»  The Virtual Attic — Letters




Who writes letters any more? Literary scholars of the future will have a tough time of it to produce Collected Letters of 21st-century notables.

Until the 1990s, though, we all wrote letters to each other all the time. My mother was always writing, and receiving, letters from her siblings. Dad was estranged from his sister Polly, and his other sister lived at the end of our street; but when the army posted my brother somewhere other than Northampton, Dad corresponded regularly with him. When I was away from home I got a letter from my mother every week or two, from Dad about once a month.

Under this page I have gathered all surviving letters from family members now deceased. Most, inevitably, are to me from my mother or father.


The letters are organized by date, earliest to latest. To avoid a very long table all on one web page, I have broken up the letters by year. The absence of a year means that no letters from that year have survived in the virtual attic.

Each link below takes you to the index page for a year's worth of letters. From an index page you can go to pages for individual letters.

Each individual letter page shows both an image of the actual letter, and a text transcription. Links and footnotes are added where necessary for explanatory purposes.

The date given for a letter is the date written by the letter writer. Where this date is not written, or is illegible, or is obviously wrong (by comparison with the postmark, or from internal evidence), the date is taken from the letter's postmark. If the postmark is not legible either, the date is my best guess, tagged with a question mark. Where the letter-writer has given a contradictory date (e.g. "Sunday, October 4, 1974," when in fact that date fell on a Friday), I have taken the day of the week to be correct and adjusted the date. Everybody always knows what day of the week it is, but the date is something we often have to look up.

In a very few instances I have blacked out remarks about surviving family members, to avoid any possibility of offense.


Dates Description of the group
Before 1973 Some letters and notes in the handwriting of my maternal grandfather, Jack Knowles.
1973 Letters written to me by my parents following my first arrival in New York in August 1973.
1974 Letters written to me by my parents in August 1974, when I was living in the northern New York suburbs.
1975 The same.
1976 The same.
1977 The same.
1978 The same. I returned to England in October 1978.
1979 Letters from my mother to me during a stay in Hong Kong this spring.
1981 Letters from my mother to me in London and New York.
1982 Letters from my mother to me in China.
1983 The same.
1984 Something from the tax man.
1985 A letter from Aunt Muriel.
1991 Letters from my mother to us after our return to New York in October 1991.
1992 The same.
1993 The same.
1994 The same.
1995 The same.
1996 The same.
1997 My mother's last letters.