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No One Apologizes Quite Like Napoleon

Letter writers, collectors, and historians all hit the tangible jackpot yesterday! Roughly 1,000 historic letters were found hidden away in a filing cabinet in a Swiss laundry room. These epistles were written by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, John Donne, and Queen Elizabeth I. The missives were collected by a wealthy Austrian banker named Albin Schram who died in 2005. He neglected to tell his family of his astounding collection. The lot of letters is set to be auctioned off at Christie's in London on July 3rd. It is estimated that they will yield up to $4.6 million. According to the New York Times:

"One of the rarest letters was written by an apologetic Napoleon on the morning after a furious argument with his wife, Josephine. In a spidery scrawl full of corrections and crossings out, Napoleon wrote, 'I send you three kisses — one on your heart, one on your mouth and one on your eyes.'"

I wonder what the fight was about! She must have called him a tyrant...

As Promised...

Yesterday I swore to unveil my simple formula for writing short, sincere thank you notes, and I shall. I also said I'd give tips on writing graduation and Father's Day cards. I'm going to hold off on the last two and save them for tomorrow (we've still got time before Father's Day). I just didn't anticipate the breaking letter news above (who would?). I do this in the name of wedding season. This is for all you brides (and grooms whose new wives are making them help with the thank you cards). As for the rest of you: remember this next time you throw a birthday bash.

Four Sentence Thank You Note Formula

Sentence 1: Thank them for the gift. It can be as simple as "Thank you for the scarf." Or you could take the more enthusiastic route: "The scarf is gorgeous!" depending on how you feel about the item.

Sentence 2: Elaborate on the gift. Talk about how you plan to use it or how you've already used it. For example, "It is sure to get me through this harsh winter in style."

Sentence 3: Bring the note back to the person. In other words, thank them above all for attending your wedding or birthday party. If they were unable to make it, tell them how you missed them. And if there was no event, simply remind them how glad you are that they are a part of your life.

Sentence 4: Mention the next time you're going to see them. If there's an upcoming event say, "I'll see you at Jason's 4th of July party in a few weeks." If there's not you can say, "Let's have coffee soon," or "I'll see you the next time I'm in San Diego."

Sign off and you're done.

If you didn't like the gift: No need to lie. Simply say thank you. "Thank you for the Darth Vader Pez dispenser," and either omit the second sentence or replace it and have two sentences about the person instead. For example, "It was wonderful to catch up with you after all this time. I enjoyed hearing about your trip to Maui, and seeing your breathtaking photos."

Below you'll find the 4-sentence formula in action:

Dear Carrie,
Thank you so much for the blender. I use it to make a fruit smoothie every morning. Above all, thank you for attending our wedding — you looked beautiful in your baby blue dress. I'll see you at Lisa's birthday party in August.
Much love,

Dear Mike,
Thank you for your generous check. We are excited to put it toward our kitchen renovation. Most of all, thank you for making the trip to Newport to share our wedding day with us. We will have you over as soon as the kitchen is finished.
With love from both of us,

÷ ÷ ÷

Samara O'Shea is the author of For the Love of Letters, and founder and editor of LetterLover.net, a letter-writing service. A Manhattan transplant, she lives outside Philadelphia.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. For the Love of Letters: A... Used Hardcover $7.95

Samara O'Shea is the author of For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing

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