I shall always be near you

In 1861, as the American Civil War approached, a 32-year-old lawyer named Sullivan Ballou left his wife of five years and two sons at home, and joined the war effort as a major in the Union Army. On July 14th of that year, acutely aware that particularly perilous times were ahead, he wrote, but didn’t

Happy Birthday, Dickens

Image: Charles Dickens, via Lenin Imports Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of someone who, hopefully, needs no introduction: Charles Dickens — a man who wrote so many letters (some 15’000 have survived) it’s a wonder he ever found time to write the novels he did. Last month I featured the bleakest of letters, in

My muse is not a horse

In 1996, following the success of his band‘s ninth studio album, Murder Ballads, word reached Nick Cave that he had been nominated for an MTV Award, as Best Male Artist. That nomination was soon withdrawn, however, as a result of the following rejection letter from Mr. Cave to the event’s organisers. Nick very kindly agreed to

Nor was there a stock comedy Negro

In 1943, Alfred Hitchcock approached author John Steinbeck and asked him to write the script for his next movie, Lifeboat. Steinbeck agreed, and quickly supplied the director with a novella. Over the coming months, Hitchcock gradually modified the story with the assistance of other writers, and in January of 1944, just before it premiered, Steinbeck

She doesn’t answer the phone

In 1951, E. B. White — the novelist responsible for, most notably, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little — was accused by the ASPCA of not paying his dog tax and, as a result, “harboring” an unlicensed dog. He responded by way of the following delightful letter. (Source: Letters of a Nation; Image: E. B. White with

Damn

In 1939, two months prior to the release of Gone With the Wind, an American censor named Joe Breen decided that the word “damn,” as used in the now legendary line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” should be removed from the movie. Breen’s decision was based on the Hays Code, a set

On the Meaning of Life

In July of 1931, author and philosopher Will Durant wrote to a number of notable figures and asked, essentially, “What is the meaning of life?” His letter concluded: Spare me a moment to tell me what meaning life has for you, what keeps you going, what help—if any—religion gives you, what are the sources of

To My Old Master

In 1864, after 32 long years in the service of his master, Jourdon Anderson and his wife, Amanda, escaped a life of slavery when Union Army soldiers freed them from the plantation on which they had been working so tirelessly. They grasped the opportunity with vigour, quickly moved to Ohio where Jourdon could find paid

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,

May the muses embrace you

In September of 1988, Salman Rushdie‘s fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, was published in the UK to both critical acclaim and immediate controversy. By February of 1989, following months of protests and death threats, his execution was ordered by way of a fatwā issued by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Rushdie was

I am a lousy copywriter

British-born David Ogilvy was one of the original, and greatest, “ad men.” In 1948, he started what would eventually be known as Ogilvy & Mather, the Manhattan-based advertising agency that has since been responsible for some of the world’s most iconic ad campaigns, and in 1963 he even wrote Confessions of an Advertising Man, the

Something extraordinary

July, 1922. In the final paragraph of an otherwise unremarkable letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, author F. Scott Fitzgerald passionately announces his desire to begin writing “something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” The novel he had mentioned for the first time was The Great Gatsby. Transcript follows. Image kindly supplied by

The other guy just blinked

In April of 1985, in a misguided attempt to revitalise the brand, The Coca-Cola Company stunned millions by announcing their decision to change the formula of Coca-Cola. Almost as soon as “New Coke” was unveiled, the backlash began, and in fact the reaction was so negative that within three months the old formula had been

“Our little baby is dead”

On April 14th of 1851, Dora Dickens, the ninth child of Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine, died unexpectedly after suffering convulsions. She was just 8-months-old. The next morning, Charles wrote the following letter to Catherine — miles away from home recuperating from an illness, oblivious to the situation  —  and, in an effort to break the news

Dear Son

In May of 1962, 37-year-old Malcolm Scott Carpenter became just the second American to orbit the Earth, as he piloted the Aurora 7 into space. On the eve of this historic journey, his father, Marion, proudly wrote him the following wonderful letter. (Source: For Spacious Skies; Image: A photo of Earth, taken by Scott Carpenter

We both share the same goal

Author Douglas Adams had been trying for many years to bring The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to the big screen when, in December of 1997, a deal was made with Disney to do exactly that. Initially Adams was understandably delighted, but by April of 1999 — after multiple rewrites of his screenplay in response to

For Aspiring Editors

Young novelist William Saroyan dreamed of one day editing a magazine, and so in 1936 sought advice on that very aspiration from the great H. L. Mencken, a hugely influential man who had, in the 1920s, founded and edited his own title. Saroyan sent him a polite letter. Mencken responded with the priceless reply seen below.

Nothing good gets away

John Steinbeck, born in 1902, was one of the most acclaimed authors of his generation, responsible for a body of work that boasts, most notably, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and Of Mice and Men—all classics which have been read and adored by many millions in all corners of the globe, and which

Aida will gather dust in the archives

In May of 1872, having recently travelled twice to watch Aida, a disappointed Italian gentleman named Prospero Bertani decided to write a letter of complaint to the opera’s composer, Verdi, and ask for his money back; not just for the show, but for his expenses too. Amused, Verdi responded by forwarding the letter to his

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

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

Like all frauds your end is approaching

In November of 1964, fearful of his connection to the Communist Party through Stanley Levison, the FBI anonymously sent Martin Luther King the following threatening letter, along with a cassette that contained allegedly incriminating audio recordings of King with women in various hotel rooms — the fruits of a 9 month surveillance project headed by William

New Year Greetings

Here we have a wonderful New Year’s greeting from the early-1980s, written on an exposure sheet by the late-Norman McLaren—a pioneering animator who in 1941 established an animation studio at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, a studio in which he produced numerous award-winning films and taught countless aspiring animators until his retirement in

I would like to get out of this world

Back in 1950, looking to publicise a new exhibition named “Conquest of Space,” the Hayden Planetarium in New York publicly announced that they were accepting reservations for the first trip into space, whenever that may be. Unsurprisingly, in the coming weeks and months applications from all corners began to arrive at the museum, from would-be

It’s just terrific

February, 1976. Producer Jan Harlan writes to Stanley Kubrick and speaks passionately about a new piece of technology so impressive that it could lead to “shots which would not enter your mind otherwise.” That invention was the now-ubiquitous Steadicam, and Harlan was right to be so impressed. Indeed, Kubrick shared his enthusiasm, so much so

America is pretty empty without you kids

Groucho Marx wrote this lovely letter to U.S. troops stationed in Suriname in 1943, in response to a request from a Corporal Darrow to send a morale-boosting message. Groucho doesn’t disappoint, and cracks a couple of gentle jokes about life back home and his attempt to grow some vegetables; there are even a few genuinely

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

A bag of wind

George Orwell wrote the following letter to his publisher, Frederic Warburg, in 1948. At the time, he was valiantly attempting to finish the first draft of his latest novel whilst “under the influence of” tuberculosis, and was still undecided as to the book’s title. Sadly, that book — the incredible Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in June the next year — would

Why don’t you write a story?

Below is a short, sweet, and very impressive letter written by Elizabeth Taylor in reply to a note from a downbeat fan whose pet bird, “Chips,” had recently passed away. Her gentle advice to the young girl — to write a story about the late-pet — is admirable; even more notable, though, is the fact

From your friend “Babe” Ruth

Says Dawn: My late-father’s friend, Freddy, contracted Polio when they were kids, and apparently he had a tough time of it. A couple of weeks into his lengthy stay at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, Freddy (a baseball nut) was given this letter. It was from his hero, Babe Ruth, and is just so sweet.

Don’t say it

Back in the mid-1980s, a young man in his early-20s named James Harmon began writing to a huge number of notable people — authors, academics, actors, thinkers; all of whom he admired — and asked, “If you could offer the young people of today one piece of advice, what would it be?” Over the coming

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

Pornography is an attitude and an intention

Ever since it was first published in France in 1955, Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov‘s novel about a middle-aged man’s obsession with, and seduction of, a young teenage girl — has, unsurprisingly, courted controversy. The following letter was written by the author in 1956 to a friend named Morris Bishop, and offers in its third paragraph

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.

Dear Princeton Law School

Early-1957, Harvey Wax — a young man hoping to one day become a lawyer — sent an application letter to Princeton University‘s Law School and crossed his fingers. A short time later, he received the following rejection letter. It never fails to amuse me. It’s worth noting that Mr. Wax subsequently applied to Harvard’s Law

When are you going to release my film?

Terry Gilliam faced a problem in 1985: Although it had been released without a hitch by distributors outside the US, his final cut of Brazil was deemed unfit for release in North America by executives at Universal. Faced with Gilliam’s stern refusal to re-edit his work and craft a more commercial movie as proposed, a

A letter of thanks from Gil Scott-Heron

Back in 1997, TVT Records decided to reissue a handful of Gil Scott-Heron‘s albums — namely, Winter In America; The First Minute of a New Day; From South Africa to South Carolina; It’s Your World, and The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron. On March 27th, prior to signing the contract and receiving his advance, a clearly enthused Scott-Heron took some time to

Here are the pictures

Jimi Hendrix sent the following letter to Reprise Records in September of 1968. It was essentially a set of fairly strict instructions with regard to the sleeve design of his forthcoming record, Electric Ladyland: a photo of the band surrounded by kids in Central Park, taken by Linda McCartney, was to feature on the front

Dear Bob

Dear Bob (mp3) Late-1993, some months prior to the release of Grace, Jeff Buckley took to the stage and impersonated Bob Dylan. He later explained: “I was at A Hole In The Wall in New York, and I’d seen Dylan the night before. So I did an impression of him singing I Want You. I

Dear Mr. Vonnegut

In 1949, just a few years after surviving the bombing of Dresden as a POW, 27-year-old aspiring author Kurt Vonnegut submitted a written account of the event to The Atlantic Monthly for consideration, along with two other pieces. Below is the rejection letter he later received from the publication’s editor at the time, Edward Weeks.

When Einstein wrote to Gandhi

In 1931, Albert Einstein wrote the following short letter of admiration to another of the world’s greatest minds, Mohandas Gandhi. Despite their intentions, the pair never met in person. Einstein can also be heard speaking of Gandhi in the above clip — an excerpt from an interview recorded in 1950, two years after Gandhi’s death. Transcript

It is the woman who pays

Says Marianne: “In 1990 my husband passed on; I was 36-years-old and left with 3 small children. For some reason I wrote to Kurt Vonnegut and thanked him for his books and his compassion. I did not expect a reply. He must have been a kind man, as he sent this to me within a

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

The delusion

A grieving father named Robert S. Marcus — then-Political Director of the World Jewish Congress — was the recipient of the following letter of condolence in 1950, not long after his son succumbed to polio. It was written by Albert Einstein. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of On Being. Image: On Being Transcript February 12, 1950

Somehow the possibilities seem limitless

In October of 1993, a stand-up performance by Bill Hicks was controversially pulled from Late Night with David Letterman a few hours prior to broadcast — Letterman later claimed it was due to a potentially upsetting religious joke; Hicks, on the other hand, blamed it on a pro-life commercial to be screened during an ad break that

Everyone has to be a child

Back in 1998, The Economist ran an article which resulted in a record amount of feedback for its author. The subject at hand was children: For children, just like cigarettes or mobile phones, clearly impose a negative externality on people who are near them. Anybody who has suffered a 12-hour flight with a bawling baby

I wanted to be a nun or a movie star

Madonna was a 20-year-old drummer and virtually unknown in the world of showbiz when she hand-wrote this typically unabashed cover letter to Stephen Lewicki, a first-time filmmaker on the lookout for a woman to play the lead in his erotic thriller, A Certain Sacrifice. It’s a great read and essentially a brief but entertaining look back

The price for ridding society of bad is always high

In June of 1945, this striking letter arrived at the home of 3-year-old Dennis Helms in Washington, written on a sheet of Adolf Hitler‘s letterhead. It had been penned by his father, Lt. Richard Helms, an intelligence operative with the OSS who, following Germany’s surrender the month before, had managed to acquire some of the

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

Who do you think you are — Marilyn Monroe?

Amusing proof, if it were needed, that Marilyn Monroe was difficult to pin down at times, even for New York Times journalists on deadline. The month after this letter was sent, Monroe began shooting her final movie, The Misfits, and not long after that she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in New York. She described

Burst through its bars

In August of 1665, an ageing scientist named Joannes Marcus Marci sent his friend — the great Athanasius Kircher — a truly perplexing book and asked him, via an accompanying letter, seen below, to do something countless other experts had unsuccessfully attempted: decipher it. Try as he might, Kircher failed to do so, and to this day the

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

We were both asleep when the boat hit

On April 24th of 1912, 24-year-old John Snyder wrote the following letter to his father, Frank, and recalled the night of April 14th; an altogether tragic night that saw him and his wife, Nelle, escape the RMS Titanic following its collision with an iceberg, only to then witness the ship sink to the bottom of

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

May we all get better together

In 1985, following a complaint from a local reader, staff at the public library in the Dutch city of Nijmegen decided to remove Charles Bukowski’s 1983 collection of short stories, Tales of Ordinary Madness, from their shelves, whilst declaring the book “very sadistic, occasionally fascist and discriminatory against certain groups (including homosexuals).” In the following

Please don’t give in

On August 11th of 2007, a 12-year-old girl named Amy wrote the following heartbreaking letter to her father, 47-year-old Garry Newlove, as he lay comatose in hospital. The day before, she, her two sisters and her mother had looked on in horror as he was savagely beaten by a gang of youths outside their home. Sadly,

Don’t hesitate — Do it now!

Here we have a real piece of cinema history in the form of a hugely important letter from 1924, written by Walt Disney, in which he urges his good friend, the great Ub Iwerks, to up sticks and join him at the recently formed Disney Productions in Hollywood. Luckily for him — and us —

Dejobbed, bewifed, and much childrenised

On February 2nd of 1929, the following hilarious letter of complaint was sent to a government official in Calabar, Nigeria, by a “bewifed” and “much childrenised” ex-employee who had recently been “dejobbed” due to his apparent laziness. It is unknown whether he was subsequently “rejobulated.” The letter is now held at the National Archives, is

Everyone should have a reserve

With a net worth of $38bn, investor Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest men on the planet. In 1970, he discovered the following letter in a safe deposit box along with the $1,000 cash mentioned therein. 30 years earlier it had been sent by his grandfather, Ernest — a grocery store owner — to Warren’s uncle, Fred,

I am so lonely I can hardly bear it

American artist Rockwell Kent wrote the following love letter to his wife, Frances, in 1926. It’s a masterclass in romantic writing. Much-needed transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Archives of American Art. Large version here. Image: Archives of American Art Transcript Frances! I am so lonely I can hardly bear it. As one needs happiness

You are the future. You can make a difference.

Christopher Reeve graciously sent this touching letter of advice to students at University Heights Middle School, California, in 1999, in response to a request for some inspirational words by their teacher, Walt Owen. It was dictated four years after the tragic accident that left the Superman star in a wheelchair for the rest of his

We want more Coca Cola

[We now have a postal address. More details here.] As World War I continued in April of 1918 and temperatures soared in Waco, Texas, 4’000 U.S. soldiers at Camp MacArthur faced a morale-denting dilemma in the form of a Coca Cola shortage. Obviously this was an unacceptable situation, and so, as troops faced “defeat at

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.

Dearest Andy

Silver Liz – Andy Warhol, 1963 Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor waited 14 years to acquire her own, personal version of the Andy Warhol silk-screens in which she featured; an iconic collection of pieces that were in many ways an extension of Warhol’s infatuation with the star. One can only imagine how much this subsequent letter of

Good Bye, Son

Christopher was just 3 years of age and largely oblivious to the impending tragedy when, on August 11th of 1991, his dad wrote him this heartbreaking farewell letter. The next year, his father passed away after losing a battle with leukemia. He was 38-years-old. Transcript follows. (Source: Christopher; used with permission. Many thanks to Alec

It’s more likely that I was doing 911km/h

When Auckland resident Justin Lee received the above speeding ticket back in 2004, he noticed a typo: according to said notice, the infringement in question had taken place 30 years beforehand, in 1974, on the day he was born. His entertaining response can be read below, followed by the subsequent reply from the New Zealand Police. Transcript

Each of you is special just because you’re you

In January of 1990, a 6-year-old boy named Christopher wrote to Fred Rogers — host of the widely-adored children’s programme, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — and asked if he could visit the show’s studio. The lovely rejection he soon received can be seen below, as can both a letter of thanks subsequently sent to the studio by Christopher’s impressed father

Please ask Ike to bring Elvis back

The following pleading letter is just one of thousands sent by desperate fans of Elvis Presley to the White House in the late-1950s, in an effort to have the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll returned to the United States from Germany, where he was posted with the U.S. Army. This particular missive was sent by

Marlon I respect you enormously

Late-April of 1973, just a month after Marlon Brando famously turned down an Academy Award for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola wrote him the following letter and asked him one final time to star as a young Vito in the next installment. Brando’s financial demands, coupled with the Oscar

My Pilot days are closing in

Late-2000, in an effort to find a sponsor for his act, stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg wrote to the makers of his new favourite pen, The Uni-Ball Gel Impact, and suggested such a partnership. His amusing letter — or, more specifically, a draft of it as written on tour with his wife, Lynn — can be seen below.

The Nevermind Happy Meal

Nirvana‘s second album — the immeasurably influential and multi-million selling Nevermind — somehow turns 20 tomorrow. The band sent out the following handwritten letter to a number of fans during the run-up to its release on September 24th of 1991, and jokingly referred to, amongst other things, a tie-in with McDonald’s whereby copies of the forthcoming album would

I love life too much

In 1985, 24-year-old Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to death after being wrongly convicted of the rape, mutilation, and first-degree murder of a 9-year-old girl named Dawn Hamilton. He spent the next eight years in jail — two of which he spent on death row, awaiting execution — until, in 1993, he became the first such

Frank Sinatra on Crossword Puzzles

When he wasn’t charming audiences with his singing and acting skills, the inimitable Frank Sinatra could often be found with his head buried in a crossword puzzle. In fact, such was his love of the trusty crossword that, when he was referenced in the New York Times crossword in the early 1980s, he wrote a

HOPE THEY KEEP YOU

On July 15th of 1971, U. S. President Richard Nixon shocked the nation by announcing his intention to visit the People’s Republic of China and meet with Chairman Mao. Understandably public reaction was mixed, as illustrated by the following: Two of many messages sent to the White House in response — the first from a

With great respect, Marge Simpson

Barbara Bush received a letter from the unlikeliest of sources in 1990, after an article in People magazine quoted the First Lady as saying The Simpsons “was the dumbest thing [she] had ever seen.” Marge Simpson‘s polite response can be seen below, followed by the transcript of an apologetic letter from Barbara Bush in reply.

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

You are the hippest of cats

The following note was written by Audrey Hepburn in 1961, shortly after hearing the musical score for her latest movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for the first time. Such was her delight, she wrote a charming letter of praise to its composer, Henry Mancini; a man who would later be awarded an Academy Award for his efforts. Short, but

That man basked in your light

It’s not often you see a letter of thanks from one legendary figure to another, and certainly not as heartfelt as this example. It was written in 1976 by Ray Bradbury and sent to fellow author Robert Heinlein; a man who clearly influenced and guided Bradbury during his early years. His gratitude was plain to see, almost 40

The ring of fire still burns around you and I

Today we have two endearing pieces from the hand of Johnny Cash, a musical legend who needs no introduction. The first is a poetic, undated love note to his wife, June; the second, an utterly charming to-do list. Transcripts follow. First image taken from the forthcoming book, “House of Cash“; second image courtesy of Julien’s

He is talented to the point of genius

One of Orson Welles‘s biggest supporters during his early years was a man called Roger Hill. Hill was Welles’s teacher and later headmaster at Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois, and, having spotted the future filmmaker’s talents very early on, spent a great deal of time and effort adapting the curriculum to suit his skills. The

We must stop not meeting like this

The following ridiculous letter — and I mean that in the best possible sense — was written in 1982 by chat show host Michael Parkinson, and sent to a friend and much-loved comedian who was an interviewee of his on numerous occasions: Spike Milligan. I’m afraid I have nothing to offer in terms of context, however

I am gratefuler than ever before…

From 1888, a simple love note from the hand of Samuel Clemens — better known to most as Mark Twain — to his wife, Olivia. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of The Mark Twain House & Museum. Image: The Mark Twain House & Museum Transcript Hartford, Nov. 27/88 Livy Darling, I am grateful — gratefuler than ever before — that

Dear Loser

Here, in all its glory, is the form rejection letter sent to unsuccessful acts in the 1990s by legendary record label Sub Pop. Just to clarify: “Dear Loser” appeared at the top of all Sub Pop rejection letters. What’s not to love? Transcript follows. Image courtesy of MoLo_trash at Flickr. Image: MoLo_trash Transcript From… Sub

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

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

For your confidential information

Ian Fleming caused quite a stir in 1957 with the release of From Russia with Love, due in no small part to what seemed to be the death of James Bond at the novel’s close. In fact, so concerned were 007 fans that the author quickly amassed thousands of worried letters. Ever the storyteller, Fleming

Handy Nervous Breakdown Avoider

Irving Hoffman was a busy man in the 1950s and as a Broadway publicist, columnist for the Hollywood Reporter and cartoonist, he reportedly wrote and received hundreds of letters each week to and from all manner of people. However, he only had so much time. For those occasions when a personally written reply just wasn’t possible, Hoffman instead

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

My work is done. Why wait?

On the evening of March 14th, 1932, the founder of Eastman Kodak and inventor of roll film, George Eastman, gathered a group of his friends at his home in order to witness a change of his will. Eastman was 77 years of age, and for the past few years had seen his health decline rapidly

The Factory

The Factory, c.1966 | Image: Tuscene One can only imagine the parties that occurred on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street during the 60s, for this was Andy Warhol‘s Factory, the very studio in which his famous silkscreens were created on a daily basis; a veritable hot-spot that welcomed a steady stream of visitors that

Sweetheart come

On February 7th of 1909, a 30-year-old mother of two by the name of Emma Hauck was admitted to the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, having recently been diagnosed with dementia praecox (schizophrenia). The outlook improved briefly and a month later she was discharged, only to be readmitted within weeks as her condition deteriorated

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

To Our Very Best Pal JOHN WAYNE (Or Occupant)

It seems the jokes didn’t end when the cameras stopped rolling on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the much-loved NBC comedy sketch show that originally ran from 1968 until 1973 and, over the course of its 140 episodes, featured countless appearances by celebrities. One such guest was John Wayne. He received the following fantastic letter of

Many times I have kissed and cryed over this

Here’s a fascinting missive written to Charles Darwin in 1839 by his wife, Emma, shortly after the inception of his theory of evolution, in which she openly worries about his dwindling faith and, midway through the letter, asks him not to be blinded to the possibilities of things “which if true are likely to be

I have no personal knowledge of computers

June, 1956: Co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, Bill Hewlett, writes to then-Provost at Stanford and the man widely considered to be one of the “Fathers of Silicon Valley,” Fred Terman, “I have no personal knowledge of computers nor does anyone in our organization have any appreciable knowledge.” Terman was a member of the US Army Signal Corps‘ advisory board

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

The princess has arrested me

In July of 1951, in the historic Russian town of Novgorod, an unusual document — written on a piece of birch bark in a previously unseen form of Old East Slavic language, to be later named Old Novgorodian — was discovered by an excavation team led by archaeologist Artemiy Artsikhovsky. Over a thousand similar “birch bark

You are scum

Letter removed at the request of Hunter S. Thompson’s Estate.

Cannes is a place of mental humiliation

Below we have two letters from Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, both written in May of 1960, in which he makes clear his apparent hatred of awards ceremonies. The first letter, addressed to the founder of the Cinémathèque Française, Lotte Eisner, sees Bergman labelling the Cannes Film Festival as a “place of meat market and mental humiliation”; in