Reading Other People's Letters—Dead Or Not, Famous Or Not—Seems A Little Wrong
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Reading Other People's Letters—Dead Or Not, Famous Or Not—Seems A Little Wrong

As a person who really values his privacy, I'd be rolling in my grave if I knew people were reading my letters.

Reading Other People's Letters—Dead Or Not, Famous Or Not—Seems A Little Wrong

So lately I've been reading a book that a friend gave me as a graduation present, "The John Lennon Letters." It goes over a lifetime of letters and notes written by the Beatle to friends, family, fellow professionals, etc.

Additionally, toward the end of this last semester, I had to pick up a bit of info about the romantic poet John Keats for a research paper. I turned to a similar volume I'd picked up from the library regarding Keats' letters to fellow writers, as well as his loved ones.

Reading these letters over the last several weeks has left me a little unsure of how I feel about reading other people's letters—dead or not, famous or not, it seems a little wrong.

On the one hand, the medium of a letter allows for the most intimate look at a person you've always admired, how they wrote to those they knew well as opposed to those they were less acquainted with.

On the other hand, as a person who really values his privacy, I'd be rolling in my grave if I knew people were reading my letters, no matter how bland or uninteresting they might be.

I suppose the intent is always an important question as well. You can usually tell a genuinely biographically-interested anthology from a cash-grab anthology based on how the editor introduces the collection, and in both books I've read, it seemed to be a very earnest, academic interest in these two Johns.

Still, something about reading these letters seems problematic, or at the very least hypocritical, as is my dilemma.

These kinds of books are always published posthumously. I don't think there's a living person who would be okay with having their personal letters published for a mass market—or an academic one either, for that matter. In the case of Lennon, the editor mentions that the authority to allow the publication of his letters rests with his widow, Yoko Ono Lennon.

I won't fault Yoko for allowing the publication to take place, however. For all I know, her John was perfectly okay with this. Or maybe it never even crossed his mind. Who would ever be so vain as to think anybody gives a damn about a letter you wrote from Hamburg when you were 20 (much less the magazines you made at home from as early as late elementary school)?

All I know is that if I die before anyone asks me how I'd feel about my letters being passed around, tell them all I said to burn them or keep them to yourself.

God help us all if someone ever gets the idea to start publishing tweet anthologies and the like.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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