Pepys Diary erasure project

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

To Westminster Hall in the morning with Captain Lambert, and there he did at the Dog give me and some other friends of his, his foy, he being to set sail to-day towards the Streights. Here we had oysters and good wine. Having this morning met in the Hall with Mr. Sanchy, we appointed to meet at the play this afternoon. At noon, at the rising of the House, I met with Sir W. Pen and Major General Massy, who I find by discourse to be a very ingenious man, and among other things a great master in the secresys of powder and fireworks, and another knight to dinner, at the Swan, in the Palace yard, and our meat brought from the Legg; and after dinner Sir W. Pen and I to the Theatre, and there saw “The Country Captain,” a dull play, and that being done, I left him with his Torys and went to the Opera, and saw the last act of “The Bondman,” and there found Mr. Sanchy and Mrs. Mary Archer, sister to the fair Betty, whom I did admire at Cambridge, and thence took them to the Fleece in Covent Garden, there to bid good night to Sir W. Pen who staid for me; but Mr. Sanchy could not by any argument get his lady to trust herself with him into the tavern, which he was much troubled at, and so we returned immediately into the city by coach, and at the Mitre in Cheapside there light and drank, and then set her at her uncle’s in the Old Jewry. And so he and I back again thither, and drank till past 12 at night, till I had drank something too much. He all the while telling me his intention to get a girl who is worth 1000l., and many times we had her sister Betty’s health, whose memory I love. At last parted, and I well home, only had got cold and was hoarse and so to bed.

The dog all afternoon
is master of the yard.
I play with
his trust, troubled
by love as art.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 25 November 1661.

(Lord’s day). Up early, and by appointment to St. Clement lanes to church, and there to meet Captain Cocke, who had often commended Mr. Alsopp, their minister, to me, who is indeed an able man, but as all things else did not come up to my expectations. His text was that all good and perfect gifts are from above. Thence Cocke and I to the Sun tavern behind the Exchange, and there met with others that are come from the same church, and staid and drank and talked with them a little, and so broke up, and I to the Wardrobe and there dined, and staid all the afternoon with my Lady alone talking, and thence to see Madame Turner, who, poor lady, continues very ill, and I begin to be afraid of her. Thence homewards, and meeting Mr. Yong, the upholster, he and I to the Mitre, and with Mr. Rawlinson sat and drank a quart of sack, and so I to Sir W. Batten’s and there staid and supped, and so home, where I found an invitation sent my wife and I to my uncle Wight’s on Tuesday next to the chine of beef which I presented them with yesterday. So to prayers and to bed.

Captain Cock
is an able man
but his gifts are little—all talk—
and he continues to be afraid
of the holster.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 24 November 1661.

To Westminster with my wife (she to her father’s), and about 10 o’clock back again home, and there I to the office a little, and thence by coach with Commissioner Pett to Cheapside to one Savill, a painter, who I intend shall do my picture and my wife’s. Thence I to dinner at the Wardrobe, and so home to the office, and there all the afternoon till night, and then both Sir Williams to my house, and in comes Captain Cock, and they to cards. By and by Sir W. Batten and Cock, after drinking a good deal of wine, went away, and Sir W. Pen staid with my wife and I to supper, very pleasant, and so good night. This day I have a chine of beef sent home, which I bespoke to send, and did send it as a present to my uncle Wight.

Back home to
a heap of cards,
ink and pen my supper
and good night.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 23 November 1661.

Within all the morning, and at noon with my wife, by appointment to dinner at the Dolphin, where Sir W. Batten, and his lady and daughter Matt, and Captain Cocke and his lady, a German lady, but a very great beauty, and we dined together, at the spending of some wagers won and lost between him and I; and there we had the best musique and very good songs, and were very merry and danced, but I was most of all taken with Madam Cocke and her little boy, which in mirth his father had given to me. But after all our mirth comes a reckoning of 4l., besides 40s. to the musicians, which did trouble us, but it must be paid, and so I took leave and left them there about eight at night. And on foot went to the Temple, and then took my cozen Turner’s man Roger, and went by his advice to Serjeant Fountaine and told him our case, who gives me good comfort in it, and I gave him 30s. fee. So home again and to bed. This day a good pretty maid was sent my wife by Mary Bowyer, whom my wife has hired.

Within the dolphin,
a great lost music
given to the night.
And the fountain—
so pretty a red.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 22 November 1661.

In the morning again at looking over my last night’s papers, and by and by comes Mr. Moore, who finds that my papers may do me much good. He staid and dined with me, and we had a good surloyne of rost beefe, the first that ever I had of my own buying since I kept house; and after dinner he and I to the Temple, and there showed Mr. Smallwood my papers, who likes them well, and so I left them with him, and went with Mr. Moore to Gray’s Inn to his chamber, and there he shewed me his old Camden’s “Britannica”, which I intend to buy of him, and so took it away with me, and left it at St. Paul’s Churchyard to be bound, and so home and to the office all the afternoon; it being the first afternoon that we have sat, which we are now to do always, so long as the Parliament sits, who this day have voted the King 120,000l.1 to be raised to pay his debts. And after the office with Sir W. Batten to the Dolphin, and drank and left him there, and I again to the Temple about my business, and so on foot home again and to bed.

My papers find me
in my own house.

I show my papers
like an old bound foot.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 21 November 1661.

To Westminster Hall by water in the morning, where I saw the King going in his barge to the Parliament House; this being the first day of their meeting again. And the Bishops, I hear, do take their places in the Lords House this day. I walked long in the Hall, but hear nothing of news, but what Ned Pickering tells me, which I am troubled at, that Sir J. Minnes should send word to the King, that if he did not remove all my Lord Sandwich’s captains out of this fleet, he believed the King would not be master of the fleet at its coming again: and so do endeavour to bring disgrace upon my Lord. But I hope all that will not do, for the King loves him.
Hence by water to the Wardrobe, and dined with my Lady, my Lady Wright being there too, whom I find to be a witty but very conceited woman and proud. And after dinner Mr. Moore and I to the Temple, and there he read my bill and likes it well enough, and so we came back again, he with me as far as the lower end of Cheapside, and there I gave him a pint of sack and parted, and I home, and went seriously to look over my papers touching T. Trice, and I think I have found some that will go near to do me more good in this difference of ours than all I have before. So to bed with my mind cheery upon it, and lay long reading Hobbs his “Liberty and Necessity,” and a little but very shrewd piece, and so to sleep.

To take the place
of news, what word
would do
to bring disgrace?
All love war
like a cheap
pint of cheer.
Reading is a necessity
to sleep.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 20 November 1661.

At the office all the morning, and coming home found Mr. Hunt with my wife in the chamber alone, which God forgive me did trouble my head, but remembering that it was washing and that there was no place else with a fire for him to be in, it being also cold weather, I was at ease again. He dined with us, and after dinner took coach and carried him with us as far as my cozen Scott’s, where we set him down and parted, and my wife and I staid there at the christening of my cozens boy, where my cozen Samuel Pepys, of Ireland, and I were godfathers, and I did name the child Samuel. There was a company of pretty women there in the chamber, but we staid not, but went with the minister into another room and eat and drank, and at last, when most of the women were gone, Sam and I went into my cozen Scott, who was got off her bed, and so we staid and talked and were very merry, my she-cozen, Stradwick, being godmother. And then I left my wife to go home by coach, and I walked to the Temple about my law business, and there received a subpoena for T. Trice. I carried it myself to him at the usual house at Doctors Commons and did give it him, and so home and to bed. It cost me 20s., between the midwife and the two nurses to-day.

At the office, all
hunt for ash—no fire.
The company is
another gone god.
I receive a subpoena for it,
give it a bed
between the midwife and the day.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 19 November 1661.

(Lord’s day). To our own church, and at noon, by invitation, Sir W. Pen dined with me, and I took Mrs. Hester, my Lady Batten’s kinswoman, to dinner from church with me, and we were very merry. So to church again, and heard a simple fellow upon the praise of Church musique, and exclaiming against men’s wearing their hats on in the church, but I slept part of the sermon, till latter prayer and blessing and all was done without waking which I never did in my life. So home, and by and by comes my uncle Wight and my aunt and Mr. Norbury and his lady, and we drank hard and were very merry till supper time, and then we parted, my wife and I being invited to Sir W. Pen’s, where we also were very merry, and so home to prayers and to bed.

A simple church:
men in hats blessing
without waking.
I bury my pen
and pray to Bed.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 17 November 1661.