Sometimes I think that one of the reasons why we are fighting this war is because we want to save Christmas
A Festive Mailbag
As predicted, Christmas has arrived. I knew this would happen. It’s well and truly here and to deny it would be foolish; instead, absorb this festive mailbag, maybe take another look at last year’s, and attempt to embrace the occasion. And to those of you who, like Larkin, can think of nothing worse: Sit tight. It’ll be over before you know it.
This isn’t my final newsletter of the year; I won’t be stopping just yet. But as we approach 2022’s rear-end I do want to thank every single one of you—those who are able to pay and those who aren’t—for continuing to open these emails. The whole thing remains a pleasure.
I met an old man on the village green yesterday, lame and frost bitten and ruddy and white haired who told me he had had goose for dinner and “really thought he was the happiest old man in the world.” He looked so convinced of it and so stealthy as though happiness was not altogether respectable that I told him he was a credit to the race and upon which he shambled off to the public house, and I nearly followed.
Letter to Violet Dickinson
28th December 1906
The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Volume 1
My latest ploy is just before bedtime to tell wonderful Yuletide stories to the kiddies about Santa turning at midnight into a hideous man-eating bat and the sugarplum fairies being humped by His reindeer.
Letter to Donald Harington
24th December 1966
Selected Letters of William Styron, edited by Rose Styron
Let me tell you about Christmas day: Sassoon took me to Notre Dame in the morning where we sat in the dark, enormous interior of the church near the shining altar to the Virgin and child, covered with pink and white flowers: the purple, blue, red and cold rose windows of the transepts were an aesthetic feast, and the mammoth organ sounded really like the voice of god. I thought especially of you at home, and the people I love, and was most moved by the clusters of thin tapers burning on the altars and the blazing jeweled colors of the windows. I also walked about the enchanting Isle de la Cité in the middle of the Seine, and marveled at the exquisite jewel-Gothic structure of the Sainte Chapelle in the Palais de Justice, where there seems to be nothing at all holding together the soaring stained-glass windows, which lift one’s eyes upward in a dizzy leap of vivid, painted glass.
Letter to her mother
30th December 1955
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1 1940-1956
Sometimes I think that one of the reasons why we are fighting this war is because we want to save Christmas; because we want to play on the floor with electric trains; because we want to be free to live as we want to. But Christmas should be more than just external things, Tommy. Christmas should be something that guides your life just like the Star of Bethlehem guided the shepherds that first Christmas morning. If you always make mother happy, if you help other people whenever you can, if you live so that you are always a credit to mother, your country and your god, then you can be part of the real Christmas every day of the year. Anybody who keeps the real Christmas inside of him every day can’t help but be a good boy, Tommy.
Lt. Col. Ralph Noonan
Letter to his son
25th December 1943
A Family Christmas, edited by Caroline Kennedy
Outside, it snows thick and steadily. The gardens before our house are now a wonderful fairy forest. And O, this whiteness of things, how I love it, how it sends the blood about my body! Maurice de Guerin hated snow; what a fool he must have been!
What a wintry letter this is! Only I think it is winter seen from the inside of a warm greatcoat. And there is, at least, a warm heart about it somewhere. Do you know, what they say in Xmas stories is true? I think one loves their friends more dearly at this season.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Letter to Mrs. Sitwell
23rd December 1874
The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, Volume 1
Wherever you are I want you to have a lovely lovely Christmas full of fun and presents and treats, and for war to be forgotten, anyway for the day. It’s the first Christmas I shall not be with you and I mind it dreadfully. Please pray hard that we’ll be together next year and that Hitler will be defeated, and that we’ll all be trying to mend our poor England.
Letter to her son
7th December 1939
Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to her Son, John Julius Norwich 1939-1952, edited by John Julius Norwich
Letter to Blake Morrison
11th January 1985
Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940-1985, edited by Anthony Thwaite
Shaun, thank you so much for these letters...love love love what you are doing. I hope we all can take something from these letters and apply to our own lives and sphere of influence.
Philip Larkin is a fine poet but not much of a human being.