I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything

It’s Friday. It’s January. It’s Day 62,297 of lockdown. My brain is a fog. There is no theme for today’s newsletter, unless, of course, you count “letters” as a theme, which would make sense. Today I’m feeling very much like Charles Darwin on 1 Oct 1861, hence this appalling introductory puddle of words. Please forgive me.

Enjoy, subscribe, donate (or don’t, that’s fine!), and have as nice a weekend as is possible x


I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders. I am going to write a little Book for Murray on orchids & today I hate them worse than everything so farewell & in a sweet frame of mind, I am

Ever yours

Charles Darwin | Letter to Charles Lyell, 1 Oct 1861 | More Letters of Charles Darwin


You are driving me into such a state of despair that no hour of the day passes when I do not desire your death and wish that you were hanged. What aggravates me most of all is that we shall both go to the devil and then I shall have the torment of seeing you even there. I swear by what I loathe above all else—that is yourself—that I shall make a pact with the devil to enrage you and to escape your madness. Enough is enough. I shall engage in any extravagance I so wish in order to bring you unhappiness. If you think you can get me to come back to you, this will never happen, and if I did come back to you, beware! Because you would never die but by my hand.

Marguerite Louise D’Orleans | Letter to her estranged husband, Cosimo III De Medici, 1677 | The Medici Women


There in the blue weird light of the moon, not 10 feet away, a huge, dark bear-shape hunched, guzzling at a tin. I found in the morning that it was the black-and-gilt figured cookie tin we took the date-nut bars in; it had been in the back seat of the car in my red bag, shut, full of Ritz crackers and Hydrox cookies, and some postcards. The bear must have lifted out the bag after smashing the window, rolled the can about till the lid came off, undone the wax paper and eaten every last crumb. I found the postcards the next day, lying among the rubble, the top card of moose antlers turned down and face-up the card of a large bear with an actual bear paw-print on it. We lay there for what seemed years, wondering if the bear would eat us, since it found our crackers so interesting. Just as we were relaxing and felt the dawn starting to lighten, we heard a heavy shuffling tread. The bear, back from its rounds, had returned to the car. Ted stood up to look out the back window—it was all I could do to keep him from going out before to check on the damage—and reported that the bear was at the back of the car, halfway in the left rear window. It had discovered our oranges. From then until sunup, we lay listening to the bear squeeze the oranges open and slurp up the juice. It was interrupted only by a car which drove by and scared the bear to run toward the front door of our tent. It tripped on the guy ropes anchoring our porch and for a moment the whole tent shook so we thought it had decided to come in. Then there was a long silence. Then more orange-squeezing. We got up, rather shaken. The car window had been shattered to the root, and wiry brown bear hairs stuck all along the edge of it.

Sylvia Plath | Letter to Aurelia Plath, 29 Jul 1959 | Letters Home


There isn’t any symbolism [in The Old Man and the Sea]. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit.

Ernest Hemingway to Bernard Berenson, 13 Sep 1952


I want to thank you for the dresses. They are first very pretty, and second a good fit and third something that I could not have bought for myself. But greatest of all I am joyful because your generosity has made me bloom like the desert after a rain…

I look very beautiful in the dresses and you will perhaps feel a tiny twinge of jealousy when you gaze upon me, but the artist in you will be so delighted at the sight of such a perfect union of clothes and woman that you will stifle your jealousy at once and rejoice with me. Thanks and thanks and thanks.

Zora Neale Hurston | Letter to Cornelia Chapin, 29 Feb 1932 | A Life in Letters


I responded to your first letter out of courtesy. I ignored the second as a hint that I did not intend to become your permanent pen pal. The arrival of still a third obliges me to be a little more explicit.

I have always been interested in the morbid aberrations which drive persons like yourself so pompously to seek correspondence with strangers. In this respect your letters have been illuminating. But they also reveal you as a witless and meddlesome old ass, self-deluded and full of vapours.

I must, therefore, urge you in the future to address yourself to your own affairs rather than to mine. As an incentive toward this healthy goal, I promise that your future correspondence will be returned to you unopened.

Dalton Trumbo | Letter to ‘Mr. K.’, 12 Jan 1948 | Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo


Some opening nicknames given by Martha Gellhorn to various correspondents, plucked from the wonderful Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn

  • Dearest Hunk of Despair...

  • Pieface...

  • Oh Teecher sweetelpipes...

  • Lennypot darling...

  • Beloved Bug...

  • Dear Old Crowned-Head...

  • Dearest Pup-Pup...

  • Dearest Mucklebugletski...

  • Darling Napoleon Slice...

  • Dearest Pissoir Attendant...

  • My Beloved Binglie...

  • Dearest Vietato Fumare...

  • Dearest Woolkie...

  • My Dear Honeychile...

  • Dearest Trollycar...

  • Beloved Cat’s Paw...

  • My little plum pudding...


I love sending out this newsletter but it can be time-consuming. If you’re able, please consider supporting it for a few pounds a month. Paying subscribers will receive ‘members-only’ emails and my everlasting love. Alternatively, donations are also welcomed. Or you could buy a Letters of Note book. Or you could simply share this newsletter. Options are below. Thank you x

Donate

Buy a book of note

Share