You are a true man

In 1876, the great Walt Whitman received a letter from a fan who, like so many others before him, had fallen in love with his controversial, groundbreaking collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, and was keen to connect with its creator. In fact, that young government clerk was Bram Stoker, future author of Dracula—an immeasurably influential horror novel published

You were my angel

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful and influential people in the world, having hosted and produced, for 25 years until 2011, the longest-running and most-watched talk show in the history of television, The Oprah Winfrey Show—a programme which was watched, at its peak, by upwards of 40 million people each week, was broadcast

Who is Karen Carpenter, really?

On February 4th, 1983, Karen Carpenter—one half of The Carpenters alongside her brother, Richard—passed away after suffering heart failure brought on by anorexia nervosa, an illness from which she had suffered for years. She was 32 when she died. One of her millions of fans was Kim Gordon, singer and bassist of Sonic Youth, a

Regarding your Hampton Wick

Since 1968, at which point she and her best friend famously sought out and made a plaster cast of Jimi Hendrix‘s penis, legendary groupie Cynthia Albritton (a.k.a. Cynthia Plaster Caster) has been immortalising rock stars’ members — and, since 2000, breasts — in plaster for the world to see; and quite successfully too, as evidenced by

You’ve got to sell your heart

Late-1938, eager to gain some feedback on her work, aspiring young author and Radcliffe sophomore Frances Turnbull sent a copy of her latest story to celebrated novelist and friend of the family, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before long the feedback arrived, in the form of the somewhat harsh but admirably honest reply seen below. (Source: F.

Letter to a Young Poet

In 1902, a 19-year-old aspiring poet named Franz Kappus sent a letter and some of his work to the hugely influential Bohemian-Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, and politely asked for some feedback. Some months later, the following invaluable response reached Kappus, and it didn’t end there — over the course of the next 5 years, Rilke continued

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

The love of a parasite is worth nothing

In May of 1948, author Ayn Rand received a letter from a fan named Joanne Rondeau. In it, she asked Rand to explain a sentence in her bestselling 1943 novel, The Fountainhead, which reads: To say ‘I love you’ one must first know how to say the ‘I’. Rand responded with the following letter. (Source:

DON’T EVER STOP

One of the most popular letters on Letters of Note is Bowie’s charming reply to his “very first American fan letter” back in 1967, written excitedly when he was just 20 years old and yet to make his mark on the world, even typed on a sheet of his manager’s stationery for lack of his

Advice from Harper Lee

A young fan of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird‘ named Jeremy wrote to Harper Lee in 2006, and asked for a signed photo. He didn’t get one, but instead received this lovely piece of advice from the author that is far more precious. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Nate D. Sanders. Image: Nate D. Sanders Transcript

Thanks for being my Dad

Today marks a decade since the death of George Harrison; with that in mind, here are two endearing handwritten letters from the late-Beatle. The first was written in 1968 to a fan who, having previously been advised by Harrison to learn the sitar, had then cheekily asked him for the money needed to purchase one.

I was 2 busy listening 2 the grass grow

Here’s a sweet little handwritten letter from Prince in June of 1984, to a young fan named Annalisa Masters. Prince was 26-years-old at the time and had just released his incredible sixth album, Purple Rain; a month later, the movie to which it was the soundtrack was also unveiled. Until recently this letter was on

Reviews were angry and childish

Writing in September of 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald responds to a fan of his latest book, The Great Gatsby, and notes that until H. L. Mencken reviewed it (here) critics were largely unimpressed — as a result it barely sold. Since then it has sold millions of copies, regularly features in ‘best of’ lists, and is

Sadness is a strange companion

Full marks go to Paul Banks, lead singer of Interpol, for the lovely, compassionate note seen below; written last year after a gig in Boston to a downbeat young lady. Letters of advice like this — particularly when written by ‘celebrities’ to their fans — can actually be life-changing for the recipient, and should be commended. Another

Keep the faith!

Back in the early days of Apple, Inc., long before he began sporadically responding to emails from customers, the inimitable Steve Jobs could sometimes be found signing computer chips, attaching them to sheets of Apple stationery, and then replying to fans of his company. One wonders how many of these now hang framed around the world.

Love music

Steve Vai is considered by many to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time, so it’s safe to assume he receives a fair amount of fan mail. Presumably he’s also a busy man, so it’s heartening to see that he responds to at least some of it with letters like the handwritten one

Make me proud

Below is further proof of Quentin Tarantino‘s admirably enthusiastic attitude when replying to fan mail, in the form of a brief but energetic handwritten note to a 14-year-old aspiring filmmaker named Richard in 1998 (for another perfect example, see this letter from 1996). This particular response was prompted by a letter from the young fan

COPY TO HUGH HEFNER

When he wasn’t making the population laugh as part of Monty Python, the late-Graham Chapman could sometimes be found penning amusing letters. Below are just two brief examples — the first written by Chapman to his bank manager; the second to an amorous female fan. Enjoy. Transcripts follow each image, both of which are from the

Amateur comedy is too “On the nail”

Back in 1997, aged 19, then-aspiring comedian Mike Scott sent a letter to one of his biggest influences, Phil Hartman, along with a selection of his amateur comedy sketches on an audio tape. The letter spoke at length of his hopes and dreams, and politely sought any advice Hartman was able to give. Four months later the following

I will treasure your letter

In September of 2006, following a desperately sad childhood that saw both drug-addicted parents murdered and the care of her younger siblings left in her hands, 16-year-old Sacia Flowers decided to write to J. K. Rowling and thank her for creating Harry Potter, her “best friend” during the most difficult of times. Her letter can be

We get a kick outa being flattered!

Back in 1986, some years after first becoming a fan of the character as a child, Dale Lund wrote a letter of thanks to Hank Ketcham, the cartoonist responsible for originally creating, drawing, and writing the Dennis the Menace cartoon strip. This charming, illustrated note was Dennis’ reply. Transcript follows. Image courtest of Dale Lund. Image:

Keep drawing

This charming letter was written in 2009 by long-serving Viz cartoonist Graham Dury to a young man named Charlie, in response to some cartoons he sent to the comic’s offices. For an aspiring artist and fan of the comic to receive such a positive reply — not to mention the nibs and unwanted Roger Mellie doll — must have been quite something. All in

Take the world by the tail

In June of 2006, the legend that is Tom Waits wrote the following endearing letter to a 15-year-old named Colin, in response to a piece of fan mail written by the teenager a few months previous. It was accompanied by a signed photo, also seen below. The opening joke of Waits’ charming letter can be explained by Colin’s hometown

I have no interest in you or your life

Back in 1994, then aged 14, Tom Stuart wrote a letter to Lee and Herring — the British comedy duo behind one of his favourite shows, Fist of Fun — and, after introducing himself as a young fan of their work, asked a few questions. A fairly lengthy reply soon arrived, the vast majority of

Rock on Sarah!!

In 1996, two years after the release of Pulp Fiction, a 13-year-old film fanatic named Sarah wrote to her idol, Quentin Tarantino, and told him of her dream to one day become a filmmaker. She also praised his work on the recently released From Dusk till Dawn, and spoke of her love of horror movies.

A promise is a promise!

In 1947, in his book, Secrets Behind the Comics, then-24-year-old Stan Lee offered readers a chance to have their comic book artwork reviewed for the price of $1. 25 years later, shortly after Stan Lee had become head of Marvel, an aspiring artist named Russell Maheras cheekily attempted to take him up on his old offer by sending him his Souperman spoof along

I love my Muppet life

Today, for no particular reason, I bring you a Muppet-themed extravaganza. Keep scrolling after the first letter — there’s more. First, a lovely, very funny internal memo from the late-Jim Henson in 1986 containing three commercial ideas for a Swedish Chef breakfast cereal. In fact what began as a parody eventually became a reality, with

I’m sending you a poem

In 1970, eager to spread the word about a low-key magazine he had just launched, the editor of the very short-lived Vishtaroone sent a copy of its first and possibly only issue to the frontman of T. Rex, Marc Bolan. Ever-gracious, Bolan responded to the fan with three things: a handwritten letter; an as-yet-unpublished poem to be

Don’t do it for anyone else

It’s incredible to think that Keith Haring was only alive for 31 years, given the impact of his work. In New York particularly, his public pop-art greeted many thousands of people every day, and internationally he was, and still is, highly regarded. He also left behind a valuable legacy that includes, alongside his artwork, the

Your draughtsmanship is beyond reproach

As creator of his widely-adored comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, the late-Harold Gray no doubt received many a fan letter during his lifetime. The following example of such a missive was sent in 1948 by an eloquent admirer named John, aged just 15; an aspiring cartoonist who, after lavishing four paragraphs worth of praise upon

There will be seven Harry Potter books altogether

On April 11th, 1998, having recently failed to scoop the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for her debut novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, author J. K. Rowling responded to a young fan’s good luck wish with the following handwritten letter. A few months later, in July, the second installment of her phenomenally successful Harry Potter heptalogy was released to much

i’m still listening, it’s fun

Below, from the pen of Iggy Pop, is a charming handwritten knock-back to a young Austrian fan named Heinz Riegler. Many years ago Riegler had, on the off-chance, sent Iggy a cassette tape containing his band’s latest album, along with a letter in which he asked the Stooges frontman to feature on one of their

I hope you will be a great and successful actress some day

Mid-1916, in response to a piece of fan mail from an aspiring young actress from London, England, Charlie Chaplin somehow found the time to write her the following letter of thanks. At this point in his career, although still aged just 27, Chaplin was already directing and producing the majority of his many films; the letterhead

Best Wishes, Brad Bird

Yet again (see also here, here, and here) we have a letter from the offices of Pixar that further cements their reputation as being incredibly generous to fans, the gracious respondent this time being the great Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, The Iron Giant, and, most importantly, the music video for Do the Bartman in 1990. Further

I have never drawn PEANUTS for children

Image: Jeff Overturf Reader David Desmond remembers fondly the day he received the following letter from the late-Charles Schulz, creator of what is widely considered to be one of the greatest comic strips ever created: Peanuts. I can still recall the feelings of amazement and excitement that I experienced when I received this letter. Even then

It was a busy year and then it wasn’t

Here we have a pleasant, charming letter from the living legend that is Christopher Walken, a man with one of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood, typewritten to members of the Online Christopher Walken Fan Club in 2004 via its co-ordinator, Candy Rosenbaum. According to Ms Rosenbaum, the actor, apparently a technophobe, makes a concerted effort each

Limitations are the greatest assets in producing a work of art

Image: Peter Emslie In 1976, having recently been introduced to – and quickly enchanted by – his work by way of a cover of TV Guide – seen above – aspiring artist Peter Emslie decided to contact acclaimed caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Unaware of Hirschfeld’s address, Peter sent a letter to the offices of TV Guide along with some of

You have lit the flame of aspiration within so many of us

At New York’s The Village Gate in October of 1962, legendary jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins played a rousing set to an audience that included another notable jazz musician: Sonny Rollins. So impressed was Rollins with his idol’s live performance that he later sent the following eloquently worded letter of admiration to Hawkins. A year later,

SAY THAT TO MY FACE

In the summer of 1995, a scheduled appearance by the Rollins Band at a gig in Brandywine, Maryland was thwarted at the very last minute due to torrential rain. A few weeks later, still feeling cheated having stood sodden in the audience through many hours of support acts, local Rollins fans Chris Farley and Ken

DON’T GIVE UP!

From the pen of Pixar animator Aaron Hartline, here’s a highly endearing letter of encouragement to an aspiring animator named Willie Downs that only serves to confirm my suspicion that employees of Pixar can actually do no wrong. Downs – a huge fan of Pixar from the beginning who, it seems, was simply in need

I am not afraid of robots. I am afraid of people.

In 1974, English author Brian Sibley wrote a letter to his favourite science-fiction novelist, Ray Bradbury—the man responsible for writing, most notably, Farenheit 451—in which he spoke of his deep admiration for Bradbury’s books and posed some questions related to Disney, a subject close to his heart. “If I remember rightly,” explains Sibley, “I expressed

Oh what an angry person you are!

In 1982, aged 17, Andrew Humphrey decided to send one more letter to Oscar-winning actress Tatum O’Neal. Says Andrew: We are the same age, and I had written her a couple of fan letters in my early teens, but had no reply. When clearing out my desk before heading to university in 1982, I found

Love, Corey

Back in 1985, Corey Feldman already had an impressive number of acting credits under his belt, and although he was yet to be seen in such classics as The Goonies, Stand By Me or The Lost Boys, parts in Gremlins, Mork & Mindy, Cheers, The Fox and the Hound and various other projects had already resulted in a

Accept me for what I am – completely unacceptable

Late-1980, in an effort to strike up conversation with fellow music lovers, Glasgow-based Robert Mackie placed a personal ad in Sounds magazine and, before long, had a new pen-pal in the form of 21-year-old Steven — a highly opinionated, often sarcastic writer from Manchester who was undeniably passionate about music. They exchanged letters for 18 months. Shortly afterwards, in 1983,

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

Dear 8 year-old Teresa

In 1988, aged just 8 but already a fan of the teen actor due to Stand By Me, Star Trek: The Next Generation and his “awesome smile,” an excited Teresa Jusino saved up the $12.00 membership fee and applied to join “WilPower,” then-15-year-old Wil Wheaton‘s official fan club. She then waited. And waited some more. And then gave up

Fraternally, Brother Vonnegut

In 1989, eager to seek feedback from an established, highly influential author, and in an effort to simply reach out to a long-time inspiration, first-time novelist Mark Lindquist wrote to his idol, Kurt Vonnegut. Some time later a reply materialised in the form of the admirably gracious typewritten letter seen below, in which Vonnegut spoke of

The quilt is beyond beautiful… Beyond!!!

In April of 2008, members of various online communities came together in an effort to send their idol, Johnny Depp, a unique quilt for his birthday the next year, and by February of 2009 it had been crafted. The quilt, comprising of over a hundred small squares of material – all signed by various fans around

I am excited about going into space

In 1985, having been selected by NASA from a pool of thousands, 37-year-old social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe began preparations in an effort to become the first ‘teacher in space’. The project was the result of a very successful effort by the U.S. government to provoke wider public interest in the STS-51-L space program, and

Science fiction should be mainly about people

In 1969, despite the best efforts of its cast, crew and unrelenting fanbase, the original Star Trek television series was cancelled by NBC after 79 episodes due to supposedly poor ratings. In the following letter, written in 1973 to a lady named Judy Thomases, the show’s creator – Gene Roddenberry – praises the show’s fans, admits to giving Spock a

Could you send me a little something?

Hot on the heels of Steve Martin’s personal letter comes another fan mail response — again with a humorous post-script — but this time courtesy of Martin’s sorely missed Planes, Trains and Automobiles co-star: the late, great, John Candy. It was sent in December of 1984, just months after Candy’s breakout role in Splash had hit the screens, and

Pixar films don’t get finished, they just get released

Mid-2008, hoping at best to receive a signed photo from his idol in return, a young man named Adam wrote to Pete Docter, the award-winning director of Monsters, Inc. and, more recently, Up. In the letter he spoke of his admiration for Docter and, as an amateur filmmaker and huge Pixar fan, mentioned his desire to

A Personal Letter From Steve Martin

Celebrities are faced with a dilemma as their star ascends: the fan mail that used to trickle to the front door now needs its own home, and replying to those messages of support is suddenly a full-time job of its own. A small few battle on valiantly, determined to respond personally to each and every

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

An offense that comes from misinterpretation is vulnerable

No sooner had the above cartoon been published than complaints from offended readers began to reach the offices of The Rebel Yell, student newspaper of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. It was early-1997, not long after a controversial decision by the school board of Oakland to recognise Ebonics as a primary language had kick-started a national

And the answer was Aslan

In 1958, after reading and thoroughly enjoying The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, a young fan by the name of Janet wrote to the author to let him know. To her surprise, Lewis – also a renowned Christian apologist – responded. Below is his handwritten reply, in which he thanks

I’m trying very hard to be a regular soldier

It was 1959, and not long ago the unspeakable had happened: Elvis Presley had been called up for national service. Now stationed in Friedberg, Germany, many miles from home, he was finding it difficult to cope with the constant stream of mail reaching him from all corners of the globe; many of his fans still

Drive safely and don’t abuse alcohol, drugs or candy

When asked by his teacher to write to a contemporary artist as part of a school project in 1997, 13-year-old Green Day fan Austin Kleon immediately opted to contact collage artist Winston Smith – the man responsible for creating the artwork for the band’s 1995 album, Insomniac – and after finding his address via a

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

I had seen Amelia Earhart!

On July 2nd of 1937, 39-year-old Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean whilst attempting to circumnavigate the globe in a Lockheed Model 10 Electra, just five years after famously becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Despite multiple search efforts, neither Earhart or her navigator Fred Noonan were ever found. Weeks

This is the second fan letter of my long career

It’s nice to know that someone as supremely gifted as Norman Rockwell (born on this day in 1894) wrote fan letters. Realise too that this particular example wasn’t penned by Rockwell as a child but in 1948 when he was both 54 years of age and already extremely established as an artist. It was written

John Lennon signed my album

On the afternoon of December 8th, 1980, outside his apartment in New York, John Lennon, one of the most famous and recognisable faces on Earth, was approached by an autograph hunter who silently handed him a copy of Lennon’s album, Double Fantasy, to sign (see photo above). Lennon obliged. In roughly the same area just

Life on the battlefield is different from the movie version

Writing letters of admiration to Hollywood pin-ups was a regular pastime for many soldiers during World War II, and the gracious responses and photos they received went some way to boosting troops’ morale at such uncertain times. In 1943, Lieutenant Norman Klinker wrote such a letter to Hollywood actress Donna Reed (It’s a Wonderful Life,

“BUT HE NEVER CALLS ME!”

In November of 1993, as the media feasted on the first child sex abuse allegation to be made against Michael Jackson, Oscar-winning actor Maximilian Schell sent the following letter to the Hollywood Reporter and paid for it to be printed on the back page of every copy of the publication. Obviously there was a lot

I will include your name in my present work

Celebrated science fiction author Jack Vance has written over 60 novels during his career, accumulated numerous prestigious awards for his work, and in 1997 was named a Grand Master by the SFWA. However it’s good to know that such acclaim hasn’t affected his good nature, as can be seen in this reply to a piece

Just personal enough

For authors as notable as the late Robert Heinlein, the practice of replying to fan-mail can be an incredibly time consuming affair. Some take the easy route and don’t respond at all, whilst others make a valiant effort to reply to as many as humanly possible. Up until 1984 – at which point ‘the advent

My real name is David Jones

David Bowie was just 20 years of age and yet to make a dent in the music scene when, in September of 1967, he received his first piece of fan mail from America. The fan in question was 14-year-old Sandra Dodd, a New Mexico resident whose uncle, a manager of a local radio station, had

BRUCE IS GREAT…

When, in 1995, the great Joe Strummer was asked by Mark Hagen to contribute to a Mojo article on Bruce Springsteen, he responded enthusiastically with the fantastic fax seen below. I think it’s fair to say he was a fan. The Boss publicly returned the compliment during a gig in 2008, declaring Strummer “one of the greatest rockers of

You are Elvis Presley. I am Andy Kaufman.

On February 27th, 1969, 20-year-old Andy Kaufman wrote the following letter to his idol, Elvis Presley, and spoke of both his admiration for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and his desire to meet him in person. It would be another 3 years until Kaufman’s now famous Elvis act was first televised—a performance which Presley himself later