The Field - - Country Estate Books -

Let­ters are love, long­ing, life. They are pain, hurt and an­guish, too. The let­ter em­bod­ies all hu­man emo­tion, far bet­ter than a blunt elec­tronic mes­sage so of­ten mis­con­strued. A let­ter can start a war, build a peace and splut­ter with per­son­al­ity. They are won­der­ful things and in his new book Si­mon Se­bag Mon­te­fiore ex­plores an eclec­tic sam­ple of epis­to­lary high­lights.

The book is split into sec­tions, start­ing with love, fam­ily, cre­ation and courage via blood, de­struc­tion and dis­as­ter among oth­ers, to down­fall and good­bye. Each let­ter is in­tro­duced by Mon­te­fiore, put into his­tor­i­cal con­text, edited for clar­ity when too long, repet­i­tive or a dol­lop too much sex ap­pears, and any in­ti­mate short­hand ex­plained. Each let­ter can be ap­proached and un­der­stood with ease, whether it be the mus­ings of an an­cient pharoah, Mozart’s bab­blings or Gandhi’s let­ter to Hitler.

The ideas ex­pressed in this col­lec­tion of let­ters are uni­ver­sal and Mon­te­fiore has done ex­cel­lent work in col­lat­ing the less ob­vi­ous with the well known. Through them we glimpse the past, catch the essence of per­son­al­i­ties who have shaped our his­tory and may, per­haps, be in­spired to let them il­lu­mi­nate the fu­ture. It’s time to put pen to pa­per.

By Si­mon Se­bag Mon­te­fiore Wei­den­feld & Ni­col­son, £15

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