Item 596 - Commonplace book of Sir William Owen

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Reference code

Add. MS a/596


Commonplace book of Sir William Owen


  • [c 1784-1839] (Creation)

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1 vol., quarto (270 x 220 x 20 mm); [2, title and index], 115 text pages on 59 leaves.

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Purchased from Dean Cooke Rare Books Ltd., Feb. 2019.

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Manuscript entitled 'A Common-Place Book, after the Plan recommended by Mr. Locke'. Written below this, 'The Collection was commenced at an early Age, and consequently in the first Pages many Things are inserted, which might as well, and without any Injury to the Book, have been omitted'.

Headings include 'Love', 'Mediocrity', 'Laugh', 'Deluge', 'Liberty', 'Sleep', 'Bees', 'East India Company' ('Surely, as Sovereigns, the company are monopolising against their own interest...', 'Gold',' Women', 'Wit and Humour', 'Impeachment' etc. Beneath these are passages from sources including Shakespeare, Addison, The Spectator and The Tatler, Burney, especially Camilla, Pope, Johnson (especially the Dictionary) and Rousseau.

Much of the material dates from Owen's time at Trinity College; several verses have a strong Cambridge connection, for example 'Song Imitated from Voltaire by Mr Rough, Trin. Coll. Cant.', presumably William Rough. Owen includes his own compositions; his verseas are frequently addressed to young women, eg. 'To Miss Susan Moore. Verses addressed to a beautiful young Lady, on her leaving the pleasant village of Aspley', 'Ode to a young Lady (the same as above) oppressed with the Head-ache', and 'On Miss Stephens, of the Theatre-Royal Covent Garden'. Catherine Philips and 'Miss Fanny Fripp' are each the subject of several poems.

Text is arranged in double columns until around the end of Owen's time at Cambridge; thenceforth, sentences are written across the whole page, but Locke's structure is retained.

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