It’ll All Come Right/In Absence by Joshua Whitehouse, illustrated by Charles Hunniball

There’s not a great deal I can say about this week’s Random Book(s) Of The Week. I found them, in one of those moments of glorious serendipity which are sadly too rare, hidden in an ancient copy of Milton poems in a charity shop in my homeland of Edmonton. I paid a quid for the Milton and didn’t snitch about the extra treasures inside. Hustling does not end and I was taking a stand against poor book management. I have of course felt guilty ever since so, you know, karma gets you in the end.

From what I can tell these books were published during the Second World War as sort of mini self-help books. Each book is under ten pages and takes the form of a beautifully-illustrated poem.

It’ll All Come Right is essentially the poemification (yep, just invented a word, what of it?) of the great British Blitz spirit/stiff upper lift/Keep Calm & Carry On mentality:

It’ll all come right if there’s sun as well as rain

If you see in spite of losses there is still a little gain


Whereas In Absence offers comfort to those forced apart, by speaking of those bonds that never break:

Throughout our lovely comradeship

Has run a silken thread

That held through all life’s changes

Through each hour of hope or dread


I would love to know the context in which these little books were owned. Were they a gift from someone soon to be departed, to bring comfort during a war-time absence? Or purchased by someone who was finding that whole Come On Now Be British And Do Not Cry thing a bit of a strain and required some kind words? Did Edwina Weston, the  previous owner of the Milton according to the carefully-written name on its inner page, have any connection to their story?

Who knows. Such is the mystery of second hand books. We can never know the journey they have been on, but can at least hope they brought joy and solace to whoever owned them before us.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. How intriguing! They look like lovely editions. Nearly all my books come from charity shops & I love thinking about the journeys those books have been on before they came to me. I collect the bookmarks I find in them – receipts, tickets, airline menus, clinic letters (!) – I find them a fascinating into the little glimpse they offer of previous readers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s wonderful isn’t it? Although I’ve never found a clinic letter – now that would be intriguing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Martin says:

    What a great story. I love second hand books, introduces a bit of randomness into my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’re marvellous, aren’t they? I love to imagine their journey.

      Liked by 1 person

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