Happy birthday to the following letters, all written on the thirteenth day of a January gone by.
There are some changes in the script that simply don’t make sense. Arthur Dent is English, the setting is England, and has been in every single manifestation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ever. The ‘Horse and Groom’ pub that Arthur and Ford go to is an English pub, the ‘pounds’ they pay with are English (but make it twenty pounds rather than five – inflation). So why suddenly ‘Newark’ instead of ‘Rickmansworth’? And ‘Bloomingdales’ instead of ‘Marks & Spencer’? The fact that Rickmansworth is not within the continental United States doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist! American audiences do not need to feel disturbed by the notion that places do exist outside the US or that people might suddenly refer to them in works of fiction. You wouldn’t, presumably, replace Ursa Minor Beta with ‘Des Moines’. There is no Bloomingdales in England, and Bloomingdales is not a generic term for large department stores. If you feel that referring to ‘Marks & Spencer’ might seriously freak out Americans because they haven’t heard of it… we could either put warning stickers on the label (‘The text of this book contains references to places and institutions outside the continental United States and may cause offence to people who haven’t heard of them’) or you could, I suppose, put ‘Harrods’, which most people will have heard of. Or we could even take the appalling risk of just recklessly mentioning things that people won’t have heard of and see if they survive the experience. They probably will – when people are born they haven’t heard or anything or anywhere, but seem to get through the first years of their lives without ill-effects.
Letter to his US editor, Byron Preis
13th January 1992
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: 42nd Anniversary Edition
There isn’t anything really for me to say, except that I should like to go on as before; and that you should leave me free, and that I should be honest.
Letter to Leonard Woolf in response to a marriage proposal
13th January 1912
Letters of Virgina Woolf, Vol. 1
I have shot 2 oryx (one quite good), 2 Grant’s Gazelle and had a shot at a lion, and am loving it! Don’t tell your sweet Father that I am shooting, but I hope to get something a bit bigger soon.
It is extraordinary how very brave one becomes when one is hundreds of miles from anywhere—every day I marvel at my courage, because I really am a loathsome little coward.
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Letter to the Prince of Wales
13th January 1925
Counting One’s Blessings: The Collected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Here life has fallen into a quiet blissful routine. We rise at 7.30 & have breakfast, we catch the 8.30 funiculaire down the mountain. (Did I tell you we have requisitioned a divine hotel, picture of it enclosed, right up on the mountain, 1000 feet over Innsbruck, with a view of peaks & peaks away into Italy?) We work, we catch funiculaires up & down at lunch time, & again at 6.o’clock. Dinner at 7. At weekends one walks or skis or just looks in dumb joy at the view. When the liquor ration comes in we have orgies & drink ourselves nearly insensible. It’s the perfect hermit life.
Letter to David Hicks
13th January 1946
Iris Murdoch: A Writer at War
When we lost Emily I thought we had drained the very dregs of our cup of trial, but now when I hear Anne cough as Emily coughed, I tremble lest there should be exquisite bitterness yet to taste. However I must not look forwards, nor must I look backwards. Too often I feel like one crossing an abyss on a narrow plank—a glance round might quite unnerve.
Letter to W. S. Williams
13th January 1849
Selected Letters of Charlotte Brontë
Anne Brontë died months later, in May of 1849.
Great post! I was interested to note that the future Queen Mother had written that letter to her brother-in-law, the future (briefly!) King Edward VIII. In 1925 they were presumably still on good terms!
I especially love the Douglas Adams letter. Brilliant.