Pepys Diary erasure project

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

Up betimes and to my office, where doing business alone a good while till people came about business to me.
Will Griffin tells me this morning that Captain Browne, Sir W. Batten’s brother-in-law, is dead of a blow given him two days ago by a seaman, a servant of his, being drunk, with a stone striking him on the forehead, for which I am sorry, he having a good woman and several small children.
At the office all the morning, at noon dined at home with my wife, merry, and after dinner by water to White Hall; but found the Duke of York gone to St. James’s for this summer; and thence with Mr. Coventry, to whose chamber I went, and Sir W. Pen up to the Duke’s closett. And a good while with him about our Navy business; and so I to White Hall, and there alone a while with my Lord Sandwich discoursing about his debt to the Navy, wherein he hath given me some things to resolve him in. Thence to my Lord’s lodging, and thither came Creed to me, and he and I walked a great while in the garden, and thence to an alehouse in the market place to drink fine Lambeth ale, and so to Westminster Hall, and after walking there a great while, home by coach, where I found Mary gone from my wife, she being too high for her, though a very good servant, and my boy too will be going in a few days, for he is not for my family, he is grown so out of order and not to be ruled, and do himself, against his brother’s counsel, desire to be gone, which I am sorry for, because I love the boy and would be glad to bring him to good.
At home with my wife and Ashwell talking of her going into the country this year, wherein we had like to have fallen out, she thinking that I have a design to have her go, which I have not, and to let her stay here I perceive will not be convenient, for she expects more pleasure than I can give her here, and I fear I have done very ill in letting her begin to learn to dance.
The Queen (which I did not know) it seems was at Windsor, at the late St. George’s feast there; and the Duke of Monmouth dancing with her with his hat in his hand, the King came in and kissed him, and made him put on his hat, which every body took notice of.
After being a while at my office home to supper and to bed, my Will being come home again after being at his father’s all the last week taking physique.

dead things lodging
in the garden grown out of order

a desire to be gone
which I am sorry for

like a sign in the wind
dancing with no will


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 27 April 1663.

(Lord’s-day). Lay pretty long in bed talking with my wife, and then up and set to the making up of my monthly accounts, but Tom coming, with whom I was angry for botching my camlott coat, to tell me that my father and he would dine with me, and that my father was at our church, I got me ready and had a very good sermon of a country minister upon “How blessed a thing it is for brethren to live together in unity!” So home and all to dinner, and then would have gone by coach to have seen my Lord Sandwich at Chelsey if the man would have taken us, but he denying it we staid at home, and I all the afternoon upon my accounts, and find myself worth full 700l., for which I bless God, it being the most I was ever yet worth in money.
In the evening (my father being gone to my brothers to lie to-night) my wife, Ashwell, and the boy and I, and the dogg, over the water and walked to Half-way house, and beyond into the fields, gathering of cowslipps, and so to Half-way house, with some cold lamb we carried with us, and there supped, and had a most pleasant walk back again, Ashwell all along telling us some parts of their mask at Chelsey School, which was very pretty, and I find she hath a most prodigious memory, remembering so much of things acted six or seven years ago.
So home, and after reading my vows, being sleepy, without prayers to bed, for which God forgive me!

who am I
to live in unity

denying all the others
we carried with us

the mask remembering
things acted years ago
in my sleep


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 26 April 1663.

Up betimes and to my vyall and song book a pretty while, and so to my office, and there we sat all the morning. Among other things Sir W. Batten had a mind to cause Butler (our chief witness in the business of Field, whom we did force back from an employment going to sea to come back to attend our law sute) to be borne as a mate on the Rainbow in the Downes in compensation for his loss for our sakes. This he orders an order to be drawn by Mr. Turner for, and after Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, and Sir W. Pen had signed it, it came to me and I was going to put it up into my book, thinking to consider of it and give them my opinion upon it before I parted with it, but Sir W. Pen told me I must sign it or give it him again, for it should not go without my hand. I told him what I meant to do, whereupon Sir W. Batten was very angry, and in a great heat (which will bring out any thing which he has in his mind, and I am glad of it, though it is base in him to have a thing so long in his mind without speaking of it, though I am glad this is the worst, for if he had worse it would out as well as this some time or other) told me that I should not think as I have heretofore done, make them sign orders and not sign them myself. Which what ignorance or worse it implies is easy to judge, when he shall sign to things (and the rest of the board too as appears in this business) for company and not out of their judgment for. After some discourse I did convince them that it was not fit to have it go, and Sir W. Batten first, and then the rest, did willingly cancel all their hands and tear the order, for I told them, Butler being such a rogue as I know him, and we have all signed him to be to the Duke, it will be in his power to publish this to our great reproach, that we should take such a course as this to serve ourselves in wronging the King by putting him into a place he is no wise capable of, and that in an Admiral ship.
At noon we rose, Sir W. Batten ashamed and vexed, and so home to dinner, and after dinner walked to the old Exchange and so all along to Westminster Hall, White Hall, my Lord Sandwich’s lodgings, and going by water back to the Temple did pay my debts in several places in order to my examining my accounts tomorrow to my great content. So in the evening home, and after supper (my father at my brother’s) and merrily practising to dance, which my wife hath begun to learn this day of Mr. Pembleton, but I fear will hardly do any great good at it, because she is conceited that she do well already, though I think no such thing.
So to bed.
At Westminster Hall, this day, I buy a book lately printed and licensed by Dr. Stradling, the Bishop of London’s chaplin, being a book discovering the practices and designs of the papists, and the fears of some of our own fathers of the Protestant church heretofore of the return to Popery as it were prefacing it.
The book is a very good book; but forasmuch as it touches one of the Queenmother’s fathers confessors, the Bishop, which troubles many good men and members of Parliament, hath called it in, which I am sorry for.
Another book I bought, being a collection of many expressions of the great Presbyterian Preachers upon publique occasions, in the late times, against the King and his party, as some of Mr. Marshall, Case, Calamy, Baxter, &c., which is good reading now, to see what they then did teach, and the people believe, and what they would seem to believe now.
Lastly, I did hear that the Queen is much grieved of late at the King’s neglecting her, he having not supped once with her this quarter of a year, and almost every night with my Lady Castlemaine; who hath been with him this St. George’s feast at Windsor, and came home with him last night; and, which is more, they say is removed as to her bed from her own home to a chamber in White Hall, next to the King’s own; which I am sorry to hear, though I love her much.

a book of rain
in the book of my hand

a thing so long
it is not fit to publish

I read the book of the ear
prefacing the book of the confessor

I am sorry for the book
I am reading now

what people believe
and grieve in it


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 25 April 1663.

Up betimes, and with my salt eel went down in the parler and there got my boy and did beat him till I was fain to take breath two or three times, yet for all I am afeard it will make the boy never the better, he is grown so hardened in his tricks, which I am sorry for, he being capable of making a brave man, and is a boy that I and my wife love very well. So made me ready, and to my office, where all the morning, and at noon home, whither came Captain Holland, who is lately come home from sea, and has been much harassed in law about the ship which he has bought, so that it seems in a despair he endeavoured to cut his own throat, but is recovered it; and it seems whether by that or any other persuasion (his wife’s mother being a great zealot) he is turned almost a Quaker, his discourse being nothing but holy, and that impertinent, that I was weary of him. At last pretending to go to the Change we walked thither together, and there I left him and home to dinner, sending my boy by the way to enquire after two dancing masters at our end of the town for my wife to learn, of whose names the boy brought word.
After dinner all the afternoon fiddling upon my viallin (which I have not done many a day) while Ashwell danced above in my upper best chamber, which is a rare room for musique, expecting this afternoon my wife to bring my cozen Scott and Stradwick, but they came not, and so in the evening we by ourselves to Half-way house to walk, but did not go in there, but only a walk and so home again and to supper, my father with us, and had a good lobster intended for part of our entertainment to these people to-day, and so to cards, and then to bed, being the first day that I have spent so much to my pleasure a great while.

salt breath
will make a man love the sea

and in despair
cut his own throat

as a rare room for music
half-way to a lobster


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 April 1663.

St. George’s day and Coronacion, the King and Court being at Windsor, at the installing of the King of Denmark by proxy and the Duke of Monmouth.
I up betimes, and with my father, having a fire made in my wife’s new closet above, it being a wet and cold day, we sat there all the morning looking over his country accounts ever since his going into the country. I find his spending hitherto has been (without extraordinary charges) at full 100l. per annum, which troubles me, and I did let him apprehend it, so as that the poor man wept, though he did make it well appear to me that he could not have saved a farthing of it. I did tell him how things stand with us, and did shew my distrust of Pall, both for her good nature and housewifery, which he was sorry for, telling me that indeed she carries herself very well and carefully, which I am glad to hear, though I doubt it was but his doting and not being able to find her miscarriages so well nowadays as he could heretofore have done.
We resolve upon sending for Will Stankes up to town to give us a right understanding in all that we have in Brampton, and before my father goes to settle every thing so as to resolve how to find a living for my father and to pay debts and legacies, and also to understand truly how Tom’s condition is in the world, that we may know what we are like to expect of his doing ill or well.
So to dinner, and after dinner to the office, where some of us met and did a little business, and so to Sir W. Batten’s to see a little picture drawing of his by a Dutchman which is very well done.
So to my office and put a few things in order, and so home to spend the evening with my father. At cards till late, and being at supper, my boy being sent for some mustard to a neat’s tongue, the rogue staid half an hour in the streets, it seems at a bonfire, at which I was very angry, and resolve to beat him to-morrow.

on a wet cold day in the country
the poor appear far

I distrust nature
but not her miscarriages

living in the world
like a drawing of a tongue at a bonfire


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 23 April 1663.

Up betimes and to my office very busy all the morning there, entering things into my Book Manuscript, which pleases me very much. So to the Change, and so to my uncle Wight’s, by invitation, whither my father, wife, and Ashwell came, where we had but a poor dinner, and not well dressed; besides, the very sight of my aunt’s hands and greasy manner of carving, did almost turn my stomach. After dinner by coach to the King’s Playhouse, where we saw but part of “Witt without mony,” which I do not like much, but coming late put me out of tune, and it costing me four half-crowns for myself and company. So, the play done, home, and I to my office a while and so home, where my father (who is so very melancholy) and we played at cards, and so to supper and to bed.

entering my manuscript
to change it and me

a poor dinner
easy in my stomach

in a king’s house
of melancholy cards


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

Up betimes and to my office, where first I ruled with red ink my English “Mare Clausum,” which, with the new orthodox title, makes it now very handsome. So to business, and then home to dinner, and after dinner to sit at the office in the afternoon, and thence to my study late, and so home to supper to play a game at cards with my wife, and so to bed. Ashwell plays well at cards, and will teach us to play; I wish it do not lose too much of my time, and put my wife too much upon it.

I rule with red ink
sum with orthodox hands

dinner after dinner
at the office late

if we play we lose
too much time


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

Up betimes as I use to do, and in my chamber begun to look over my father’s accounts, which he brought out of the country with him by my desire, whereby I may see what he has received and spent, and I find that he is not anything extravagant, and yet it do so far outdo his estate that he must either think of lessening his charge, or I must be forced to spare money out of my purse to help him through, which I would willing do as far as 20l. goes.
So to my office the remaining part of the morning till towards noon, and then to Mr. Grant’s. There saw his prints, which he shewed me, and indeed are the best collection of any things almost that ever I saw, there being the prints of most of the greatest houses, churches, and antiquitys in Italy and France and brave cutts. I had not time to look them over as I ought, and which I will take time hereafter to do, and therefore left them and home to dinner.
After dinner, it raining very hard, by coach to Whitehall, where, after Sir G. Carteret, Sir J. Minnes, Mr. Coventry and I had been with the Duke, we to the Committee of Tangier and did matters there dispatching wholly my Lord Teviott, and so broke up.
With Sir G. Carteret and Sir John Minnes by coach to my Lord Treasurer’s, thinking to have spoken about getting money for paying the Yards; but we found him with some ladies at cards: and so, it being a bad time to speak, we parted, and Sir J. Minnes and I home, and after walking with my wife in the garden late, to supper and to bed, being somewhat troubled at Ashwell’s desiring and insisting over eagerly upon her going to a ball to meet some of her old companions at a dancing school here in town next Friday, but I am resolved she shall not go. So to bed.
This day the little Duke of Monmouth was marryed at White Hall, in the King’s chamber; and tonight is a great supper and dancing at his lodgings, near Charing-Cross. I observed his coat at the tail of his coach he gives the arms of England, Scotland, and France, quartered upon some other fields, but what it is that speaks his being a bastard I know not.

her extravagant
collection of antiquities—
married to a bastard


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 20 April 1663.

(Easter day). Up and this day put on my close-kneed coloured suit, which, with new stockings of the colour, with belt, and new gilt-handled sword, is very handsome.
To church alone, and so to dinner, where my father and brother Tom dined with us, and after dinner to church again, my father sitting below in the chancel. After church done, where the young Scotchman preaching I slept all the while, my father and I to see my uncle and aunt Wight, and after a stay of an hour there my father to my brother’s and I home to supper, and after supper fell in discourse of dancing, and I find that Ashwell hath a very fine carriage, which makes my wife almost ashamed of herself to see herself so outdone, but to-morrow she begins to learn to dance for a month or two.
So to prayers and to bed. Will being gone, with my leave, to his father’s this day for a day or two, to take physique these holydays.

is my knee red
which hand is handsome

alone with each other
we begin to learn to dance

for two to pray
being one is holy


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

Up betimes and to my office, where all the morning. At noon to dinner. With us Mr. Creed, who has been deeply engaged at the office this day about the ending of his accounts, wherein he is most unhappy to have to do with a company of fools who after they have signed his accounts and made bills upon them yet dare not boldly assert to the Treasurer that they are satisfied with his accounts. Hereupon all dinner, and walking in the garden the afternoon, he and I talking of the ill management of our office, which God knows is very ill for the King’s advantage. I would I could make it better.
In the evening to my office, and at night home to supper and bed.

the deep age of this day
ending with a company of ills

no satisfied walking in the garden
no talking god

no age could make
better evening at night


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