Pepys Diary erasure project

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

Fast-day for the murthering of the late King. I went to church, and Mr. Mills made a good sermon upon David’s words, “Who can lay his hands upon the Lord’s Anoynted and be guiltless?” So home and to dinner, and employed all the afternoon in my chamber, setting things and papers to rights, which pleased me very well, and I think I shall begin to take pleasure in being at home and minding my business. I pray God I may, for I find a great need thereof. At night to supper and to bed.

Murdering words
can be guiltless,
and the afternoon paper may find
great need of night.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 30 January 1661/62.

To Westminster, and at the Parliament door spoke with Mr. Coventry about business, and so to the Wardrobe to dinner, and thence to several places, and so home, where I found Mrs. Pen and Mrs. Rooth and Smith, who played at cards with my wife, and I did give them a barrel of oysters, and had a pullet to supper for them, and when it was ready to come to table, the foolish girl had not the manners to stay and sup with me, but went away, which did vex me cruelly. So I saw her home, and then to supper, and so to musique practice, and to bed.

The war
found a root
at my supper table—
no manners but
a cruel music.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 29 January 1661/62.

This morning (after my musique practice with Mr. Berkenshaw) with my wife to the Paynter’s, where we staid very late to have her picture mended, which at last is come to be very like her, and I think well done; but the Paynter, though a very honest man, I found to be very silly as to matter of skill in shadows, for we were long in discourse, till I was almost angry to hear him talk so simply. So home to dinner and then to the office, and so home for all night.

After music,
the painter at last
is like an honest shadow
angry to hear of night.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 28 January 1661/62.

This morning, both Sir Williams and I by barge to Deptford-yard to give orders in businesses there; and called on several ships, also to give orders, and so to Woolwich, and there dined at Mr. Falconer’s of victuals we carried ourselves, and one Mr. Dekins, the father of my Morena, of whom we have lately bought some hemp. That being done we went home again.
This morning, going to take water upon Tower-hill, we met with three sleddes standing there to carry my Lord Monson and Sir H. Mildmay and another, to the gallows and back again, with ropes about their necks; which is to be repeated every year, this being the day of their sentencing the King.

Give orders
to give orders.
A falcon on the hill or a gallows—
which is king?


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 27 January 1661/62.

(Lord’s day). To church in the morning, and then home to dinner alone with my wife, and so both to church in the afternoon and home again, and so to read and talk with my wife, and to supper and to bed.
It having been a very fine clear frosty day — God send us more of them, for the warm weather all this winter makes us fear a sick summer.
But thanks be to God, since my leaving drinking of wine, I do find myself much better and do mind my business better, and do spend less money, and less time lost in idle company.

A morning with fine,
clear frost.
Winter makes us fear,
drink, bet,
sin better and spend
time lost.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 26 January 1661/62.

This morning came my cozen Thos. Pepys the Executor, to speak with me, and I had much talk with him both about matters of money which my Lord Sandwich has of his and I am bond for, as also of my uncle Thomas, who I hear by him do stand upon very high terms.
Thence to my painter’s, and there I saw our pictures in the frames, which please me well. Thence to the Wardrobe, where very merry with my Lady, and after dinner I sent for the pictures thither, and mine is well liked; but she is much offended with my wife’s, and I am of her opinion, that it do much wrong her; but I will have it altered. So home, in my way calling at Pope’s Head alley, and there bought me a pair of scissars and a brass square. So home and to my study and to bed.

Morning Zen.
The peak and I talk
about sand, stand
on very high terms.
In our pictures, it
is like a pope’s head
and me a pair of scissors,
square to my study.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 January 1661/62.

After musique-practice, to White Hall, and thence to Westminster, in my way calling at Mr. George Montagu’s, to condole him the loss of his son, who was a fine gentleman, and it is no doubt a great discomfort to our two young gentlemen, his companions in France. After this discourse he told me, among other news, the great jealousys that are now in the Parliament House. The Lord Chancellor, it seems, taking occasion from this late plot to raise fears in the people, did project the raising of an army forthwith, besides the constant militia, thinking to make the Duke of York General thereof. But the House did, in very open terms, say, they were grown too wise to be fooled again into another army; and said they had found how that man that hath the command of an army is not beholden to any body to make him King. There are factions (private ones at Court) about Madam Palmer; but what it is about I know not. But it is something about the King’s favour to her now that the Queen is coming.
He told me, too, what sport the King and Court do make at Mr. Edward Montagu’s leaving his things behind him. But the Chancellor (taking it a little more seriously) did openly say to my Lord Chamberlain, that had it been such a gallant as my Lord Mandeville his son, it might have; been taken as a frolique; but for him that would be thought a grave coxcomb, it was very strange.
Thence to the Hall, where I heard the House had ordered all the King’s murderers, that remain, to be executed, but Fleetwood and Downes.
So to the Wardrobe and there dined, meeting my wife there, who went after dinner with my Lady to see Mr. George Montagu’s lady, and I to have a meeting by appointment with Tho. Trice and Dr. Williams in order to a treating about the difference between us, but I find there is no hopes of ending it but by law, and so after a pint or two of wine we parted.
So to the Wardrobe for my wife again, and so home, and after writing and doing some things to bed.

I practice loss,
lousy as a fool in
the king’s favor leaving
his things in
an open grave.
Strange to hear all
the murderers of a pint
part for home.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 22 January 1661/62.