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?

Letters unsent

Letters unsent

Listening time: under 4 minutes.  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, finding the writing of the letter to be a cathartic act,...

So much written, so little said

So much written, so little said

Adam Nicolson comments on the thousands of letters to and from three to four generations of his family, together with their diaries.  A treasure trove certainly, but perhaps, by their sheer volume, a weighty inheritance.  And for all the words and pages, note his...

Letters longed for

Letters longed for

Vasily Grossman's translator, Robert Chandler, describes Grossman's letters to and from his mother, all written by himself, in a heart-rending response to the grief of losing her when she died in a ghetto,  Although I have come across letters written but not sent, or...

Letters burned (I)

Letters burned (I)

It always saddens me to learn of letters burned or destroyed; including those we will never see because Jane Austen's sister destroyed them after Jane's death.  Here Edmund de Waal tells us of what may have been an epistolic treasure trove burned by his...

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

A packet of yellow love letters

What happened to all those love letter in a private drawer, sent and kept over centuries when this was the main medium for long distance love making? The population is larger...

A letter in the dark

A desperate and yet hopeful act, this.  People throwing letters out of trains taking them to the gulag, trusting that those letters may be found, and found, sent, and sent,...

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...

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...

The scrutiny that precedes reading

Yes, there is that small ceremony that precedes the reading of a letter, particularly a hand-written one delivered by post.  You look at the envelope, the stamps, the hand-writing (familiar...

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...

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...

Keats’ correspondence

Here are Keats' own aspirations for his letter-writing. Whether he found interesting matter or just made matter interesting, his letters reveal a brilliantly alert, alive, playful, lovable human being. Andrew...

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...

Letters and the lapse of time

A moving comment on the effects of time and separation, and the hiatus of news caused by war. Firstly, the sorrow and regret of discovering the death of a loved...

Waiting for the post

Dorothy Wordsworth's journals were written in the closing years of the 18th century and the opening years of the 19th, when the postal system had not evolved to last-mile delivery. ...

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