Bookworm: “The best book about childhood ever written”

Snippets from the past week in literature


“Mr Crakey and I walked together to Crakiehall hand in hand in Innocence and matitation sweet thinking on the kind love which flows in our tender hearted mind which is overflowing with majestick pleasure No body was ever so polite to me in the whole state of my esistence Mr Crakey you must know is a great Buck and pretty good-looking.”

Marjory Fleming was a seven-year-old girl staying with her aunt and cousins in Edinburgh’s New Town when she wrote that entry in 1810 – along with others recording her thoughts on fashion, novels, religion, and her (many) temper tantrums – in notebooks for her parents in Kirkcaldy. When they were published 50 years later, they were hailed as “the best book about childhood ever written” and admired by the likes of Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson and Elizabeth Bowen – and more recently Liz Lochhead, Candia McWilliam and Richard Demarco.

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Marjory didn’t, however, live much longer, dying of measles almost exactly 200 years ago on 11 December 1811. As a bicentenary tribute, storyteller David Campbell and writer Barbara McLean have put together a programme of readings from her notebooks, letters and poems. Candia McWilliam and Richard DeMarco will join them in reading from Marjory’s work. Tickets for the event, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh (tel 0131-556 9579), on Friday 2 December cost £6 (£4 concs).


Meanwhile, the current crop of young Scottish readers and writers got an early Christmas present this week, as Scottish Book Trust delivered 60,000 free copies of Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson’s award-winning What the Ladybird Heard to P1 classrooms throughout the country.

This is organised by the excellent Bookbug book gifting programme, which aims to give every child in Scotland a lifelong love of books. Under the scheme, every child in the country has already received three packs of books – at six weeks, 18 months and three years – before they got the latest addition to their shelves.


Finally, some good news for the grown-ups. Hilary Mantel isn’t writing one sequel to her superlative Wolf Hall, but two. The first, Bring Up The Bodies, about the downfall of Anne Boleyn, will be published in May next year by 4th Estate.