I’ve rarely taken such a fancy to anyone, and I think she likes me
On this day in letters
Please join me in wishing the happiest of birthdays to the following letters, all written on the nineteenth day of a December gone by. And when you’ve finished clapping, be sure to scroll right to the bottom for news of a live show we’re putting on in New York in May.
Of course I want the new book to be good. I have wanted all of them to be good. But with the others—all of them—I had a personal out. I could say —it is just really practice for “the book.” If I can’t do this one, the practice was not worth it. So you see I feel at once stimulated and scared. The terror of starting is invariable but I am more terrified now knowing more about technique than I did. There’s a kind of nauseated stimulation about going ashore under fire that is not unlike this feeling. You know you’re going to do it and it scares the shit out of you. I remember one night I went ashore from a destroyer in pitch darkness. There wasn’t a sound. Before I got in the boat I went to the head to take a pee and my penis had disappeared. It had just retired into my abdominal cavity. I don’t know whether this is common or not. Anyway it is a really shivery feeling.
Letter to George Albee
19th December 1950
I must say I hope the coming year will be better than the last one, which, I think, was sheer hell.
Letter to John Lehmann
19th December 1949
[A few days after meeting Woolf for the first time]
I simply adore Virginia Woolf… She is utterly unaffected: there is no outward adornments—she dresses quite atrociously. At first you think she is plain; then a sort of spiritual beauty imposes itself on you, and you find a fascination in watching her. She was smarter last night; that is to say, the woollen orange stockings were replaced by yellow silk ones, but she still wore the pumps. She is both detached and human, silent till she wants to say something, and then says it supremely well. She is quite old. I’ve rarely taken such a fancy to anyone, and I think she likes me. At least, she’s asked me to Richmond where she lives. Darling, I have quite lost my heart.
Letter to Harold Nicolson
19th December 1922
Well here comes Christmas! That astonishing thing that no ‘commercialism’ can in fact defile—unless you let it. I hope, my dearest, that it will bring you some rest and refreshment in every way, & I shall remember you in communion (as always but specially) and wish that I had all my family beside me in the ancient patriarchal way! Your own Father.
Letter to Michael Tolkien
19th December 1962
Let us rejoice—that we are alive—and know each other & walk the earth at the same time. Let us make plans, and fulfil them, and be happy when we meet, and laugh a great deal this year and never cry. Above all—let’s be friends—There was that in your last letter which made you dearer to me than ever before. I don’t know what it was. It was as though you came out of the letter & touched me & smiled and I understood your goodness.
Blessings on you, dear little artist. I put my arms round you—I give you a warm embrace.
Letter to Dorothy Brett
19th December 1921
Bowling through Berkeley Square today, it suddenly struck me to ask whether you were planning to spend Xmas anywhere particular, or whether you would care to come & spend it with us at hideous ugly germ ridden old Sandringham? I only write this note in case, because of course you may be off to a party, and old Sandringham may be a bit dull!
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
19th December 1945
Letters Live is returning to New York
I’m very excited to say that we’re taking Letters Live back to New York City in May. It was in 2018 that we first embraced the energy of the Big Apple: we put on two shows at The Town Hall in the heart of Manhattan and were joined by a cast that included James Earl Jones, Katie Holmes, Kyle MacLachlan, Molly Ringwald, Laurence Fishburne, David Harbour, Edie Falco, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chevy Chase, Ian McShane, Louise Brealey, and many others. It was a real thrill to bring these voices and stories to life in such a remarkable city, and we are itching to return.
Every Letters Live show is unique both in letters and cast, all of which remains a closely guarded secret until the moment each reader steps onto the stage. So, although I can’t reveal any names, I can guarantee an unforgettable evening that will never be repeated. And it will be in aid of PEN America, whose mission is as important as ever. Tickets go on general sale on Thursday, but we’re releasing some tomorrow (Wednesday 20th) for people who have signed up to the Letters Live mailing list. If you’d like access to those early tickets, visit this link and enter your email address down the bottom, beneath the text that says “Join the Letters Live Family.” We can then send you a code tomorrow morning that will enable you to grab a ticket.
I have no idea how many of you live in or around New York, but if you do, and you’re able to make it to The Town Hall on 16th May 2024, I have no doubt that you will enjoy it.
With fingers crossed,