Please forgive the recent slowdown. This pandemic—which, I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of—has knocked me off course, stolen my attention, and forced my kids to be at home all. the. time. Normal service will resume shortly.
Forgive the brevity…
Please forgive my contacting you out of the blue…
I hope you can forgive my recent silence…
Forgive, if you can, the fact that I’ve failed to do that thing I promised to do…
I reckon if you could somehow analyse all of the letters and emails I’ve ever sent, it would become clear that 99% have contained a plea for forgiveness. It’s almost like a reflex. A template. Without thinking, I start my letter with the address, move down to the date, hop over to the salutation, then immediately begin begging for mercy. It feels very British. Yesterday was Global Forgiveness Day1, so I stopped doom-scrolling for a few hours and flicked through the letters of others to see just how common this habit is.
Turns out I’m in very good company.2
My dear, forgive no recent letter. No special reason. Sense of inertia resulting from devilish cold, sore throat, loss of voice, lasting (it seemed) weeks, very cold weather, snow, breakdown in work and general grip on life. Better now.
Iris Murdoch to Philippa Foot, 19 Mar 1970 | Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995
Forgive this tropic scrawl. I am sitting in the shade gazing out across the Caribbean & it is heroic that I am writing at all.
Ian Fleming to Michael Howard, 14 Feb 1956 | The Man with the Golden Typewriter
Please forgive my delay in answering yours of Jan. 7. The trouble is I read my mail in the morning, then go back to sleep, and when awake think I must have dreamt the letters.
John O’Hara to Edmund Wilson, 20 Jan 1940 | Selected Letters of John O’Hara
Forgive this scrawl—now taken out and finished at this absurd hotel near the detestable town of Falmouth3.
Virginia Woolf to Ethel Smyth, 13 May 1936 | Virginia Woolf: The Complete Collection
Please forgive me backsliding into not writing. I think right.
Eudora Welty to William Maxwell, 12 Jun 1967 | What There Is to Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell
Please forgive this growling letter. I have to blow off steam to someone.
Ansel Adams to Alfred Stieglitz, 12 Nov 1937 | Ansel Adams: Letters, 1916 - 1984
I am ashamed for neglecting to write to you. But instead of writing out a long list of silly excuses, I think I will simply rely upon our steadfast friendship. That is, in the hope that you will forgive my neglect in the past, I will write to you in the present.
James Wright to Ghazi Al-Gailani, 14 Mar 1965 | A Wild Perfection
A letter to be burned with the garbage. Forgive.
But a letter.
Martha Gellhorn to Stanley Pennell, 19 May 1931 | Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn
Please forgive my awful slowness in writing, and, repaying evil with good, write to me at once. Forgive, too, this rather unedifying letter.
Patrick Leigh Fermor to Ricki Huston, 2 Sep 1961 | Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor
Forgive the flatness of this letter. It doesn’t mean I have no feeling for you, it just means I’m bored to death with writing letters. The trouble is I still enjoy receiving them.
Norman Mailer to Adeline Naiman, 5 Nov 1963 | Selected Letters of Norman Mailer
I have been a bad girl not to write you, or send you any money, or send the book to Aunt Susie, or anything. But you will forgive me when you know my excuse. Darling, do you remember meeting Eugen Boissevain one day in Waverly Place?—It was only for a moment, & possibly you don't remember. But anyway, you will like him very much when you know him, which will be soon. And it is important that you should like him—because I love him very much, & am going to marry him.
Will you forgive me?
Edna St. Vincent Millay to her mother, 30 May 1923 | Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay
Forgive shitty silence. As you know, unlike you I shy away from personal letters till my desk is clear, which it wasn’t for weeks thanks to proofs, official letters and general crap. It cleared last week but then came one of those periods when the whole world seems united in a conspiracy to get you pissed and keep you so: dates made yesterday and three months ago all dovetailing, the most disparate things like book-signing sessions, interviews, broadcasts and of course wine-tastings and piss-ups turning out to be piss-ups, and all I was fit for between whiles was dazedly trying to re-read very undemanding thrillers.
Kingsley Amis to Robert Conquest, 3 Jul 1978 | The Letters of Kingsley Amis
Forgive this jumble of incoherence…
Charles Dickens to John Forster, 5 Mar 1839 | The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens
Please forgive the long stupid letters. I write them instead of stories and they are a luxury that gives me pleasure and I hope they give you some too. If they do not I can always stop writing you and would understand completely if you were tired of it.
Ernest Hemingway to Bernard Berenson, Mar 1953 | Selected Letters
Forgive, forgive that I never answered your letter from Budapest. Forgive, forgive, forgive that I never sent my condolences over the death of your wife. I was broken for you, Charlie, but I was quiet, thinking that perhaps the letters just ate into you all the more.
Anne Sexton to Charles Newman, 20 Jun 1972 | Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters
Yes, this was meant to be sent out yesterday, on Global Forgiveness Day itself, but life continues to throw shit in my path. Forgive me?
Please know that this list could have been so much longer. People are desperate for forgiveness.