There are quotations and lists, whose purpose I can no longer recall, but which might appear to a prosecutor highly suspect: for example “€˜brandy & strychnine”€™ or “€˜arsenic book”€™ not far from a quotation from Doctor Johnson: “€˜There have been men indeed splendidly wicked whose endowments threw a brightness of their crimes, and whom scarce any villainy made perfectly detestable because they never could be wholly divested of their excellencies; but such have been in all ages the great corrupters of the world…”€™

I have scores, if not hundreds of such notebooks, many of which, but for the handwriting, seem to have little connection with me, that is to say my current version of me, though it was undoubtedly I who wrote in them. Perhaps there are people who have recorded their lives much more systematically than I, but there must be even more who have left even less record behind.

Most alarming of all, one notebook has my mother’s dying words, which I took to her dictation minutes before she died, she being too weak to write them herself. The notebook contains nothing else except a list she wrote in a weak and spindly hand (though still recognisably her writing) for me to do or to bring, at most days before she died:


Her dying words were:

Dear Family,
                I enjoyed being able to spend time with you and
  appreciate your kindness and understanding.
        I am sorry to have to leave you.
                    With my love.

Even this I recall only vaguely, and could not swear in a court of law to having passed on: for it did not appear to me to have been wholly true, nor could I easily have pretended that it was. But perhaps I did pass it on, I don”€™t know and it is unlikely now that there will ever be any evidence one way or the other.

All description of human life, even of a single human life, is, at best, an approximation.


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