Saturday, October 23, 2010


The Wife recently ordered an edition of George Gissing's commonplace book (published in 1962 by the New York Public Library).

It's as delightful as it is diverse.

A few samples of Gissing's musings (with page numbers in parentheses), written between 1887 and 1903:

In youth one marvels that man remains at so low a stage of civilization; in later life one marvels that he has got so far. (25)

In J.S. Mill’s Autobiography, there is no mention whatever of his mother. (37)

A highly comical name, that of the consul Spurius Furius. Livy III. ad init. (41)

How many people can spell the word Eighth? (42)

In France, the accents of ordinary conversation are those which English people reserve for exceptional moments of protest, annoyance, expostulation, & so on. (43)

English police readily display ruffiandom. They fight with individual members of a crowd. Their faces become pale with ferocity, & they make furious rushes, with doubled fists, at this man & that. Remember Picadilly on night before Jubilee. (44)

Dec. 23. ’90. Was awakened this morning at 9.30 by man outside bellowing “Execution of Mrs Pearcy! Scene on the Scaffold! – Paper!” (I suppose the execution was at 8 o’clock, so that the paper must have been got out speedily). Such cries harmonized with the morning; snow lying everywhere, grimy with soot, & a muddy fog obscuring the sky. Yesterday one of the most hideous fogs I ever knew, unintermittent. One might describe the weather, & connect with it reflections on capital punishment. (44)

The one thing which most excites me to irresistible laughter, when I get a good view of it, is the existence of religious prejudice. To think that people will loathe you, because you cannot enter into their way of thought with regard to the Universe! It is far more comical than “You be eternally damned for your theory of Irregular Verbs!” But you must happen to catch it in the right light. (47)

I have never discovered any greater tenderness in women than may be observed in men, but I have often been struck by the superior energy & pertinacity of their hatred. (50)

The best English men & women are the most delightful of human kind. All save the best are endurable only to their intimates. (51)

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