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 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...

Most reprehensible

Most reprehensible

This charming exchange is from a favourite children's book, discovered and devoured when already a so-called grown up.I liked the child owning up in guilt to a shameful act, and the adult's sneaky response.  Let it be said that Ambrose is a dream uncle who educates...

Postcards from the future

Postcards from the future

Enjoy this charming project which invited children aged 5-12 to design and write postcards from the future, addressed to parents, or a friend, or simply to '2022'.  The gallery of drawings this generated have some common themes, along with the personal messages. I...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

The merry mind

The actress Ingrid Bergman had a short relationship with the photographer Robert Capa. I love this quotation from a letter he sent her, with its idea of a ‘merry mind’.  I...

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 unsent (II)

Clemency Burton-Hill describes the sight that greeted friends of the composer and pianist Erik Satie when, following his death in 1925, they were finally able to enter his apartment, to...

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...

Keats on hand-writing

Keats' letters are treasures - he is every bit as fine a correspondent as he is a poet.  Here he chides a friend for visually attractive but sprawlingly illegible hand-writing.

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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...

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