Thursday, 3 October 2013

Even Commoner I

My grate Twitter friend @deniswright launched his first commonplace posting on an unsuspecting world yesterday. Inspired by his example, I grabbed the small book in which I occasionally write down quotations I like from things I'm reading or listening to and decided I would follow in his wake.

Here are the first few quotations in my book, reflecting mainly the fact that, when I began, I appear to have been mostly reading Our Mutual Friend, (which I loved):

" rent in the leaden canopy of its sky".
Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

 "A grey dirty withered evening in London city has not a hopeful aspect. The closed warehouses and offices have an air of death about them and the national dread of colour has an air of mourning."
Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

"Boots and Brewer flutter like moths around that yellow wax candle - guttering down and with some hint of a winding sheet in it - Lady Tippins."
Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

 "What did they, the Americans, really know about such parts of the world, the layer upon layer of savagery that made them up?"
Nadeem Aslam, The Wasted Vigil, (which is set in Afghanistan [and which has a particularly fine cover for its Indian edition])

 "We live the present blindfolded and really see only with hindsight."
Man I heard on the radio, writing to his son, who had committed suicide.

"the quiet outpouring of refined details."
John Updike pinpointing what he finds attractive about living in an old house.

"The incompetent servant, by whomsoever employed, is always against his employer."
Charels Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

"Mr Boffin's acquaintance with the names and situations of foreign lands being limited in extent and somewhat confused in quality, he shaped his next question on an elastic model."
Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (I know I wrote this one down because it exactly reflects my predicament re geog.)

"this impervious grubby immensity".
Murray Bail describing London in The Pages

"The inevitable self-consciousness which waylays a man, as soon as he has been freed from some bonds, whether ethical or economical."
John Betjeman, Ghastly Good Taste

 "The difference between loving men as a result of first loving God, and learning to love God through a growing love of men, may not at first sight appear profound."
John Betjeman, Ghastly Good Taste

"Men's buildings very clearly reflect their mental outlook and their social life."
John Betjeman, Ghastly Good Taste

Lippi and Donatello, "both composed uncanny but completely composed worlds behind their protagonists."
Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in 15th Century Italy

 "It is very difficult to get a notion of what it was to be a person of a certain kind at a certain time and place ... It is here that pictorial style is helpful."
Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in 15th Century Italy

 "The secret of happiness - insensitivity"
Tennessee Williams

"Liquid ... is fanatically committed to leakage and loss"
Roger-Pol Droit How Are Things

 "Mmm, very nice."
Woman at Tate Modern, turning away from Lyubov Sergeyevna Popova's "Model for the Capitalist Fortress for the Mass Spectacle of the Struggle and Victory of the Soviets"

Beware, this is just the beginning; I have many, many more.


  1. Keep 'em coming. Commonplacers have to stick together.


  2. I sometimes think of doing a thing like this but then I never get around to it. (Is it going to break up the train of thought on the blog, I wonder: is it going to look like an interruption, since I usually surf from post to post on the same theme, eg, currently, Caroline Leakey? So it never happens.)

    "A minor problem, left unmastered, however, comes to exercise a disproportonate advantage, and in the art of poetry it is so often the effortless that impedes."
    (Geoffrey Hill, "Unhappy Circumstances")

    "Snowes woollie lockes, by him wide scattered are,
    and hoarie plagues with frost as Ashes hidd.
    Grosse Icie gobbetts, from his hand he flings:
    And blowes a could too stronge for strongest things."
    (Mary Sidney, "Psalm 147, Laudate dominum.")

    "I used to break off a branch bearing a cluster of half a dozen or more [lemons], and by the time I had carried it to a friend in the town, my arm would feel as if I had been carrying a pail of milk."
    (Ada Cambridge, "Thirty Years in Australia.")

    "The casual manner in which I loved my beloved, who was forever distinguishing herself by her utter absence, resembled a soft-smelling, enchanting sofa."
    (Robert Walser, "Microscripts," translated by Susan Bernovsky)

    1. I am about to go to bed, but look forward to reading these in the morning. I think it's the way to go - perhaps once a week or once a month? There are so many flashes of brilliance you want to read out loud, but most people in my house don't take kindly to being interrupted and read at, so I think posting them on a blog makes for a happier life.