Courier and Lives: For the Love of Letters

~posted by Rebecca K.

“We have never talked together the way we have sometimes in letters. Why do I meet people better in letters?” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo van Gogh, 1881

A previous post talked about why handwriting is good for your health. Today let’s explore the enjoyment of writing and receiving letters!

What makes a handwritten letter so special? To a recipient, a penned letter demonstrates that someone thought about them and took the time and effort to create something with their hands for them, an even more special gesture in this age of typing and technology.

On the writer’s end, writing by hand can be regarded as a meditative act. “With so much hurry and pressure in our lives, we sometimes forget it’s perfectly alright to slow down and take pleasure in what we do,” writes Jennifer Williams in Writing Personal Notes & Letters. Since you can’t backspace and automatically erase and revise what you’re writing, you tend to think more deliberately and carefully about what you want to convey before putting pen to paper.

Ready to write a letter of your own? For inspiration, take a look at some of these Library’s titles:

In The World’s Greatest Letters: From Ancient Greece to the Twentieth Century, letters by well-known figures throughout history are divided by subject – from love, of course, to creativity, family life, and science. One eloquent sample is dancer Isadora Duncan writing to her lover Gordon Craig: “You send me poems that are caresses & words that are like kisses or a flock of little soft birds that fly down & nestle in and all about me & take away my senses.”

Over 125 letters written by people from all walks of life, about the exciting and the mundane, fill the pages of Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, some containing images of the actual physical letters. Read a fan letter to Elvis, a note from Fidel Castro to FDR, and John Steinbeck’s response to his teenage son on hearing he was in love.

In The Blue Box: Three Lives in Letters, writer and activist Sallie Bingham explores American history through the correspondences of three generations of women in her family, from the U.S. Civil War through 1920s.

84, Charing Cross Road is a charming collection of 20 years of letters exchanged between an outgoing New York writer and a rather more reserved London bookseller. The book was made into the 1987 film of the same name starring Anne Bancroft and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Inspired by a steamer trunk of old letters found in a house she purchased, Nina Sankovitch explores why and how letters forge human connections in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing.
Visit the Central Library next week to see letters come to life! On Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at noon, in celebration of the Library’s First Folio exhibition, The Juliet Project will give a live, original 30-minute performance inspired by letters that people from all over the have written to the protagonist of Shakespeare’s timeless, perpetually popular play, Romeo and Juliet. Through movement and song, the diverse cast will explore the connection that people throughout the past and present have with the Bard’s tragic heroine. See you there!


One thought on “Courier and Lives: For the Love of Letters”

  1. Don’t overlook Simon Garfield’s To The Letter. A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing ( The first and final chapters hold good advice and resources for letter-writing, the chapters between are celebrations of historic letters. A pity this didn’t appear before February’s International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo) and Month of Letters (

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