Did you catch my letter to autumn on its equinox last week? I was saying how I love letters. That I’ll be Buried In Epistolary Print on Fridays through the end of this year.
And, first up is a beloved collection of letters that was first suggested to me when I was griping about not enjoying reading non-fiction as much as I enjoyed reading fiction.
If you fit that description also (and even if you don’t), you, too, might just love this collection of letters exchanged between Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, which a reading friend suggested to me years ago (yes, in a letter).
Rachel and Dorothy began writing letters in the autumn (so how appropriate that I first mention them here and now) of 1953, after meeting in July of that year, and being surprised to discover that they shared an interest in and passion for sea life. (They exchanged 90 letters in their first year alone.)
You might know Rachel Carson through her 1951 work, The Sea Around Us (during the early years of her friendship with Dorothy, she would be working on The Edge of the Sea, and, later, would publish other works, including her classic Silent Spring).
And, indeed, the letters contain writing about ecology. But the letters are also about writing, walking, health, and companion animals, and they are about ordinary, everyday matters of household life and family. And, above all, as the subtitle suggests, they are about friendship.
And it truly is a remarkable friendship. I feel as though I should capitalize that: Remarkable Friendship.
I might have appreciated this collection for any of the other subjects discussed in their letters (I might even have acknowledged that it was pretty interesting, for non-fiction).
But I wouldn’t have loved it, had their declarations of friendship not been so striking.
Here is a snippet of a 1956 letter (edited by Margaret Freeman, Dorothy’s daughter):
My darling [Dorothy],
Can you understand why it meant to me to have you take me into your heart as you did in this letter? I think perhaps you can if you will think about it and that should erase any possible lingering regret that you did write and did send the letter. To be chosen as the one to whom another feels she can communicate something so intimate, so sacred, so intangible that it is most difficult to express, is a very wonderful experience, dearest, and makes me both deeply glad and humble. It was the first thing that came to my mind when I opened my eyes this morning.
Even if you don’t already love the idea of reading letters, you can’t help but be struck by the love that existed between these two intelligent, independent and loyal women. It lives on in this collection.
This might well be your next favourite book with which to gift your reading friends.
Do you already know this book?
PS Dear Reader, I would love it if you’d leave me a little letter below. Tell me something. About your first best friend. About the last letter you wrote or received. About the book that someone convinced you to try that surprised you into loving it. We all love getting mail.