New to our Reader is Letters of Note, a joyously voyeuristic insight into old and unusual correspondence between notable cultural figures such as Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ernest Hemingway, often written before the
New to our Reader is Letters of Note, a joyously voyeuristic insight into old and unusual correspondence between notable cultural figures such as Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ernest Hemingway, often written before the internet age and certainly never intended to be displayed on such a public platform. It is curated by Manchester-based freelance copywriter Shaun Usher who is also working on book based on the blog.
How long have you been interested in other people's correspondence?
The website has been running since September of 2009. Before that, in all honesty, I had no interest whatsoever in the correspondence of others. The idea for Letters of Note was sparked spontaneously one day as the result of some written work I was producing for a client. A quick search for a website dedicated to such an endeavour was, rather surprisingly, fruitless. Since that moment I have become painfully obsessed with the subject matter.
What draws you to read other people's private correspondence?
There is not a single aspect of the letter writing process that I don't find fascinating, from the weight of the paper on which it's written through to the sometimes telling choice of valediction. More importantly, people seem at their most relaxed and open when writing letters – presumably because at that quiet moment they don't envisage someone as rude as myself rifling through their missives at a later date and hanging them out to dry on the internet – and as a result it's often possible to catch a rare glimpse of a person's true, unguarded character. Further, some of these letters are of immense historical importance and offer a snapshot of the world otherwise unattainable.
Where do you source the correspondence?
All manner of avenues, but the majority are discovered online. The internet is awash with images of letters, memos and telegrams, but the difficulty is in finding them amongst all the noise; luckily, over the years I've come to develop Google search skills unmatched by most and can almost smell images of letters through the monitor. I also receive a healthy amount of submissions from readers, and these are usually the most exciting discoveries as it means they're very possibly previously unpublished, either online or off.
Which is your favourite Letter?
An Impossible choice, however the letter I've returned to more often than any other was written by Laura Huxley in 1963, and describes in detail the final hours of her late husband, the novelist Aldous Huxley. It's simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, and the reading of it never fails to put everything into perspective for me. It affects me in ways that most books and films never could.
You have another letter-related blog too, Letterheady, all about letterhead designs, is this another aspect of correspondence that interests you?
A welcome side effect of curating Letters of Note is the accumulation of countless examples of letterheads. These days people design unique backgrounds and colour schemes for their Twitter pages, or pay others to craft beautiful layouts for their blogs in an effort to stand out in the crowd. Prior to the advent of email and Twitter, when the sending of physical letters was a necessity should you wish to communicate over distance, people similarly “pimped” their medium by way of personalised stationery and letterheads.