“Some were soil’d and tattered fragments, joined with care where words were torn. Some were crumbling into atoms, by incessant readings worn… Yet all precious, and all priceless. In their hastening decay, were these loved and voiceless witnesses of hours passed away.”
Sometimes when you are panning for ink, you find these golden nuggets.
I stumbled across this great poem (below) in a commonplace book kept by a woman named Mary Pearson. Mary is another of those ‘common’ people who have not distinguished themselves in history apart from the fact that once in her life she had a short brush with a person of historical importance.
In Mary’s case, it was with Patrick Branwell Brontë, the brother of the famous Brontë sisters – another soul whose life was shaped (and perhaps destroyed) by his being close to the orbit of celebrity.
When Mary was around twenty, she had a lodger at the family hotel for a few short weeks. Branwell Brontë penned some sketches in four pages of her commonplace book. This resulted in her journal being considered historically worthy. Thus, it is now part of the Brontë Family Collection and therefore her thoughts are now available for anyone to read via high definition scans.
And so now anyone in the world with an internet connection can read Mary Pearson’s words, including her transcription of an anonymous poem about the fleeting nature of words and “love letters”. We can read it on the frayed and yellowing paper of her journal, and in her neat but hurried pen strokes. Of course, nowadays I can read it from thousands of miles away, and that yellowed paper and fading ink is now in fact as permanent as a high-resolution and carefully archived digital record can allow.
From what little I can gather about Mary’s personality via her commonplace book, I think she would find that quite amusing.
Old poem (Anonymous) – in the Lincoln Courier, 1st September 1849