Who wrote this book and when?
These letters span almost a thousand years of human history – from Alexander the Great to the 1940’s. They were collected by M. Lincoln Schuster and this book was first published in 1940.

Has there been a film version?
Er, no.

Who are the important characters?
Pretty much everyone involved. From King Darius to Adolf Hitler to Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Madame Curie.

What’s it about?
This is a collection of what supposedly are the world’s greatest letters ever written then preserved (hence the name of the book). There are love letters, angry letters, letters of recommendation, letters to families when the author is about to be executed, and letters of philosophy. It pretty much runs the gamut.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
Because of all it contains and all the well-known people who contributed to it.

Do you recommend I read this book?
Hmmm, if you’re a history buff, you’d like this book (Shman…). Or if you’re a great letter writer you might. I’m not sure how to really recommend or not recommend it, sorry.

How did this book make your list?
I saw it on the shelf and thought “hey, interesting.”

Has it won any awards?
No.

Favorite quotes:
“If a picture, which is but a mute representation of an object, can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? They have souls; they can speak; they have in them all that force which expresses the transports of the heart; they have all the fire of our passions, they can raise them as much as if the persons themselves were present; they have all the tenderness and the delicacy of speech, and sometimes even a boldness of expression beyond it.” – Heloise to Abelard

“Brother! I have not become downhearted or low-spirited. Life is everywhere life, life in ourselves, not in what is outside us. There will be people near me, and to be a man among people and remain a man for ever, not to be downhearted nor to fall in whatever misfortunes may befall me – this is life; this is the task of life. I have realized this.” – Dostoevsky to his brother, Mihail

“All the pictures that hung in my memory before I knew you have faded and given place to our radiant moments together.” – Sarah Bernhardt to Victorien Sardou

“I hear that you have become rich. In what a wretched state I myself am you can easily guess from my failures. I am trying to retrieve myself by seclusion and a new work. In order to make possible this way to my preservation – that is to say, life me above the most distressing obligations, cares, and needs that rob me of all freedom of mind – I require an immediate loan of ten thousand francs.” – Richard Wagner to Von Hornstein

Personal thoughts:
This was an interesting book. Not really the type I usually pick out to read, nevertheless it entertained me a great deal. I learned so much! Not only about individual personalities, but about history in general. And granted, a lot of the letters didn’t keep my interest long (hello – Thomas Mann) several of them had me laughing or sighing with the romance of it all. Or other emotions. For instance, I never knew Robert Louis Stevenson had such a temper or that Beethoven felt he’d been mistreated by doctors. I didn’t know just how much the Romanovs had to do with their own downfall or just how cocky Alexander the Great was. And how was it I had never heard of Heloise and Abelard before until this last week when I read in two separate books about them?

Anyway, all this is saying is this is a wonderful book. You might only use it for references with a paper someday or something, but as a pick up and read-through, it was great!

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