To the Letter

To the Letter : A Journey Through a Vanishing World

3.72 (516 ratings by Goodreads)
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To the Letter tells the story of our remarkable journey through the mail. From Roman wood chips discovered near Hadrian's Wall to the wonders and terrors of email, Simon Garfield explores how we have written to each other over the centuries and what our letters reveal about our lives.

Along the way he delves into the great correspondences of our time, from Cicero and Petrarch to Jane Austen and Ted Hughes (and John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, Anais Nin and Charles Schulz), and traces the very particular advice offered by bestselling letter-writing manuals. He uncovers a host of engaging stories, including the tricky history of the opening greeting, the ideal ingredients for invisible ink, and the sad saga of the dead letter office. As the book unfolds, so does the story of a moving wartime correspondence that shows how letters can change the course of life.

To the Letter is a wonderful celebration of letters in every form, and a passionate rallying cry to keep writing.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 464 pages
  • 144 x 218 x 46mm | 519.99g
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • Integrated black & white; photographs throughout
  • 0857868586
  • 9780857868589
  • 161,764

Review quote

Garfield being Garfield, there's a rich cull of curiosities . . . A shining success -- John Carey * * The Sunday Times * * 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 -- Diana Athill * * Literary Review * * A wonderfully elegant history * * Observer * * 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 -- Craig Brown * * 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 -- Libby Purves * * The Times * * Excellent, amusing and moving * * Financial Times * * Superb * * Independent on Sunday * * Garfield is an elegant and perceptive writer . . . his judgment is immaculate * * Daily Mail * * To the Letter thrills and engages most when it cuts to the core of human relationships, showing personalities pinned to the page in all their painful imperfections * * Observer * * Delightful * * Daily Mail * * An informative lament for the mail * * Metro * * From wooden tablets dug up at the ancient Roman garrison Vindolanda, UK, to the epistolary gems of novelist Virginia Woolf, this is a billet-doux to two millennia of the impassioned, often life-changing power of private correspondence * * Nature * * Garfield has a keen eye for what makes a good letter . . . he is a knowledgeable guide to his subject * * Scotsman * * A Paean to the dying art of letter writing...fascinating...moving and illuminating * * Herald Scotland * * Wonderful * * Woman & Home * * A love letter to what is already an outdated mode of communication . . . Cantering through two millennia of letters with Garfield as our guide, it's fun to spot the things that never change * * Guardian * * A well-timed, engrossing study of epistolary art through the ages ... an inspiring read * * The Lady * * Stuffed with marvellous anecdotes, fascinating historical tidbits and excerpts from epistolary masters both ancient and modern . . . infectious * * New York Times * * An addictive account of a dying artform * * Red * * A book to recommend * * Spectator * * A shining tribute to the dying art of letter writing * * The Sunday Times * * In digging through two centuries of letters, Garfield unearths a heap of epistolary ruins . . . fascinating . . . Quirky stories abound * * Washington Post * * Garfield has impressively condensed 2000 years and a lot of wonderful characters into an accessible, comprehensively-researched book bubbling with his customary wit and joy in the absurd . . . A fascinating book * * We Love This Book * * An endlessly informative book from one of Britain's best non-fiction writers * * Reader's Digest * * Fresh and informative throughout. It would be difficult for anyone to read this book without finding something they enjoyed or found incredibly interesting. I would recommend this book to anybody * * Literature Works * * Wonderful . . . vivid, witty and moving * * Sunday Business Post * * Utterly compelling and surprisingly moving . . . Full of fascinating facts and wonderful stories * * Sunday Business Post * *
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About Simon Garfield

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.
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Rating details

516 ratings
3.72 out of 5 stars
5 19% (97)
4 45% (230)
3 28% (145)
2 8% (39)
1 1% (5)
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