Virginia Barton

In 1720, in a Letter of Advice to a Young Poet, Jonathan Swift wrote:

“. . .A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that ‘great wits have short memories:’ and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men as you think fit to make your own, by entering them there. . .”

The “few and insignificant thoughts” are exactly what will be found here in Commonplaces.

27 April 2018: Worldly goods

It has to be said that “Sink the Bismarck!” with Kenneth More in the lead role was BH’s all-time best film. I tried to steer him to less war-like topics, “You’ve Got Mail,” for example, but he always chose the Bismarck.

20 April 2018: Between the Lines

The weekend Financial Times is delivered on Saturdays by either Billy or Barry. Known familiarly as the FT, it is a pink broadsheet. With what do they dye it, I wonder?

6 April 2018: Tango

My nephew tells me that this musical piece languished in near obscurity until Pope Francis heard it. The rhythms must have been familiar to him, and I like to think of him tapping his feet and having a twirl.

1 April 2018: Easter

I know that the miracle of Easter is the same wherever we celebrate it, be it St Peter’s or St Catherine’s or St Casimir’s. But in Istanbul we are in magic carpet territory.

25 March 2018: Palm Sunday

Many of us will have had to learn GK Chesterton’s tear-jerker of a poem at school in time for Palm Sunday. It’s the “ears like errant wings” that get me.

14 February 2018: Lent

I have always wanted one of these mysterious and enviable spaces in the lives of my academical chums.

2 February 2018: The Katyn Mug

The Mug, now deserving of a capital “M,” was given to BH by his godfather in Cairo as the war was drawing to a close. It is an object that is very far from commonplace…

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