling us how of late upon enquiry into the miscarriages of the Duke’s family, Mr. Biggs, his steward, is found very faulty, and is turned out of his employment. Then we fell to reading of a book which I saw the other day at my Lord Sandwich’s, intended for the late King, finely bound up, a treatise concerning the benefit the Hollanders make of our fishing, but whereas I expected great matters from it, I find it a very impertinent, and though some things good, yet so full of tautologies, that we were weary of it.
At Woolwich we mustered the yard, and then to the Hart to dinner, and then to the Rope-yard, where I did vex Sir W. Pen I know to appear so well acquainted, I thought better than he, in the business of hemp; thence to Deptford, and there looked over several businesses, and wakened the officers there; so walked to Redriffe, and thence, landing Sir W. Pen at the Tower, I to White Hall with Mr. Coventry, and so to my Lord Sandwich’s lodgings, but my Lord was not within, being at a ball this night with the King at my Lady Castlemaine’s at next door. But here to my trouble I hear that Mr. Moore is gone very sick to the Wardrobe this afternoon, which troubles me much both for his own sake and for mine, because of my law business that he does for me and also for my Lord’s matters. So hence by water, late as it was, to the Wardrobe, and there found him in a high fever, in bed, and much cast down by his being ill. So thought it not convenient to stay, but left him and walked home, and there weary went to supper, and then the barber came to me, and after he had done, to my office to set down my journall of this day, and so home and to bed.

water is a book
full of tautologies
weary to the ear

I wake in the night
on my waterbed
weary journal

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 6 October 1662.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed talking with my wife, and among other things fell out about my maid Sarah, whom my wife would fain put away, when I think her as good a servant as ever came into a house, but it seems my wife would have one that would dress a head well, but we were friends at last.
I to church; and this day the parson has got one to read with a surplice on. I suppose himself will take it up hereafter, for a cunning fellow he is as any of his coat. Dined with my wife, and then to talk again above, chiefly about her learning to dance against her going next year into the country, which I am willing she shall do.
Then to church to a tedious sermon, and thence walked to Tom’s to see how things are in his absence in the country, and so home and in my wife’s chamber till bedtime talking, and then to my office to put things in order to wait on the Duke to-morrow morning, and so home and to bed.

I put away my head,
friend to this arson—
for I am ill—
and walk to see how things are
in his absence.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 5 October 1662.

To my office all the morning, after I was up (my wife beginning to make me lie long a mornings), where we sat till noon, and then dined at home, and after a little with my workmen to my office till 9 at night, among other things examining the particulars of the miscarriage of the Satisfaction, sunk the other day on the Dutch coast through the negligence of the pilott.

I lie till noon
and dine till nine at night
examining the miscarriage
of satisfaction

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 4 October 1662.

Rose, and without taking leave or speaking to my Lord went out early and walked home, calling at my brother’s and Paul’s Churchyard, but bought nothing because of my oath, though I had a great mind to it.
At my office, and with my workmen till noon, and then dined with my wife upon herrings, the first I have eat this year, and so to my workmen again. By and by comes a gentleman to speak with my wife, and I found him to be a gentleman that had used her very civilly in her coming up out of the country, on which score I showed him great respect, and found him a very ingenious gentleman, and sat and talked with him a great while.
He gone, to my workmen again, and in the evening comes Captain Ferrers, and sat and talked a great while, and told me the story of his receiving his cut in the hand by falling out with one of my Lord’s footmen. He told me also of the impertinence and mischief that Ned Pickering has made in the country between my Lord and all his servants almost by his finding of faults, which I am vexed to hear, it being a great disgrace to my Lord to have the fellow seen to be so great still with him. He brought me a letter from my father, that appoints the day for the Court at Brampton to be the 13th of this month; but I perceive he has kept the letter in his pocket these three days, so that if the day had been sooner, I might have been spilt. So that it is a great folly to send letters of business by any friend that require haste. He being gone I to my office all the evening, doing business there till bedtime, it being now my manner since my wife is come to spend too much of my daytime with her and the workmen and do my office business at night, which must not be after the work of the house is done. This night late I had notice that Dekins, the merchant, is dead this afternoon suddenly, for grief that his daughter, my Morena, who has long been ill, is given over by the Doctors. For both which I am very sorry.
So home and to bed.

I walk home
all the herring coming out
with a grace as great as the night

after the work
of the house is done
this sudden grief

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 3 October 1662.

Up and to the office, where we sat till noon, and then to dinner, and Mr. Moore came and dined with me, and after dinner to look over my Brampton papers, which was a most necessary work, though it is not so much to my content as I could wish. I fear that it must be as it can, and not as I would. He being gone I to my workmen again, and at night by coach towards Whitehall took up Mr. Moore and set him at my Lord’s, and myself, hearing that there was a play at the Cockpit (and my Lord Sandwich, who came to town last night, at it), I do go thither, and by very great fortune did follow four or five gentlemen who were carried to a little private door in a wall, and so crept through a narrow place and come into one of the boxes next the King’s, but so as I could not see the King or Queene, but many of the fine ladies, who yet are really not so handsome generally as I used to take them to be, but that they are finely dressed. Here we saw “The Cardinall,” a tragedy I had never seen before, nor is there any great matter in it. The company that came in with me into the box, were all Frenchmen that could speak no English, but Lord! what sport they made to ask a pretty lady that they got among them that understood both French and English to make her tell them what the actors said. Thence to my Lord’s, and saw him, and staid with him half an hour in his chamber talking about some of mine and his own business, and so up to bed with Mr. Moore in the chamber over my Lord’s.

my work is not as I could
and not as I would
work myself

at night I go to a little private
door in a wall
and through a narrow place
and into a box

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 October 1662.

Up with my mind pretty well at rest about my accounts and other business, and so to my house and there put my work to business, and then down to Deptford to do the same there, and so back and with my workmen all the afternoon, and my wife putting a chamber in order for us to lie in. At night to look over some Brampton papers against the Court which I expect every day to hear of, and that done home and with my wife to bed, the first time I have lain there these two months and more, which I am now glad to do again, and do so like the chamber as it is now ordered that all my fear is my not keeping it. But I hope the best, for it would vex me to the heart to lose it.

My accounts own me
all afternoon
and lie at night
like amber
keeping the heart.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 1 October 1662.

We rose, and he about his business, and I to my house to look over my workmen; but good God! how I do find myself by yesterday’s liberty hard to be brought to follow business again, but however, I must do it, considering the great sweet and pleasure and content of mind that I have had since I did leave drink and plays, and other pleasures, and followed my business.
So to my office, where we sat till noon, and then I to dinner with Sir W. Pen, and while we were at it coming my wife to the office, and so I sent for her up, and after dinner we took coach and to the Duke’s playhouse, where we saw “The Duchess of Malfy” well performed, but Betterton and Ianthe to admiration. That being done, home again, by coach, and my wife’s chamber got ready for her to lie in to-night, but my business did call me to my office, so that staying late I did not lie with her at home, but at my lodgings.
Strange to see how easily my mind do revert to its former practice of loving plays and wine, having given myself a liberty to them but these two days; but this night I have again bound myself to Christmas next, in which I desire God to bless me and preserve me, for under God I find it to be the best course that ever I could take to bring myself to mind my business.
I have also made up this evening my monthly ballance, and find that, notwithstanding the loss of 30l. to be paid to the loyall and necessitous cavaliers by act of Parliament, yet I am worth about 680l., for which the Lord God be praised. My condition at present is this:—
I have long been building, and my house to my great content is now almost done. But yet not so but that I shall have dirt, which troubles me too, for my wife has been in the country at Brampton these two months, and is now come home a week or two before the house is ready for her.
My mind is somewhat troubled about my best chamber, which I question whether I shall be able to keep or no. I am also troubled for the journey which I must needs take suddenly to the Court at Brampton, but most of all for that I am not provided to understand my business, having not minded it a great while, and at the best shall be able but to make a bad matter of it, but God, I hope, will guide all to the best, and I am resolved to-morrow to fall hard to it. I pray God help me therein, for my father and mother and all our well-doings do depend upon my care therein.
My Lord Sandwich has lately been in the country, and very civil to my wife, and hath himself spent some pains in drawing a plot of some alterations in our house there, which I shall follow as I get money.
As for the office, my late industry hath been such, as I am become as high in reputation as any man there, and good hold I have of Mr. Coventry and Sir G. Carteret, which I am resolved, and it is necessary for me, to maintain by all fair means.
Things are all quiett, but the King poor, and no hopes almost of his being otherwise, by which things will go to rack, especially in the Navy.
The late outing of the Presbyterian clergy by their not renouncing the Covenant as the Act of Parliament commands, is the greatest piece of state now in discourse. But for ought I see they are gone out very peaceably, and the people not so much concerned therein as was expected.
My brother Tom is gone out of town this day, to make a second journey to his mistress at Banbury, of which I have good expectations, and pray God to bless him therein. My mind, I hope, is settled to follow my business again, for I find that two days’ neglect of business do give more discontent in mind than ten times the pleasure thereof can repair again, be it what it will.

how sweet an ink followed my pen
into a better night

how easily I revert to loving
the God of raised dirt

what a journey I take
suddenly under the sand

here things are all quiet
and go very peaceably out of mind

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 30 September 1662.

(Lord’s day). Waked early, and fell talking one with another with great pleasure of my house at Brampton and that here, and other matters. She tells me what a rogue my boy is, and strange things he has been found guilty of, not fit to name, which vexes, but most of all the unquiett life that my mother makes my father and herself lead through her want of reason.
At last I rose, and with Tom to the French Church at the Savoy, where I never was before — a pretty place it is — and there they have the Common Prayer Book read in French, and, which I never saw before, the minister do preach with his hat off, I suppose in further conformity with our Church.
So to Tom’s to dinner with my wife, and there came Mr. Cooke, and Joyce Norton do also dine there, and after dinner Cooke and I did talk about his journey and Tom’s within a day or two about his mistress. And I did tell him my mind and give him my opinion in it.
So I walked home and found my house made a little clean, and pleases me better and better, and so to church in the afternoon, and after sermon to my study, and there did some things against to-morrow that I go to the Duke’s, and so walked to Tom’s again, and there supped and to bed with good content of mind.

a rogue as unquiet
as a rose

never a book read
in never a church

the mind I found
in my mind

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 28 September 1662.