Seven years have now passed, my Lord

Samuel Johnson‘s A Dictionary of the English Language, published in April 1755, is one of history’s most important dictionaries, written practically single-handedly by Johnson over the course of eight years having being commissioned for the fixed sum of £1,575. After writing the initial proposal, Johnson attempted to raise additional funds for the project by securing

Good luck with the picture

Early-1999, shortly after the release of Terrence Malick‘s The Thin Red Line, in which he starred, Sean Penn approached 20th Century Fox and asked for a private jet to take him to a screening of the movie in Houston. Much to his dismay, the studio refused on grounds of cost and company policy. Infuriated by the

The Alien Father is H.R.Giger

In November of 1997, shortly before the release of the fourth Alien movie, Alien: Resurrection, H.R. Giger — the award-winning Swiss artist responsible for designing the Alien itself for the original movie — learned that he wasn’t to be named in the credits of the franchise’s latest installment. Understandably, he was furious, and responded to the news by

Wretched woman!

In 1834, 21-year-old Jarm Logue (pictured above some years later) managed to steal his master’s horse and escape the life of slavery into which he had been born. Sadly, his mother, brother and sister remained. 26 years later, by which time he had settled down in New York, opened numerous schools for black children, started his

I am a human being

In October of 1989, two weeks after a heated meeting in which he informed his hugely influential agent, Michael Ovitz, that he would soon be leaving CAA to join rival agency ICM, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Flashdance, Jagged Edge) wrote Ovitz the following defiant letter and stood firm. What was seen by many to be a brave letter quickly circulated Hollywood, and soon

Your road manager needs a POKE

In March of 1966, as their Australian tour came to an end, a few members of The Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts — decided to unwind by taking a short break in Fiji. It was during that visit, and due in no small part to a flippant remark made by their

The Battle of the Bitches

Early-1993, Matt Ffytche — an editor at now-defunct London-based magazine, Modern Review — contacted U.S. author and critic Camille Paglia by fax and asked her to write for the publication. In addition to her fee, Ffytche also offered a complimentary copy of “No Exit,” the new book by Modern Review co-founder Julie Burchill — someone already known to Paglia due to a negative review Burchill

You crack dealing piece of trash

When, in 2007, Cleveland councillor Michael Polensek heard that local 18-year-old constituent Arsenio Winston had been arrested for selling crack cocaine to an undercover officer, he went straight for the jugular and wrote him the following furious letter — a letter which soon made far more headlines than the crime itself due to Polensek’s complete lack of

John is an admirable name

In February of 1892, after one of his plays was mauled by a drama critic, Oscar Wilde wrote the following letter to the publication’s editor and complained — not about the review itself, but about the critic’s insistence on naming him “John Wilde.” (Source: Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters; Image: Oscar Wilde, via.) 16 Tite

A gap-toothed & hoary-headed ape

In January of 1874, on hearing that fellow poet Ralph Waldo Emerson had described him as “a perfect leper, and a mere sodomite” in an interview, Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote the following letter to the New York Tribune and delivered one of the greatest ripostes I’ve ever read. It was published in the paper the

stay away from microwaves

On July 22nd of 1992, during their famous joint tour with Metallica, Guns N’ Roses co-headlined at the Hoosier Dome in Axl Rose‘s home state of Indiana. They appeared on stage last, almost two hours after Metallica had finished their set, and were headed by an angry frontman. Two days later, a less-than-glowing review of

I refuse to be cheated out of my deathbed scene

In 1912, after she called him “the Old Maid of novelists” in a scathing review of his new book, Marriage, journalist and author Rebecca West met and fell in love with H. G. Wells. The often-explosive affair that resulted lasted for some months, until, in March of 1913, Wells — 26 years her senior and already a

I do not like scolding people

Author Katherine Mansfield and editor John Murry met in 1911 and had a turbulent relationship by anyone’s standards: by the time they wed in 1918, they had split several times and seen other people; indeed, the pattern continued through their marriage. Three years after marrying, Mansfield wrote a stern letter to fellow author Princess Elizabeth

Your disgusted so-called father

In January of 1891, 20-year-old Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas met the man with whom he would soon fall in love — Oscar Wilde. On April 1st of that year, disgusted by his son’s homosexual relationship with Wilde, Bosie’s father, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, sent him the following threatening letter. Bosie famously responded to his

I have no ancestors of that gifted people

In 1938, some months after the initial publication of The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien and his British publisher, Stanley Unwin, opened talks with Rütten & Loening, a Berlin-based publishing house who were keen to translate the novel for the German market. All was going well until, in July, they wrote to Tolkien and asked for proof of

You will then know how to talke to me

In September of 1864, as the American Civil War approached its conclusion, a slave-turned-soldier named Spotswood Rice wrote the following furious letter to his former owner, Katherine Diggs, and sternly warned her that she would soon be seeing him again: he was returning to Missouri, together with a thousand-strong army of black soldiers, to rescue

I am your fellow man, but not your slave

In September of 1848, the incredible Frederick Douglass wrote the following open letter to Thomas Auld — a man who, until a decade previous, had been Douglass’ slave master for many years — and published it in North Star, the newspaper he himself founded in 1847. In the letter, Douglass writes of his twenty years as a slave; his

Jelly-boned swines

June of 1912 was a bad month for D. H. Lawrence. His lover, Frieda — a married woman with whom he had recently fled to Germany — was being begged to return to the family home in England by her husband (and Lawrence’s former professor), Ernest Weekley. In addition, publisher William Heinemann had just decided to

Thou eunuch of language

Robert Burns is considered one of the greatest poets ever to have lived. He was also, judging by the following letter, more than capable of responding to his few critics. It was penned in 1791 in response to a recent review that criticised a supposed abundance of “obscure language” and “imperfect grammar” in Burns’s poetry,

A flabby mass of clichés

Back in 1950, Alfred Hitchcock hired Oscar-nominated screenwriter Raymond Chandler to pen the script for his next project, Strangers on a Train — a thriller based on Patricia Highsmith‘s novel of the same name. Almost immediately their ideas clashed, and before long their working relationship deteriorated beyond repair, apparently culminating with Chandler remarking loudly one

You are now my Enemy

From the pen of Benjamin Franklin comes a furious letter, written in 1775 to William Strahan — a British Member of Parliament who had, until that point, been a friend of thirty years — as the American Revolutionary War took hold. Franklin quickly had a change of mind after penning it, and it was never sent; however, word of its

My belly is too much swelling with jackfruit

In 1909, after missing his train due to an ultimately disastrous trip to the lavatory at Ahmedpur station, an embarrassed, angry young man named Okhil Chandra Sen sent an unintentionally amusing letter of complaint to the Sahibganj divisional railway office in West Bengal. The letter proved to be an important one as, according to the

I pity you

A highly unflattering Rolling Stone article about Queen‘s South American tour in 1981 — excerpt here — prompted the following scathing letter; originally written in a fit of rage by the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor, on an airline sickness bag. Unfortunately I’m unable to locate a picture of said sick-bag, so this image of the

I am ashamed to share membership of the same party with you

Rather than congratulate Labor MP John Robertson following his being sworn in as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council in 2008, famously outspoken former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, incredibly unhappy with Robertson’s conduct, chose instead to send him this wonderfully scathing letter. Indeed, Keating’s worst fears were realised in March of this year

You’re a schmuck

In October of 1974, to celebrate his post-retirement comeback, 59-year-old Frank Sinatra appeared in a televised concert at Madison Square Garden, New York. Reviews were mixed, but one person who was particularly unkind to Ol’ Blue Eyes was critic Rex Reed, who immediately savaged Sinatra’s voice, supposed arrogance, and appearance in his syndicated column. He even called Sinatra “Porky

You are directly responsible for the loss of our son’s life

The following angry letter was sent to then-U.S. President Harry Truman in 1953 by the father of George Banning, a young soldier who had recently been killed whilst serving in the Korean War. When Truman passed away 20 years later, this letter was discovered in his desk along with Banning’s posthumously awarded Purple Heart. Transcript follows.

You are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”

On the evening of December 5th, 1950, a carefully selected 3500-strong audience filled Washington’s Constitution Hall to witness a singing performance by Margaret Truman, the only child of then-U.S. President Harry Truman (also in attendance), and, despite the generally held consensus that her singing talents were lacking, a wave of positive reaction greeted her after the

It wasn’t a rip off; it was a love in

An inflammatory article in The New York Times provoked the following letter from John Lennon in 1971, defensively penned on a couple of sheets of in-flight stationery as the Beatle crossed the Atlantic. Journalist Craig McGregor’s piece, entitled ‘The Beatles Betrayal,’ was clear in its accusation: that a number of white bands — The Beatles in particular

GOD HELP YOU OUT, PAUL

In 1971, John Lennon wrote the following scathing missive to Paul and Linda McCartney in response to a letter from Linda in which she had chastised him for, amongst other things, not publicly announcing his departure from The Beatles. There was no love lost between the two couples at this point and this angry note was just

Don’t disgust me, please

Writer Lafcadio Hearn was somewhat of a sensation in the early 1870s. Working for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, Hearn’s graphic reports from crime scenes left very little to the imagination; his often surprising behaviour — “sticking his fingers into a dead man’s brain (…) even drinking blood from abattoirs” — further strengthening his reputation as

I expect you to correct your work-ethic immediately

Written in 1996, below is a sternly-worded letter from a CalTech chemist — Erick Carreira — to a member of his research team — Guido Koch — in which the former reprimands Koch’s supposedly slack work schedule following his absence in the lab on numerous evenings and weekends. Also unacceptable to Carreira was Koch’s gutsy

I had no idea that the City of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Bros.

When the legal department of Warner Bros. were notified of a forthcoming feature-length Casablanca spoof in 1945 – A Night in Casablanca, featuring a lead character named ‘Humphrey Bogus’ – they were naturally curious as to the specifics, and so innocently requested more information from the movie’s creators, the Marx Brothers. Very quickly Groucho, sensing the opportunity

Most sincerely yours

[Do not read if easily offended] In December of 2003, an article written by Richard Dawkins appeared in Free Inquiry magazine. In it, he wrote of a dangerous drug named Gerin Oil and the many millions of deaths around the globe attributed to its existence. Said Dawkins: “The four doomed flights of September 11th 2001

The Grateful Dead has many problems

December 27th, 1967: After many weeks of fruitless and often shambolic recording sessions in studios on both the west and east coasts of the U.S., Warner Bros. Records executive Joe Smith writes a very stern letter to co-manager of the Grateful Dead, Danny Rifkin. In it, he informs Rifkin of the band’s frustrating lack of

I have no wish to have a man who doesn’t know me tell me who I am

Writing to a John Presser in July of 1978, science fiction author Robert Heinlein speaks of his disdain for Heinlein in Dimension; a critical analysis of Heinlein’s work – and unauthorised biography of sorts – by Alexei Panshin that was published a decade previous, and which ultimately attracted legal threats from Heinlein. The book, which can be read

MRS YOKO ONO LENNON DOES NOT SWEAT

An irritated John Lennon wrote the following note – currently on display at the Mansion on O – in the 1970s, after discovering that one of his white shirts had somehow turned yellow in colour whilst at the hands of some laundry workers. Clearly, Yoko Ono had nothing to to do with it. Transcript follows.

Mark Twain on proofreaders

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proof-readers.” – Mark Twain, 1893. The inimitable Mark Twain, never one to bite his tongue, had a notoriously turbulent relationship with his countless editors, printers and proofreaders — the very people tasked with ensuring his written words were fit to print. The following letter

Perhaps we should establish that worth in dollars

An angry Leonard Nimoy wrote the following letter in July of 1976, after learning that a Star Trek blooper reel had been shown in public without his consent. The letter, sent to the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, is brimming with annoyance and clearly spells out – not for the first time it seems – the reasons

Our government doesn’t give a fuck about our troops

From celebrated humanist, author and one-time prisoner of war, the late-Kurt Vonnegut, comes a 1991 letter to activist Robert Henry Walz, in which the Slaughterhouse Five novelist responds to a request for assistance with regards to the support of American war veterans. Writing just four months after the end of the Gulf War, Vonnegut was

H. G. Wells on American journalists

Judging by the following letter, science fiction novelist H. G. Wells was not a fan of American journalists; in 1907 at least. Writing to a friend in May of that year, the author of The Time Machine and The War of The Worlds – to name but two of his classics – makes clear his

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a piss stain

Early-1996, it was announced that the Sex Pistols were to be inducted into the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; a museum based in Cleveland, Ohio, which introduces several new acts to its ranks on an annual basis. Unfortunately for the Hall of Fame, the Sex Pistols responded to the news by way of the following

I was not an actress but rather a victim of degradation

October, 1986: In response to an autograph request from a fan, actress Linda Boreman writes the following angry note. Fourteen years previous, in 1972, Boreman, under her stage name Linda Lovelace, had starred in a hardcore pornographic movie that would go on to become the highest grossing x-rated film of all time: Deep Throat; it

The Tiger Oil Memos

From the offices of the now-defunct but at one time Houston-based Tiger Oil Company come a batch of curiously entertaining memos, all sent by the firm’s irascible, tactless, and undeniably amusing CEO, Edward “Tiger Mike” Davis, to his staff. Tiger Mike’s management style was no secret within the industry; however, in the early-2000s, 25 years

Our gods are assholes

Iggy Pop had more to say following his interview with Plazm magazine in 1995; so much so in fact, that he sent the following fax to journalist Joshua Berger in order to further their recent chat. Currently holed up in Warsaw on a tour of Europe, Iggy’s thoughts were focused entirely on his home country

Marvel Editors…you are the droppings of the creative world

Mid-1987, after nine years as editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter was fired from his position at Marvel Comics and almost immediately, Vince Colletta – an oft-criticised Marvel inker and friend of Shooter who, it is suggested, had long been given work only due to his strong bond with the boss – found himself ostracised by his remaining

Lennon: ‘Society only likes dead artists’

On September 27th, 1971, a fortnight prior to the opening of an exhibit by Yoko Ono at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, the area’s local newspaper – The Post-Standard – ran an article entitled ‘Art or Hokum?‘, in which an anonymous journalist questioned the museum’s motives when agreeing to the show.

These bastards let your brother die

To usher in the weekend we have a blistering attack on early-science fiction fandom from an unlikely source: science fiction novelist Robert Heinlein. In a letter to super-fan Forrest Ackerman, written during the final months of World War II, Heinlein begins by offering his condolences following the death of Ackerman’s brother whilst serving his country, then

I am going to put the Commission out of commission

Born in 1863, one-time blacksmith Bob ‘The Freckled Freak’ Fitzsimmons was the world’s first three-division champion boxer and, as a result of his phenomenal upper-body strength, possessed the hardest punch of all fighters by quite a margin. Just prior to writing the following letter on his truly magnificent, befittingly boastful letterhead, the boxing commission had

When a real and final catastrophe should befall us…

On April 9th, 1948, a month before Israel declared independence, just over one hundred residents of Deir Yassin were massacred by members of two militant Zionist groups – Lehi and Irgun – as part of an effort to cleanse the area of its Arab population. The next day, Albert Einstein wrote the following passionate letter

I cannot conceal my annoyance

As you read the following letter from Harlan Ellison – particularly the incredible first paragraph – bear in mind that Thomas Pluck, the letter’s recipient, was an avid fan of Ellison’s at the time and had previously paid good money to become a member of the Harlan Ellison Recording Collection, thereby gaining access to more

Framed by an idiot, passed by muttonheads

“Only one thing is impossible for God: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet” – Mark Twain In July of 1876, less than a month after the novel’s initial release in England, copies of Mark Twain‘s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer had begun to circulate the U.S. in large numbers. One

An idiot of the 33rd degree

In November of 1905, an enraged Mark Twain sent the following superb letter to J. H. Todd, a salesman who had just attempted to sell bogus medicine to the author by way of a letter and leaflet delivered to his home. According to the literature Twain received, the “medicine” in question — called “The Elixir of

Maddonna is utterly ARTLESS

In September of 1995, following years of supposed feuding, Madonna‘s televised chat with Kurt Loder at the VMAs was interrupted by a barely coherent Courtney Love as she launched the contents of her handbag onto the stage. Loder — quickly sensing the potential for carnage — gallantly invited Love up to join them, and the interview quickly

You’re nothing but a pimp

One day in April of 1976, Chicago Daily News columnist Mike Royko decided to focus on Frank Sinatra‘s arrival in the city ahead of a live show. In his column, Royko described the constant placement of Chicago cops outside Sinatra’s hotel as “wasteful,” derided his supposed “entourage of flunkies,” and remarked on what appeared to