When Sir Alec Guinness died in August 2000, he left behind two exercise books filled with entries in his small, beautiful handwriting, together with a typed Introduction that suggests he planned to have the books published or broadcast in some way. Together they make up this commonplace book.
The entries include passages from favourite poems and plays, theatrical anecdotes, stories overheard on the street, and the occasional short musing or reminiscence on a subject that has simply taken his fancy. Inevitably certain writers recur: Shakespeare, of course, the subject of a lifetime's study and love. Pepys, Kipling, RS Thomas, and religious writers like Cardinal Newman and Simone Weil. But here too are Woody Allen and John Updike, EE Cummings and Barry Humphries. And some acerbic comments on certain contemporary television stars.
The result is a charming book of wisdom and reflection, a book that offers an extraordinary insight into the mind of one the great actors of the twentieth century.