August 10, 2020

Of Note: Letters

I know I have posted these four letters before in various places, but I want to gather them, after a conversation on Saturday, in one single place, to serve as a reminder of their power. They are letters, wide ranging in their content, from various writers to various men, but they have all powerfully stuck in my mind in the last few years, and I reference them often. 

I have lots of favorites, and these four letters are truly four of my favorites. Many thanks to the excellent "Letters of Note" blog for publishing them all those years ago.


Advice for an Aspiring Architect, from Charles Morgan (of Frank Lloyd Wright's studio in Chicago) to Richard Crews:

An architect should, unless it is impossible, answer his mail the first thing in the morning. Then his mind is free to plan and design upon the problems of his clients. He goes to work planning from within outward just as truly as from the ground upward. There are very few real architects who get big jobs because it is only the politician who gets big jobs, and the politician never has time to be an architect. So by all means the architect should learn to do small jobs well, because of the very fact that if he is sincere he shall probably never get big ones.

The architect should always remember that Jesus was an architect and that to be entitled to the same name he should love truth and beauty above all else.


Wind the Clock, from E.B. White to Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.


On The Costuming of Willy Wonka, from Gene Wilder to Mel Brooks:

I don’t think of Willy as an eccentric who holds on to his 1912 Dandy’s Sunday suit and wears it in 1970, but rather as just an eccentric — where there’s no telling what he’ll do or where he ever found his get-up — except that it strangely fits him: Part of this world, part of another. A vain man who knows colors that suit him, yet, with all the oddity, has strangely good taste. Something mysterious, yet undefined.


The Final Letter of German Olympian Luz Long to US Olympian Jesse Owens, right before his death in North Africa during WWII:

My heart tells me, if I be honest with you, that this is the last letter I shall ever write. If it is so, I ask you something. It is a something so very important to me. It is you go to Germany when this war done, someday find my Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth.

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