Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book: World's Greatest Letters: From Ancient Greece to the Twentieth Century by Michelle Lovric

Alas, this book failed to deliver upon the high hopes I had set in place. It was worth an amble but I found myself uninterested in too many of the letters. Also, the chapters are unevenly weighted with too great a portion of the book given to the topics of love, family and friends. Other topics includes science, history and creativity, but the contents of these chapters is too sparse. Also, I found an absence of sufficient humour, vitriol and mad ramblings; there was a measure of colour in some of the letters but on balance this was greyed out by the greater number of letters relating sad news or discussing things not of my interest.

For more entertaining letters, one is better served by the excellent lettersofnote web-site, where the reader will find original letters along with with typed out versions. The latest entry is a great letter from comedian Tommy Cooper to his mother:

"...Looking forward very much to seeing you and have a nice long rest with us Jan. All day yesterday, I heard a ringing in my ears — Then I picked up the phone and it stopped. I was going to see my doctor, but he isn't a very good doctor. All his patients are sick. Dove & myself are on a new diet. We eat our breakfast in the raw. Then we eat our lunch raw. For dinner we put on clothes."

Now that's a letter!


My favourite quotes from the book:

Napoleon Bonaparte writing to his love Josephine Beauharnais (1796)
 "By what art have you become able to captivate all my faculties ..."

Karl Marx on how he expects Das Capital to impact society (1864):
"Now I hope to finish it in a couple of months and to deal a theoretical blow to the bourgeoisie from which they will never recover"

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