The Oxford Book of Letters

The Oxford Book of Letters

3.63 (22 ratings by Goodreads)
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Reading other people's letters, like reading private diaries, offers thrilling and unexpected glimpses into their lives, and it is partly the guilty pleasure we take in such literary eavesdropping that makes this volume so compelling. More than 300 letters spanning five centuries chronicle the affairs of correspondents from Elizabeth I to Groucho Marx, from politicians to poets, and from the famous to the unknown. But whether the writers are educated or barely literate, whether the prose is polished and witty or stumbling and artless, these letters share an immediacy and intimacy unlike any other form of writing. Their subjects range from the mundane to the extraordinary, from gossip about the latest fashion to the horrors of a public execution, and from the tragic to the hilarious. Exchanges of letters between regular correspondents are included, where familiarity and an ongoing saga add to the fascination. Among the most moving letters are those from emigrants to America, Australia, and South Africa, describing the hardships they endured and the resolution with which they faced their new worlds. In every case the editors provide a context for the letters, and unobtrusive notes. In an age where communication is instant and ephemeral this volume celebrates the glories of the written word, and what may well be a dying art more

Product details

  • Paperback | 584 pages
  • 132.08 x 193.04 x 33.02mm | 362.87g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0192804901
  • 9780192804907
  • 835,070

Review quote

There are numerous witty and engaging stories to enjoy ... A delightful collection of comic and tragic intimacies. * The Lady * elegant and beautifully selected anthology ... The authors of this splendid compilation, which is a source of constant delight, date 1918 as the end of the great period of letter writing. * The Birmingham Post * we had better make the most of their admirably discriminating selection of letters ... it is a matter of taste and breadth of reading, and the Kermodes have both * The Spectator * This is a wonderful compilation of life as once lived, more vivid than any documentary film or audio tape. * The Express * If you have a tendency to pry - and who doesn't - feast your eyes on this admirable collection of private jottings spanning 450 years. * Herald Express * The editors provide an appropriately elegant, quizzical introduction, and let us get on with it ... it's interesting to dip into. * New Statesman & Society * a splendidly eclectic seleciton of readings from all sources and all ages * Caterer & Hotelkeeper * elegant and beautifully selected anthology ... splendid compilation, which is a source of constant delight * Western Morning News * fascinating and often humorous book * Yorkshire Evening Press * a delight and a tease. The editors give notes with each piece, and an interesting introduction ... An aspect of this book that makes it a pleasure to put down as well as to read is its cover. To reproduce Mary Cassatt's painting, The Letter, may have been an obvious choice, but a very good one. * Hampstead & Highgate * it can be read, with pleasure * London Review of Books * Collections like this act as tasters and make you want to find out more about the people involved. If you enjoy this book as much as I did, you will have a lifetime of reading to come. * Hitchin Gazette * A wonderful collection of some 300 letters written by Britons and Americans from 1535 to 1985 ... An interesting and important record of a dying art. * Publishers Weekly * the editors have unearthed some gems in this collection ... This is a stimulating anthology, with an incisive and witty introduction, touching lightly on the sociology and history of letter-writing. * Literary Review * admirable ... the Kermodes have a wonderful eye for a "good" letter. * The Times Literary Supplement * The sheer scale of the book is impressive; the variety of its contents cannot fail to delight the casual browser ... it is an imaginative and scholarly trawl ... The anthology is crammed with surprises. * The Sunday Times * defenders of the genre will seize Frank and Anita Kermode's book with rapture: it's new proof of just how marvellous anthologies can be. This is a rich, ripe mid-summery collection ... The selection is so intelligent and lucid it reads like the most intimate of social histories ... This is a collection that almost achieves perfection: majestic and accessible, wonderfully funny, memorably sad. * The Observer * This fine collection of letters tends to the noble in expression. * The Daily Telegraph * Joyous celebration of lettres intimes across the centuries, from Thomas More to Groucho Marx via Herbert Henry Asquith * The Independent * The Oxford Book of Letters ... contains everything you would expect and more ... at this price, the anthology's 550 pages are a bargain. * Sunday Telegraph * real cream, not skimmed milk, a volume of traditional bulk and gravity * The Financial Times * The Oxford Book of Letters is a celebration of private correspondence ... 500 pages of delight in which even the tragedy is uplifting ... There is much to learn from The Oxford Book of Letters. * The Independent * Review from previous edition More than 500 letters, spanning five centuries and chronicling the affairs of correspondents from George Eliot and Oscar Wilde to Groucho Marx, from poets to philosophers, from gossip about the latest fashions to gruesome details of executions, capture the panoply of human life from the mundane to the most momentous occasions. * Sunday Times *show more

About Frank Kermode

An acclaimed critic, scholar, and author, Frank Kermode was formerly King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. He has written and edited many books, including Uses of Error (1991), History and Value (1989), The Oxford Anthology of English Literature (with John Hollander, 1973) Shakespeare's Language (2001), and Pleasing Myself: From Beowolf to Philip Roth (2002). Anita Kermode has researched and taught English and American literature at Rutgers University, the University of Cambridge, and Columbia more

Rating details

22 ratings
3.63 out of 5 stars
5 14% (3)
4 45% (10)
3 32% (7)
2 9% (2)
1 0% (0)
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