Dewey's 24hour readathon · Robert Francis Kilvert


Just for the record – it was the shortest Readathon so far. As it happened, I barely had any time for reading. That is why Kilvert’s Diaries were a very good choice – short, (for the most part) self-containing and therefore highly accessible.

The first entry already was a treat. Kilvert is describing an amusing event starring an owl.

Tuesday, 8 February

From Wye Cliff to Pont Faen. Miss Child in great force. She showed me her clever drawings of horses and told me the adventures of the brown wood owl ‘Ruth’ which she took home from here last year. She wanted to call the owl ‘Eve’ but Mrs. Bridge said it should be called ‘Ruth’. She and her sister stranded in London at night went to London Bridge hotel (having missed the last train) with little money and no luggage except the owl in a basket. The owl hooted all night in spite of their putting it up the chimney, before the looking glass, under the bedclothes, and in a circle of lighted candles which they hoped it would mistake for the sun. The owl went on hooting, upset the basket, got out and flew about the room. The chambermaid almost frightened to death dared not come inside the door. Miss Child asked the waiter to get some mice for ‘Ruth’ but none could be got.

The use of the condense, matter-of-fact sentence only enhances the humor this entry contains.

The way the subtleties of the relationship between (if I assumed correctly) two sisters are presented is simply delightful: She wanted to call the owl ‘Eve’ but Mrs. Bridge said it should be called ‘Ruth’. And it seems like he used Miss Child’s words as she told them, changing only ‘I’ for ‘she’, thus enabling us to hear her voice without using direct speech. He did this again few sentences later: in a circle of lighted candles which they (instead of ‘we’) hoped it would mistake for the sun. Not only can we hear an echo of Miss Child’s voice but we are treated with a little peak into their reasoning/ problem solving and imagination. Highly amusing!

reading · Robert Francis Kilvert

Mid-October Reading

Robert Francis Kilvert, (..) fills his diary with enthusiastic descriptions of sunsets, views, ruined churches, flowers, animals, birds. (..) But he is at his best when describing the daily round, the common task: baptizing babies, chasing birds out of the church, planting lettuces“, writes Margaret Drabble (in A Writers’ Britain), and I’m thinking this is something I have to get my hands on as soon as possible.

Reading about the common, everyday life is distinctly interesting – it doesn’t matter if it’s an account of a contemporary, fellow human being living in a similar circumstances, or one of a person who belonged to another era and led a life on another continent; it’s always about the pleasure of discovering what ‘small things’ people find delight and fulfillment in. It’s, also, about the pleasure of appreciating a well-written anecdote, a well-expressed observation or nuance of a feeling.

I first found out about Kilvert’s diaries through Howard’s End is on the Landing:

“(..) it is so carefully composed and the descriptions of the country, the seasons, the weather, the daily round of a clergyman, are set down with an exactness and a poetic touch that are unusual in a very private diary. There is probably no better place to go, than these beautiful diaries, to discover the countryside of the Black Mountains and the life of the people there, in remote villages and farms, as it was in the nineteenth century.”

I made a note to find the book, but never got to it. Drabble’s recommendation, however, found me not only at the right time but in the right mood as well.

So, on to the Diaries! Let the Readathon begin!