With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I’d like to bring to your attention a very giftable little book that was published last year titled Letters of Note: Love, which is essentially a celebration of love in its many forms, viewed through the humble letter. Given my role in compiling it, you could say that I’m biased—and you’d be right!—but I’m too proud of it to care. I’m also still furious that the pandemic hit the world for six precisely at the moment the book was born; however, it would be selfish of me to mention such bitterness at a time of such devastation, so I won’t. Instead, I’ve gathered some excerpts from just a few of the book’s magnificent letters to give you an idea of what to expect. Scroll down for a glimpse.
Letters of Note: Love includes correspondence by Simone de Beauvoir, Ansel Adams, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Zora Neale Hurston, Evelyn Waugh, Vita Sackville-West, Nelson Mandela, John Steinbeck, Johnny Cash & many more. Some stockists are listed at the bottom of this newsletter. There is also, should you prefer it in the ears, a magnificent audiobook featuring the wonderful voices of people such as Jude Law, Louise Brealey, Simon Callow, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danny Huston, Toby Jones, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Mangan, Miriam Margolyes, Clarke Peters, Juliet Stevenson, Mark Strong, Meera Syal, and others (including yours truly). An embarrassment of riches. For more on that, visit Audible.
And speaking of books, the last remaining special editions of Letters of Note, More Letters of Note, and Lists of Note are available to buy. They can be sent anywhere and they can be unsigned, signed, gift-wrapped, scribbled on. More info here.
Much love x
There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you—of kindness and consideration and respect—not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
…And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
John Steinbeck | Letter to his lovesick son, Thom | 10 Nov 1958
I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.
Frida Kahlo | Letter to Diego Rivera | 1953
I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you. I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead—but I still want to comfort and take care of you—and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you—I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that.
Richard Feynman | Letter to his late wife, Arline Feynman | 17 Oct 1946
I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.
Vita Sackville-West | Letter to Virginia Woolf | 22 Jan 1926
I recognise you in all the beauty that surrounds me—in form, in colour, in perfume, in harmonious sound: all of these mean you to me. You are superior to them all. You are not only the solar spectrum with the seven luminous colours, but the sun himself, that illumines, warms, and revivifies the whole world!
Juliette Drouet | Letter to Victor Hugo | 1835
You might think about me a bit & whether you could bear the idea of marrying me. Of course you haven’t got to decide, but think about it. I can’t advise you in my favour because I think it would be beastly for you, but think how nice it would be for me. I am restless & moody & misanthropic & lazy & have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve. In fact it’s a lousy proposition.
Evelyn Waugh | Letter to Laura Herbert | Spring 1936