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). At church alone in the pew in the morning. In the afternoon by water I carried my wife to Westminster, where she went to take leave of her father, and I to walk in the Park, which is now every day more and more pleasant, by the new works upon it. Here meeting with Laud Crispe, I took him to the farther end, and sat under a tree in a corner, and there sung some songs, he singing well, but no skill, and so would sing false sometimes. Then took leave of him, and found my wife at my Lord’s lodging, and so took her home by water, and to supper in Sir W. Pen’s balcony, and Mrs. Keene with us, and then came my wife’s brother, and then broke up, and to bed.

alone in the west
her father is now every day
meeting with the end

a tree in a corner
would sing of water


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 27 July 1662.

At the office all the morning, reading Mr. Holland’s discourse of the Navy, lent me by Mr. Turner, and am much pleased with them, they hitting the very diseases of the Navy, which we are troubled with now-a-days. I shall bestow writing of them over and much reading thereof.
This morning Sir W. Batten came in to the office and desired to speak with me; he began by telling me that he observed a strangeness between him and me of late, and would know the reason of it, telling me he heard that I was offended with merchants coming to his house and making contracts there. I did tell him that as a friend I had spoke of it to Sir W. Pen and desired him to take a time to tell him of it, and not as a backbiter, with which he was satisfied, but I find that Sir W. Pen has played the knave with me, and not told it from me as a friend, but in a bad sense. He also told me that he heard that exceptions were taken at his carrying his wife down to Portsmouth, saying that the King should not pay for it, but I denied that I had spoke of it, nor did I. At last he desired the difference between our wives might not make a difference between us, which I was exceedingly glad to hear, and do see every day the fruit of looking after my business, which I pray God continue me in, for I do begin to be very happy. Dined at home, and so to the office all the afternoon again, and at night home and to bed.

The disease of writing
began with chants
and making a pen
take a bite from a bad,
mouth-sired fruit.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 25 July 1662.

This morning angry a little in the morning, and my house being so much out of order makes me a little pettish. I went to the office, and there dispatched business by myself, and so again in the afternoon; being a little vexed that my brother Tom, by his neglect, do fail to get a coach for my wife and maid this week, by which she will not be at Brampton Feast, to meet my Lady at my father’s. At night home, and late packing up things in order to their going to Brampton to-morrow, and so to bed, quite out of sorts in my mind by reason that the weather is so bad, and my house all full of wet, and the trouble of going from one house to another to Sir W. Pen’s upon every occasion. Besides much disturbed by reason of the talk up and down the town, that my Lord Sandwich is lost; but I trust in God the contrary.

angry little being
little self in a little mind
bad and full of trouble
going from one to another
disturbed reason
my lost god


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 23 July 1662.

Among my workmen early: then to the office, and there I had letters from the Downs from Mr. Coventry; who tells me of the foul weather they had last Sunday, that drove them back from near Boulogne, whither they were going for the Queen, back again to the Downs, with the loss of their cables, sayles, and masts; but are all safe, only my Lord Sandwich, who went before with the yachts; they know not what is become of him, which do trouble me much; but I hope he got ashore before the storm begun; which God grant!
All day at the office, only at home at dinner, where I was highly angry with my wife for her keys being out of the way, but they were found at last, and so friends again. All the afternoon answering letters and writing letters, and at night to Mr. Coventry an ample letter in answer to all his and the Duke’s business.
Late at night at the office, where my business is great, being now all alone in town, but I shall go through it with pleasure. So home and to bed.

letters answer letters
letters at night answer the night
where I eat all alone
with pleasure


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 22 July 1662.

Up early, and though I found myself out of order and cold, and the weather cold and likely to rain, yet upon my promise and desire to do what I intended, I did take boat and down to Greenwich, to Captain Cocke’s, who hath a most pleasant seat, and neat. Here I drank wine, and eat some fruit off the trees; and he showed a great rarity, which was two or three of a great number of silver dishes and plates, which he bought of an embassador that did lack money, in the edge or rim of which was placed silver and gold medalls, very ancient, and I believe wrought, by which, if they be, they are the greatest rarity that ever I saw in my life, and I will show Mr. Crumlum them.
Thence to Woolwich to the Rope-yard; and there looked over several sorts of hemp, and did fall upon my great survey of seeing the working and experiments of the strength and the charge in the dressing of every sort; and I do think have brought it to so great a certainty, as I have done the King great service in it: and do purpose to get it ready against the Duke’s coming to town to present to him.
I breakfasted at Mr. Falconer’s well, and much pleased with my inquiries.
Thence to the dock, where we walked in Mr. Shelden’s garden, eating more fruit, and drinking, and eating figs, which were very good, and talking while the Royal James was bringing towards the dock, and then we went out and saw the manner and trouble of docking such a ship, which yet they could not do, but only brought her head into the Dock, and so shored her up till next tide. But, good God! what a deal of company was there from both yards to help to do it, when half the company would have done it as well. But I see it is impossible for the King to have things done as cheap as other men.
Thence by water, and by and by landing at the riverside somewhere among the reeds, we walked to Greenwich, where to Cocke’s house again and walked in the garden, and then in to his lady, who I find is still pretty, but was now vexed and did speak very discontented and angry to the Captain for disappointing a gentleman that he had invited to dinner, which he took like a wise man and said little, but she was very angry, which put me clear out of countenance that I was sorry I went in. So after I had eat still some more fruit I took leave of her in the garden plucking apricots for preserving, and went away and so by water home, and there Mr. Moore coming and telling me that my Lady goes into the country to-morrow, I carried my wife by coach to take her leave of her father, I staying in Westminster Hall, she going away also this week, and thence to my Lady’s, where we staid and supped with her, but found that my Lady was truly angry and discontented with us for our neglecting to see her as we used to do, but after a little she was pleased as she was used to be, at which we were glad. So after supper home to bed.

I found myself out
of order and cold
like a boat in the trees,
silver and ancient.
I ought to fall
towards the shore, landing
somewhere among the reeds
like a clear fruit of water.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 21 July 1662.

(Lord’s day). My wife and I lay talking long in bed, and at last she is come to be willing to stay two months in the country, for it is her unwillingness to stay till the house is quite done that makes me at a loss how to have her go or stay.
But that which troubles me most is that it has rained all this morning so furiously that I fear my house is all over water, and with that expectation I rose and went into my house and find that it is as wet as the open street, and that there is not one dry-footing above nor below in my house. So I fitted myself for dirt, and removed all my books to the office and all day putting up and restoring things, it raining all day long as hard within doors as without. At last to dinner, we had a calf’s head and bacon at my chamber at Sir W. Pen’s, and there I and my wife concluded to have her go and her two maids and the boy, and so there shall be none but Will and I left at home, and so the house will be freer, for it is impossible to have anybody come into my house while it is in this condition, and with this resolution all the afternoon we were putting up things in the further cellar against next week for them to be gone, and my wife and I into the office and there measured a silk flag that I had found there, and hope to get it to myself, for it has not been demanded since I came to the office. But my wife is not hasty to have it, but rather to stay a while longer and see the event whether it will be missed or no.
At night to my office, and there put down this day’s passages in my journall, and read my oaths, as I am obliged every Lord’s day. And so to Sir W. Pen’s to my chamber again, being all in dirt and foul, and in fear of having catched cold today with dabbling in the water.
But what has vexed me to-day was that by carrying the key to Sir W. Pen’s last night, it could not in the midst of all my hurry to carry away my books and things, be found, and at last they found it in the fire that we made last night. So to bed.

I fear the open street.

There is above my office door
a calf’s head

and we put up in the cellar
a silk flag I found in the dirt,
a key I found in the fire.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 20 July 1662.

Up very early, and got a-top of my house, seeing the design of my work, and like it very well, and it comes into my head to have my dining-room wainscoated, which will be very pretty. By-and-by by water to Deptford, to put several things in order, being myself now only left in town, and so back again to the office, and there doing business all the morning and the afternoon also till night, and then comes Cooper for my mathematiques, but, in good earnest, my head is so full of business that I cannot understand it as otherwise I should do.
At night to bed, being much troubled at the rain coming into my house, the top being open.

up early
like water
being myself only
(a mathematics
that I cannot understand)
being the rain coming into my house
being open


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 18 July 1662.

To my office, and by and by to our sitting; where much business. Mr. Coventry took his leave, being to go with the Duke over for the Queen-Mother. I dined at home, and so to my Lord’s, where I presented him with a true state of all his accounts to last Monday, being the 14th of July, which did please him, and to my great joy I continue in his great esteem and opinion. I this day took a general acquittance from my Lord to the same day. So that now I have but very few persons to deal withall for money in the world.
Home and found much business to be upon my hands, and was late at the office writing letters by candle light, which is rare at this time of the year, but I do it with much content and joy, and then I do please me to see that I begin to have people direct themselves to me in all businesses.
Very late I was forced to send for Mr. Turner, Smith, Young, about things to be sent down early to-morrow on board the King’s pleasure boat, and so to bed with my head full of business, but well contented in mind as ever in my life.

Our oven mother
of great esteem
and general acquittance,
let a light rare as gin
direct me in all
late things
with my head full of if.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 17 July 1662.