“Letters have the power to grant us a larger life. They reveal motivation and deepen understanding. They are evidential. They change lives, and they rewire history”
The paperback outing of this engaging and enlightening history of letter-writing and our relationship with the mail, from the bestselling author of Just My Type and On the Map
Every letter contains a miniature story, and here are some of the greatest. From Oscar Wilde’s unconventional method of using the mail to cycling enthusiast Reginald Bray’s quest to post himself, Simon Garfield uncovers a host of stories that capture the enchantment of this irreplaceable art (with a supporting cast including Pliny the Younger, Ted Hughes, Virginia Woolf, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, David Foster Wallace and the Little Red-Haired Girl). There is also a brief history of the letter-writing guide, with instructions on when and when not to send fish as a wedding gift. And as these accounts unfold, so does the tale of a compelling wartime correspondence that shows how the simplest of letters can change the course of a life.
“Garfield being Garfield, there’s a rich cull of curiosities … A shining success”
the Sunday Times
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“Wonderful … One of the things which makes this book so attractive is Garfield’s enjoyment of his subject. He writes with a winning informality and freshness”
“A wonderfully elegant history”
“A brilliant account of a lost art … funny letters, sad letters, pompous letters, famous letters, farewell letters, saucy letters, letters from soldiers and letters from swindlers: they are all here”
mail On Sunday
“A hymn of praise to twenty centuries of letter-writing. It spurs a desire to reach once more for the pad and envelope…Garfield’s knowledge is wide and his enthusiasm matchless”
Simon Garfield is the author of fourteen acclaimed books of non-fiction including On the Map, Just My Type and The Wrestling. His edited diaries from the Mass Observation Archive, Our Hidden Lives, We Are At War and Private Battles, were bestsellers, and his study of AIDS in Britain, The End of Innocence, won the Somerset Maugham prize. He lives in London and St Ives, Cornwall.