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.

For love of a letter

A letter carried, quite literally, close to the heart, despite the torment its presence provokes. Vasily Grossman's mother died in a ghetto, and having failed to get her out of...

Mail at last

We forget, swamped as we are with constant connectivity, the past hunger for letters and news when travelling.  I remember a few years in China and Taiwan, before the advent...

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...

Up hill and down dale

Gavin Maxwell chose to live in a remote house on a remote island in Scotland. Here he describes the extraordinary efforts made by the local postman to deliver a telegram,...

Letters unwritten

When a friend mentioned the special paper she’d bought to write me a letter, which she hadn’t yet done, I started thinking about unwritten letters, the ones we plan or...

A packet of air mail envelopes

You may not have noticed, but air mail envelopes and the corresponding lightweight letter paper are dying out.  I am by now resigned to the decline, and am simply stocking...

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...

My kind of letter

Love receiving 'real' letters, and so was thrilled to find this beautiful envelope in the letter box, apparently made from an old map. I've come across map-made envelopes before, but...

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,...

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...

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