Monday, October 26, 2015

Letters Written in Fall and Winter

Early this morning I read about your autumn, and all the colors you brought into your letter were changed back in my feelings and filled my mind to the brim with strength and radiance. Yesterday, while I was admiring the dissolving brightness of autumn here, you were walking through that other autumn back home, which is painted on red wood, as this one's painted on silk. And the one reaches us as much as the other; that's how deeply we are placed on the ground of all transformation, we most changeable ones who walk about with the urge to comprehend everything and (because we're unable to grasp it) reduce immensity to the action of our heart, for fear that it might destroy us.

--Rainer Maria Rilke, letter to Clara Rilke, October 13, 1907


Shall I tell you what they, my father and all of them are doing at this moment? Sprawling on the floor looking at a new rat-trap. Two pounds of butter vanished the other night out of the dairy; they had been put in a shallow pan with the water in it, and it is averred the rats ate it, and Peggy Tuite, the dairymaid, to make the thing more credible, gives the following reason for the rats' conduct. "Troth, ma'am, they were affronted at the new rat-trap, they only licked the milk off of it, and that occasioned them to run off with the butter!"

--Maria Edgeworth, letter to Mrs. Ruxton, October 13, 1814


Dearest Father,
You asked me recently why I maintain that I am afraid of you. As usual I was unable to think of any answer to your question, partly for the very reason that I am afraid of you, and partly because an explanation of the grounds for this fear would mean going into far more details than I could even approximately keep in mind while talking. And if I now try to give you an answer in writing, it will still be very incomplete, because, even in writing, this fear and its consequences hamper me in relation to you and because the magnitude of the subject goes far beyond the scope of my memory and power of reasoning.

--Franz Kafka, undelivered letter to Hermann Kafka, November 1919


Everything in your eyes is diminished and uglified. . . . You always focus on the faults, on what can be satirized. . . . To see only ugliness, that is what people do when they do not love. . . . You are not aware that when you paint only cruelly, underlining only faults or weaknesses, you are the loser.

---Anais Nin, letter to Gore Vidal, winter 1948

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