A friend of mine LOVES writing letters. She just loves it. I, meanwhile, do not. I’m so lazy sometimes the thought of replying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an email makes me sigh. But here’s the thing, I love love love receiving letters. I adore it.
The Canadian One leaves a note each morning for me to wake up to (as he leaves before me) and I leave him a reply to come home to (as he’s home first). I find myself jumping out of bed at the sound of the front door closing and scouring the kitchen in search of my morning message. Search over, message found, I smile and retreat back to bed to think of a reply. I save them all. Each and every one of them in a folder all together. Some of the more endearing ones come to live in my purse.
For my Canadian visa application, we had to submit them all to immigration as ‘proof of our relationship’. Sitting on the floor, surrounded by all these letters, notes, post-it reminders and badly drawn pictures we read through each one (mainly to weed out the ones that would make us blush if sent out into the public) and relived moments of our relationship we’d completely forgotten about. The moments we would never have remembered had we not written about them. The moments were we’d be creatively telling each other we loved each other before we’d said the actual words. The moments we should remember and we should treasure and save forever and I guess that’s the point of a letter.
Which brings me to today’s timewaster: Letters of Note.
Started by Shaun Usher and now containing a collection of over 804 letters, Letters of Note has been on my bookmarked favorites list for some time. Although, I have to admit, I try not to go on to it too often as I find myself planning to read just one letter and end up two hours later crying at a letter number 64 of the day! With a book due to be released in November with the help of Unbound (another awesome website, like indiegogo but for books), I thought it would be the perfect time to showcase my favorite letters on the site.
At age 8, Teresa Jusino was a huge Wil Wheaton (him from Star Trek: The Next Generation fame) fan and saved up the $12.00 membership fee it cost to join the then 15-year-old’s fan club, ‘Wilpower’. Having waited and waited and waited and waited for her membership letter and official membership kit items to arrive, a disappointed Teresa realized they never would.
However, years later, in 2009, a 29-year-old Teresa received a surprise in the mail after Wheaton had read about her story.
In 2003, when Conan-fan, Nikki Simmons invited her idol to her prom, she never expected an actual response, let alone one so funny and touching.
Next up (and if you’re easily offended, I recommend skipping this one) is Matt Stone’s reply to the MPAA after they’d repeatedly asked him to alter certain parts of his 1999 movie, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
Along the same line, the Monty Python boys held a preview screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail eight months before its release. Afterwards, Mark Forstater, one of the film’s producers who I had the great pleasure of meeting and interviewing years ago, wrote this letter to the BBFC.
And finally, my favorite ever letter to appear on the site and easily one of their most popular:
In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdon — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below.
August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.
I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.
As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.
In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
From your old servant,
I urge you to check out the rest of the letters on the site, in particular, this month’s most recent:
- Charles Babbage’s suggestion for an alteration to Alfrede Tennyson’s poem, ‘The Vision of Sin’
- A letter from Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, upon the death of his 20-year-old son
- And finally, academy award-winning scriptwriter Robert Pirosh’s 1934 letter inquiring about job openings for scriptwriters
Dear readers of TKW, I promise you your day will be brighter if you check out all of these and more, or just buy the book and enjoy every word on every page.
And to Shaun Usher, thank you. Thank you very much.
Still got time to waste? For more Timewasters, check out:
- Tuesday Timewasters – 09/18
- Tuesday Timewasters – Did YOU know about THIS?! – Korean Theme Parks – 09/11
- Tuesday Timewasters – Did YOU know about THIS?! – 09/04
- Typhoon Timewasters – Top10 10s – 08/28
- Tuesday Timewasters – 08/21
- Half a Year of Ketchup – A round up of the best of the last 6 months
- ‘Dear God, So who made the dinosaurs…?’ (Note: The most popular timewaster on this site!)
- Tuesday Timewasters – The Movies / Books / TV Edition – 07/24
- Tuesday Timewasters – The Viral Edition – 06/19
- Tuesday Timewasters – The Newspaper Edition – 05/01
- Tuesday Timewasters 05/29 – ‘The Best of George Takei’
- ‘Dear Internet, Stop being so distracting…!’ – Tuesday Timewasters – April 10th 2012