National Stationery Week: an ode to the handwritten letter

As part of National Stationery Week’s Get Britain Writing campaign, we’re celebrating the appeal of lovingly crafted letters. All that poignant emotion conveyed in painstakingly chosen words, to be pored over by the recipient who can read, re-read, have a cry, then read again. In this age of texts and instant messaging, it seems that brevity and daft emoticons trump eloquence and skillful expression every time. To illustrate the point, here are five great letters from history – epic, moving and profound – reduced to 21st century text messages.


Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, who would become his second wife, 1527:

 “I beg to know expressly your intention touching the love between us. Necessity compels me to obtain this answer, having been more than a year wounded by the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail or find a place in your affection.”

 [TEXT] Stop playin games – r u mine or not? Big Henry X


Claude Monet to his wife, Alice, on Friday, 8 February 1901, while staying at the Savoy Hotel in London:

“Today the sun did not show itself and that really bothered me, the fog was very thick the whole day, even though I remained conscientiously on the look out, having my lunch brought up to me for fear that a break in the weather might occur while I was in the restaurant, but in spite of everything the day was not much good, even this evening at the hospital you could not see much – in fact, it is to be expected because that's the climate.”

[TEXT] Murky skies. Can’t paint. British weather sux.


Charlotte Brontë to Professor Constantin Heger, 8 January, 1845:

“Monsieur, the poor have not need of much to sustain them – they ask only for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table. But if they are refused the crumbs they die of hunger. Nor do I, either, need much affection from those I love. I should not know what to do with a friendship entire and complete – I am not used to it. But you showed me of yore a little interest, when I was your pupil in Brussels, and I hold on to the maintenance of that little interest – I hold on to it as I would hold on to life.”

[TEXT] I’m crazy 4 U, professor. Can’t get u off my mind. Charl xxx


Steve Jobs letter of resignation to the Apple board of directors and the Apple community, 24 August, 2011:

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”

[TEXT] My big boss days are over – it’s Tim’s turn. I still wanna be on the firm. Love yas – Steve x


Mary Queen of Scots to her former brother-in-law, King Henry III of France. Written on 8 February 1587, just six hours before her execution at Fotheringhay Castle:

 “I have taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones, talismans against illness, trusting you will enjoy good health and a long and happy life. Accept them from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feelings for you. Give instructions if it please you, that for my soul’s sake part of what you owe me should be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to found a memorial mass and give the customary alms.

Your most moving and most true sister,

Marie R. Queen of Scotland”

[TEXT] I’m for the chop, bro. Sending you this lucky bling coz I care 4 U. Plz pay my bills when I’m gone. Mary x 


31 Mar 2014 14:17
Great feature to kick off National Stationery Week. It's all about handwritten correspondence for us at CL.AM Correspondence !
jill tse
31 Mar 2014 18:03
the transform to Text msg part is so funny :)
David Brookes
31 Mar 2014 22:31
Ha ha love this :-)
01 Apr 2014 00:57
Nothing beats a good old fashioned hand written letter.
C Hiazos
01 Apr 2014 17:05
Yes Jill,
The text message was definitely funny.
Alex Wilkie
02 Apr 2014 12:33
almost gone as a form of expression, glad to see this nod to the humble letter and no LOL in sight.
Sarah Southworth
02 Apr 2014 20:14
everyone love to receive post...when it's not a bill! Bring back the written letter.
Adam Smith
07 Apr 2014 15:46
Haha great read :)
Bryony Bishop
10 Oct 2017 15:04
I miss getting handwritten letters!

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