a few opening lines (aka: correspondence 101)

“If you write to me, could you possibly seal your letter? Or if not, don’t mention the book, because I don’t want my servants to get to know all about that.”

“I enclose with this letter some unpublished pages extracted from my forthcoming book which I should very much like to see appear in your review.”

“The story is so well-known that the name of the fiancé will be obvious if I tell you that the lady in question is Madam Bischoffsheim…”

“I should be most grateful if you would read this letter to the end, destroy it or send it back to me, and not breathe a word of it to anyone whatsoever.”

“It was very nice of you to write to me about your marriage; it would have been nicer still if you had invited me to it.”

“I send you herewith, in very inelegant form and on the paper which I use to light my anti-asthmatic powders—all that I have to hand—my warmest and most sincere congratulations on your wonderful prize.”

“Although you abandon me I often look at your little face and think and think.”

“I telephoned you last night at the Gil Blas.”

“I’m already behindhand in thanking you for your beautiful letter and now I receive three cards.”

“I should be infinitely grateful if you could tell me whether, in your opinion, this contract prevents me legally (without risk of a lawsuit, etc.) from publishing my second volume with another publisher.”

“Thank you very much for your letter—one sentence was ravishing (crepuscular, etc.)…”

“I’m genuinely sorry to keep bothering you, especially if you are still on holiday and would no doubt prefer to forget for a while that there is such a thing as a stock exchange.”

“I should have preferred to tell you this in person.”

“You said you would write to me, you have written to me, and I am amazed.”

Opening lines to various letters, from Marcel Proust: Selected Letters, Volume Three, 1910 – 1917.
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2 thoughts on “a few opening lines (aka: correspondence 101)

  1. These are fascinating peeks into his past.

    I loved this one: “It was very nice of you to write to me about your marriage; it would have been nicer still if you had invited me to it.”

    In my mind he wrote the letter to a nephew, or a friend who had distanced himself from him. It’s a backhanded congratulations, something that puts the letter writer in a defensive position. As the kids would say today, “Awkward.”

    1. My favourite was this:

      “I send you herewith, in very inelegant form and on the paper which I use to light my anti-asthmatic powders—all that I have to hand—my warmest and most sincere congratulations on your wonderful prize.”

      Was he so excited at the news of his friend’s prize that he scribbled a note on the first available thing?
      Or a master at subtle digs…

      The latter makes me happier. (;

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