Non Fiction: LITERATURE Usher
LETTERS OF NOTE: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (2013). Compiled by Shaun Usher.
All of the letters in this collection are exactly as the subtitle promises, deserving of a wider audience. These are letters of lives lived. Surprisingly touching, thoughtful, informative, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and always entertaining.
Two of my personal favorites were written by the chairman of London Hospital, Francis Carr-Gomm. The first letter, in 1886, was sent to the editor of The Times as an introduction to Joseph Merrick, the “elephant man,” regarding his sad history and his dire circumstances. Then came his plea:
“Can any of your readers suggest to me some fitting place where he can be received? And then I feel sure that … charitable people will come forward and enable me to provide him with such accommodation. In the meantime, though it is not the proper place for such an incurable case, the little room under the roof of our hospital … supplies him with all he wants.”
The second letter to The Times was sent in 1890 immediately after Joseph’s death. After recapping the earlier plight of the young man, Carr-Gomm continues:
“In this dilemma, while deterred by common humanity from evicting him again into the open street, I wrote to you, and from that moment all difficulty vanished … Here, therefore, poor Merrick was enabled to pass the three and a half remaining years of his life in privacy and comfort.”
Carr-Gomm’s letters unfold as a movie unspooling before the reader, beginning in tragedy and uncertainty but ending in kindness and a victory over bleak possibilities. Do yourself a favor and sign up for the newsletter at https://lettersofnote.com/
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