I embrace you with all my heart

On November 7th 1913, in French Algeria, author Albert Camus was born. The second son of Lucien and Catherine Camus, he was just 11-months-old when his father was killed in action during The Battle of the Marne; his mother, partially deaf and illiterate, then raised her boys in extreme poverty with the help of his heavy-handed

A squeal of pain

Prominent English novelist Vita Sackville-West’s marriage to Sir Harold Nicolson was the very definition of an open one, with both partners happily enjoying extramarital relationships for much of the 49 years they spent together. In the early-1920s, Vita began what was to be her most famous affair, with Virginia Woolf, the hugely influential author responsible

Oh Christ, the cook is dead

In February of 1977, a well-meaning teacher named Stephen Gard wrote to Spike Milligan after reading Monty, the third installment of Spike’s memoirs which focused on his life as a soldier in World War II, and asked some questions about the book. Says Stephen: “My letter was written as a fan, but it did ask

I am very real

In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut‘s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school’s furnace

1984 v. Brave New World

In October of 1949, a few months after publication of George Orwell‘s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he received a letter from fellow author Aldous Huxley, a man who, 17 years previous, had seen his own nightmarish vision of society published in the form of Brave New World, a book also now considered a classic. Having recently finished reading

Wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day

Author E. B. White won numerous awards in his lifetime, and with good reason. Born in 1899, he was one of the greatest essayists of his time, writing countless influential pieces for both The New Yorker and Harper’s; in 1959, he co-authored the multi-million selling, expanded edition of The Elements of Style; he wrote children’s books which have

THE INFERNAL MACHINE

In July of 1954, just a few months after the release of Live and Let Die, Ian Fleming wrote the following letter to his publishers, Jonathan Cape, and suggested some names for the next installment in the James Bond series. “The Infernal Machine” was named as his favourite, but clearly not for long. At the foot

Thank you for the dream

One rainy Sunday afternoon in 1989, with encouragement and much-needed help from her father, a 7-year-old girl named Amy decided to send something to Roald Dahl. Taking inspiration from her favourite book, The BFG, and using a combination of oil, coloured water and glitter, Amy sent the author a very fitting and undeniably adorable gift: one of her

I can’t look you in the voice

The late, great Dorothy Parker had many strings to her bow. She wrote hundreds of poems and short stories, many of which were published in magazines and books; she was a biting and much-loved book critic for The New Yorker in the late 1920s; in the 1930s, she moved to Hollywood to try her hand

May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver?

Late-May of 1956, James Bond author Ian Fleming received a politely critical letter from a firearms expert named Geoffrey Boothroyd. It began: I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike

What great births you have witnessed!

In May of 1889, author Mark Twain wrote the following beautiful letter of congratulations to Walt Whitman, the indisputably influential poet behind, most notably, Leaves of Grass. The cause for celebration was Whitman’s upcoming 70th birthday, the imminence of which saw Twain pen not just a birthday wish, but a stunning 4-page love letter to human endeavour, as seen

Have you heard about the Toad?

Whilst holidaying with his wife in May of 1907, Kenneth Grahame wrote the first of fifteen letters to his son and ended it with mention of Toad, a fantastical character recently introduced to seven-year-old Alistair‘s bedtime stories, in part to better teach him right from wrong. His son was delighted and, over the coming weeks, his

Come on now Marlon, put up your dukes and write!

Late-1957, with his newly released novel attracting near-universal praise from critics, Beat author Jack Kerouac aimed for the sky and wrote the following passionate letter to Marlon Brando in an effort to bring his work to the big screen. The novel in question was On the Road, and Kerouac — desperate to capitalise on the incredibly

Ym raed Yssac

A fleeting glance at the following, beguiling letter would more often than not result in the assumption that it had been penned in a foreign language, when in actual fact it is a charmingly coded message – hint: try reading each word backward – sent playfully to an eight-year-old girl named Cassandra in 1817, by

The most beautiful death

Brave New World novelist Aldous Huxley was diagnosed with cancer in 1960, at which point his health slowly began to deteriorate. On his deathbed in November of 1963, just as he was passing away, Aldous — a man who for many years had been fascinated with the effects of psychedelic drugs since being introduced to mescaline

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

Art is useless because…

In 1890, following the publication of Oscar Wilde‘s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, an intrigued young fan named Bernulf Clegg wrote to the author and asked him to explain a now-famous line included in its preface: “All art is quite useless.” To Clegg’s surprise, Wilde responded with the handwritten letter seen below. Transcript follows. (Source: The Morgan; Image: Oscar Wilde, via.)

You gave me a valuable gift: you took me seriously

During an illustrious career which saw him win multiple awards and worldwide recognition, Theodore Geisel published over 60 books, the majority of which he wrote and illustrated under the pen name Dr. Seuss. Despite his busy schedule, and just months after the release of The Cat in the Hat, Geisel set aside time to write

Slaughterhouse Five

In December of 1944, whilst behind enemy lines during the Rhineland Campaign, 22-year-old Private Kurt Vonnegut was captured by Wehrmacht troops and subsequently became a prisoner of war. A month later, Vonnegut and his fellow PoWs reached a Dresden work camp where they were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as “Schlachthof

Blade Runner will prove invincible

In 1968, author Philip K. Dick’s post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—the story of a bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, whose job is to find and “retire” rogue androids—was published, almost immediately generating interest from film studios keen to adapt it for the big screen. Early talks and screenplay drafts failed to