God be with you

On September 29th, 1918, months before the end of World War I, a freshly assigned physician at Camp Devens military base in Massachusetts wrote the following letter to a friend and fellow doctor, and described a terrifying influenza epidemic that was now killing hundreds of his camp’s soldiers each day. The death toll in this

How the hell have you done it?

On April 18th of 1961, it was announced that iconic Hollywood star Gary Cooper was dying of cancer after a glittering 36 year career that saw him amass countless fans, plaudits, and awards across the globe. Weeks after that news broke, and just days before he died, Cooper received the following fan letter from Kirk Douglas,

There is no danger down here

On October 31st, 1918, as the First World War neared its end, celebrated war poet and officer of the Second Manchesters Wilfred Owen wrote home to his mother. Sadly, this would be his last letter. Four days later–exactly a century ago–Owen was shot dead as he led his company across the Sambre–Oise Canal. His mother

Barbarous Saxons

In 1400, a middle-aged Welshman named Owain Glyndŵr spearheaded the Glyndŵr Rising—an ultimately unsuccessful but initially promising independence movement intended to shake Wales free from the ruling grip of Henry IV‘s England. The revolt started well, and within a few years Glyndŵr, now Prince of Wales, had control of the majority of the country and valuable

Don’t let anybody raise you. You’ve been raised.

In 1945, weeks after graduating from high school and with no support from the child’s father, 17-year-old Maya Angelou gave birth to her only son. Two months later, desperate for independence, she moved out of her mother’s home, found accommodation of her own, and began to raise her son. Over the next 70 years, Maya

My heart almost stood still

On the evening of February 1st, 1924, the New York Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York, conducted by Walter Damrosch. Thankfully for those who couldn’t attend, the performance was broadcast live on the radio. A couple of days later, the orchestra received a stunning letter of thanks from the unlikeliest of sources: Helen

Brown is as pretty as white

W. E. B. Du Bois accomplished more than most during a lifetime rich with admirable achievements. In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D at Harvard; he co-founded, in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organisation that has fought tirelessly for racial equality since its inception;

Must we hate them?

In April of 1937, Jamaican-born mechanic Canute Frankson left his home in Detroit and travelled to Europe to join the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of approximately 2,800 American volunteers who were keen to offer support in the fight against Franco and his supporters during the Spanish Civil War. Three months after arriving, Frankson wrote the following powerful

Oh God for one more breath

On the morning of May 19th, 1902, a huge explosion ripped through Fraterville Coal Mine in Tennessee, its devastating power instantly killing most of the 216 miners who were below ground. For the 26 who survived the initial blast, a side passage of the mine proved to be a safe haven, but not for long—when

Always Yours

On November 27th of 1875, the great Samuel Clemens—known to most as Mark Twain—wrote the following love letter to his dear wife of almost 6 years, Olivia, on the occasion of her 30th birthday. They remained married until her death, 29 years later. (Source: Complete Letters of Mark Twain; Image: Olivia and Samuel Clemens, via

Our lives have been ruined

On May 28th, 1934, in Corbeil, Ontario, five girls were born two months prematurely to Elzire and Oliva Dionne, a couple who already had five children and little money to speak of. The new arrivals became the first identical quintuplets known to survive more than a few days; media interest was intense. Four months later,

I see you, my beauty boy

For two months in 1974, as Richard Burton filmed his part in The Klansman, he and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, moved to California with Cassius, just one of Taylor’s many beloved cats. Sadly, the trip confused Cassius somewhat and he soon went missing, never to return. Taylor wrote the following letter some time after his disappearance.

May I submit UTOPIAN TURTLETOP?

In 1955, while attempting to find a name for their hugely anticipated new car, Ford decided to approach the most unlikely of people to assist in the matter: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Marianne Moore. Moore, who was known by the wife of one Robert Young, an employee in the car manufacturer’s marketing research department, was soon

Dame of what?

In 2007, when informed by reporters outside her home that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, novelist Doris Lessing famously reacted with an endearing indifference that has since been replayed by thousands. Indeed, she later called winning the award a “bloody disaster.” 15 years before that, in 1992, she was offered the

Your Loving Mother

On January 22nd of 1919, during her freshman year at college, 19-year-old Margaret Mitchell received word that her mother had fallen ill as a result of a deadly flu pandemic that was sweeping the globe, along with instructions from her father to return home. A few days later, she did just that, only to be greeted

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

One of the most original thinkers I have ever met

In November of 1911, two of the world’s most revered scientists, Henri Poincaré and Marie Curie, were asked to write letters of recommendation for a 32-year-old man who was looking to become a professor of theoretical physics at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), and who, 6 years previous, had authored a renowned set

The Matchbox

Born in 1893, English author and poet Sylvia Townsend Warner wrote seven novels in her lifetime beginning with Lolly Willowes – the quirky tale of a lady who moves away from home following the death of her father and, as is often the case, takes up witchcraft – the book for which she is now

Make your soul grow

In 2006, a group of students at Xavier High School in New York City were given an assignment by their English teacher, Ms. Lockwood, that was to test their persuasive writing skills: they were asked to write to their favourite author and ask him or her to visit the school. It’s a measure of his

I am there in the sunset

There are more than 90,000 people buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a beautiful and sprawling garden cemetery in Massachusetts that was first opened in 1831. Beside one of the graves sits the following letter, written by a lady to the love she left behind. Much needed transcript follows. Larger image here. Huge thanks to Rosie. (Kindly

Don’t feel bad that I’m gone

In 1936, Jim Henson was born—a creative genius whose wide-reaching and positive influence on the population is rivalled by few in the world of entertainment, due to an incredible career that began in the 1950s when he created the now-adored Muppets. Henson passed away far too early, in 1990, aged just 53. Some time before, he wrote two letters

You must not worry about Santa

In 1961, immediately after overhearing her parents discuss the possibility of Soviet nuclear tests at the North Pole, 8-year-old Michelle Rochon grabbed a pencil and wrote a letter to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, in which she asked him to prevent the tests for one particular reason. Her letter, and the reply she soon received

Nothing is ours, except time

Towards the end of his 69 years, Roman Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote numerous insightful letters to his friend, Lucilius Junior, in which he offered often invaluable advice relating to a wide range of issues. In 65 AD, the year of Seneca’s death, 124 of these missives were published under the title Epistulae morales ad

My Dear Son

The following heartfelt letter of fatherly advice was written in 1908 by novelist and screenwriter John D. Swain as his son began student life at Yale, the same university from which John himself had graduated. His wonderful, poignant letter was subsequently reproduced in the Yale Alumni Weekly and proved so popular amongst both students and parents

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

My dear little grandfather

Marcel Proust was undoubtedly a gifted author, known largely for his classic multi-volume novel, In Search of Lost Time, a mammoth piece of work believed by some to be one of the greatest books ever written. More importantly, he was also, it is said, obsessed with masturbation. As a teenager this caused problems for his family, not

My husband is not a common man

In 1905, George Bernard Shaw received a piece of fan mail from an aspiring playwright initially known only as “Miss Charming” that would ultimately result in the following unique letter. Miss Charming was in fact a 24-year-old lady named Erica Cotterill, and Shaw was so intrigued by her approach that he replied with advice, thus beginning

A book is a sneeze

In September of 1952,  a few weeks before the publication of Charlotte’s Web—the now-classic tale of a pig, Wilbur, who becomes friends with a heroic spider named Charlotte—its author, E. B. White, was asked to explain why he wrote the book by his editor at Harper & Row, Ursula Nordstrom. On the 29th of that month,

It’s the real thing

In March of 1970, having been shown an advertisement for the newly-published book in the New York Times, Coca-Cola brand manager Ira C. Herbert wrote to Grove Press and asked that they stop using the quote “it’s the real thing”—a slogan associated with the soft-drink since the 1940s—when promoting Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher, Jim Haskins‘ classic first-hand

Every hour is precious

In March of 1886, at the age of 26, acclaimed Russian author and physician Anton Chekhov wrote this fascinating and honest letter of advice to his troubled older brother, Nikolai, a talented painter and writer who, despite being just 28 himself, had for many years been plagued by alcoholism to the point where he often slept

Very untruly yours

In March of 1987, having paid a hefty licensing fee of $500’000 to Capital Records and Michael Jackson for the privilege, Nike released the first ever television commercial to feature a song from the Beatles‘ sacred back catalogue—in this case, Revolution. Rather unsurprisingly, the move was seen by many as a controversial one, particularly by

It is a good book

On May 22nd of 1925, the great Gertrude Stein wrote to fellow author F. Scott Fitzgerald and offered, in her own inimitable style, a brief review of his recently published novel, The Great Gatsby. It can be enjoyed below. Also of note: Fitzgerald’s editor’s reaction to an early draft of The Great Gatsby, here, and a rejection letter once sent

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

It’s a strange and confusing world

In October 1974, as he lay on his death bed at the end of a battle with cancer and reflected on his past, Clyde S. Shield (pictured above) wrote the following heartfelt letter to his 3-week-old grandson and offered some poignant advice for the road ahead. 30 years previous, Clyde had played a significant role in

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

You’re off, by God!

Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton (United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo) Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were both already married when they fell in love on the set of Cleopatra in 1962 – she to fourth husband, Eddie Fisher, a singer, and he to actress Sybil Christopher. In 1964, with divorces finalised, they wed and

Live as well as you dare

In February of 1820, on learning that his good friend, Lady Georgiana Morpeth, was suffering from a bout of depression, noted essayist and clergyman Sydney Smith sent her the following precious letter, in which he listed twenty pieces of advice to help her overcome “low spirits.” Two similarly helpful letters of advice—specifically on the subject of depression—spring

Let us blaze new trails

Bill Bernbach was one of the original Mad Men. A real-life Don Draper. One of the greats. In May of 1947, at which point he was 35 years of age and Creative Director at Grey Advertising on Fifth Avenue, he noticed a worrying development: as the agency grew in size, they were in danger of

I am Danny DeVito’s mother

In 1973, at the very beginning of Danny DeVito‘s Hollywood career, he was cast in Scalawag—a largely forgotten movie directed by, and starring, Kirk Douglas which received, at best, lukewarm reviews upon release. No-one was prouder of the film, however, than DeVito’s mother, Julia, and soon after watching it she sent an endearing letter to

Just like that

The late, great Tommy Cooper was one of the most recognisable comedians in the world, his frantic act a perfectly delivered mixture of jokes and calamitous magic tricks that rarely failed to raise a laugh. I remember watching him as a kid, mesmerised, fully convinced that he was never out of character, that actually there

The Outsiders

In March of 1980, a school librarian by the name of Jo Ellen Misakian wrote to Francis Ford Coppola and, on behalf of the students at Lone Star School in Fresno, California, asked him to consider adapting their favourite novel, S. E. Hinton‘s The Outsiders, for the big screen. Also included with her letter were a copy of the book, and

“GAY CONVERSION WEEK”

In May of 1975, then-Los Angeles Police Chief Edward Davis was invited to participate in the LA Pride parade — an annual celebration of the LGBT community which first took place in 1970 — by the event’s organisers, Christopher Street West. Davis responded with the following letter. LA Pride continues to this day. 2013’s three day

Don’t expect me to be sane anymore

In 1932, months after first meeting in Paris and despite both being married, Cuban diarist Anaïs Nin and hugely influential novelist Henry Miller began an incredibly intense love affair that would last for many years and, along the way, generate countless passionate love letters. Below, in my humble opinion, is one of the most powerful examples, written

I don’t know how to write this letter

In 1968, shortly after finishing 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick began work on what he would later predict to be “the best movie ever made” — a meticulously researched, large-scale biopic of Napoleon Bonaparte. A 1969 draft of his screenplay, which he later discarded, can be read here. A few years later, after adapting Anthony

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

Kids know I am harmless

In 1979, famous advice columnist Ann Landers wrote a widely-read article in which she strongly criticised “Cold Ethyl” (lyrics), a song about necrophilia/alcohol by Alice Cooper which, she claimed, had the power to corrupt his younger fans. A few weeks after the piece was published, Alice Cooper responded with a letter; that letter was published, along with

I am sorry for your loss

In December of 2012, shortly after his wife passed away at the NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, a local gentleman was sent a touching, eloquent letter of condolence in the mail by the doctor who had treated her in the emergency room. Such a lovely gesture, and I imagine an incredibly comforting note to receive at such a

Have you enjoyed embracing men?

In 1961, four years after losing his job as a U. S. Army astronomer on account of his homosexuality, 36-year-old Frank Kameny saw his latest appeal against the dismissal rejected by the Supreme Court. However, the decision only strengthened his commitment to the wider cause: Kameny went on to become a major figure in the

Thine in the bonds of womanhood

In the 1820s, having grown up on her father’s plantation amongst dozens of slaves — many of whom she had befriended and educated — Sarah Grimké began to tour the Northern United States giving anti-slavery lectures to all who would listen. She was joined by her sister some years later, by which time the talks also covered

Don’t ever call me a liberal

Today would have been the 90th birthday of Norman Mailer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and journalist who also happened to write some enormously entertaining letters in his lifetime. Below are just three of the many thousands. The first was sent to one of his writing idols, Ernest Hemingway, along with a copy of The Deer Park;

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

My name is Sidney Poitier

In January of 1943, 15-year-old Sidney Poitier left his poverty-stricken family in Nassau and headed for the United States, the “land of opportunity,” in search of a better life for himself and, ultimately, his loved ones. Months of low-paying jobs in Miami followed, and then countless nights sleeping rough as he slowly made his way to Harlem. Once

Then I recorded Space Oddity…

In November of 1970, a month after signing a five-year publishing deal with Chrys­alis Music, 24-year-old David Bowie wrote the following letter to Bob Grace, the man who signed him, and briefly filled him in on his life so far. Transcript follows. (Source: Any Day Now; Image: David Bowie in 1970, via.) Transcript November 17th,

Does IBM know that HAL is psychotic?

In August of 1966, 2 years prior to the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick wrote to the vice president of his production company and asked whether IBM — a company with whom Kubrick consulted during production, and whose logo briefly appears in the film  — were aware of HAL‘s murderous actions in the

America is like that second kind of Christmas

In November of 1959, as a shocked American public were hit with the news that a number of their favourite quiz shows had in fact been rigged for some time, author John Steinbeck wrote the following letter to his friend, politician Adlai Stevenson, and spoke of his concern at such a morally bankrupt turn of

Your loving Santa Claus

During Christmas in the 1870s, when he wasn’t sending horse-led sleighs piled high with food and toys to his less fortunate neighbours, the inimitable Mark Twain could usually be found at the family home with his wife and young children, often pretending to be Santa Claus. On Christmas morning of 1875, Twain’s 3-year-old daughter, Susie, awoke to find

Dear Friends

On December 14th of 1999, a few weeks after discovering he had colon cancer, cartoonist Charles Schulz wrote the following open letter and announced his retirement from drawing the Peanuts comic strip — a widely adored publishing phenomenon that was read by hundreds of millions of people during its 50 year lifespan. Sadly, just two months after writing the letter, on

It’s a virus

In 2002, after reading an article by The Doors’ John Densmore on the subject of musicians allowing their work to be featured in commercials, Tom Waits — a songwriter who, a decade previous, successfully sued Frito Lay for more than $2m after they ripped off one of his songs to sell Doritos, and has sued others

I love June Carter, I do

On March 1st of 1968, 13 years after first meeting and just a week after he proposed to her on stage during a concert, the great Johnny Cash married fellow country singer June Carter. They remained together until her death, 35 years later. Shortly after June passed away, Johnny wrote the following note. He died two months later,

With deepest sympathy, Fido

On April 12th of 1945, a few months before the end of World War II, the U.S. President of 12 years, Franklin Roosevelt, passed away after suffering a brain haemorrhage. He was 63-years-old. Nine days later, the following letter of condolence was printed in various newspapers, addressed to his beloved dog, Fala. It was written by Bob

Kiss my ass

In 1970, shortly after being elected Attorney General of Alabama, 29-year-old Bill Baxley reopened the 16th Street Church bombing case — a racially motivated act of terrorism that resulted in the deaths of four African-American girls in 1963 and a fruitless investigation, and which marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Baxley’s unwavering commitment to

I’ll be watching over you

On January 12th of 1997, 41-year-old astronaut Jerry Linenger kissed his pregnant wife and 14-month-old son goodbye, boarded Space Shuttle Atlantis, and headed for Space Station Mir where he joined two Russian cosmonauts. He then remained in Space for a record-breaking 132 days. Below are just three of the dozens of letters he wrote to

She is my best friend

In November of 2012, in a heartbreaking, handwritten letter addressed to “a few thousand friends I have not met yet,” Fiona Apple announced that she was postponing the South American leg of her tour due to the ill-health of her beloved pit bull, Janet — a 13-year-old rescue dog suffering from Addison’s disease and, more worryingly, a tumor

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

For your first Christmas

In December of 1915, as his infant grandson began to enjoy his very first Christmas, 60-year-old American journalist and diplomat Walter H. Page decided to mark the occasion by writing him the following letter — a wonderful, heartwarming celebration of their common interests which, as a result of its charm, was later published for wider consumption.

The sacrifice is not in vain

In November of 1918, just days after the end of World War I was announced, a young soldier named Richard Hogan was hospitalised in France with influenza. Two weeks later, he passed away. Shortly after his burial, Maude Fisher, the American Red Cross nurse who had cared for him during his final days, wrote the

Our differences unite us

In 2012, 10-year-old Sophia Bailey-Klugh wrote and illustrated an endearing letter to U. S. President Barack Obama and, as the daughter of a gay couple, thanked him for supporting same-sex marriage. Her letter, and the reply she soon received, can be seen below. Transcripts follow each letter. (Huge thanks to Sophia’s family for allowing us to

Time & the hour run through the roughest day

While studying in Germany in May of 1900, pioneering American psychologist William James discovered that his 13-year-old daughter, Peggy, was finding it incredibly difficult to adjust to life at school in England, many hundreds of miles from home. In an effort to lift her from this emotional slump, James wrote to her with the following advice.

Vast riddles

In the mid-1920s, a decade prior to the release of James Joyce‘s final novel, Finnegans Wake, extracts of what was then known as his “Work in Progress” were being published in journals and passed around literary circles, to a largely baffled audience. (If you’ve never read, or attempted to read Finnegans Wake, a quick look

Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge

In 1973, whilst compiling the book, “John Keats’s Porridge: Favorite Recipes of American Poets,” Victoria McCabe asked the author and poet Edward Abbey to contribute his favourite recipe to the project. Thankfully, he agreed, and soon responded with the following — a recipe for “Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge,” a potful of which could “feed one poet for two full

Why I am an Atheist

In 1903, Kentucky-based newspaper “Blue-grass Blade” asked its readers to write in and contribute to a forthcoming feature named, “Why I am An Atheist.” Hundreds of letters soon arrived and many were subsequently reprinted in the paper; over a century later, in 2011, they were compiled to form the book, Letters from an Atheist Nation. Below

Another link is broken

On January 30th of 1937, two years after his older brother, Baoth, succumbed to meningitis, 16-year-old Patrick Murphy passed away following a seven year battle with tuberculosis. The boys’ 20-year-old sister, Honoria, remained. A few days later, the children’s distraught parents, Gerald and Sara Murphy, received the following letter of condolence from their friend, F. Scott

Eddie’s House

After his death in 1959, following an illustrious, 70-year career during which he designed upwards of 1000 structures and completed over 500 buildings, Frank Lloyd Wright was recognised by the AIA as the “greatest American architect of all time.” He was, by all accounts, a true master of his craft. His smallest and perhaps most unusual project came in

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

Our Frank

On the night of December 21st, 1988, a bomb exploded on board New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 and ripped the aircraft apart, its wreckage then raining down on the sleepy Scottish town of Lockerbie below. All 259 passengers and crew perished, as did 11 local residents. One of the passengers, 45-year-old Frank Ciulla (pictured above), had been travelling

People simply empty out

In 1969, publisher John Martin offered to pay Charles Bukowski $100 each and every month for the rest of his life, on one condition: that he quit his job at the post office and become a full-time writer. 49-year-old Bukowski did exactly that, and just weeks after leaving work finished writing his first book, Post

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

How I would like to work for you!

In March of 1933, in an attempt to secure some work, 23-year-old Eudora Welty wrote the following charming letter to the offices of The New Yorker. Incredibly, they turned her down. Eudora went on to write numerous pieces for The New Yorker and later won multiple awards for her work, including, in 1973, the Pulitzer Prize

Some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal

In May of 2006, 46 years after the publication of her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, reclusive author Harper Lee wrote the following letter to Oprah Winfrey, on the subject of reading and her love of books. It was subsequently published in Oprah’s magazine, “O.” (Source: O; Image: Harper Lee, via.) May 7, 2006

I beg you to take my child

In 1869, in response to a sharp rise in the number of babies being abandoned in New York, often in dangerous circumstances, The Foundling Asylum — run by Sister Irene Fitzgibbon, pictured above — opened to the public with a single white cradle on its doorstep, and immediately began to give safe shelter to unwanted infants. In the

Damn you all to hell

In July of 2012, in an admirable attempt to secure him as a guest on his Nerdist Podcast, Chris Hardwick sent a beautiful 1934 Smith Corona to noted typewriter collector Tom Hanks and popped the question. Within days, Hanks responded with the charming letter seen below, typed on the Corona. Unsurprisingly, the anecdote-filled podcast that resulted is

Here the roads seem to fork

As well as being one of the most popular American humourists of the 19th Century and founder of the Laramie Boomerang, Edgar Wilson “Bill” Nye was at one point the proud Postmaster of Laramie City. Unfortunately, in 1883, three years before his contract was due to expire, an attack of meningitis forced him to leave his

Book-banners are invariably idiots

When, in 2007, author Pat Conroy was told by a concerned student that two of his books, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, had been banned by the Kanawha County school board following complaints from parents, he sent the following letter to the area’s local newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and made known his disgust

The Beauty of Words

In 1890, after living and working in the U.S. for 20 years, Greek-born Lafcadio Hearn moved to Japan and immediately fell in love with a culture and language about which he would then write until his death fourteen years later. In 1893, he sent the following wonderful letter to his friend and occasional editor, Basil

The Heinlein Maneuver

In 1962, as he gave his Guest of Honor speech at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon delivered the following anecdote about writer’s block and fellow novelist, Robert Heinlein: “I went into a horrible dry spell one time. It was a desperate dry spell and an awful lot depended on me

My wick hath a thief in it

In January of 1824, after weeks of intense suffering at the hands of what he later admitted was simply “a severe cold,” renowned essayist and poet Charles Lamb sent the following letter to his good friend and fellow poet, Bernard Barton — a hugely entertaining letter that contains what is surely one of the greatest, most over-dramatic descriptions of

This, sir, is my resignation

On December 5th of 1921, future-Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Faulkner landed a job as a University of Mississippi postmaster. Despite numerous reports of his writing novels on the job, losing and occasionally throwing away mail, ignoring colleagues and customers, playing bridge during opening hours, and regularly turning up late only to leave early, Faulkner somehow

What do I want in a doctor?

In 1964, following the retirement of his regular physician, 62-year-old novelist John Steinbeck was asked by his new doctor to complete a routine medical questionnaire for his records. Steinbeck did exactly that, and on reaching the last of its many pages, the Grapes of Wrath author discovered, and left blank, a small space reserved for

There is no money in answering letters

In 1961, comedian Groucho Marx and filmmaker Woody Allen met for the first time and embarked on a friendship that would last 16 years. Groucho—the elder of the pair by 45 years—reminded Woody of “a Jewish uncle in my family, a wisecracking Jewish uncle with a sarcastic wit,” whilst Woody was, according to Groucho in

A degenerate sort of cult

In the year 112 AD, Pliny the Younger — Roman governor of Bithynia (now northern Turkey) — faced a problem: An obscure Jewish sect called “Christianity” had begun to spread through the region, resulting in numerous complaints from locals and calls for the immediate execution of those who refused to worship the Roman gods. Seeking assistance on how to

Please send in your letters

When, in September of 1965, it was suggested to Charles Bukowski that a collection of his letters would be an attractive proposition for publishers and the reading public, the legendary poet quickly set about recovering as much material as he could by way of the following form letter — written in his own inimitable style

Sympathy begins at home

In February of 1905, the following letter was sent to an aspiring writer by Jack London — the renowned author responsible for, most notably, White Fang and The Call of the Wild. In actual fact, it was a form letter used many times by London until, a couple of years later, he vowed to read and

How could you go ahead of me?

In April of 1998, shortly after excavating an ancient tomb in Andong City, South Korea, archaeologists were stunned to find the coffin of Eung-Tae Lee — a 16th-century male, now mummified, who, until his death at the age of 30, had been a member of the ancient Goseong Yi clan. Resting on his chest was

I have not shot her yet

In 1927, the year after her first collection of poetry, Enough Rope, was published to rave reviews, the eternally sarcastic and rightly celebrated satirist, critic, and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker, found herself in hospital suffering from exhaustion—a condition brought on, in part, by a turbulent affair with American publisher Seward

I shall always be with you

On June 8th of 1950, nine months after being arrested by the Czech secret police on suspicion of leading a plot to overthrow the Communist regime, 48-year-old socialist politician Milada Horáková was found guilty of “high treason” following a show trial that was broadcast on national radio, and in which she remained defiant. On the 27th of that

Think of my programmes as your research department

Early-1996, on learning that a forthcoming, weekly drum & bass programme was to eat into his own show’s airtime, shortening it by an hour, pioneering DJ John Peel made his disappointment known by writing the following letter to Matthew Bannister, then-controller of BBC Radio 1. John Peel remained with the station until his death in 2004.

Shall we go together & look for her?

In April of 1948, having recently watched and been mesmerised by Open City and its sequel, Paisà, Oscar-winning actress Ingrid Bergman wrote a fan letter to the filmmaker responsible, Roberto Rossellini, and offered her acting services. That note can be read below, as can three passionate replies from Rossellini — the first an excited telegram sent in

Your pal, Lorne Michaels

Early-1976, a few months after Saturday Night Live made its debut as “NBC’s Saturday Night,” the following rejection letter was sent to hopeful writers. It was written and signed by the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels. Transcript follows. (Source: Saturday Night Live; Image: Lorne Michaels on air in 1976, offering the Beatles $3000 to reunite.) Transcript April

The morning mail is my enemy

In March of 1961, nine years after the publication of Charlotte’s Web, author E. B. White received a letter from a young fan named Cathy Durham who wanted to know when, if ever, his next children’s book would see the light of day. He replied, in part: “I would like to write another book for children but

A vampire in striped pajamas

In April of 1994, after being shown a copy of the publication’s Turkish edition, legendary Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown wrote the following amusingly despairing letter to its editor, Elif Dagistanli. The two ladies never did meet at the conference — soon after the letter reached Turkey, Dagistanli was relieved of her job. (Source: Dear Pussycat; Image: