Monday, 31 October 2011


In July of 1954, just a few months after the release of Live and Let DieIan Fleming wrote the following letter to his publishers, Jonathan Cape, and suggested some names for the next installment in the James Bond series. "The Infernal Machine" was named as his favourite, but clearly not for long. At the foot of the letter, four more names were scribbled in pen, one of which — Moonraker — was eventually chosen. It was released the next year.

Transcript follows. Image kindly supplied by G. Owen.

(The copyright in this letter is owned by the Ian Fleming Estate and is reproduced here with the Estate's permission. Further use of the letter is not permitted without the Estate's express permission.)

Image: G. Owen


15th July 1954

Dear Wren Howard,

What do you think of THE INFERNAL MACHINE as a title?


Personally, I think the first might be the one. It is an expression everyone knows but has been long out of fashion.

Yours Ever

Ian Fleming

G. Wren Howard Esq.,
30 Bedford Square,
London, W.C.1.

Bond & the Moonraker
The Moonraker Secret
The Moonraker Plot



Friday, 28 October 2011

The Case of the Difficult Dressing Gowns

When comedian Spike Milligan returned home from a full medical check-up in 1971, he decided to write to Bupa with some feedback; in particular a complaint about the "gruesome" dressing gowns supplied to patients.

The chain of correspondence that followed can be enjoyed below.

Transcript follows. Images courtesy of The Spike Milligan Letters.


4th May 1971

Dear Sirs,

I recently had a full medical check-up at your BUPA Medical Centre and they asked on a pamphlet had I any suggestions.

1. I think the gruesome short dressing gowns the men have to wear are very very embarrassing and I think full length dressing gowns, down to the ankle, ought to be supplied.

2. Did the test I had include a test for cancer?

3. What types of cancer do they look for? Also I do not think I had a heart x-ray.

I wonder if you could answer me these questions.

Yours faithfully,



6th May, 1971

Dear Mr. Milligan,

Thank you for your letter and the helpful suggestions that you have made.

We find the problem of dressing-gowns an ever recurring source of difficulty. People either complain that they are too short or too long and it seems impossible to be able to suit everybody.

As you know, there is no specific test which can exclude cancer. However, the blood tests that you have sometimes give an indication of this and yours were, of course, quite normal. The x-ray of your chest is a very good screening for cancer of the lung and sometimes the straight x-ray of the abdomen can give an indication of abnormality.

I hope this satisfactorily answers your questions and once again may I thank you for having taken the trouble to write to us. It is constructive criticism such as yours which enables us to improve our service.

Yours sincerely,


Sidney Kay, M.D.,
Medical Director


7th May 1971

Dear Dr Kay,

Thank you for your letter of 6th May.

I think I can sort out your problem of the dressing-gowns. Why not have one long and one short dressing gown in each cubicle.




10th May, 1971

Dear Mr. Milligan,

Thank you very much for your excellent suggestion. It may create some difficulties with people who are what are described of as average size. However, I will certainly tell our receptionist to ask people if they would particularly like a long or a short dressing gown and try to suit them accordingly.

I made myself very ill laughing at the repeat of your programme on television the other night and am not a little disappointed that when you were here we did not diagnose that you are suffering from "earthquakes" in the very stages of this very serious condition!

Yours sincerely,

Sidney Kay, M.D.,
Medical Director


17th May 1971

Dear Dr Kay,

Do you know that most average sizes of people are tall or short? I think that the size you should have is average, tall or short, dressing gowns which would fit everybody.

I have just been to Naples to see Vesuvius and would you believe it the bloody fools have let it go out.




19th May, 1971

Dear Mr. Milligan,

Thank you once again for your helpful note.

We have given the matter further consideration and decided that probably our best course is to tackle patients' knees. It seems to us that some form of knee disguise may well prove to be a most effective answer and avoid all embarrassment. If they were not recognisable as knees then people would not really worry as to what they were seeing.

How unfortunate for you to have been to see Naples and to have found Vesuvius out!

Yours sincerely,

Sidney Kay, M.D.,
Medical Director


21st May 1971

Dear Dr Kay,

The Case of the Difficult Dressing Gowns

The knees' disguise is all very well but supposing somebody walks around the back, what then? On no, sir, if the knee is to be disguised and the back of the knee left in existence a false plastic knee will have to be fitted to the back of the leg to prevent an optical illusion when the man has his legs in the reverse position to his body. But then, the moment he kneels down for his cholesterol count the whole game is given away and the knee disguise revealed for what it is, a flagrant forgery. No, I propose that we have floor length dressing gowns and then a 2ft dwarf will be inserted in the wearer's insteps to give the impression of mobility.

I hope this is all clear to you - I have opened a file called 'The BUPA Affair'.

Good news. As you know, they have transferred the fire from Vesuvius to Mt. Etna which is working beautifully. Book now for the third San Francisco, due any minute.




27th May, 1971

Dear Mr. Milligan,

Since receiving your letter of the 21st, we have been attacked by a devastating epidemic of disappearing knees. The pathetic high pitched cries of the knees as they despairingly slip out of sight is terribly heartrending. We have brought in large numbers of 9' dwarfs to try and deal with this catastrophic situation, all to no avail. We eagerly await your next helpful suggestion.....

And now for a look at the weather in the South East, over to Jack Scott in the London Weather Centre.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

Sidney Kay, M.D.,
Medical Director

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Who do you think you are -- Marilyn Monroe?

Amusing proof, if it were needed, that Marilyn Monroe was difficult to pin down at times, even for New York Times journalists on deadline. The month after this letter was sent, Monroe began shooting her final movie, The Misfits, and not long after that she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in New York. She described her experiences there in a letter to her psychiatrist.

Monroe passed away in 1962.

Transcript follows. Image kindly supplied by Huey.

Image: Huey

The New York Times
Times Square

May 23, 1960

Dear (I think) Marilyn:

I write to the President of the United States and I get a prompt reply.

I write to the Vice President of the United States and I get a prompt reply.

I write to Sir Laurence Olivier and I get a prompt reply.

I write to Jayne Mansfield and I get a prompt reply.

I write to you and three weeks go by without even an acknowledgement of an important enclosure.

Who do you think you are -- Marilyn Monroe?

In any case, would you please return the script of that speech? I need it.

Yours, in sorrow and bewilderment,

(Signed, 'Jutu')


Mrs. Arthur Miller
Beverly Hills Hotel
Beverly Hills, California

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Burst through its bars

In August of 1665, an ageing scientist named Joannes Marcus Marci sent his friend — the great Athanasius Kircher — a truly perplexing book and asked him, via an accompanying letter, seen below, to do something countless other experts had unsuccessfully attempted: decipher it. Try as he might, Kircher failed to do so, and to this day the 230+ page book, written in an unknown script and filled with illustrations, remains a mystery to all linguists and cryptologists who tackle it. It is now known as the Voynich manuscript, and each of its baffling pages can be seen here.

In 1912 it was acquired by Wilfrid M. Voynich, hence its name. This letter was found inside.

Transcript and translation follow, courtesy of Philip Neal. Image courtesy of the Beinecke Library.

Reuerende et Eximie Domine in Christo Pater

Librum hunc ab amico singulari mihi testamento relictum, mox eundem tibi amicissime Athanisi ubi primum possidere coepi, animo destinaui: siquidem persuasum habui a nullo nisi abs te legi posse. Petijt aliquando per litteras ejusdem libri tum possessor judicium tuum parte aliqua a se descripta et tibi transmissa, ex qua reliqua a te legi posse persuasum habuit; uerum librum ipsum transmittere tum recusabat in quo discifrando posuit indefessum laborem, uti manifestum ex conatibus ejusdem hic una tibi transmissis neque prius huius spei quam uitae suae finem fecit. Verum labor hic frustraneus fuit, siquidem non nisi suo Kirchero obediunt eiusmodi sphinges. Accipe ergo modo quod pridem tibi debebatur hoc qualecunque mei erga te affectus indicium; huiusque seras, si quae sunt, consueta tibi felicitate perrumpe. retulit mihi D. Doctor Raphael Ferdinandi tertij Regis tum Boemiae in lingua boemica instructor dictum librum fuisse Rudolphi Imperatoris, pro quo ipse latori qui librum attulisset 600 ducatos praesentarit, authorem uero ipsum putabat esse Rogerium Bacconem Anglum. ego judicium meum hic suspendo. tu uero quid nobis hic sentiendum defini, cujus fauori et gratiae me totum commendo maneoque.

Reuerentiae Vestrae.

Pragae 19. Augusti
Anno 1665.

Ad Obsequia
Joannes Marcus Marci
a Cronland.

Reverend and Distinguished Sir; Father in Christ:

This book, bequeathed to me by an intimate friend, I destined for you, my very dear Athanasius, as soon as it came into my possesion, for I was convinced it could be read by no-one except yourself.

The former owner of this book once asked your opinion by letter, copying and sending you a portion of the book from which he believed you would be able to read the remainder, but he at that time refused to send the book itself. To its deciphering he devoted unflagging toil, as is apparent from attempts of his which I send you herewith, and he relinquished hope only with his life. But his toil was in vain, for such Sphinxes as these obey no-one but their master, Kircher. Accept now this token, such as it is, and long overdue though it be, of my affection for you, and burst through its bars, if there are any, with your wonted success.

Dr. Raphael, tutor in the Bohemian language to Ferdinand III, then King of Bohemia, told me the said book had belonged to the Emperor Rudolph and that he presented the bearer who brought him the book 600 ducats. He believed the author was Roger Bacon, the Englishman. On this point I suspend judgment; it is your place to define for us what view we should take thereon, to whose favor and kindness I ureservedly commit myself and remain,

At the command of your Reverence,

Prague 19 August 1665

Joannes Marcus Marci
of Cronland.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Reviews were angry and childish

Writing in September of 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald responds to a fan of his latest book, The Great Gatsby, and notes that until H. L. Mencken reviewed it (here) critics were largely unimpressed — as a result it barely sold. Since then it has sold millions of copies, regularly features in 'best of' lists, and is considered a classic. Numerous adaptations have also surfaced, one of which is currently in production.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Bonhams.

Image: Bonhams

Dear Miss Lane Pride (What a wonderful name!)

Thank you for your most kind and cordial letter — I think that my first books must have antagonized a lot of people because I know that so many approached this with suspicion and hostility; for the first months there were hardly any sales at all, and until Mencken spoke for it the reviews were angry and childish. Now of course it has become a best seller.

Let me tell you how much I appreciate your writing to me — and how much I hope that future books won't send you scurrying back to your original opinion.

Faithfully yours


Monday, 24 October 2011

Sadness is a strange companion

Full marks go to Paul Banks, lead singer of Interpol, for the lovely, compassionate note seen below; written last year after a gig in Boston to a downbeat young lady. Letters of advice like this — particularly when written by 'celebrities' to their fans — can actually be life-changing for the recipient, and should be commended. Another admirable letter that immediately springs to mind was written to a fan by Stephen Fry in 2006.

Transcript follows. Image supplied by Felicity.

Image: Felicity

Dear Hailey,

No matter how sad you may get, it's always passing. You may wake up blue, and by the afternoon, everything will be rosey. Sadness is a strange companion. And a nuisance. So try not to pay it too much mind. And be present in your happy moments — and weigh them against the sad. It's all worth it. And you will arrive somewhere wonderful with peace in your heart.

All my love and hope to you, young lady.


Friday, 21 October 2011

We were both asleep when the boat hit

On April 24th of 1912, 24-year-old John Snyder wrote the following letter to his father, Frank, and recalled the night of April 14th; an altogether tragic night that saw him and his wife, Nelle, escape the RMS Titanic following its collision with an iceberg, only to then witness the ship sink to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This particular young couple had been returning from their honeymoon. Luckily for them, they reacted fast enough to escape death; 1517 other passengers were less fortunate.

Transcript follows. Images courtesy of Philip Weiss Auctions.

April 24th

Dear Father

Here we are again both safe and sound — thankful and glad to be home. You perhaps have not heard of the way we reached safety. I can't tell you all about it — but no doubt you have seen or read my account in some paper — because that would take a very long time and would fill a book.

I can only tell you that I have a mighty fine wife and she is the one you must thank — besides our Lord — for my being able to write this letter. If it hadn't been for Nelle — I am sure that I never would be here now. She is the one that urged me to get up when I wanted to go back to bed.

We were both asleep when the boat hit. I don't know whether the bump woke me up or I woke when Nelle spoke to me., At any rate she made me get up and go out to the companionway to see what was going on — I went out three times before we decided to get up and get dressed.

When we reached the top deck only a few people were about and we all were told to go down & put on our life belts — we did it at once thinking it was only a precaution. When we got back on the top deck again we saw they were getting the life boats ready — as soon as they were ready they told the people to get into them. Nearly every body stepped back from in front of us and as a result we were almost the very first people placed in the life boat. Only a very few people were on deck at that time and they thought it much safer to stay on the big boat than to try the life boat. When we had rowed some distance away from the Titanic we realized — by looking at the bow seeing (only the port holes) the different rows of port holes getting less and less from these rows — then two rows & then finally the bow went under — that the finest boat in the world was doomed — we hit between 11.40 & 11.50 and the Titanic sunk at 2.22 in the morning.

We spent some anxious hours in the life boat and finally sighted the Carpathia between 4 o'clock & 4.30. We rowed to meet her and at 5.30 we felt better. You can't imagine how we felt and I am sure the Lord had his guiding hand on Nelle's and my hand — We were both entirely dressed. Nelle had on every stitch of clothing of her winter suit - a sweater, her long steamer coat, mink furs, winter hat, high shoes etc — I had on my suit, a sweater, winter overcoat, shoes — in fact we both were as completely dressed as possible.

Uncle Ed — Mabel & Charlie Williams Aunt Ethel Uncle Victor all met us in N.Y. Many of my old Hotchkiss class mates were also there.

Nelle got weighed yesterday and showed a gain of 20 pounds since we got married. Pretty good hey?

I hope you get this letter and I sure will be glad to see you home. Home looks mighty good to me.

With heaps of love to all

From Nelle & John

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

My belly is too much swelling with jackfruit

In 1909, after missing his train due to an ultimately disastrous trip to the lavatory at Ahmedpur station, an embarrassed, angry young man named Okhil Chandra Sen sent an unintentionally amusing letter of complaint to the Sahibganj divisional railway office in West Bengal. The letter proved to be an important one as, according to the Railway Museum in New Delhi, the subsequent investigation into the affair by the British Raj resulted in the introduction of toilets to all trains in the country; something that had been absent since the formation of Indian Railways in 1857.

The original letter is held in the museum's archives. Below is the version they have on display.

Transcript follows. Image kindly supplied by Richard Fellowes.

Image: Richard Fellowes

Dear Sir,

I am arrive by passenger train Ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefor went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with lotah in one hand and dhoti in the next when I am fall over and expose all shocking to man and female women on platform. I am got leaved Ahmedpur station.

This too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train minutes for him. I am therefor pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report to papers.

Your's faithfully servent,

Okhil Ch. Sen.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Charles Bukowski on Censorship

In 1985, following a complaint from a local reader, staff at the Public Library in Nijmegen decided to remove Charles Bukowski's book, Tales of Ordinary Madness, from their shelves whilst declaring it "very sadistic, occasionally fascist and discriminatory against certain groups (including homosexuals)." In the following weeks, a local journalist by the name of Hans van den Broek wrote to Bukowski and asked for his opinion. It soon arrived, and can be read below.

Transcript follows.

(This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note. For more info, visit Books of Note.)


Dear Hans van den Broek:

Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.

The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.

If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many "bads"--bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even "bad" white males. Only when you write about "bad" white males they don't complain about it. And need I say that there are "good" blacks, "good" homosexuals and "good" women?

In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of "sadism" it is because it exists, I didn't invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the "light" and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.

Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can't vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.

I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths. But I am hurt, yes, when somebody else's book is censored, for that book, usually is a great book and there are few of those, and throughout the ages that type of book has often generated into a classic, and what was once thought shocking and immoral is now required reading at many of our universities.

I am not saying that my book is one of those, but I am saying that in our time, at this moment when any moment may be the last for many of us, it's damned galling and impossibly sad that we still have among us the small, bitter people, the witch-hunters and the declaimers against reality. Yet, these too belong with us, they are part of the whole, and if I haven't written about them, I should, maybe have here, and that's enough.

may we all get better together,

Charles Bukowski

Monday, 17 October 2011

Letters of Note – The Book

I need your help, to produce a book. A Letters of Note book. A beautifully bound, satisfyingly weighty book filled with many of the website's best letters, plus a selection previously unseen. It will be lovingly made using thick, uncoated paper — the perfect material on which to print reproductions of such amazing correspondence. As with this website, each image will be accompanied by an introduction and a faithful transcription. This gorgeous, 400-page book will contain approximately 200 letters, and could be in your hands — all being well — in December of next year. It will be stunning, both to stare at and read. To say I'm excited would be an understatement.

As I mentioned though, your support is needed. To make the process as smooth, stress-free, and enjoyable as possible, I've decided to side-step the traditional route and instead team up with the lovely folks at Unbound, a fantastic young company founded by people who really love and understand books, and who have chosen to approach the publishing process from a different angle; an approach I believe to be beneficial for readers and authors alike. With Unbound, book ideas are 'pitched' to their potential audience; an audience who can then, should they wish, pledge their support financially in return for various different rewards. When the book is fully funded the writing and production process starts, at which time its supporters can begin to follow the author's progress by way of a members' area of the Unbound website. The whole process gives the reader an insight that normally wouldn't be achievable. Of course, when the book is finished, it is delivered to all who pledged.

So, head over to the Unbound website where you will see a video pitch for the Letters of Note book. There you will be able to pledge your support at various different levels, from £30 upwards. Everyone who makes a pledge will not only receive the book when it's ready, but they will also have their name printed in the back of every copy as a patron — a permanent reminder that they helped to produce it. Pledge more and you'll also receive some extras, from signed collectible editions through to invites to the book's launch party late next year. There's even a limited edition notepad full of famous letterheads to be had, and a deluxe slipcase edition of the book. Then, when my target is met, I can afford to begin the painstaking task of acquiring the hundreds of permissions necessary for such a book, all the while safe in the knowledge that an audience awaits avidly at the end of the road.

And that's it. By next Christmas we'll have a beautiful Letters of Note book, made possible by you. Please, go and pledge your support if you can. The quicker the book is funded, the sooner we can begin.

(If you have any questions, get in touch by email, post, or even via Twitter. If certain questions keep popping up, I'll add them to this post along with the answer. Also, if you have or know of any letters you think would suit the book, get in touch.)

Please don't give in

On August 11th of 2007, a 12-year-old girl named Amy wrote the following heartbreaking letter to her father, 47-year-old Garry Newlove, as he lay comatose in hospital. The day before, she, her two sisters and her mother had looked on in horror as he was savagely beaten by a gang of youths outside their home. Sadly, Garry didn't get the chance to read his daughter's letter. He passed away on the 12th of August.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Newlove family, via Farrah.

Image: The Newloves/Farrah

To daddy

I am unable to see you right now as you are to ill but I know you can fight this as you are a strong, loving man who I know loves me no matter what. I am asking you to be strong and don't give in as I love you too much to believe that you won't go without a fight. I had a dream last night that you woke up & you were fine except you didn't know me at all! If that did happen & you didn't know me, I would still try to help you remember. I will stick by you while you are in hospital & I will take care of mummy. I can't get across to you how much I will miss you & I don't know what I would do without you. You have always been there for me when I am down & you always put a smile on my face (even if it is a rubbish joke) You meen the world to me & I wouldn't change you for the world. When you get out of here I will be there with a big smile on my face. I hope you can hear me ryt now as I hope it will give you more strength & determination as to wake up. I thought I saw nana newloves face in the TV last night and I keep seeing her. I know she is here with you looking out for you & is probably offering cornflakes or thortons toffee. I love you with all my heart so please don't give in. We are all taking care of you and mummy.

We will deeply miss you & I want you to know you are the best dad anyone can ask for. I love you so much & I do hope you can fight this. I love you! from your darling daughter who loves you so much & from the whole family! WE LOVE YOU!! & DON'T GIVE IN!! xxxxxoooxxx

Friday, 14 October 2011

Don't hesitate — Do it now!

Here we have a real piece of cinema history in the form of a hugely important letter from 1924, written by Walt Disney, in which he urges his good friend, the great Ub Iwerks, to up sticks and join him at the recently formed Disney Productions in Hollywood. Luckily for him — and us — Walt's persistence paid off, and soon Iwerks arrived at the studio to work his magic. He went on to create Mickey Mouse, one of the most popular cartoon characters of all time.

This letter sold for a mammoth $247,800.00 (incl. fees etc.) in May of this year.

Transcript follows. Images courtesy of iCollector.

Images: iCollector

Disney Bros. Studio
Hollywood, Calif.

June 1st 1924

Dear friend Ubbe:

I’ll say I was surprised to hear from you and also glad to hear from you. Everything is going fine with us and am glad you have made up your mind to come out. Boy you will never regret it — this is the place for you — a real country — to work and play in — no kidding — don’t change your mind — remember what Old Horace Greeley said "Go west young man — go west!" —

We have just finished our sixth comedy for M. J. Winkler and are starting to-morrow on the seventh of the first series of 12. Miss Winkler is well pleased with them and has given us some high praise — she is leaving New York for here June 1st, and I believe we will be able to start a twice a month schedule instead of our monthly schedule —

I can give you a job — as artist-cartoonist and etc. with the Disney Productions, most of the work would be cartooning — answer at once and let me know what you want to start and I will write more details — At the present time I have one fellow helping me on the animating, & three girls that do the inking etc. while Roy handles the business end — I have a regular cast of kids that I use in the pictures and little Virginia is the star —

I was talking with Mr. Davis last nite — told him you was figuring on coming out and he wants you to drive his car out — it is a seven passenger cadilac — he will pay all expenses on the car — such as gas, oil and up keep — I think it is a dandy proposition, and the best way to come out — you could have a nice trip —

Mr Davis says it is a good car — an old model but has not been driven very far — he wants you to go over to the Muchmore Garage 3220 (under Georgia Browns Dramatic School) and take a look at it, just tell them you are figuring on driving it out for him — then write and let me know what you want to do, and how soon you can come out – if you can leave before the first of the month all the better — of course you would sell all of your furniture and also your car? Wouldn’t you? — I believe it would be best if you did — Any ways write and let me know all the details — give my regards to every one at the Film Ad and the boys at the Arabian Knights — and also to your mother — As ever your old friend.

Walt —

Don’t hesitate — Do it now — !

— P. D. Q. —

P.S. I wouldn’t live in K.C. now if you gave me the place — yep — you bet — Hooray for Hollywood — !!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Dejobbed, bewifed, and much childrenised

On February 2nd of 1929, the following hilarious letter of complaint was sent to a government official in Calabar, Nigeria, by a "bewifed" and "much childrenised" ex-employee who had recently been "dejobbed" due to his apparent laziness. It is unknown whether he was subsequently "rejobulated."

The letter is now held at the National Archives, is truly magnificent, and will forever be a personal favourite.

Transcript follows.

(Source: The National Archives' Africa Through a Lens project.)

February 2nd 1929.

Kind Sir,

On opening this epistle you will behold the work of a dejobbed person, and a very bewifed and much childrenised gentleman.

Who was violently dejobbed in a twinkling by your goodself. For Heavens sake Sir consider this catastrophe as falling on your own head, and remind yourself as walking home at the moon's end of five savage wives and sixteen voracious children with your pocket filled with non-existent £ S D; not a solitudery sixpence; pity my horrible state when being dejobbed and proceeding with a heart and intestines filled with misery to this den of doom; myself did greedily contemplate culpable homicide, but Him who did protect Daniel (poet) safely through the lion's dens will protect his servant in his home of evil.

As to reason given by yourself — goodself — esquire for my dejobbment the incrimination was laziness.

No Sir. It were impossible that myself who has pitched sixteen infant children into this valley of tears, can have a lazy atom in his mortal frame, and the sudden departure of eleven pounds monthly has left me on the verge of the abyss of destitution and despair. I hope this vision of horror will enrich your dreams this night, and good Angel will meet and pulverise your heart of nether milestone so that you will awaken, and with as much alacrity as may be compatable with your personal safety, you will hasten to rejobulate your servant.

So mote it be - Amen

Yours despairfully

Sgd. Asuquo Okon Inyang.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Everyone should have a reserve

With a net worth of $38bn, investor Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest men on the planet. In 1970, he discovered the following letter in a safe deposit box along with the $1,000 cash mentioned therein. 30 years earlier it had been sent by his grandfather, Ernest — a grocery store owner — to Warren's uncle, Fred, and Fred's wife. Similar letters had also been sent to Ernest's other children.

Earlier this year, Warren Buffett said of his grandfather's valuable financial advice:
"At Berkshire, we have taken his $1,000 solution a bit further and have pledged that we will hold at least $10bn of cash, excluding that held at our regulated utility and railroad businesses. Because of that commitment, we customarily keep at least $20bn on hand so that we can both withstand unprecedented insurance losses (our largest to date having been about $3 billion from Katrina,the insurance industry’s most expensive catastrophe) and quickly seize acquisition or investment opportunities."
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Berkshire Hathaway (PDF).

Dear Fred & Catherine:

Over a period of a good many years I have known a great many people who at some time or another have suffered in various ways simply because they did not have ready cash. I have known people how have had to sacrifice some of their holdings in order to have money that was necessary at that time.

For a good many years your grandfather kept a certain amount of money where he could put his hands on it in very short notice.

For a number of years I have made it a point to keep a reserve, should some occasion come up where I would need money quickly, without disturbing the money that I have in my business. There have been a couple occasions when I found it very convenient to go to this fund.

Thus, I feel that everyone should have a reserve. I hope it never happens to you, but the chances are that some day you will need money, and need it badly, and with this thought in view, I started a fund by placing $200.00 in an envelope, with your name on it, when you were married. Each year I added something to it, until there is now $1000.00 in the fund.

Ten years have elapsed since you were married, and this fund is now completed.

It is my wish that you place this envelope in your safety deposit box, and keep it for the purpose that it was created for. Should the time come when you need part, I would suggest that you use as little as possible, and replace it as soon as possible.

You might feel that this should be invested and bring you an income. Forget it — the mental satisfaction of having $1000.00 laid away where you can put your hands on it, is worth more than what interest it might bring, especially if you have the investment in something that you could not realize on quickly.

If in after years you feel this has been a good idea, you might repeat it with your own children.

For your information, I might mention that there has never been a Buffet who ever left a very large estate, but there has never been one that did not leave something. They never spent all they made, but always saved part of what they made, and it has all worked out pretty well.

This letter is being written at the expiration of ten years after you were married.


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

I am so lonely I can hardly bear it

American artist Rockwell Kent wrote the following love letter to his wife, Frances, in 1926. It's a masterclass in romantic writing.

Much-needed transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Archives of American Art. Large version here.

Frances! I am so lonely I can hardly bear it. As one needs happiness so have I needed love; that is the deepest need of the human spirit. And as I love you utterly, so have you now become the whole world of my spirit. It is beside and beyond anything that you can ever do for me; it lies in what you are, dear love — to me so infinitely lovely that to be near you, to see you, hear you, is now the only happiness, the only life, I know. How long these hours are alone!

Yet is good for me to know the measure of my love and need, that I may at least be brought to so govern myself as never to lose the love and trust that you have given me.

Dear Frances, let us make and keep our love more beautiful than any love has ever been before.

Forever, dearest one.



Monday, 10 October 2011

You are the future. You can make a difference.

Christopher Reeve graciously sent this touching letter of advice to students at University Heights Middle School, California, in 1999, in response to a request for some inspirational words by their teacher, Walt Owen. It was dictated four years after the tragic accident that left the Superman star in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Reeve passed away exactly seven years ago, aged 52.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Walt Owen.

Image: Walt Owen

From the desk of Christopher Reeve

June 2, 1999

Mr. Walt Owen
University Heights Middle School
1155 Massachusetts Avenue
Riverside, CA 92507

Dear Mr. Owen and Students:

Thank you for the letter that you sent me. I am happy to enclose a photograph, but I am unable to autograph it at this point in time because my spinal cord injury prevents me from being able to move my arm and hand in order to hold a pen and sign my name.

I am not going to preach to you that you should stay in school. I do want to tell you that you can do ANYTHING you want in this life if you have the determination and drive to make it happen. An education will help provide you with the knowledge and skills that you will need in order to pursue your ambitions and fulfill your dreams.

You are the future. You can make a difference. Perhaps you will work in a research laboratory that will help discover the treatments that will enable me to not only sign my name, but to get up and walk again.

I wish you all the best in all of your endavors.


Christopher Reeve

Friday, 7 October 2011

We want more Coca Cola

As World War I continued in April of 1918 and temperatures soared in Waco, Texas, 4'000 U.S. soldiers at Camp MacArthur faced a morale-denting dilemma in the form of a Coca Cola shortage. Obviously this was an unacceptable situation, and so, as troops faced "defeat at the hands of Enemy Heat & Thirst," this fantastic letter soon found its way to the company's nearby bottling works courtesy of the Exchange Officer.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of The National Archives.


Coca Cola Bottling Works,
Waco, Texas.


It is desired to bring to your attention the shortage of Coca Cola throughout this Army Camp, and particularly this Regimental Canteen. The purpose of this communication is to remind you that the hot weather is here and that Coca Cola is one of the best drinks to fight the Hot Weather with and we Soldiers dislike to admit defeat, but to win our struggles we must have the material to work with, the things to contest our enemy with, must be at hand, and unless we have Coca Cola we will have to admit defeat at the hands of Enemy Heat & Thirst.

The Army has been schooled to like and want Coca Cola because Coca Cola is the wholesome thirst quenching drink and this Exchange, representing Four Thousand Coca Cola Drinkers, begs that our supply be multiplied by ten and even more if possible. So great is the need of Coca Cola at our Exchange at the present writing may be easily understood by the many calls for this drink that must be met with a substitute, and consequently a dissatisfied customer.

It is the experince of the Management of this Exchange that many users of a certain article may be taught to like a substitute, and unless you can assure us that our demands may be met, it will be our task to introduce a substitute here that will be the forerunner of a strong competitor of Coca Cola. We do not want to do this, we want more Coca Cola, and more Coca Cola will bring us more satisfied customers, and their health will not be imperiled.

We trust you will take this matter up at once and give it the careful consideration that is due so an important issue, and then let us hear that you will aid in defeating the Enemy Thirst and conquer these long hot drill days.


55th Infantry Exchange,

Exchange Officer

April 19th 1918.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Keep the faith!

Back in the early days of Apple, Inc., long before he began sporadically responding to emails from customers, the inimitable Steve Jobs could sometimes be found signing computer chips, attaching them to sheets of Apple stationery, and then replying to fans of his company. One wonders how many of these now hang framed around the world.

Rest in peace, Steve.

Transcript follows. Image kindly supplied by 'F.H.'

Image: Francis

Apple Computer Inc.

November 16, 1983


Dear [Redacted]:

Thanks for letting us know of your support. It's really great to know that our fans up in the bleachers are cheering for us.

Keep the faith!


Steven P. Jobs
Board of Directors

PS: Hope you enjoy the chip--an Applesoft ROM

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Dearest Andy

Silver Liz - Andy Warhol, 1963

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor waited 14 years to acquire her own, personal version of the Andy Warhol silk-screens in which she featured; an iconic collection of pieces that were in many ways an extension of Warhol's infatuation with the star. One can only imagine how much this subsequent letter of thanks, written by Taylor, meant to the artist.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Gareth W. Many thanks to Adrian Arratoon for the tip.

Image: Gareth W.

Elizabeth Taylor

March 21, 1977

Dearest Andy

I'm so proud I finally have your "Liz" and thank you for signing it so sweetly to me.

I do love you.

Elizabeth or Liz
(of A.W.'s fame)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Good Bye, Son

Christopher was just 3 years of age and largely oblivious to the impending tragedy when, on August 11th of 1991, his dad wrote him this heartbreaking farewell letter. The next year, his father passed away after losing a battle with leukemia. He was 38-years-old.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Christopher; used with permission. Many thanks to Alec Couros for bringing it to my attention.)

August 11, 1991

Dear Christopher,

I'm writing this note to you now because I don't know what the future holds for me. I want you to forgive me for being sick and not being able to be there for you when and if you need me, but I want you to know one thing above all else. I love you so much that I can't describe the feelings that I'm going through.

I want you to grow up and be a success at whatever you attempt to do. The time that I did spend with you was a wonderful and enjoyable time in my life and you helped make it that way. This letter is very hard for me to write because I keep starting to cry, knowing that I will not be here when you are reading this. The sadness keeps overwhelming me and tears are flowing down my face. I'm so very proud of you and you have shown me just how smart you are already. I expect you to grow and be able to use your head to think things out and to be able to ask questions if you don't understand something.

Above all else I need to know that you will always be there for your Mother and your sister. Your family is more important to you than anything else in this world. I know that there will be times that you get upset with Mom for not letting you do something that you want to do, but she does really know what is best for you. Listen to her and learn from her advice.

I've left you all my tools and tool boxs and other neat stuff. I hope that you use them wisely and safely, tools can hurt you very bad. I've worked with my hands building things or repairing things all my life and I've found out that I enjoy it very much. Most of the tools that I own where bought for working on German-built cars, Audi's, Porsche's, Volkswagen's, and Mercedes-Benz's. Although I've worked on anything and everything I made most of my money on German cars. Again I wish you luck and safety in whatever you decide to do for a living.

I want you to face life and the problems that it gives you with a positive outlook, because if you think of the bright things in life, it makes the bad things not so bad after all! You are a beautiful and smart boy and I wish you all the luck and good fortune a person could ever want or need. I am sitting here typing this letter to you and you are right next to me shooting your bow and arrow that you got yesterday at Storybook Land. Christopher, please just always remember that I LOVE YOU more than anything in this whole world, and even if I'm not with you, you are always and forever in my heart and mind.

If at all possible Chris, I will always be with you. You are my Life. I LOVE YOU. Good Bye, Son.

Your Dad,


I love you!