Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Commonplace Book

A few years ago my dear friend Maeve (now 82) gave me a Persephone notebook with this Duncan Grant design endpaper. She wanted me to use it as a 'commonplace book', which is what I am doing. And I love just holding it, with its trademark Persephone silver grey cover and delicious clotted cream paper.

Every time I read a poem, or a passage in a book, for instance, it is copied into the book. For some time, at our regular yoga class, we took turns to read out a favourite poem, and all mine are in my book. A sad, but good, source is the service sheets for funerals with some wonderful readings, the most of recent being the following from the service for Miles Claque.

Farewell to thee, but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.

Life seems more sweet that thou didst live
And men more true that thou were one;
Nothing is lost that thou didst give;
Nothing destroyed that thou hast done.
Anne Brontë

My book is now sufficiently full to be a great personal joy. Nothing is chosen lightly, from a passage in Adam Nicholson's Seamanship, to a Sermon of John Donne - that wonderful one about equal light, equal music and so on - or in contrast a passage from a novel by Susan Elderkin called The Voices (why has she not written more, such a bright and promising writer?), or poems such as Louis MacNeice's Under the Mountain, Elizabeth Jennings' I Count the Moments  and Felix Dennis' The Hornbeam.

I hope this doesn't sound too pretentious. It is purely for my enjoyment, and yet I do hope that one day my children and their children will see it as a slice of  'me'. The choices are so personal that they should explain something about me. Obviously I am a nature lover, who cherishes language, likes happenstance and seredipity, is romantic with a sense of humour. The bleak bits are not there, but I shall work on that. I've never intended it to be read by anyone else,as it is simply a personal aide memoir. I see the definition of a Commonplace Book is a way to compile knowledge - hmmmm. Apparently they were once called Hodgepodge books. Now that really is me.

  This one is from mid-17th century

Mine looks nothing like as beautiful as this, but it does have my 'best' writing.


theotheralig said...

You have inspired me - I won some Moleskine notebooks while I was ill. I shall use one of them.

Daydream Believer said...

Ahhh - Moleskin. I've one of those too, but just keep holiday journals in that. So excited that you want to do the same - you will be glad, I promise!