[For last month’s Commonplace entries, see here.]

“In a few weeks, there starts up many a writer capable of managing the profoundest, and most universal subjects. For, what though his head be empty, provided his commonplace book be full.” (Dean Swift)

“This various reading, which I now conducted with skill and discretion, was digested according to the precept and model of Mr Locke into a large commonplace book. a practice however which I do not strenuously recommend. The action of the pen will doubtless imprint an idea on the mind as well as on the paper: but I much question whether the benefits of this laborious method are adequate to the waste of time; and I must agree with Dr Johnson (Idler No. 74) ‘that what is twice read is commonly better remembered than what is transcribed.”      (Edward Gibbon, in Memoirs of My Life, Chapter 4)

A commonplace book is ‘a place where ideas, notes, and memoranda are jotted down ‘ (Chambers Dictionary). 

Since 2003, I have been using an electronic version of a commonplace book to record passages that I have encountered during my reading that have either intrigued, impressed, amused, or infuriated me. I have tried to include only items that do not appear in familiar books of quotations (although I of course may have slipped up over this aspect.)

This section will be updated monthly.   Each month I post the last month’s entries in a separate file, so readers can inspect them separately – see here: ‘Recent Commonplace Entries‘. Comments from readers are welcomed. Please send them to

Visitors interested in pursuing the correct attribution and history of quotations may wish to visit the website of Nigel Rees, the host of the BBC radio programme ‘Quote.. Unquote’, and author of several books of quotations, at

Readers can also select Commonplace Entries by Year: 20212020, 2019,  2018, 2017201620152014201320122011201020092008 20072006200520042003

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