You’ve heard of catacombs, and that word probably brings to mind
Letter writing is a dying art. We’ve got emails, texts, Skype, and constant communication, so why write a letter? If you want a reminder of why letters are so fantastic, check out these 8 examples of amazing letters from the past. Maybe you’ll be inspired to get out the pen and paper yourself.
1. Napoleon’s letters to his wife Josephine
Napoleon was madly in love with his wife (although she was somewhat cool in return) and over the course of their marriage wrote her often. Josephine’s disinterest prompted Napoleon to write “You don’t write to me at all; you don’t love your husband; you know how happy your letters make him, and you don’t write him six lines of nonsense…” Archive.org has the full text of all of his letters.
2. Jack Lemmon’s thank you letter to Burt Reynolds
Lemmon was a sassy fellow, and his personalized thank you letter to Reynolds for a donation to his charity is comedy gold.
3. James Joyce’s letters to his wife
James Joyce was not a shy person when it came to his letters. I quote one of the perhaps less blush-inducing passages: “Do you know what I mean, Nora dear? I wish you would smack me or flog me even. Not in play, dear, in earnest and on my naked flesh. I wish you were strong, strong, dear, and had a big full proud bosom and big fat thighs.” For the whole indecent letter, see The American Reader.
4. W.E.B. DuBois’ letter to his daughter
In one of the sweetest entries, DuBois sends a letter to his daughter after she moves to England for boarding school. He gives her the following advice: “Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bedroom. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.”
5. Marianne Moore’s correspondence to Robert Young at Ford
Young was a marketer at Ford and reached out to Moore for help naming a new model. Moore suggested such gems as “The Resilient Bullet”, “The Intelligent Whale”, “Mongoose Civique”, and “Utopian Turtletop”. For the full exchange, check out Letters of Note.
6. Henry Miller’s letter to his mistress, Anais Nin
Miller writes one of the most beautifully passionate love letters, fervent without being overly graphic (Joyce could learn a thing or two). He begins it with the utterly fantastic line “Don’t expect me to be sane anymore.”
7. The best breakup letter ever
After being dumped by Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton sent her a letter that begins “So My Lumps, You’re off, by God!” and continues in a similarly lovely fashion.
8. This entire series of letters from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
For the best back and forth, these two painters win. Not only were their letters beautifully written and poetic, they were all handwritten. “You are all the combinations of numbers. life. My wish is to understand lines form shades movement. You fulfill and I receive. Your word travels the entirety of space and reaches my cells which are my stars then goes to yours which are my light.”