800 Years of Women's Letters

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Olga Kenyon
Penguin Books, 1994 - Biography & Autobiography - 320 pages
In this engrossing anthology, the first truly comprehensive study of women's letters, Olga Kenyon takes us from the twelfth century to the present day and explores the tradition of female letter-writing that has existed for over eight centuries. Here is Heloise writing to Abelard's 'superior wisdom' of 'how much I have lost in you' from twelfth-century Paris; Margaret Paston, the efficient manager of her husband's estate, vividly describing her troubles in affectionate letters to her husband while he was practising law in London during the Wars of the Roses; Elizabeth I firmly but tactfully refusing Erik of Sweden's offer of marriage as she 'highly commends this single life'; Queen Victoria complaining to Sir Robert Peel about the 'disgrace' in the neglect of Buckingham Palace; Jane Austen writing to her sister Cassandra, and Fanny Burney on Dr Johnson; Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf exchanging intimate thoughts on their lives and writing; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu describing how, abandoned by her lover, she rebuilds her life and her garden in Italy 'enjoying every amusement that solitude can afford'; and many more lesser known women whose writing reveals much of their day to day lives and the sometimes restricted world they inhabited.

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Illness and Ageing
Political Skills
The Epistolary Novel

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About the author (1994)

P. D. James, pseudonym of Phyllis Dorothy James White, was born on August 3, 1920 in Oxford, England. During World War II, she served as a Red Cross nurse. She worked in administration for 19 years with the National Health Service. After the death of her husband in 1964, she took a Civil Service examination and became an administrator in the forensic science and criminal law divisions of the Department of Home Affairs. She spent 30 years in British Civil Service. She became Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991. Her first novel, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962. She wrote approximately 20 books during her lifetime including the Adam Dalgliesh Mystery series, the Cordelia Gray Mystery series, and Death Comes to Pemberley. She became a full-time writer in 1979. Three titles in the Adam Dalgliesh Mystery series received the Silver Dagger award--Shroud for a Nightingale, The Black Tower, and A Taste for Death. In 2000, she published her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest. Her dystopian novel, The Children of Men, was adapted into a movie in 2006. She received the Diamond Dagger award for lifetime achievement. She died on November 27, 2014 at the age of 94.

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