Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Best of 2013

2013 is nearly over. And what a year it has been. The beautiful Letters of Note book, stockists of which can be found here, is finally finished and has been receiving amazing reviews from all corners—just this week it was also named 'Book of the Year' by Big Issue; and on December 10th, a hugely talented group of actors, musicians and authors gathered at the Tabernacle in London to perform a selection of letters at the inaugural Letters Live event, with all profits going to the Reading Agency—further Letters Live events will take place in 2014. As for the website, many millions have visited its 1000+ letters. Of those letters added in the past 12 months, the following 15 have been visited the most, beginning with the most popular (to see 2012's most-read letters, go here).

Albert Camus writes to his old teacher after winning the Nobel Prize.

A wonderful letter of advice from Kurt Vonnegut to some students.


After being contacted by Ford Motors, Marianne Moore offers names for their new car. 

Steve Albini lays bare his philosophy in a pitch letter to Nirvana.

5. The Matchbox

An impossibly charming letter of thanks from Sylvia Townsend Warner. 

The most intense of love letters, from Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin. 

Publisher Richard Seaver takes on Coca-Cola. 

A heartbreaking letter from a World War II veteran to a lost love.

E. B. White explains his reasons for writing Charlotte's Web, in a letter to his editor.

Letters from Jim Henson to his loved ones, to be read after this death. 

A school librarian writes to Francis Ford Coppola with an idea for a film. 

A letter of advice from Anton Chekhov to his troubled older brother. 

Richard Burton reacts to the news that Liz Taylor has ended their relationship. 

Private Eye's now-famous response to a legal threat. 

A longing love letter from Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf.

Huge thanks! See you in 2014. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Always Yours

On November 27th of 1875, the great Samuel Clemens—known to most as Mark Twain—wrote the following love letter to his dear wife of almost 6 years, Olivia, on the occasion of her 30th birthday. They remained married until her death, 29 years later.

(Source: Complete Letters of Mark Twain; Image: Olivia and Samuel Clemens, via Courant.)

Hartford, November 27, 1875

Livy darling,

Six years have gone by since I made my first great success in life and won you, and thirty years have passed since Providence made preparation for that happy success by sending you into the world.

Every day we live together adds to the security of my confidence that we can never any more wish to be separated than that we can ever imagine a regret that we were ever joined. You are dearer to me to-day, my child, than you were upon the last anniversary of this birth-day; you were dearer then than you were a year before—you have grown more and more dear from the first of those anniversaries, and I do not doubt that this precious progression will continue on to the end.

Let us look forward to the coming anniversaries, with their age and their gray hairs without fear and without depression, trusting and believing that the love we bear each other will be sufficient to make them blessed.

So, with abounding affection for you and our babies, I hail this day that brings you matronly grace and dignity of three decades!

Always Yours,

Friday, 13 December 2013

Our lives have been ruined

On May 28th, 1934, in Corbeil, Ontario, five girls were born two months prematurely to Elzire and Oliva Dionne, a couple who already had five children and little money to speak of. The new arrivals became the first identical quintuplets known to survive more than a few days; media interest was intense. Four months later, believing the parents to be ill-equipped to provide the care necessary, the local government took the quintuplets from their family, placed them in care, and proceeded to exploit them to the fullest. For the next 9 years, the Dionne quintuplets were Canada's largest tourist attraction: up to 6000 people visited "Quintland" each day to stare at them through one-way glass; an official Quintland shop raked in millions selling all manner of souvenirs; the girls even starred in films and advertisements.

In 1997, the three surviving Dionne quintuplets asked Time magazine to publish the following letter of warning, addressed to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, parents of the first septuplets to live beyond infancy.

(TIME, via Rudi Endresen; Image: The Dionne quintuplets shortly after birth, via Yahoo.)

Dear Bobbi and Kenny,

If we emerge momentarily from the privacy we have sought all our adult lives, it is only to send a message to the McCaughey family. We three would like you to know we feel a natural affinity and tenderness for your children. We hope your children receive more respect than we did. Their fate should be no different from that of other children. Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.

Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.

We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. If this letter changes the course of events for these newborns, then perhaps our lives will have served a higher purpose.


Annette, Cécile and Yvonne Dionne

Friday, 6 December 2013

I see you, my beauty boy

For two months in 1974, as Richard Burton filmed his part in The Klansman, he and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, moved to California with Cassius, just one of Taylor's many beloved cats. Sadly, the trip confused Cassius somewhat and he soon went missing, never to return. Taylor wrote the following letter some time after his disappearance.

Note: I'm told that the first line reads, "Letter to my Long Lost Cat," however, I think it may read, "Letter to my Lovely Lost Cat." I'll leave it to you to decide.

(Submitted by Kieran Johnson; Image of Liz Taylor via Vintage Everyday.)


Letter to my Lovely Lost Cat

I see you, my beauty boy, in the refelection of those shining black-brown rocks ahead of me. I see the green o' thy eyes in every rained, sweated leaf shaking in my eyes.

I remember the sweet smell of your fur against my neck when I was deeply in trouble and how, somehow you made it better — you knew! You knew always when I hurt and you made comfort for me, as I did once for you when you were a broken kitten.

Anyway, I love you Cassius — and thank you for your beauty.

Please come back!