Saturday, August 22, 2009

How to Write a Fan Letter

I’m taking some notes on Woolf’s letters. I find her recommending Thomas Hardy’s poems to an old friend in December, and then, in January, writing to Hardy himself, thanking him for his poems and for all his books.

Hardy was born in 1840; Woolf, in 1882. In 1915, she had written only one novel and many, many reviews. So, she approaches him very much as a young writer approaching an elder. The letter is brief and gracious: she has a clear pretext (Satires of Circumstance [1914] includes a poem to her father, Leslie Stephen [1832-1904]), but it’s the last line that I love:
I write only to satisfy a very old desire, and not to trouble you to reply.
So graceful and grateful. That’s a real fan letter.


Evening Light Writer said...

Just out of fevered curiosity, did he write her back?

Unknown said...

I don't know the precise answer, but I do know that they saw each other on many semi-official occasions before his death in 1928; had an awkward tea at his house in the country. Also, Woolf wrote the (unsigned) lead article in the TLS upon Hardy's death. So this was not the end of their contact with each other.