Indulge In Epistolary Voyeurism: Read Other People's Letters

December 29, 2021 | Bill V.

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I used to be a great letter writer and postcard sender, although now I enjoy texting more than putting pen to paper.  Luckily for us, people in earlier times did write letters instead of email and text, and folks valued and kept them. 

There is nothing in my mind more enjoyable than reading other people's letters. It's like morally ok eavesdropping.  So take a moment, dear reader, and sample some of these interesting and varied selections of letters.

Letters from Father Christmas

Letters from Father Christmas

"A collection of illustrated letters from Father Christmas recapping the activities of the preceding year at the North Pole. The letters were written by J.R.R. Tolkien to his children."


Letters From Family

The Rainbow Comes and Goes A Mother and Son on Life  Love  and Loss

The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss

"A charming, intimate and fascinating collection of correspondence between broadcaster and #1 New York Times bestselling author Anderson Cooper and his mother, the celebrated Gloria Vanderbilt"


Soledad Brother The Prison Letters of George Jackson

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson

"A collection of Jackson's letters from prison, Soledad Brother is an outspoken condemnation of the racism of white America and a powerful appraisal of the prison system that failed to break his spirit but eventually took his life. Jackson's letters make palpable the intense feelings of anger and rebellion that filled black men in America's prisons in the 1960s."

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Letters From Friends

The Letters of Noël Coward

The Letters of Noël Coward

"The first and definitive collection of letters (most of them previously unpublished) both from and to the incomparable Noël Coward, a unique and irresistible portrait of a society and age—from the Blitz to the Ritz and beyond"

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Under the Sun The Letters of Bruce Chatwin

Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin

"Bruce Chatwin is one of the most significant British novelists and travel writers of our time ... Careful and considered in drafting his published work, the letters are Chatwin's only unedited writing, and a paean to a disappearing mode of communication: tangible proof of a life as it was lived, and possibly one of the last great collections of a writer's letters."

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84 Charing Cross Road

84 Charing Cross Road 

"The story unfolds through a series of letters between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London at 84, Charing Cross Road. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books."   

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Letters from Thinkers

Seneca Letter from a Stoic

Letters from a Stoic

"Along with the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca's Letters from a Stoic is one of the major texts of Roman Stoic philosophy. Themes include the rational order of the universe, how to lead a simple life, the effects and benefits of misfortune, and the necessity of facing mortality"


Dear Friend  You Must Change Your Life' The Letters of Great Thinkers

Dear Friend, You Must Change Your Life': The Letters of Great Thinkers

"We see some of the most fascinating thinkers in history at their most private and profound, reaching out to a friend, sharing, testing, confirming discoveries about the complexity of life, how to rise above its hardships and enjoy its pleasures."


Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track The Letters of Richard P. Feynman

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman

"I’m an explorer, OK? I like to find out!” -- One of the towering figures of twentieth-century science, Richard Feynman possessed a curiosity that was the stuff of legend. Even before he won the Nobel Prize in 1965, his unorthodox and spellbinding lectures on physics secured his reputation amongst students ... here was an extraordinary intellect devoted to the proposition that the thrill of discovery was matched only by the joy of communicating it to others."

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The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast

"Lewis's satire is a Christian classic. Screwtape is a veteran demon in the service of "Our Father Below" whose letters to his nephew and protagonist, Wormwood, instruct the demon-in-training in the fine points of leading a new Christian astray. Lewis's take on human nature is as on-target as it was when the letters were first published in 1941."  For the author's actual letters to his friends and readers see also The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis.

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Letters From Lovers

The Love Letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

The Love Letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

"The relationship between Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning began in his admiring her poetry. His audacious first letter moves from loving her books to loving her. ... the fullness of their love is revealed in these letters."

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Love in the Blitz The Long-Lost Letters of a Brilliant Young Woman to Her Beloved on the Front

Love in the Blitz: The Long-Lost Letters of a Brilliant Young Woman to Her Beloved on the Front

"On July 17th 1939, Eileen Alexander, a bright young woman recently graduated from Girton College, Cambridge, begins a brilliant correspondence with fellow Cambridge student Gershon Ellenbogen that lasts five years and spans many hundreds of letters. "

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So, if you're inspired by this blog, why not write a letter (or even a postcard) and send it to someone as an unexpected act of friendship in 2022?