My Commonplace Book: March 2017

Looking back at March’s reading – in words and pictures.

My Commonplace Book

commonplace book
a notebook in which quotations, poems, remarks, etc, that catch the owner’s attention are entered

Collins English Dictionary


My brother buried his resentment that day. But resentment buried is not gone. It is like burying a seed: for a season it may stay hidden in the dark, but in the end, it will always grow. I did not see it, though we were still close, even at that age. I think now that to be too close to someone can be to underestimate them. Grow too close, and you do not see what they are capable of, or you do not see it in time.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown (2017)



No one in the training grounds knew who I was. I had taken another name – I called myself Marcus and gave myself a familial name not connected to anyone of importance. No one ever came to watch me, except Anicetus, so people assumed I was an orphan or a ward; in any case, not anyone of importance. I loved the freedom of being nobody. I think all children want this freedom. That does not mean they would be content with it forever.

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George (2017)


But extracting the stumps and roots almost killed him each time he hacked and dug and pulled and ground. Prying out a stump reminded him of how deeply a tree clung to the ground, how tenacious a hold it had on a place. Though he was not a sentimental man – he did not cry when his children died, he simply dug the graves and buried them – James was silent each time he killed a tree, thinking of its time spent in that spot.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier (2016)


“Autumn-coloured?” said Silence, struck by the aptness of the description. Tabby had a felicity with words which delighted her mother, and often such phrases would emerge casually without, it appeared, much thought, and yet strangely poetic. In her mind’s eye she saw Captain Hellier, his brown and tawny colouring, and smiled. “What a good description – ‘the autumn-coloured man’! Much too good for the likes of him, though, chicken – you’ll have to call him something foul, something more appropriate for him.” She gave Tabitha a sudden, flashing grin, crackling with mischief. “Take your time, and think of a good one.”

Wintercombe by Pamela Belle (1988)


Sir Christopher Wren

There were diagrams of instruments for grinding glass, illustrations of the lenses of telescopes, and other inventions for pneumatic engines, embroidering by machine, a variety of musical instruments and a weather wheel. He told her that some of his inventions had been put to use over the years while others were still only working models.

Circle of Pearls by Rosalind Laker (1990)


“Oh yes, there is no official bar on females. It is just a habit they have fallen into. There is even talk of electing Caroline Herschel as an honorary member.”

I thought that unlikely considering the Academy’s history with regard to women. When it was founded, one of its most prominent antiquarians was Charlotte Brooke, who translated Gaelic poetry into English. She fell on hard times, and members of the Academy wondered what they could do to improve her situation. They decided to appoint her housekeeper of the Academy premises.

The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes (2017)


British Museum

“It’s a wonderful place,” Rhoda was asserting, “and ‘instructive’ very; it makes one realise the depth and extent and thoroughness of one’s own ignorance. Do people reading here never sigh for an easy-chair and a footstool and a collection of comfortable, unreproachful light literature?”

“No, we are all profound students here,” Stephen assured her; “when we want relaxation we come for a walk among the mummies.”

London Roses by Dora Greenwell McChesney (1903)


Mr Bridge smiled. “I suspect that timetables are written for people of the opposing disposition to your good self, those who live their lives in a perpetual rush. Obviously they need a two-minute grace period to manage themselves on to a train. We all have our flaws, William.”

Mr Bridge loved to argue a good defence, but William was unsympathetic. “The latest I’ve ever managed to be was on time.”

The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans (2017)


Madame de Montespan

Her firm chin, straight nose, fine wrists, waist and neck; her thick and plentiful blond locks. She had invented a style of coiffure and baptised it the hurluberlu. Her hair had been pulled back from the forehead and was held in place by a hoop on top of her head, leaving her hair to fall on either side in a cascade of curls that framed her face.

The Hurlyburly’s Husband by Jean Teulé (2008)


“Nat! You can’t give your grandmother’s name to a parrot!”

“Why not? They have so much in common – both venomous, abusive, malicious and terrifying old birds.”

“You can’t,” said Silence, trying unsuccessfully not to laugh. “You really can’t. I can probably, if I’m extremely lucky, and even more extremely careful, explain away a parrot, even one with Royalist views and a profane vocabulary. I cannot face the servants knowing that it has been christened in memory of my mother-in-law.”

Herald of Joy by Pamela Belle (1989)


Simon Forman c. 1611

“Am I then to put myself in his power?” whispered Frances from the shadow of her hood. She knew well enough in what repute witches and warlocks were held; she had been told by her great-uncle that Simon Forman lived within the jurisdiction of the Archbishop that he might better escape the authorities…she had heard, too, that he had once been in prison for trying to raise the dead; she shuddered, half afraid, half excited.

The King’s Favourite by Marjorie Bowen (1937)


Even the unexpected has a double image to it as if it had occurred sometime before in the same way and in the same place. There is a pattern to the week: the mail-boat on Saturday; mass on Sunday; the weekly wash on Monday. So the memory shortens itself and goes from day to day; the pattern is lost among the individual threads…

The Sea Road West by Sally Rena (1975)


Favourite books read in March: Wintercombe and Herald of Joy.

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