Pepys Diary erasure project

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

(Lord’s day). In the morning we were troubled to hear it rain as it did, because of the great show tomorrow. After I was ready I walked to my father’s and there found the late maid to be gone and another come by my mother’s choice, which my father do not like, and so great difference there will be between my father and mother about it. Here dined Doctor Thos. Pepys and Dr. Fayrebrother; and all our talk about to-morrow’s show, and our trouble that it is like to be a wet day.
After dinner comes in my coz. Snow and his wife, and I think stay there till the show be over. Then I went home, and all the way is so thronged with people to see the triumphal arches, that I could hardly pass for them.
So home, people being at church, and I got home unseen, and so up to my chamber and saw done these last five or six days’ diarys.
My mind a little troubled about my workmen, which, being foreigners, are like to be troubled by a couple of lazy rogues that worked with me the other day, that are citizens, and so my work will be hindered, but I must prevent it if I can.

In the ear, rain
like a great throng
that could pass for unseen diaries,
my mind a foreigner
troubled by rogue citizens.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 21 April 1661.

Here comes my boy to tell me that the Duke of York had sent for all the principal officers, &c., to come to him to-day. So I went by water to Mr. Coventry’s, and there staid and talked a good while with him till all the rest come. We went up and saw the Duke dress himself, and in his night habitt he is a very plain man. Then he sent us to his closett, where we saw among other things two very fine chests, covered with gold and Indian varnish, given him by the East Indy Company of Holland. The Duke comes; and after he had told us that the fleet was designed for Algier (which was kept from us till now), we did advise about many things as to the fitting of the fleet, and so went away. And from thence to the Privy Seal, where little to do, and after that took Mr. Creed and Moore and gave them their morning draught, and after that to my Lord’s, where Sir W. Pen came to me, and dined with my Lord. After dinner he and others that dined there went away, and then my Lord looked upon his pages’ and footmen’s liverys, which are come home to-day, and will be handsome, though not gaudy. Then with my Lady and my Lady Wright to White Hall; and in the Banqueting-house saw the King create my Lord Chancellor and several others, Earls, and Mr. Crew and several others, Barons: the first being led up by Heralds and five old Earls to the King, and there the patent is read, and the King puts on his vest, and sword, and coronet, and gives him the patent. And then he kisseth the King’s hand, and rises and stands covered before the king. And the same for the Barons, only he is led up but by three of the old Barons, and are girt with swords before they go to the King.
That being done (which was very pleasant to see their habits), I carried my Lady back, and I found my Lord angry, for that his page had let my Lord’s new beaver be changed for an old hat.
Then I went away, and with Mr. Creed to the Exchange and bought some things, as gloves and bandstrings, &c. So back to the Cockpitt, and there, by the favour of one Mr. Bowman, he and I got in, and there saw the King and Duke of York and his Duchess (which is a plain woman, and like her mother, my Lady Chancellor).
And so saw “The Humersome Lieutenant” acted before the King, but not very well done. But my pleasure was great to see the manner of it, and so many great beauties, but above all Mrs. Palmer, with whom the King do discover a great deal of familiarity.
So Mr. Creed and I (the play being done) went to Mrs. Harper’s, and there sat and drank, it being about twelve at night. The ways being now so dirty, and stopped up with the rayles which are this day set up in the streets, I would not go home, but went with him to his lodging at Mr. Ware’s, and there lay all night.

Among other things very fine, which thing is a king? The king is a king: a word and net. The king is a cover for the king, girt with words.

The king is a lord changed for an old hat. The king is a plain moth, a chance tenant. The king is a familiar street at night.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 20 April 1661.

Among my workmen and then to the office, and after that dined with Sir W. Batten, and then home, where Sir W. Warren came, and I took him and Mr. Shepley and Moore with me to the Mitre, and there I cleared with Warren for the deals I bought lately for my Lord of him, and he went away, and we staid afterwards a good while and talked, and so parted, it being so foul that I could not go to Whitehall to see the Knights of the Bath made to-day, which do trouble me mightily. So home, and having staid awhile till Will came in (with whom I was vexed for staying abroad), he comes and then I went by water to my father’s, and then after supper to bed with my wife.

After the clear
war for the Lord,
foul Knights of the Bath
trouble the water.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 19 April 1661.

Up with my workmen and then about 9 o’clock took horse with both the Sir Williams for Walthamstow, and there we found my Lady and her daughters all.
And a pleasant day it was, and all things else, but that my Lady was in a bad mood, which we were troubled at, and had she been noble she would not have been so with her servants, when we came thither, and this Sir W. Pen took notice of, as well as I. After dinner we all went to the Church stile, and there eat and drank, and I was as merry as I could counterfeit myself to be. Then, it raining hard, we left Sir W. Batten, and we two returned and called at Mr. — and drank some brave wine there, and then homewards again and in our way met with two country fellows upon one horse, which I did, without much ado, give the way to, but Sir W. Pen would not, but struck them and they him, and so passed away, but they giving him some high words, he went back again and struck them off their horse, in a simple fury, and without much honour, in my mind, and so came away.
Home, and I sat with him a good while talking, and then home and to bed.

A horse in a bad mood
is a hard horse, a high horse—
simple fury without much mind.
I sat with him a good while,
talking home and bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 18 April 1661.

By land and saw the arches, which are now almost done and are very fine, and I saw the picture of the ships and other things this morning, set up before the East Indy House, which are well done. So to the office, and that being done I went to dinner with Sir W. Batten, and then home to my workmen, and saw them go on with great content to me. Then comes Mr. Allen of Chatham, and I took him to the Mitre and there did drink with him, and did get of him the song that pleased me so well there the other day, “Of Shitten come Shites the beginning of love.”
His daughters are to come to town to-morrow, but I know not whether I shall see them or no. That done I went to the Dolphin by appointment and there I met Sir Wms. both and Mr. Castle, and did eat a barrel of oysters and two lobsters, which I did give them, and were very merry.
Here we had great talk of Mr. Warren’s being knighted by the King, and Sir W. B. seemed to be very much incensed against him.
So home.

I saw the ships set off
at the beginning of love
but I know not
whether I shall see
a dolphin.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 17 April 1661.

So soon as word was brought me that Mr. Coventry was come with the barge to the Tower, I went to him, and found him reading of the Psalms in short hand (which he is now busy about), and had good sport about the long marks that are made there for sentences in divinity, which he is never like to make use of. Here he and I sat till the Comptroller came and then we put off for Deptford, where we went on board the King’s pleasure boat that Commissioner Pett is making, and indeed it will be a most pretty thing.
From thence to Commr. Pett’s lodging, and there had a good breakfast, and in came the two Sir Wms. from Walthamstow, and so we sat down and did a great deal of public business about the fitting of the fleet that is now going out.
That done we went to the Globe and there had a good dinner, and by and by took barge again and so home. By the way they would have me sing, which I did to Mr. Coventry, who went up to Sir William Batten’s, and there we staid and talked a good while, and then broke up and I home, and then to my father’s and there lay with my wife.

I read in shorthand
the long sentences
like a troll on board
the King’s boat,
making a pretty deal
of public sin—
fitting in.
I gain a home.
They have me sing.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 16 April 1661.

From my father’s, it being a very foul morning for the King and Lords to go to Windsor, I went to the office and there met Mr. Coventry and Sir Robt. Slingsby, but did no business, but only appoint to go to Deptford together tomorrow. Mr. Coventry being gone, and I having at home laid up 200l. which I had brought this morning home from Alderman Backwell’s, I went home by coach with Sir R. Slingsby and dined with him, and had a very good dinner. His lady seems a good woman and very desirous they were to hear this noon by the post how the election has gone at Newcastle, wherein he is concerned, but the letters are not come yet.
To my uncle Wight’s, and after a little stay with them he and I to Mr. Rawlinson’s, and there staid all the afternoon, it being very foul, and had a little talk with him what good I might make of these ships that go to Portugal by venturing some money by them, and he will give me an answer to it shortly. So home and sent for the Barber, and after that to bed.

A morning wind
did business in the alder.

Coach dined with post—
where the letters come.

A stay had a little talk
with a ship.

So money will give me
an answer shortly.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 15 April 1661.

(Easter. Lord’s day). In the morning towards my father’s, and by the way heard Mr. Jacomb, at Ludgate, upon these words, “Christ loved you and therefore let us love one another,” and made a lazy sermon, like a Presbyterian. Then to my father’s and dined there, and Dr. Fairbrother (lately come to town) with us. After dinner I went to the Temple and there heard Dr. Griffith, a good sermon for the day; so with Mr. Moore (whom I met there) to my Lord’s, and there he shewed me a copy of my Lord Chancellor’s patent for Earl, and I read the preamble, which is very short, modest, and good.
Here my Lord saw us and spoke to me about getting Mr. Moore to come and govern his house while he goes to sea, which I promised him to do and did afterwards speak to Mr. Moore, and he is willing.
Then hearing that Mr. Barnwell was come, with some of my Lord’s little children, yesterday to town, to see the Coronacion, I went and found them at the Goat, at Charing Cross, and there I went and drank with them a good while, whom I found in very good health and very merry. Then to my father’s, and after supper seemed willing to go home, and my wife seeming to be so too I went away in a discontent, but she, poor wretch, followed me as far in the rain and dark as Fleet Bridge to fetch me back again, and so I did, and lay with her to-night, which I have not done these eight or ten days before.

The Way is like a patent to govern sea
or a barn with children
or a goat merry in the rain.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 14 April 1661.

To Whitehall by water from Towre-wharf, where we could not pass the ordinary way, because they were mending of the great stone steps against the Coronacion. With Sir W. Pen, then to my Lord’s, and thence with Capt. Cuttance and Capt. Clark to drink our morning draught together, and before we could get back again my Lord was gone out. So to Whitehall again and, met with my Lord above with the Duke; and after a little talk with him, I went to the Banquethouse, and there saw the King heal, the first time that ever I saw him do it; which he did with great gravity, and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one. That done to my Lord’s and dined there, and so by water with parson Turner towards London, and upon my telling of him of Mr. Moore to be a fit man to do his business with Bishop Wren, about which he was going, he went back out of my boat into another to Whitehall, and so I forwards home and there by and by took coach with Sir W. Pen and Captain Terne and went to the buriall of Captain Robert Blake, at Wapping, and there had each of us a ring, but it being dirty, we would not go to church with them, but with our coach we returned home, and there staid a little, and then he and I alone to the Dolphin (Sir W. Batten being this day gone with his wife to Walthamstow to keep Easter), and there had a supper by ourselves, we both being very hungry, and staying there late drinking I became very sleepy, and so we went home and I to bed.

We could not mend
the great stone.
I saw the king heal it
with simple water
and go to the burial of dirt.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 April 1661.

Up among my workmen, and about 7 o’clock comes my wife to see me and my brother John with her, who I am glad to see, but I sent them away because of going to the office, and there dined with Sir W. Batten, all fish dinner, it being Good Friday.
Then home and looking over my workmen, and then into the City and saw in what forwardness all things are for the Coronacion, which will be very magnificent. Then back again home and to my chamber, to set down in my diary all my late journey, which I do with great pleasure; and while I am now writing comes one with a tickett to invite me to Captain Robert Blake’s buriall, for whose death I am very sorry, and do much wonder at it, he being a little while since a very likely man to live as any I knew. Since my going out of town, there is one Alexander Rosse taken and sent to the Counter by Sir Thomas Allen, for counterfeiting my hand to a ticket, and we this day at the office have given order to Mr. Smith to prosecute him. To bed.

I am the way
and the fish
in Good Friday,
the work and the war,
magnificent in
my journey to death
like a counterfeit day.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 12 April 1661.