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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 form.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780192804907
ISBN-10: 0192804901
Format: Paperback
(195mm x 129mm x 31mm)
Pages: 584
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 24-Jul-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


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Author Biography - 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 University.

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