There’s something incredibly intimate about letter writing: the indelible mark on a page, the permanence of ink, and the process of consideration before putting pen to paper. Even a typewritten page feels vastly more personal than one created with a computer. While you’re scrawling a Mother’s Day card to mum or your other significant parental person this weekend, the act may take you back to simpler times during your childhood when you shared your thoughts with a pen and not an iPhone. We’re sure it’s no different for the writers, musicians, and actors we revere. Before they were the names on everyone’s lips, they were sharing their hopes, dreams, and wondering about the world through their childhood and teenage letters. See what insightful missives we uncovered, below.
The highlight of this letter written by 14-year-old Stephen King to Spacemen Magazine editor Forrest Ackerman (better known for Famous Monsters of Filmland) is fantastically morbid:
“I subscribe to your magazine, and my favorite feature is the Obituary department… ”
This serious letter from 10-year-old Doors frontman Jim Morrison to his mother is endearing, but a tiny bit sad. The singer witnessed a car accident at four years old that profoundly affected him, but to think the young Jim felt he had hardships at such a young age is glum.
As Easter rolls around each year, I think of how you have helped me face all the many hardships in my life. I only wish I could put on paper how much I appreciate the help and love you have given me through my life.
The macabre Burton worked as a concept artist for Disney in the early 1980s, but the Mouse House previously rejected the filmmaker several years before hiring him to work on The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron. An 18-year-old Burton sent the company his illustrated children’s book, The Giant Zig, but it was “too derivative of the Seuss works to be marketable” for the powers that be.
I am submitting this book in hopes that you might consider publishing it. The book has been layed out in rough form, and I would be glad to make any changes that you feel would be nessecary. I would hope to hear from you either way. Thankyou.
Keith Richards’ aunt Patty received an enthusiastic letter from the 18-year-old Rolling Stones guitarist, in which he discussed meeting his future bandmate, Mick Jagger:
“Anyways the guy on the station, he is called Mick Jagger and all the chicks and the boys meet every Saturday morning in the ‘Carousel’ some juke-joint well one morning in Jan I was walking past and decided to look him up. Everybody’s all over me I get invited to about 10 parties. Beside that Mick is the greatest R&B singer this side of the Atlantic and I don’t mean maybe. I play guitar (electric) Chuck style we got us a bass player and drummer and rhythm-guitar and we practice 2 or 3 nights a week. SWINGIN’.”
Three months after writing the letter, history was made when the Rolling Stones played their first gig in London.
Plath wrote her bestie and college roommate, Marcia “Marty” Brown Stern, dozens of letters. In 1951, they both worked as nannies, documented in Plath’s poem “The Babysitters.” Marty also became the inspiration for character Jody in The Bell Jar — Esther Greenwood’s schoolmate. This three-page letter to Marty details 19-year-old Plath’s thoughts about her job and family, embellished with a lovely drawing (as she often did).
In a prophetic letter to the Sylvia Young Theatre School, where 12-year-old Winehouse auditioned to attend, the singer wrote about her hopes for a bright future as a performer:
“I want to go somewhere where I am stretched right to my limits and perhaps even beyond. To sing in lessons without being told to shut up (provided they are singing lessons.) But mostly, I have this dream to be very famous to work on stage. It’s a life long ambition. I want people to hear my voice and just… forget their troubles for five minutes. I want to be remembered for being an actress, a singer, for sell-out concerts and sell-out West-End and Broadway shows and for being just me.”
Future news anchor Brian Williams (Marnie’s proud papa, y’all) wrote this adorable letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson when he was 7 years old. The clever Williams predicted his own career, too: “I have not ben in the White house before. But I will som e time.”
A few years before he dropped out of high school to become the drummer for Scream — and soon after, Nirvana — 15-year-old Dave Grohl was making and selling mixtapes. This 1984 letter to Seattle-based band Aerobic Death requests tracks for his compilation “John Denvers Nightmare.”
ITS GONNA BE SOLD AT ALMOST ALL OF THE D.C. SHOWS, SO IT WON’T BE A WASTE OF TIME. THIS IS WHO WE’VE TALKED TO — MAUFICE, UNDERGROUND SOLDIER, PRESIDENTIAL A.I.D.S., THE DEAD ENDS, CHIPS PATROL, N.I.L.8. BUT WE ARE FINDING OTHER BANDS.
Read the rest at Letters of Note.
If all of Liz Taylor’s love letters were as romantic as the ones she wrote when she was a teenager, it’s no wonder the actress was married eight times. Who could say no to words like these?
“My heart aches and makes me want to cry when I think of you, and how much I want to be with and to look into your beautiful blue eyes, and kiss your sweet lips and have your strong arms hold me, oh so tight, and close to you… I want us to be ‘lovers’ always… even after we’ve been married seventy-five years and have at least a dozen great-great-grandchildren.”
She met Army pilot William Pawley on a beach when she was 17, he 28, and they became engaged. Taylor considered leaving her screen career behind to become a “homemaker,” but eventually changed her mind. The decision broke Pawley’s heart. He later stated that he couldn’t bring himself to marry anyone else until 25 years after the breakup.
Several years ago a batch of letters between novelist Edith Wharton and her governess, Anna Bahlmann, were auctioned off after sitting in storage for ninety years. They revealed a shared intellectual sympathy (Wharton saw Bahlmann as her mentor) and great companionship: “Thanks from a grateful poetaster for your assistance, encouragement & criticism.”