|Photo by acroamatic in Flickr, CC licensed|
I don't read much history, but I enjoy memoir and biography. Much of what makes up a biography comes from personal letters. I remember in doing some research on the composer Lou Harrison, realizing all the little tidbits that were possible because he had left his letters on file at an archive. I often wonder what will happen to all of us when we die and the majority of our correspondence dies in our e-mail accounts.
At least for people in the past, what remains of their letters tells a story. We can learn about a person, a place, an event, a time. I would like to do that more intentionally in 2014, and I am committing to reading at least one volume of letters a month.
Which letters? I have no idea. If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them. It isn't helped that in most bookstores, letters are filed under history or biography, so first I would need to have an idea of a time period or person I might hope letters exist for.
When visiting the Appomattox Court House yesterday, I had a nice chat with the recent college grad working in the bookstore. He pointed me to a volume of letters from the confederacy, arranged in date order from 1864-1865. That book, No Soap, No Pay, Diarrhea, Dysentery & Desertion:A Composite Diary of the Last 16 Months of the Confederacy from 1864 to 1865 will be one of my twelve volumes, and I expect to learn quite a bit more about the War Between the States (as it is referred to down here.)
@jackiemania just wrote a post about the letters of Emily Dickinson, and those definitely intrigued me. Watching John Adams on HBO made me want to read the letters between John and Abigail. Added up, this makes three months' worth, so I am definitely in need of recommendations for my epistolary reading.