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Famous letters: lessons in love and governance

books Updated: Jan 06, 2012 09:23 IST
Hindustan Times
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In the era of emails and instant messaging, letters have become a museum curiosity – a relic of the time gone by. But there was a time when they were the only means of communication between a father to his daughter or a leader to his country. Check out some of the most famous letters.

Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi

Late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a series of letters to his daughter, Indira Gandhi, from the jail. Nehru was not only a great political leader but also a loving father and teacher. His letters to Indira subtlety teach her about the nuances of politics, philosophy and the culture of India. He writes in his last letter from the jail: "You must not take what I have written in these letters as the final authority on any subject. A politician wants to have a say on every subject and he always pretends to know much more than he actually does. He has to be watched carefully. These letters of mine are but superficial sketches joined together by a thin thread. I have rambled on, skipping centuries and many important happenings, and then pitching my tent for quite a long time on some event which interested me."

(Source: http://www.webspawner.com/users/nehru/)

Lincoln letter to Horace Geeley

Abraham Lincoln's most famous letter was written to Horace Greeley, editor of the influential New York Tribune, during the Civil War. The letter was written in response to Greeley's article, The Prayer of Twenty Millions, criticizing Lincoln's administration. The letter came in the wake of Lincoln's new position on emancipation and expressed his commitment to preserving the Union, "I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was."

(Source: http://showcase.netins.net)

Jane Austen to her niece Fanny

Jane Austen plays the role of an Agony Aunt in a letter written to her nice Fanny, advising her on her love affair with a certain Mr. A.  Austen, true to her style advices Fanny on matters of love and telling her the difference between infatuation and love. She writes: "I have no scruple in saying that you cannot be in love. My dear Fanny, I am ready to laugh at the idea, and yet it is no laughing matter to have had you so mistaken as to your own feelings."  Further in the letter, Austen is at her sauciest best as she scorns 'over modesty', and writes, "If he were less modest he would be more agreeable." The letter was written in 1814.

(Source: http://www.pemberley.com)

The break-up of Beatles

One of the most popular letters from the world of music is a letter marking the demise of the Beatles. Dated April 18, 1969, the letter is addressed to Lee Eastman - Linda McCartney's music lawyer father - that he is not authorized to be The Beatles' legal representative. The letter confirmed the growing divide between Paul McCartney and his fellow band members. The letter says: We recognize that you're authorized to act for Paul McCartney, personally, and in this regard we will instruct our representatives to give you fullest cooperation." The letter is signed by John Lennon, George Harrison and Richard Starkey.

(Source: http://momentsintime.com/Beatles%20Breakup.htm)

Between father and son: Family Letters

Seepersad Naipaul, father of V.S. Naipaul, once wrote to his son "Your letters are charming in their spontaneity. If you could write me letters about things and people - especially people-at Oxford, I could compile them in a book." After 50 years of this statement, the respectful son published these letters to fulfill his father’s dream. There were around 500 odd letters that were written during the time Vido Naipaul was studying in oxford. The heart of this book is about how a father, a mediocre journalist in Trinidad, supports the dream of his son to become a famous writer along with his own struggle to maintain his writing career. The letters even though talks about the different activities of oxford like various tea parties, literary events and women but it focuses on the friendship and love between the father son duo. The pragmatic father, advises him to "beware of undue dissipation," but not to be "a puritan." The book also features letters exchanged between  V.S. Naipaul and his sister.