Monday, April 8, 2013

Fan Letters by Great Authors to Great Authors

I blogged last November about how Lord Byron was a fan of Mary Shelley's work, particularly Frankestein, and how he treasued his autographed copy.

We all know that feeling: When we stand in line, with a frantically beating heart, of a booksigning by an author whose entire backlist of books we've read and re-read and treasured. And then we step up to the front, and it's our turn to babble nervously and with joy at the author telling him or her how very much we enjoy their books. Or we send an equally incoherent email to the author recounting all many ways we admire their works.

Well, authors were once or continue to be fans, too. At heart, they're readers who enjoy entertaining, well-crafted stories and admire the authors behind those tales. Here are some of the fan letters by The Greats put forth by Flavorwire.

From Norman Mailer to William Styron:

February 26, 1953

Dear Bill,

You certainly deserve a fan letter. As a matter of fact I’ve been meaning to write ever since I read “Long March” about a month ago. I think it’s just terrific, how good I’m almost embarrassed to say, but as a modest estimate it’s certainly as good an eighty pages as any American has written since the war, and really I think it’s much more than that. You watch. It’s going to last and last and last. And some day people will consider it as being close to the level of something as marvelous as The Heart of Darkness, which by the way, for no reason I know, it reminded me of. [...]

My best to you, Bill,

From Charles Dickens to George Eliot:


January 18, 1858, London

My Dear Sir

I have been so strongly affected by the two first tales in the book you have had the kindness to send me through Messrs. Blackwood [Eliot’s publisher], that I hope you will excuse my writing to you to express my admiration of their extraordinary merit. The exquisite truth and delicacy, both of the humour and the pathos of those stories, I have never seen the like of; and they have impressed me in a manner that I should find it very difficult to describe to you, if I had the impertinence to try. [...]

Your obliged and faithful Servant, and admirer


From Virginia Woolf to Olaf Stapledon:

Dear Mr. Stapledon,

I would have thanked you for your book before, but I have been very busy and have only just had time to read it. I don’t suppose that I have understood more than a small part — all the same I have understood enough to be greatly interested, and elated too, since sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction. But you have gone much further and I can’t help envying you — as one does those who reach what one has aimed at.

Many thanks for giving me a copy,
yours sincerely,
Virginia Woolf