Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Lists of Note Book

Dear All,

With your help, the Letters of Note book is soon to have a sister called Lists of Note—something I've been itching to bring to life for almost as long as Letters of Note has been an obsession, and which I have been busy researching for two years, writing for many months. Just as Letters of Note is filled with interesting letters, Lists of Note will boast a fascinating array of lists created by a wide selection of people, reproduced in facsimile where possible. Check out the accompanying website for a taster.

The book will be beautiful and crafted by Here Design, the same talented bunch who worked their magic on Letters of Note, and it will be another satisfyingly hefty object boasting the same dimensions as its predecessor. It will contain 125 lists written through the centuries, from as early as the 26th Century BC, to as recent as a few years ago. While many will be written by everyday folk, there will hopefully be lists written by such people as:
  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Gandhi
  3. Debbie Harry
  4. Marilyn Monroe
  5. Anne Frank
  6. Nick Cave
  7. Galileo
  8. Harry Houdini
  9. Susan Sontag 
  10. Isaac Newton
  11. Leonardo da Vinci
  12. Julia Child
  13. Thomas Edison
  14. Sid Vicious
  15. Martin Luther King
...to name but 15. There will be to-do lists of the good, the bad and the ugly; centuries-old shopping lists penned by history's greatest minds; lists of rules and advice for all manner of situations; lists of predictions, some accurate, others not so; an eye-opening list of slaves; charming lists of New Year's resolutions; unique dictionaries; lists of murder suspects, and much, much more. It will be a list-based feast and I cannot wait to see it made.

As with Letters of Note, the book will be crowdfunded with the help of Unbound, a group of people who are more passionate about books than I thought possible and without whom Letters of Note would not have materialised quite so well. Head on over to the Unbound website to learn more about the process, watch me attempting to sell the concept on camera (I'm so sorry), and hopefully pledge. As always, there are different rewards available depending on the level at which you decide to pledge, from a signed copy of the limited special edition through to tickets to the launch party, lunch with me (again, I apologise in advance), and a magnificent deluxe slipcase edition of the book (the deluxe edition of Letters of Note was a sight to behold).

Should the project reach its funding target, this gorgeous book will be published and land on your doorstep at the end of 2014—that's this year—WITHOUT FAIL. Producing Letters of Note was a steep learning curve; we now have a solid team in place and are light years ahead of our old selves. I really hope you feel excited enough to give your support; without it, the poor book will remain, unpublished, in my head.

If you have any questions, please get in touch by email via shaun@lettersofnote.com or on Twitter.

Thank you!

Shaun

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Oh God for one more breath



On the morning of May 19th, 1902, a huge explosion ripped through Fraterville Coal Mine in Tennessee, its devastating power instantly killing most of the 216 miners who were below ground. For the 26 who survived the initial blast, a side passage of the mine proved to be a safe haven, but not for long—when rescuers eventually reached them, all had suffocated. Found next to a number of the those 26 bodies were letters to loved ones, one of which can be seen below. It was written by Jacob Vowell to Sarah Ellen, his beloved wife and mother to their 6 children, one of whom, 14-year-old Elbert, was by his side in the mine. ("Little Eddie" was a son they had lost previously.)

All but three of Fraterville's adult men were killed that day; over a hundred women were instantly widowed; close to a thousand children lost their fathers. The Fraterville Mine disaster remains the worst of its kind in Tennessee's history.

(Source: United Mine Workers of America; Image above: Jacob Vowell with his daughter, Lily, via.)



Transcript
Ellen, darling, goodbye for us both. Elbert said the Lord has saved him. We are all praying for air to support us, but it is getting so bad without any air.

Ellen I want you to live right and come to heaven. Raise the children the best you can. Oh how I wish to be with you, goodbye. Bury me and Elbert in the same grave by little Eddie. Godbye Ellen, goodbye Lily, goodbye Jemmie, goodbye Horace. We are together. Is 25 minutes after two. There is a few of us alive yet.

Jake and Elbert

Oh God for one more breath. Ellen remember me as long as you live Goodbye darling.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Darling old father



In December of 1882, while visiting Paris, distinguished psychologist William James received word that his father's ill-health had further deteriorated at the family home in the US. Almost immediately he travelled to England in a bid to return home, only to find that his brother, Henry, had already left his London home for New York. As he awaited further news, William wrote the following letter—a beautiful farewell that sadly arrived a day too late, and which was subsequently read aloud by Henry at their father's grave.

See also: William James's letter of advice to his daughter, and his brother's stunning letter to a depressed friend.

(Source: The Oxford Book of Letters; Image: William James, via Wikimedia.)
Bolton St.
London

Dec.14, 1882

Darling old father,

Two letters, one from my Alice last night, and one from Aunt Kate to Harry just now, have somewhat dispelled the mystery in which the telegrams left your condition; and although their news is several days earlier than the telegrams, I am free to suppose that the latter report only an aggravation of the symptoms the letters describe. It is far more agreeable to think of this than of some dreadful unknown and sudden malady.

We have been so long accustomed to the hypothesis of your being taken away from us, especially during the past ten months, that the thought that this may be your last illness conveys no very sudden shock. You are old enough, you've given your message to the world in many ways and will not be forgotten; you are here left alone, and on the other side, let us hope and pray, dear, dear old Mother is waiting for you to join her. If you go, it will not be an inharmonious thing. Only, if you are still in possession of your normal consciousness, I should like to see you once again before we part. I stayed here only in obedience to the last telegram, and am waiting now for Harry—who knows, the exact state of my mind, and who will know yours—to telegraph again what I shall do. Meanwhile, my blessed old Father, I scribble this line (which may reach you though I should come too late), just to tell you how full of the tenderest memories and feelings about you my heart has for the last few days been filled. In that mysterious gulf of the past into which the present soon will fall and go back and back, yours is still for me the central figure. All my intellectual life I derive from you; and though we have often seemed at odds in the expression thereof, I'm sure there is a harmony somewhere, and that our strivings will combine. What my debt to you is goes beyond all my power of estimating,—so early, so penetrating and so constant has been the influence. You need be in no anxiety about your literary remains. I will see them well taken care of, and that your words shall not suffer for being concealed. At Paris I heard that Milsand, whose name you may remember in the 'Revue des Deux Mondes' and elsewhere, was an admirer of the 'Secret of Swedenborg', and Hodgson told me your last book had deeply impressed him. So will it be; especially, I think, if a collection of extracts from your various writings were published, after the manner of the extracts from Carlyle, Ruskin, & Co. I have long thought such a volume would be the best monument to you.—As for us; we shall live on each in his way,—feeling somewhat unprotected, old as we are, for the absence of the parental bosoms as a refuge, but holding fast together in that common sacred memory. We will stand by each other and by Alice, try to transmit the torch in our offspring as you did in us, and when the time comes for being gathered in, I pray we may, if not all, some at least, be as ripe as you. As for myself, I know what trouble I've given you at various times through my peculiarities; and as my own boys grow up, I shall learn more and more of the kind of trial you had to overcome in superintending the development of a creature different from yourself, for whom you felt responsible. I say this merely to show how my sympathy with you is likely to grow much livelier, rather than to fade—and not for the sake of regrets.—As for the other side, and Mother, and our all possibly meeting, I can't say anything. More than ever at this moment do I feel that if that were true, all would be solved and justified. And it comes strangely over me in bidding you good-bye how a life is but a day and expresses mainly but a single note. It is so much like the act of bidding an ordinary good-night. Good-night, my sacred old Father! If I don't see you again—Farewell! a blessed farewell!

Your
William