letters


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letters,

in literature, written messages, ranging from those addressed to the public and those sent from lover to lover, to business letters and thank-you notes. The common quality they share is a lively style, echoing the personality of the sender yet aimed at the mind and heart of the receiver. Their intimacy gives them an immediacy that touches general readers as well. Long, eloquent letters, or epistlesepistle
, in the Bible, a letter of the New Testament. The Pauline Epistles (ascribed to St. Paul) are Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews.
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, were the favored means of communication in the ancient world. Those of Cicero and Horace, ranging in subject from political philosophy to literary criticism and social satire, served as models for the formal statement or manifesto. Although the epistles of Saint Paul and Saint Jerome are concerned with the Christian life of the spirit, they are patterned upon classical models. The writings of Cicero and Horace served as models once again for a revival of the epistle in the 18th cent., when John Dryden and Alexander Pope composed verse epistles and Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. Two famous sets of letters vividly portray life in the Middle Ages. The passionate correspondence of Peter Abelard and his mistress, Héloise, poignantly suggests the cruelty of the supposedly civilized church in 12th-century France; the Paston LettersPaston Letters,
collection of personal and business correspondence, mostly among members of the Paston family of Norfolk, England. The letters cover the years from 1422 to 1529, together with deeds and other documents.
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 reveal in detail the daily life of an English family in the 15th cent. The 18th cent. was a golden age of letters. Madame de Sévigné, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and Lord Chesterfield all entered into long, highly polished, and extremely readable correspondences with their respective children. Letter writing was so popular in England at this time that Samuel Richardson capitalized on the vogue by writing the first epistolary novels, Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1747–48). Each was meant to serve as a guide for writing different kinds of letters as well as for designating correct female behavior under trying circumstances. Among British writers of the 19th cent., the best correspondents included John Keats, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, and R. L. Stevenson. George Bernard Shaw wrote love letters to the actress Ellen Terry for three years before they met. Their eventual encounter was not a success, but the correspondence continued for 23 years. The particular ability of letters to convey with immediacy not only the emotions and tragedies of a past time but also the substance of daily life is well illustrated in The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War (1972, ed. by Robert Myers), a collection of letters written by a Georgia family between 1854 and 1868. Important to students of American literature are the letters of the editor Maxwell Perkins to such writers as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Thomas Wolfe. Also illuminating, partly because of their very existence, are the letters of Groucho Marx to T. S. Eliot.

letters

1. literary knowledge, ability, or learning
2. literary culture in general
3. an official title, degree, etc., indicated by an abbreviation
References in classic literature ?
At dinner Anna Mikhaylovna talked the whole time about the war news and about Nikolenka, twice asked when the last letter had been received from him, though she knew that already, and remarked that they might very likely be getting a letter from him that day.
They were the two letters which he had forwarded to Baden.
Thump-thump, up the wooden stairs; thump-thump across the room above our heads; thump-thump down the stairs again--and there stood the apparition at the open door, with a letter in its hand, beckoning me out!
But, in no long time after the physician's death, the wearer of the scarlet letter disappeared, and Pearl along with her.
Have you, sir," asked he, "a letter accrediting you to me?
For a little while Emma persevered in her silence; but beginning to apprehend the bewitching flattery of that letter might be too powerful, she thought it best to say,
Writing to my legal adviser in this sense, I had a word of my own to add on the subject of the torn letter.
Reminding her that she had herself proposed writing to me when we met that evening, I suggested that she should wait to tell the sad story of her troubles until it was convenient to her to send me the narrative in the form of a letter.
Well, as after my death the command devolves on you as mate, assume the command, and bear up for the Island of Elba, disembark at Porto-Ferrajo, ask for the grand-marshal, give him this letter -- perhaps they will give you another letter, and charge you with a commission.
Turnbull, the medical man, Gore's letter was brought and laid on the bed, and the previous impatience seemed to be allayed.
Vanstone concluded that first part of her letter which referred exclusively to Captain Wragge.
The letter lay upon the table no longer than till Mrs Miller was out of sight; for then Sophia opened and read it.