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?

My kind of letter

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 they put the map on the inside so the outside was white and you only saw the contour...

For love of a letter

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 it while he could, he lived with the sorrow and guilt of her loss. His Life and Fate was...

Mail at last

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 of email, when we would rush from class to our pigeon holes or letter boxes in the hope there...

Close to your heart

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 that its recipient, a man of tremendous learning, kept it quite...

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

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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 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...

Plus ça change…

There’s something reassuring in seeing that what appears an ‘issue’ today appeared equally so to people long ago. It puts the issue in perspective and makes it seem an eternal, pointless fuss....

Pebble pusher

Keats, known as a poet, was also one of history’s great letter writers.  He loved life and seized it even as it slipped away from him, embracing moments of joy centuries...

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 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...

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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