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Letter In Literature


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#1 inkspot

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 21:47

Another thread in this forum made me think of some of my favourite books and how many of them make great use of letter-writing in their plots. For example, Anne of Windy Poplars is written mostly as a series of letters from Anne telling about her time at Summerside High, and Jane Austen, in Pride and Prejudice, uses letters to begin Elizabeth's view of Mr. Darcy. What are some of your favourite letter-related moments in literature?

#2 Alec Fleschner

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Posted 25 February 2011 - 22:13

Dracula is entirely epistolic in nature, and I think it does a great job at telling the story and setting the mood.

#3 penrivers

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 02:08

Pierre Choderlos de Laclos: Dangerous liasons ( amistades peligrosas ), Los idus de marzo ( Thornton Wilder ), that I remember right now , there must be many.
... Pliny the elder and the younger.....

Edited by penrivers, 26 February 2011 - 02:15.


#4 scribere

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 01:57

This isn't quite what this thread is asking for (and I apologise), but I've always enjoyed collections of letters. Say, Cicero's letters, or those of Pliny (the Younger) about the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, to name two classic(al) examples.

I always find collections of letters interesting because the collecting of letters themselves into a literary format says so much about the importance we accord to them, particularly as they weren't originally conceived as being 'books' (even though letter-writing is certainly a literary form in and of itself!).
Dum spiro spero -- Cicero

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#5 inkspot

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 13:53

This isn't quite what this thread is asking for (and I apologise), but I've always enjoyed collections of letters. Say, Cicero's letters, or those of Pliny (the Younger) about the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, to name two classic(al) examples.

I always find collections of letters interesting because the collecting of letters themselves into a literary format says so much about the importance we accord to them, particularly as they weren't originally conceived as being 'books' (even though letter-writing is certainly a literary form in and of itself!).


I hold that these stand as examples of letters in literature - though they are not meant to be used as a literary device int heor original context, they still serve as an interesting and informative piece of literature as a collection. So they are entirely fitting with the topic of this thread :) Thanks for sharing!

#6 scribere

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 19:13

You're welcome! :)

(I used these examples as I'm currently reading Pliny's letters - hahaha.)
Dum spiro spero -- Cicero

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#7 electricpowerman

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 01:03

Quite a few historical letters have been preserved in the Bible, and I've always found them to be interesting reading. There are in fact so many letters, I can't list them all.

In the Old Testament there are letters between opposing political/military groups, and they can be quite amusing at times. For example, the letter from the King of Syria to the King of Israel demanding that he heal the skin disease of one of his captains (Naaman). They can also be quite appalling, as Jezebel's letter to frame Naboth as a blasphemer, or David's letter to Joab to arrange the murder of Uriah. Then there is a series of letters between the King of Bablyon and some of his governors concerning whether the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple should occur.

Most of the New Testament books in the Bible are actually letters from Paul, Peter and John. Some are very long, and some are very short. Some were written to people they knew well and some to people they hadn't met yet. The last book (Revelation) contains seven short letters that follow a pattern.
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#8 ceallaghguy

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 01:43

Mark Twain's "Letters From the Earth"
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#9 estie1948

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 06:47

There is The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. I have a book of J. B. Priestly's letters that is a favorite. It has been years since I last read it, but I believe Platero and I by Juan Ramon Jimenez, a wonderful book, is written as letters to Juan's burro, Platero. I must dig it out and read it again. Thanks for making me think of it.
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A backward poet writes inverse. -Anon.

#10 Blade Runner

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 03:42

Possession by A.S. Byatt

#11 Blade Runner

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 04:03

84 Charing Cross Road

#12 penrivers

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 20:46

This isn't quite what this thread is asking for (and I apologise), but I've always enjoyed collections of letters. Say, Cicero's letters, or those of Pliny (the Younger) about the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, to name two classic(al) examples.

I always find collections of letters interesting because the collecting of letters themselves into a literary format says so much about the importance we accord to them, particularly as they weren't originally conceived as being 'books' (even though letter-writing is certainly a literary form in and of itself!).

I saw in La Gandhi in Monterrey The letters of Truman Capote, I didnt buy it but I have been reading excelents reviews about that book, maybe next time.

#13 penrivers

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 20:52

84 Charing Cross Road

Sad to think they never meet each other.I Had the fortune to be in London in 98 but havent read the book at that time, so I didnt visit the book store. I saw the film, good.

#14 MrsWeetag

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 02:37

It's been a long time since I read it but The Color Purple would qualify. I remember being very moved by the story. Another one that was also made into a movie but I haven't read is Dangerous Liaisons. Probably my favorite though would be Harry Potter stories where mail was always so interestingly introduced. Loved the scene with the acceptance letters continuously coming into the house despite his uncle's efforts. Or the howler messages from Mrs. Weasley. :roflmho:

The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium. Norbet Platt

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#15 inkspot

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Posted 21 February 2012 - 20:09

It's been a long time since I read it but The Color Purple would qualify. I remember being very moved by the story. Another one that was also made into a movie but I haven't read is Dangerous Liaisons. Probably my favorite though would be Harry Potter stories where mail was always so interestingly introduced. Loved the scene with the acceptance letters continuously coming into the house despite his uncle's efforts. Or the howler messages from Mrs. Weasley. :roflmho:


Nice!

A bit of a departure from literature in the traditional sense, I've been noticing a variety of songs with references to letters:

  • Mark Knopfler - Praire Wedding
  • The Marvelettes - Please Mr. Postman
  • Eva Cassidy - The Letter
  • Gordon Lightfoot - Song For A Winter's Night
  • Diana Krall - Love Letters


#16 Blade Runner

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 04:09

Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine books

#17 Lalique

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 06:57

To this thread, "Letters in Literature", I submit Jean-Jacque Rousseau's 1761 epistolary novel, "Julie, or the New Heloise: Letters of Two Lovers Who Live in a Small Town at the Foot of the Alps". In Rousseau's "Julie, or the New Heloise", the ethics of individual autonomy and authenticity as essential human constructs of morality as they relate to broader social moral values are explored. Philosophically Rousseau values the ethics of authenticity over rational morality. Rousseau argues that imposition of society's moral values on personal behavior must be in accord with one's "secret principles", or consistent with one's personal identity, thematically arguing that assumption of moral values lacking autonomous authenticity leads to self destruction and, by implication, dangerous socio-political tensions and distress. The story being intentionally set as it is by Rousseau in the Medieval period of human history, Rousseau, as one of the intellectuals in the cultural movement of the 18TH century, speaks through "Julie, or the New Heloise" to motivate the power of reason for the reformation of society by the advancement of new ways of thinking about societal ethics and values in the Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason through historical period contrasts in human consciousness and awareness represented in his book between the Medieval era and the Renaissance for a more enlightened and reasoned, more autonomous and authentic posterity.


Edited by Lalique, 25 February 2012 - 14:39.


#18 mirosc

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 09:32

Jean de Meung - Roman de la Rose (Abelard et Heloise), 1280
Goethe - Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, 1774
von Hofmannsthal - Die Briefe des Zurückgekehrten, 1907
Glattauer - Gut gegen Nordwind, 2006

and of course:
Hector Savinien de Cyrano (de Bergerac), Letters sur divers sujets, 1654
some of the best letters ever!
Greetings,
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#19 Judybug

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 19:22

The first book I ever read which was written in letter format was "Daddy Long Legs" by Jean Webster. I was about 12 when I read it and have been hooked on these letter type books ever since. It's about a girl in an orphanage. She has a benefactor who is paying for her education. In return she must write to him regularly.

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#20 Stompie

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 19:45

My link

I dont know if you have seen this - hope it works!

Rats, does not seem to be working - it is the Digital Scriptorium. Full of fascinating stuff!

Edited by Stompie, 26 February 2012 - 19:47.

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#21 funkypeanut

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 18:11

The first book I ever read which was written in letter format was "Daddy Long Legs" by Jean Webster. I was about 12 when I read it and have been hooked on these letter type books ever since. It's about a girl in an orphanage. She has a benefactor who is paying for her education. In return she must write to him regularly.

Judybug


I just finished reading this last week after seeing (again) the movie with Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire. I actually found the book much more entertaining, but the ending seemed much more rushed than in the film.

Someone mentioned Jane Austen upthread, but not Lady Susan, which is told entirely in letters. Dracula and Frankenstein both use letters and diaries. Wilkie Collins also liked this form, and I can recommend The Woman in White as a great, suspense-filled novel.

One of my lesser-known favorites is E.O. Parrot's The Dogsbody Papers, which traces European history through the documents of the fictional Dogsbody family, including lots of letters. Hilarious!

#22 fncll

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 05:41

Continuing an earlier tangent.... I've slowly accumulated many volumes of letters, some of my favorites being the letters of Seneca, E. O. Wilson, Tolstoy, Robert Louis Stevenson, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Nabokov. I'm looking forward to the treasure trove of Joyce's letters that are becoming available as their copyright expires and Joyce's greedy ass of a son can't hide them any longer...
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#23 sidewinderwcc

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 03:31

My favorite book of all time is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. IT is truly a remarkable book with a unique spin that was revolutionary when written. As a companion to the books plot, Danielewski also wrote a book called the Whalestoe Letters which is a book composed of letters written from the main character to his mother. It is amazing to read a book that is a page turner that is composed of entirely letters!

#24 eduardp

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 16:06

I really like/love Flaubert's letters. They are so sincere and they tell you so much about what writing is and they mirror him as a human with all his faults. Pity they are forgotten now.

#25 HandLikeAFist

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 22:58

A writer's collected letters is not the same thing as letters used in literature.

Let me think...

"One may as well begin with Helen's letters to her sister." Howard's End.

And of course, Richardson: both Pamela and Clarissa are entirely composed of letters, and none the easier to read because of that.

#26 Blade Runner

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 00:53

An Englishwoman's love letters (fiction)

#27 Alyssa_Eloise

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 16:35

My favorite is in Arthur Millers, The Crucible: the scene where John Proctor is signing the addmitance to witchcraft document, which saves his life, but kills his name. In English class once, we saw the movie version, and that scene was my favorite: there was so much tension, and a life at stake. In the end, he tears the document up, to save his name, and do the honest thing.


BTW: great topic!


Oh my gosh! Yes, one of my favorite pieces of American Literature. No not my name! I love how Arthur Miller used this play to escape the reality of the Red Scare. Although he was accused of being a Communist, he uses his literature to show the nonsensicality of society. (I may have made up a word...Oh well...)

#28 bjcmatthews

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 12:12

Dracula is an excellent story composed of letters/journal entries, although the noble/romantic personalities of the characters wore thin after I read it the second time.

My personal fave is THE STRANGE CASE OF DOCTOR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE wherein the most significant twists of the plot are revealed in letter form, both post mortem the authors :D