Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Letters of Note--A Website of Fine Letters by Interesting People

Here is (to me at least) an interesting site edited by Shaun Usher which every day features one or two new letters by a major historical figure in the literary, political or social world.

It also has occasional interesting letters written by lesser-known persons of historic note. Several recent examples of note have come from John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Douglas Adams, Nick Cave, Mark Twain, E.B White, etc.

I hope you'll have a look. :-)


  1. Weird Doug.
    I became aware of this site for the first time yesterday, when someone shared a link about a letter from a schizophrenic on twitter. I'd been contemplating sharing another letter, from a dying father to his young son.

  2. haha: "Gad's Hill Place,
    Higham by Rochester, Kent,
    Monday night, Fourteenth September, 1863

    My dear Sir,

    Since my hall clock was sent to your establishment to be cleaned it has gone (as indeed it always has) perfectly well, but has struck the hours with great reluctance, and after enduring internal agonies of a most distressing nature, it has now ceased striking altogether. Though a happy release for the clock, this is not convenient to the household. If you can send down any confidential person with whom the clock can confer, I think it may have something on its works it would be glad to make a clean breast of," LOL

    these are great Doug I will save this link ,,thanks very much

  3. What a wonderful site, Doug!!! I could get lost there for hours. This is another terrific example of the value of the internet. The most similar experience I remember previously was trying to decipher letters written by John Muir in a museum.

  4. Did you ever see "Dear Liar?" It was a "comedy of letters" woven out of the 40-year correspondence between Mrs. Patrick Campbell and George Bernard Shaw. Very interesting!!!

  5. This is very fascinating,Doug!!!
    I've got to bookmark this one.Thanks! :)

  6. Reposting this... it's so fascinating!! Thanks, Doug.

  7. Must check this out Douglas.

    Thanks Doug as this is worth a good read. Your blog is as said for so many years wealth of place of history.

    Update: I looked at this and it is really interesting.

  8. Weird indeed, Ian . My guess is that this site is gaining in popularity. A journalist friend of mine sent me the link to this site a week or so ago with a letter, written in 1865, from a former slave. It was after the US Civil War and the letter was to his old master in Tennessee explaining why she was staying in the North.

    I'll have to take a look at that material Ian.

  9. Dickens was unique, no doubt about it. Twain's letter to a potential burglar I thought was also brilliant.

    Always happy to share a excellent link with friends, Mike.

  10. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Christy.

    Muir was a great naturalist and conservationist. I used to go to the John Muir Historical site in Martinez, California. It's an old Victorian mansion that he lived in with his wife for about 20 years.

    The house used to be the center of an orchard. I hope with all the cuts in state spending that California can keep it open. Is that where you saw the letter?

  11. I did see it once on television (on PBS) in the early 80's, Christy. I'm trying to remember the actors in the show. Yes, it was very entertaining.

  12. My reaction as well. Glad you like it, Timelord.

  13. Thanks Jack. Your input is always positive and I do sincerely appreciate that.

  14. At The Huntington Library in Pasadena. Incredible place -- the house, the gardens, the library. Come to think of it, I'll have to take TL there next time he visits.

  15. I've been surfing around the site and just loving it, Doug!!! Great find and share.

  16. That's a good idea, Jack. I'm going to do the same.

  17. I went there once and will certainly try to go again. I remember seeing letters by Jack London and other authors.

    It's an amazing and beautiful facility.

  18. Glad I could do a positive post for a change, Christy.

  19. Some very surprising entries there.
    I love reading those letters, most of which were never intended for consuption by a wider audience.

    During my research for my master's, I was privileged to read some rarely-seen journals and letters written by propsectors during the Klondike gold rush and the intimacy you find there is amazing. There are some very heart-felt and personal exchanges that give life to the skeletons of history.

    Today's Civil War letter is a perfect example of that.
    Nice find.

  20. That, to me, is one of the great things about higher education, Chuck--exploring the past with first-hand sources. I wish I had been able to stay in school longer to do something like that.

    A cousin of mine sent me some copies he made of a common relative of ours who fought in the last 18 months of the Civil War. I had of course seen the letters printed in books, but his letters home really opened up my mind to how important a personal history can be.

    P.S. --My ancestor was no Sullivan Ballou. Most of the letters he wrote concerned routine domestic matters (i.e., his advising his wife that if she sold a mule or a pig, that she get a good price for them. :-)

    Thanks Chuck.

  21. P.S. --My ancestor was no Sullivan Ballou. Most of the letters he wrote concerned routine domestic matters his making sure that if his wife sold a mule or a pig, that she get a good price for them. :-)

  22. Could be gems - like Charlie's Farm Journal's

    The perspective of time can make the routine much more interesting

  23. Yes, I plan to put a few online when next we here get to some important anniversary in The American Civil War,Ian.

    Thanks for those links. Both are heart-rending. That letter by a dad to his three year-old especially has left me quite shaken--in a good way though.

  24. I only grudgingly admit such things, but so did I.
    I totally lost it when he spoke of writing his goodbye letter at the same time his son was playing with bow 'n arrow, oblivious to his father's impending departure.

  25. Yes, guys that one was very, very moving. It's rare to find a website like this one.

  26. For a personal reason, & with regret, this touched me more than anything in the letter:

    "I've left you all my tools and tool boxs and other neat stuff."

    --and other neat stuff.

  27. "she was relentlessly speaking of her family. Each desperate letter is directed at her absent husband, Mark, and every page is thick with overlapping text. Some are so condensed as to be illegible; some read "Herzensschatzi komm" ("Sweetheart come") over and over; others simply repeat the plea, "komm komm komm," ("come come come") thousands of times.

    None were sent."

    I suppose there is no reason given why they were not sent?

    I wonder about the chronology of the letters shown. In some, the 'embedded' writing was in lovely script, quite precise.
    I wonder if she was correctly diagnosed.
    I wonder if we could not have stabilized her in 2012, so that she could have been with her family.

    Her emotional torture must have been incomprehensibly intense.

  28. I thought it crossed over into being visual art the way it looked... they were almost images in waves

  29. That's what haunts me...and why didn't anyone come?