These days, traditional handwritten letters have given way to digital emails, chats and texts. But some elegance and grace remains in the act of putting pen to paper and sending someone your thoughts through traditional mail.
As a commemoration of the art of the written word, Dec. 7 is Letter Writing Day, and we have collected some of the most famous and beautiful letters ever written. Some are historic, some are political and some are love letters, but all will make you want to take a break from your keyboard and scribe a handwritten note or two.
The Bixby Letter
To: Widow Lydia Bixby
From: Abraham Lincoln
Date: Nov. 21, 1864
Written to the mother of five fallen Civil War soldiers, this letter is one of Lincoln’s most famous pieces of literature. Controversy still exists over whether the letter was written by Lincoln or his personal secretary John Hay, but the precise and powerful use of the English language keeps the letter relevant even today.
“Dear Madam,—I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
Horace Greeley/New York Tribune
To: Horace Greeley
From: Abraham Lincoln
Date: August 22, 1862
Greeley was the editor of the Tribune during the Civil War, and in 1862 he published an editorial challenging Lincoln and his administration’s leadership. Lincoln responded immediately and included hints of the Emancipation Proclamation, a draft of which was already complete at the time.
I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.