Sunday, January 3, 2010

Footnotes essential

I love footnotes. A volume of letters or a diary just isn’t complete without exhaustive footnotes, preferably right there at the bottom of the page so I can just glance down & check who or what the writer is referring to. Even when I think I know, I still like to check just to be sure. The only problem I had with Pepys’s Diary was that there were no footnotes. There’s a Biographical Index which had information about each person so if I forgot which William was which (this happened quite often), I could go to the Index & check. But, it just wasn’t the same. Two more of my best reads of last year were Christina Rossetti’s Letters edited by A Harrison & the Selected Journals of L M Montgomery edited by Mary Rubio & Elizabeth Waterston. The Journals had the notes at the back but Rossetti’s Letters had the footnotes right there at the end of each letter for instant reference. Some of my favourite books of all have been letters & diaries – Charlotte Bronte’s Letters (that's one of Charlotte's letters there), Virginia Woolf’s Diaries, The Mitford sisters’ Letters, Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Diaries, Dorothy L Sayers’s Letters (I still have several volumes of these to go), the selected letters of Keats, Vera Brittain, Frances Partridge... I also have some waiting on my tbr shelves that I really want to read this year. Penelope Fitzgerald’s letters, the letters of the Duchess of Devonshire & Paddy Leigh Fermor, Jessica Mitford’s letters & the selected letters & journals of Byron. Will they live up to my standards when it comes to footnotes? I hope so.


  1. I'm very contrary, as I like a book to have footnotes, but I don't like reading them! So I suppose endnotes are ideal for me...

  2. My first visit to your blog via Stuck in a Book. I love to read journals such as May Sarton, Gladys Taber and of course LM Montgomery. I think footnotes are so much better than being at the end of the book.

  3. I think footnotes help so much if there is a lot of terms you aren't familiar with, but i hate it when they are massive and take up half the page, its so distracting! I like ot read them after, not during the actual book because it distracts from the plot, i feel.