I waded my way through our lounge bookshelves yesterday, wiping, hoovering, and blowing until I was engulfed in a cloud of spiders’ webs. ‘I love Kindle,’ I thought.
Then I came across my old Macbeth. I first read it at school, and I’d pulled it out of the archives last week, as my eldest was asking about Shakespeare. It has to be thirty years since I jotted down my notes, but I remember reading it in class, clear as day, as I wrestled with the beautiful old language. English Lit was my favourite subject (that and biology, how different my life might have been if the coin had landed…)
I showed my son; he was fascinated by my childish handwriting:
It was about to get better; an hour later, in a different part of our library, I found Martha’s Macbeth. Martha was my great grandmother, and a teacher (also the inspiration behind my old pen name). I have a selection of her books and several contain notes, but mostly (like mine) they are in childish scrawl. This was written in a more sophisticated hand:
I don’t know enough about Martha to pinpoint when she might have read Macbeth; she died when my grandmother was only six. All I know is that this was written between 1900 (publication date) and about 1920, when she died.
I’m holding the copy that she held, reading the words she wrote, and I know that sixty or seventy years after she absorbed Macbeth, I did the same, and we underlined the same words.
Sep 2016 update: my younger son has just been told he will be studying Macbeth after half-term! Yeyyy! Wish I could grab Martha for a cup of tea and say, ‘Look, Martha, our boy!’