Monday, December 17, 2018

Family Letters: Parents and Children

The only image on the whole web!
The Marginalia Book of Family Letters: Parents and Children, ed. by Jan Fielden

A while back, I read a book of women's letters that had been sitting on my shelf forever and realized that I mostly don't like books of letters.  Which was a problem, since I had another epistolary collection on the shelf.  I considered just donating it without trying to read it, but I figured I'd give it a go first.  And I'm glad I did, because I liked this one a lot better.

This is a collection of letters specifically between parents and children.  It's arranged chronologically, pretty much, starting with a few Greek and Roman letters and ending up with the Vietnam War.  There are fascinating medieval letters about estate management, quite a few epistles from famous composers and writers (Mozart, Goethe, Joyce, all the way down to Lawrence Durrell), letters from soldiers at various fronts, and just ordinary letters.  There's a good mixture of famous people, eminent but forgotten people, and just ordinary folks.

Why did I like this collection better?  Well for one thing, it didn't have little introductory essays for each section; that helped.  It just said who the writers were and didn't try to generalize.  I preferred the chronological order over topical sections.  This collection didn't try to pretend to be global (I was really put off by the inclusion of fictional African letters in the last one, even though I love the novel they're from), but was almost entirely focused just on Europe.  There were hardly any letters even from the US.  And I felt that the selection was just more interesting and varied. 

I probably won't read ANY more collections of historical letters, but I'm not sorry I read this one before getting rid of it.


This book was published in 1995 and apparently sank without a ripple; it's practically unlisted, but when it is, it's worth about a buck fifty.  There is just one quite bad photo of it on the entire internet.

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