Letters for the Ages brings a series of historical letters to the public. Each anthology contains about 100 letters on a common theme, including transcriptions and illustrations. Some of these historical letters belong to private collections and are now available to the public for the first time.
The people of history had anxieties, frustrations, hopes and passions, just as we do today. Letters for the Ages by Of Lost Time is filled with the unfiltered thoughts of individuals from the past, showing the humanity that we all share. These historical letters will help you empathize with these people as you learn about their tragedies and triumphs.
Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa Counsels Marie Antoinette
Maria Theresa was the only woman to rule over the Habsburg Empire in her own right. On 30 July 1775, she wrote a letter to her daughter Marie Antoinette, who had become the Queen Consort of France the previous year. Maria Theresa sternly warns Marie Antoinette against getting involved with French politics, with a mixture of one regent speaking to another and a mother advising her daughter. Maria Theresa’s letter is hauntingly prescient, given that Marie Antoinette was executed in 1793 as part of France’s abolition of its monarchy.
Charles Dickens’ Reaction to a Public Execution
Charles Dickens, the English novelist, witnessed the hanging of Frederick and Maria Manning at the Horsemonger-lane Gaol in south London on 13 November 1849. The couple shot Maria’s lover and buried him under the house, which became a highly notorious crime in Victorian England. Dickens wrote an open letter expressing his shock at the audience’s behaviour and the abysmal living conditions in that part of London. He also makes a moral argument against public executions in the letter.
Émile Zola Criticizes the French Government
Novelist Émile Zola wrote novels about everyday life in France during the 19th Century, but he is also known for his scathing social commentary. On 13 January 1898, he published an open letter on the front page of a popular newspaper entitled J’accuse!, in which he accused the French government of covering up the truth about the Dreyfus Affair. Alfred Dreyfus was a French captain who had been convicted of treason in 1894, largely on the basis of his Jewish ancestry.
The government reopened the case in 1899, largely due to J’accuse!’s impact on public opinion. Dreyfus was exonerated in 1906 and returned to military duty with a promotion. Zola died in 1902 of carbon monoxide poisoning, and some historians believe he was murdered for writing J’accuse!.
Francois Toussaint L’Ouverture Asks Napoleon to Free His Family
Francois Toussaint L’Ouverture was the leader of the Haitian Revolution against France, which resulted in the creation of Haiti as a sovereign state in 1804. L’Ouverture’s part in this revolution ended in 1802, when he surrendered his control over the island of Hispaniola in 1802. He retired to a plantation on that island in May of that year, but he and his family were arrested the following month under the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte. They arrived in France on 2 July, and L’Ouverture wrote a letter to Bonaparte 12 July accepting responsibility for his actions and asking for the release of his family.
Emmeline Pankhurst Demands Violent Action from the Women’s Social and Political Union
Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst wrote a letter to the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) on 10 January 1913. It urged WSPU members to commit violent acts like arson and breaking store windows to ensure the passage of a bill in Britain giving women the right to vote. Her daughters Adela and Sylvia left the WSPU over this tactic, and the family rift never healed. Emmeline died in 1928, just weeks before Parliament passed the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act that gave women the vote in Britain.