Tuesday, July 09, 2013


Half an Hour a Day

Louise Creighton, Life and Letters of Thomas Hodgkin (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1917), p. 101:
His method of work was to read first the original sources, acquiring for this purpose all the books he could get hold of, and spending, whenever possible, hours at the British Museum or the Bodleian Library. He liked to get thoroughly filled with his subject before attempting to write, and would say sometimes, 'I am now so full I must disgorge.'
Id., p. 102:
His daughter Violet says, 'Looking back on those early Benwelldene days, I don't ever seem to find a time when he was not writing a "book" at his big table in the library before breakfast and after tea and most of the morning on Fridays.' He could use even scraps of time, and when full of his subject would sit down to write before his half-past eight breakfast or when he had only twenty minutes to spare. The way in which he found and used time for his work is illustrated by the advice he gave to his younger brother Jonathan to start writing a book saying, 'half an hour a day steadily devoted to a job of this kind would in a year accomplish a great deal.' His library was under the children's room, an arrangement which only a long-suffering parent would have tolerated, but he never minded the noisiest games overhead. Steady practice on the piano he called 'rather stimulating,' the only noise that ever brought remonstrance was strumming. When what he called the filling process, that is, the careful study of his authorities, had gone on long enough, he would begin to write, and his pen ran easily and swiftly as he poured out what he had read in the form that it presented itself to his imagination. He lived with the people about whom he was writing, and talked about them so graphically as to make them real to others also. His desire for companionship made him eager to share his interests; he never kept his work to himself but wanted others to care for what meant so much to him. He enjoyed his work intensely, it was his hobby and not his business. Whilst working steadily at his big book he found time for some bits of special work connected with his general subject. Much thought was given to two lectures on Claudian, which were finally published in 1875, when he wrote: 'I am just now parting company with my old friend Claudian. I shall feel quite lost without him for a bit.'
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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