What a fortuitous week! Powell's and I honestly picked this week at random for my guest blogspot (thanks, guys!) ? neither of us having any idea there would be so much going on in the world of letters. On Wednesday it was reported that a priceless lot of letters was found in Switzerland (scroll down for that write up), and this morning at 7:22 a.m. Eastern Standard Time I found myself reading about a letter written by Abraham Lincoln
found only three weeks ago at the National Archives. It's a short, two-sentence letter written to Maj. General Henry Halleck four days after the battle of Gettysburg:
July 7, 1863
We have certain information that Vicksburg surrendered to General Grant on the 4th of July. Now, if Gen. Meade can complete his work so gloriously prosecuted thus far, by the literal or substantial destruction of Lee's army, the rebellion will be over.
And the moral of the story is: We need to keep writing letters so that our descendants can continually uncover us. I am willing to compromise ? for those of you who know you'll never write another letter in your life, please consider printing out your favorite e-mails. Print those that move you the most, and put them in a shoebox. You will be glad you did this someday! And now, for my last number, I will give you bits and pieces of some of my favorite good-bye letters. Thank you for a wonderful week, and I hope you enjoy!
French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir writes to American writer Nelson Algren when she returns to Paris after their first romantic encounter in Chicago.
May 18, 1947
We must know every kind of love. We'll know the joy of meeting again. I want it, I need it, and I'll get it. Wait for me. I wait for you. I love you more ever than I said, more maybe than you know. I'll write very often. Write to me very often too. I am your wife. forever.
From Robert E. Lee to his army following his surrender to Ulysses S. Grant (Lincoln's plan worked!):
April 10, 1865
You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection. With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country and grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
Union Solider Sullivan Ballou writes to his wife Sarah, anticipating his death, before the first Battle of Bull Run. He did lose his life in the battle.
July 14, 1861
If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on this battlefield, it will whisper your name. Forgive my faults and the many pains I have caused you.... But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back and to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you... do not mourn me dead; Think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again...
From Marie Antoinette to her sister-in-law Elisabeth. The last letter she wrote before going to the guillotine.
October 16, 1793
Farewell, my good and tender sister, I hope that this letter may reach you. Do not forget me. I embrace you with all my heart as well as my poor children. My God! How it tears my heart to leave them forever. Farewell! Farewell! I must now think of my spiritual duties.