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On Letters

October 26, 2009

I like to imagine that when the end comes and enough time elapses for a new civilization to build a new world, archaeologists will unearth an enormous tin box of letters when they chance to dig in the spot where my house used to be.

Yes, aside from being a brilliant exercise escape artist, I am a hoarder of letters.

One might sing lofty praises about today’s high-tech correspondence, but there is something timeless and infinitely personal about a hand-written note one can read over and over, and touch, knowing that the writer took pen to paper and held that very same sheet in his or her own hands. A letter capturing a sentiment in a fixed time and place is a thing of surpassing beauty.

More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” – John Donne

Love letters are especially good at this.

Here is one I wrote on the day the IAU passed a resolution to redefine its criteria of planets, thereby excluding Pluto from the list.


August 24, 2006

My Love,

It seems by some learned decree
we recently lost a planet.
In this way I hope to someday
think of you and no longer ache;
suddenly, unthinkably, finally.
Done before the heart’s persuasion sets
and the mind’s incredulous gasp escapes.
Leaving only my body
and its reluctant continuing
in a reconfigured cosmos.


I won’t go into the circumstances around the letter, but will say that it was never sent and leave it at that.

Every time I read it I am immediately right where I was when I wrote it. It makes for a wonderful means of realistic time travel.

But since I feel obligated to give you something useful on this topic, and I want to shoot down any rising suspicion that I’ve just rambled on and caused you to lose precious minutes as usual, here is a fantastic website on letters and such:

  • Letters of Note : Correspondence deserving of a wider audience
  • Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos.

You should check it out, it’s a veritable treasure trove of correspondence from all over.

This is my favorite so far:

Mark Twain’s lovely letter to 9-year-old Enid Jocelyn Agnew in 1907.

Enjoy. And for goodness’ sake, keep writing letters.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2009 9:46 pm

    Madame, that is one exquisite, exceptional letter. If I wrote it I would have mailed it to myself and wrapped it in a silk pouch. Positively beautiful.

    For the record, I still mourn Pluto. It’s worse than what the Catholic church did when they revoked sainthood from some poor souls due to lack of evidence. Hmmm. Now that there might be a poem…..;)

  2. October 26, 2009 10:12 pm

    I’m hopeless on that one too– I’ll always consider Pluto a planet for sentimental reasons.
    As for that there poem, I say go for it. Write to me when it’s done 😉

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