The impact of a written letter is something few of us experience these days. Our MD Brigid McMullen takes a delve into the private correspondence of some famous names from history.
Recently Brigid attended a very affecting evening hosted by Intelligence Squared listening to readings from letters written by some of history’s most famous names.
Letters That Changed The World, held in London on 28 February, was based on historian Simon Sebag Montefiore’s recent book Written in History: Letters that Changed the World, containing over 100 letters from ancient times to the 21st century. Some are noble and inspiring, some despicable and unsettling; some are exquisite works of literature, others brutal, coarse and frankly outrageous.
Together a cast of performers and writers, including actors Kwame Kwei-Armah, Jade Anouka, Jack Lowden, and Tamsin Greig, read and discussed letters by Michelangelo, Catherine the Great, Sarah Bernhardt, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing and Leonard Cohen.
There was huge variety in the subjects and mood of the letters – some were inspiring, some unsettling, others expressed foreboding and despair. Hearing the texts dramatised in this way underlines the art and potency of the written word; where one is forced to collect one’s thoughts and confine them to a collection of words that bear sole responsibility for conveying the correspondent’s meaning.
A podcast of the event is available on the Intelligence Squared website, and is well worth a listen.