Letter writing, the endangered species of correspondence, is responsible for nurturing some of history’s most celebrated relationships. Thankfully, it has also documented them.
Most of our written correspondence happens quickly, urgently. A few words appear; we respond; they disappear. Sometimes, though, a real letter arrives, and that invites attention and time. Personal, handwritten correspondence, so common only a generation ago, has now become unexpected, and, while not quite a lost art, it is rare enough to provoke some examination.
To begin, consider the letter as defined five centuries ago by Flemish philologist Justus Lipsius in Principles of Letter-Writing. “A letter, ” he says, is “a message of the mind to someone who is absent.” Letters travel over distance and time to bind people together. And, with their very physical presence, they convey thoughts, feelings and emotions in ways not possible using other means.
Photography:Courtesy of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
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