I know I'm not alone in my desire to read some of the contents of this correspondence time capsule, to be teased by the fragments of people's lives within it, and to enjoy the strange pleasure of wanting more of something I cannot have.
I thought about the power of letters as I read about some whose important messages could have changed the course of the lives of the readers had they ever been received. Many were written in anxious times of political turmoil. One of them, as described in the article, is dated 1702 and is from a man warning his musician brother not to travel via Paris because a fellow musician had been conscripted into the army there. His warning was worded: “If you come here, do not bring your instrument or anything else.” But no-one read it. What happened? Did the musician brother take his instrument with him to Paris anyway and, if so, did that determine a very different future for him than if he had only read that letter first?
Could such a situation possibly exist now? If you never received that letter offering you that perfect job you went for? Or if the envelope with the large cheque in it, posted to you by an anonymous philanthropist, never arrived? And nor did the proclamation of love written inside a Valentine card by someone who secretly admired you...? I guess not... there would be emails, and texts, and follow-up phone calls, not inky missives sent by horse-drawn carriage.
These are stories without endings nor beginnings, but they're stories I really would love to read, and I do hope the best of them will be published some day.
Did they ever meet on the sunny road?