Letters are a tactile written communication traversing centuries and continents, bringing other people, places and times to life with immediacy and personality. Here we celebrate this ancient form of exchange. Send me a handwritten postcard, will you?

A beautiful flowing hand

A beautiful flowing hand

The American chef Julia Child describes how her husband approached letter-writing in an age when trans-Atlantic telephone calls were prohibitively expensive and letter-writing was the normal way to stay in touch at a distance.  It inspired me to start writing letters...

In my pocket, in my heart

In my pocket, in my heart

From time to time I receive a long and handwritten letter from one of my brothers and I am long overdue in responding to him.  I think this comment from the German poet Hölderlin to his sister is as good a prompt as I could hope for.  How lovely that he took her...

Signs of civilization

Signs of civilization

I liked Durrell's simple assessment of two building blocks of a recovering civilization after the ravages of war: a functioning post office and a few working street lamps. See also Stefan Zweig's comments on the difficulties of communicating during war time, and Iris...

No post and plenty of censorship

No post and plenty of censorship

We don't know how lucky we are, having access to many forms of communication, electronic or postal, and being free of censorship.  Here Stefan Zweig describes the conditions in which he had to write The World of Yesterday, a moving, lucid account of his world and its...

What is a letter?  A tactile written communication that bridges distance and lasts forever.

Letters tolerably long

Gaskell has many Jane Austen touches in cheerily summing up lightweight characters. But inconsequent as the letter and the writer might be, letters themselves were a lifeline of news and...

High fashion, slow post

One of the features of postal correspondence is its slowness, probably a key contributor to its slow demise, though perhaps one of its endearing aspects, if you allow it.  I...

Close to your heart

I've heard of people keeping letters, including under their pillow, but never one permanently about your person.  This letter from the poet and priest George Herbert was so well written...

A mosaic of letters

Referring to the letters between Mary Delany and her beloved sister Anne, Molly Peacock aptly describes them as a paper mosaic, given that Mary more or less invented the art...

A bundle of letters

It is now so rare to receive a letter (not talking about bills or other officialese, but real letters) that it's hard to imagine receiving more than could be read...

A beautiful flowing hand

The American chef Julia Child describes how her husband approached letter-writing in an age when trans-Atlantic telephone calls were prohibitively expensive and letter-writing was the normal way to stay in...

Letters on a clothes line

Picasso seems to have had an ambivalent relationship to letters.  He tortured himself by reading tirades from his ex-wife, and here, suspends letters in full view, like clothes on a...

In mourning

In the 19th century, it was customary to use black-bordered paper and envelopes to inform someone of a death.  Here Sebastian finds unused sheets in some forgotten bureau in the...

This is the world

Keats was one of the most life-loving people you could hope to meet, grasping with all his force every chance of happiness, even evanescent, and despite being repeatedly assaulted by...

Letters better late than never

The war-time life-line of letters is summed up here. Their erratic arrival in a region of Italy where the battle front moved back and forth like a changeable weather front,...

As cold as …

A letter from Keats to his beloved Fanny, with a kindly injunction to wrap up warmly.  I loved the solicitude and the bracingly original simile for a chill wind.

'You...

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