Book Review Thirty-Six
Letters of Note compiled by Shaun Usher, is a collection of over 125 pieces of correspondence ranging from easily recognized names to those written by the average person. Usher also provides a brief introduction to each note. There are photographs of the original documents which add to the historical value of this title. Notice that there are NO cell phone texts or emails included.
Here is just a sampling of some that caught my attention.
- Katharine Hepburn’s letter to Spencer Tracy written eighteen years after his death. It ends with “What did you say? I can’t hear you…”
- In 1940, Clementine Churchill writes to her husband Winston encouraging him to be kinder in his words to his staff.
- A photograph of young Virginia O’Hanlon along with the well- known reply by the editor The New York Sun -“Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus.”
- Three fans of Elvis Presley living in Montana implored President Eisenhower not to cut Presley’s hair when he joined the Army.
- A letter from Francis Crick to his son detailing his co-discovery of the structure of DNA became the most expensive letter sold to date at an auction in 2013 for $5.3 million.
- Are you having trouble finding a job these days? In 1483, so did Leonardo DA Vinci. He writes to the court of the ruler of Milan, describing his engineering talents. It was later discovered that the letter had been written not by DA Vinci but by a professional writer.
- Thankfully some letters never have to be sent. Presidential speechwriter William Safire provided a letter to be read by President Nixon in the event that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became stranded on the Moon in July, 1969.
- One of the more humorous is the correspondence between a representative of the Department of Environmental Quality to a resident in Michigan concerning an unauthorized “Dam Project” on his property. The architects of the offending dam turned out to be a group of well qualified beavers.
- Love is often the subject of most of our written notes. In 1958 John Steinbeck took the time to offer his thoughts on the subject to his fourteen year old son, Thomas.
Letters of Note gives the reader the rare opportunity to choose any particular page to read. Each page is a discovery of the writer’s character and the time period in which it is written.
What about your own family’s letters? They are probably scattered in various locations. Why not take some time to organize them and provide a place of safe keeping, to be preserved so they can be read and cherished.