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

Think always of me

In the early hours of October 16th, 1793, nine months after the execution of her husband, Louis XVI, the 37-year-old former Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, wrote the following tear-stained farewell letter to her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, and her children. Just eight hours later, Marie Antoinette was beheaded. Her letter never reached Elisabeth. Transcript and

Oh my ass burns like fire!

When he wasn’t busy composing some of the most beautiful music ever to seduce the human ear, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could often be found writing shockingly crude letters to his family. The fine example below (translated by Robert Spaethling) was penned to Mozart’s 19-year-old cousin and possible love interest,

Remember the Ladies

As you read the following letter, in which Abigail Adams boldly asks her husband — future U.S. President, John Adams — to “remember the ladies” when drafting new laws or else fear rebellion from the female population, bear in mind that it was sent over 200 years ago, at the start of the American Revolutionary War — a time when women had very

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,

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

Older mistresses are so grateful!!

On June 25th of 1745, Benjamin Franklin wrote the following letter of advice to Cadwallader Colden. The first paragraph sees Franklin suggesting marriage as the best remedy for Colden’s sexual urges; what follows is an eight-strong list detailing the advantages of an older mistress which, due to its “obscene” nature, resulted in the letter being omitted from published

Is it best for the States to unite, or not to unite?

On November 9th, 1787, less than two months after presiding over its creation, George Washington wrote the following powerful letter to his nephew in which he convincingly backed the United States Constitution. With the backing of just nine states required for the Constitution to be ratified and his nephew soon to be a delegate in the Virginia State Ratifying

Beloved Father

Wishing for some form of acknowledgment from her estranged father in 1702, twelve-year-old Jahanna wrote the following heartbreaking letter to Peter Besallion, a French Canadian who at the time was a successful Indian trader living in newly-formed Philadelphia. Unfortunately any response that may have been sent is yet to be unearthed, but it is known that young

The Quill Letter

I’ve spoken before about the secretive communication methods used during the Revolutionary War – see The Masked Letter and Fire or Acid – and here’s another, decidedly lower-tech example: The Quill Letter. The idea was simple and effective: messages were delicately written on long, extremely thin strips of paper, then rolled up and inserted into

Fire or Acid

American physicist Benjamin Thompson wrote the following letter in 1775 at the start of the American Revolutionary War, a war during which Thompson, a loyalist, acted as a spy for the British Army. The letter actually contains two different messages. The first, longer message spans three pages, was readable by all and is notable in

The Masked Letter

Written by a frustrated Lt. General Sir Henry Clinton during the Revolutionary War in 1777, this beautifully crafted Masked Letter is a perfect example of early coded correspondence. The letter reads perfectly well on its own, however only when you place a mask over the paper does the true meaning appear. Incredibly clever, and surprisingly