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?

Write and gripe

Write and gripe

I like letter writers who gripe about the responses (or lack of) from correspondents.  Pliny is the arch whinger when he doesn't think his friends have written him fast, frequent or long enough letters. But I liked Bernstein's keeping tally - a 7-pager deserves at...

Stay alive and write

Stay alive and write

Here is Leonard Bernstein exhorting a friend to take care, stay alive and write back.  This was even before the war, when the 'stay alive' element became more urgent. Again, be careful, stay alive, write. Source: Leonard Bernstein, letter to Kenneth Ehrman, April...

The Magic Ink-Pot

The Magic Ink-Pot

Always on the hunt for treasures among forgotten children's books, I came across this one by chance when I was rather looking at glorious buildings and libraries stashed around the National Trust.  It seems The Magic Ink-Pot was born out of a mother writing...

With love

With love

Enjoy 'With Love', an online exhibition of love letters created by the UK's National Archives.  It's a fine, touching and diverse selection, both in terms of the range of emotions and the backgrounds of the writers, presented in manuscripts, transcriptions and audio...

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

The innovation of envelopes

They’re so ubiquitous that it’s a surprise to learn envelopes were a mid-nineteenth century invention.  Somewhere in Gaskell I remember a character protesting at this new-fangled costly creation. Previously people...

The last and the first

Hand written cards and letters are part of an ancient but rapidly dying art, hardly helped by the high ratio of people who like or love receiving them to people...

Letters unsent

Earlier posts touched on letters unwritten or unopened. There is also a whole class of correspondence that is written but never sent. I have done this myself a couple of times,...

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...

Continue

Found in a letter by a distant and anonymous imperial Chinese official in response to the trials and complaints of the Imperial Commissioner for Porcelain.  A marvel of arms’ length sympathy...

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...

The pleasure of paper post

One of the greatest pleasures of Christmas, for me anyhow, is the sending and receiving of cards, one of the few genres of paper post that still seem to hold...

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...

Letters kept, letters destroyed

Given the fragility of letters, it’s astounding how many have survived centuries and even millennia. Added to which it seems quite common for people to have purposely destroyed them, whether...

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...

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