Do you keep a commonplace book? Many Charlotte-Mason-inspired readers do, and we encourage our older students to keep one as well, in lieu of the copywork that belongs to younger children.
Since Charlotte Mason recommended it as a practice, I suppose she kept one, too, though they seem to have gone astray. Amongst her things at the Armitt, however, there is this little book, small enough to have been kept in a pocket with a stub of pencil, because everything there is written in pencil. It is a A commonplace book, if not THE commonplace book. It occurred to me that writing, for Charlotte Mason, was a matter of sitting at a desk with a bottle of ink, dipping a pen after every few words, and waiting for the ink to dry before going on. It really doesn’t lend itself to something you would stop in the middle of your reading to do, especially if you were lying on a couch (which she did in later years because of poor health) or were reading in a sunny spot outside to enjoy the fresh air.
I think a little book like this would be very handy to jot things down that you might later transcribe into a more formal commonplace book. I have no idea if she really did that or not. I wonder whether she could even read her own handwriting, because it is fairly illegible. However, just for fun, here’s a page I have been able to decipher. There are three quotes here, although the top one is continued from the page before (and there’s a word on that previous page I haven’t been able to figure out yet).
The quote at the top is:
“I’m not strong enough; you see a minute goes by so fearfully quick; you might as well try to stop a Bandersnatch.” Here the logic is unanswerable.
—Rev. Cyril A. Arlington.
(The full quote, from Alice in Wonderland, is “I’m good enough , ” the King said , “only I’m not strong enough. You see, a minute goes by so fearfully quick . You might as well try to stop a Bandersnatch.”—in reply to a request from Alice, “Would you be good enough to stop a minute?”)
So, it’s a quote of a quote, in part. The first part is from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but it’s attributed to Rev. Cyril A. Arlington. He’s written any number of books, but I’m making a guess that Charlotte might have been reading A Schoolmaster’s Apology. Its date of publication is in line with other dates in the booklet.
The next two quotes are attributed to Clement of Alexandria, but I cannot decipher the attribution at the end. The first one says:
Clement of Alexandria affirmed that Christianity is the heir of all past time, and the interpreter of the future.
And the next is:
He (C. Of A.) claims for the Gospel the power of fulfilling all the desires of men and of raising to a supreme unity all the objects of knowledge.
I really am not sure what book she was reading, but it’s obvious that she’s reading about Clement of Alexandria rather than a book by “C. of A.” It might been this one, published in 1911.
It’s interesting to me that these last two quotes align closely with Charlotte Mason’s educational premise that “Education is the Science of relations,” and if you read the linked page (all I could find), there’s even more on the topic.
But the real take-away here is that—if you keep a commonplace book, write legibly and cite precisely so that a hundred years after you die, interested parties know what you were reading.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these nuggets from the Armitt. It’s a lovely place to visit. I’ve been there twice, and I was supposed to go again in 2020, but that went the way of most 2020 plans. I do hope to visit again, because you never know what you will uncover in those dense old tomes! It’s always a treasure hunt, and I’m always happy to share with all of you.
Have a wonderful and blessed holiday—Happy Christmas! (That’s what they say in the UK.)