Monday, March 21, 2011


In a comment on my previous post, Marcheline
(oh, must write down how to do that linky thing) said that she thought that a picture is worth a thousand words.

I don't really agree. Yes, there are some things that are better seen than described. A rose, for example. A baby. A house, maybe, especially if one's planning to buy it. But not a person, definitely not a person.

We have photos of various ancestors - great-grandparents and the odd great-great grandparent. And it's lovely and interesting and intriguing to have them. But they don't really tell us much. I'd so much rather have their words. Words give a far better impression of the person, don't you think? I have only one piece of writing from my father's father - who died a few months before I was born. It's a letter that he sent to my grandmother, his future wife, saying that he hoped to see her again. I have not a scrap of writing from that grandmother. I have two plates from her wedding china but that's it. (And quite a lot of her genes, I suppose. I look a bit like her.) I do have a few letters written to me by my other grandparents and they give at least a flavour of their personalities.

But I feel I know a lot about Samuel Pepys and Anne Frank and Nella Last and Virginia Woolf and lots of other people whose diaries I've read, and about Philip Larkin and Noel Coward and all the Mitford sisters and Joyce Grenfell and lots of other people whose letters I've read.

And then there are blogs, of course. Our children and grandchildren, if the blogs survive, will know a huge amount about us and our lives. And what an archive for historians - if our journals don't disappear when we do, or shortly thereafter.

What do you think? Words or pictures? If you could only have one of them?


  1. Words. Definitely.

  2. Don't make me choose!

  3. Pictures if they are a visual person.( I love to see colour, detail and texture )
    Words if they are good with words. ( but so many are not good with words )
    I can think of many clever practical people who are challenged by words - especially if they are writing them. (gardeners; quilters; artists; inventors; photograghers, architects.)

  4. I agree that our children will know so much about us if they ever read our blogs in years to come. Pictures can be doctored, and words do reveal the person, even if those words are lies...

  5. Words. Certainly and definitely.Their infinite variety, and the unceasingly creativity of expression that bubbles forth. The explication of meaning, the expansion of understanding, and the exploration of subtlety, the nuances, the plain speaking, the complexity and the sheer fun and enjoyment. Words rule, ok!

  6. On first thought I would say words, but I must admit I was recently given a picture of my great-great grandmother and was fascinated by how many of her features are familiar in my brother and cousins and their children. My grandmother (my father's mother), who was the only grandparent I knew, never learned to read and write.

  7. Oh dear -- it's a good thing we don't REALLY have to choose! I'm such a visual person, my first instinct is to say pictures. But, I have some journals from g-g-grandparents from the late 1800's and their descriptions are wonderful. So, from a historical perspective, I might just have to go with words. The mind doesn't visualize the missing words from a picture as it does the missing picture from words, right?

  8. Ooh difficult - in a perfect world I think a mixture of words and pictures!!

  9. re the linky thing - when posting there is an icon for hyperlinks on the same little bar where you can upload pictures etc. Highlight the text you want to take you to the link, then click the hyperlink icon and paste the url of the website into the relevant box, and bob's your uncle.

  10. Vivien11:10 pm

    Depends on your nature - some prefer words, some pictures, some a mixture of both. There isn't an "either/or".

    Thanks for this interesting post.