That the situation is hopeless should not prevent us from doing our best
A mixed mailbag and a thank you
A mixed mailbag today, which I always love sending out. As ever, nothing connects the following extracts but my recent enjoyment of them. But before we get to them, a quick word. It is now two years since I began the Letters of Note newsletter, and I just wanted to thank every single one of you for making it such a pleasant experience. Your feedback—even when incorrect!—is appreciated, and your support, in all of its forms, means the world. I’m yet to crack the financial side of this thing and I’m not sure I ever will, but I promise to keep going until I can’t. Please, if you’re able, and if you haven’t done so already, consider becoming a paid subscriber…
Big plans for 2023, not least the launch of something else “of note” on 1st January—a project I’ve been working on all year. But I’ll let you know more nearer the time. Now, for those letters…
I wish your notices were not so agitating and did not hold out such dreadful threats. A penalty of fifty pounds sounds like a relic of mediaeval torture.
Letter to an income tax inspector
I have been trying to think of the word to say to you that would never fail to lift you up when you are too tired or too sad not [to] be downcast. But I can think only of a reminder—you are all it has. You are all your work has. It has nobody else and never had anybody else. If you deny it hands and a voice, it will continue as it is, alive, but speechless and without hands. You know it has eyes and can see you, and you know how hopefully it watches you. But I am speaking of a soul that is timid but that longs to be known. When you are so sad that you ‘cannot work’ there is always a danger fear will enter in and begin withering around. A good way to remain on guard is to go to the window and watch the birds for an hour or two or three. It is very comforting to see their beaks opening and shutting.
Letter to Tillie Olsen
If you find yourself unwilling to accept me, will you please pass this letter on to your sister Caroline.
Ralph King-Milbanke, 2nd Earl of Lovelace
Marriage proposal sent to Margaret Stuart-Wortley1
I’ve always had a daydream of being a lighthouse keeper, absolutely alone, with no one to interrupt my reading or just sitting—and although such dreams are sternly dismissed at 16 or so, they always haunt one a bit, I suppose.
Letter to Robert Lowell
27th July 1960
A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands2.
Letter to Lady Melbourne
25th September 1812
Can verbs be invented? I want to say one to you: I sky you, so my wings stretch out enormously to love you without measure. I feel that we have been together from our place of origin, that we are of the same matter, of the same waves, that we carry the same sense inside. Your whole being, your prodigious genius and humility are incomparable and enrich life; in your extraordinary world, what I offer you is only one truth more that you receive and that will ever caress the deepest part of you.
Thank you for receiving it, thank you for living, because yesterday you let me touch your innermost light, and because you said with your voice and your eyes what I had been waiting for all my life.
Letter to Carlos Pellicer
That the situation is hopeless should not prevent us from doing our best.
Letter to Bill Vogt
21st January 1946
Both Margaret and Caroline declined. The next year, however, Ralph married their older sister, Mary.
I had to look this word up, so I’m going to assume that a least one of you is also in the dark. A viand is an item food.