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In a recent survey of Commonplace Books, John Julius Norwich declared ‘the greatest of them all for my money is that of godfather Maurice Baring. His Have You Anything to Declare? has been on my bedside table since I can remember. Baring was fluent in at least half a dozen European languages, and they are all represented here; but he is generous with his translations and one is constantly amazed by the breadth of his reading.’ Coming from one of the masters of this form, as his annual Christmas Cracker, testifies, this is high praise. And it is deserved. One of the pleasures of dipping in to commonplace books is serendipity and in Baring’s the quotient could hardly be higher. From Achilles to Xanthus, by way of Robert Browning, William Cowper, Goethe, Thomas Hood, Michael Lomonosov, W. H. Mallock, Skelton and H.G. Wells, just to take a few of the authors that enrich the journey, this is, as all commonplace books should be, one to refer to endlessly for the constant joy of unexpected knowledge and entertainment.
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