One thousand letters

Old handwritten letterAfter the death of a secretive collector, Susannah Morris of Christies was called in to make an examination. In the laundry room, wedged between a washing machine and a tumble dryer, was a plain metal filing cabinet.

As Miss Morris delved through files, where the papers were arranged by size rather than alphabet, date or subject, her eyes grew wider.

There was a love letter by Napoleon;
a letter by Beethoven;
one by Albert Einstein;
by Isaac Newton,
Frederick the Great,
Lewis Carroll,
Tchaikovsky and
a diplomatic note to the king of France in the hand of Elizabeth I;
a letter of condolence by John Donne;
a tragic 1545 account written by John Calvin about the suicide of a friend;
a withering letter by Charlotte Brontë on male shortcomings.

She said, “It was an extraordinary find in such an improbable place. It is a history in miniature of the last 500 years of western civilization and is the most remarkable collection on the market for a generation or more.” Albin Schram, the son of an Austrian industrialist, spent half his life assembling the collection.

The most valuable item in the collection is Donne’s letter of condolence in 1624 to Lady Kingsmill the day after the death of her husband. He says that man should not judge God’s actions “although we could direct him to do them better”. [UK Telegraph]