Commonplace Book of Alexander Lamiliere
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Commonplace books seem to have their origins in the zibaldone of 15th century Italy. These were manuscript compendiums of poetry and prose often decorated with the author’s sketches. By the 17th century the keeping of commonplace books was an established feature of English intellectual life and was formally taught to students.
In Ireland the keeping of common place books was popular with ladies and gentlemen in the 18th and 19th century. They were a convenient, and sometimes decorative, way of recording useful and improving pieces of knowledge – copies of letters, poems, recipes, prayers, legal formulae. Some were substantial, some slight, but each commonplace book reflected the interests of its creator and was, therefore, unique.
Alexander Lamilliere, the creator of this commonplace book, came from French Huguenot stock. His grandfather, Florence La Milliere, had joined the army of William of Orange and had fought as a captain in Lord Galway’s Regiment of Horse. The family settled in Dublin where Florence’s sons, Cyrus and Henry entered Trinity College. Cyrus’s son, Alexander was born in Dublin in 1723 and graduated from Trinity College with a B.A. in 1745, an M.A. in 1750, and an LL.B. and LL.D. in 1775. He was ordained into the Church of Ireland and ministered in the diocese of Cork where he was, successively, chancellor of Cork, 1774–82; vicar of Holy Trinity (Christ Church) in the city of Cork, 1782–96; archdeacon of Cork and vicar of St Peter’s church, Cork, 1796–1800. Lamilliere’s son, also christened Alexander, was ordained for the curacy of St Nicholas’, Cork, in 1790 but died seven years later. The Lamilliere family was one of the few Cork Huguenot families who were not engaged in commerce. Alexander, senior, died on 7 September 1800 and was buried in St Nicholas’ churchyard, Cork, with his sons Alexander and Henry.
Lamilliere’s commonplace book is a small volume bound in red morocco leather decorated with gold tooling. The contents include an interesting account of the Lamilliere family written in French, but with a convenient translation, by his grandmother ( a member of the de Proisy family); copies of letters to the Cork newspapers reflecting particular local concerns, and prayers written by Lamilliere. It is, therefore, likely to be of interest to those concerned with Irish Huguenot families, the Church of Ireland in the late 18th century and, especially, events in the city of Cork.
The fate of the volume in the years after Lamilliere’s death is uncertain. However, by the 1870s it seems to have been in the hands of the Dublin book trade for it contains the stamps of Carson Brothers, 7 Grafton Street, and W.A. Hinch, 5 Cramption Quay. The volume was given to the antiquary, Robert Day, FSA, in 1881 by Richard Caulfield (1823–87), antiquary, local historian and librarian of Queen’s College, Cork, and purchased by Day at the sale of Caulfield’s library in Dublin, shortly after his death, in 1888. It was transferred from St Fin Barre’s cathedral, Cork, in 2003, to the Representative Church Body Library, Dublin, where it is MS 703.
For further information please contact:
Dr Susan Hood