The letters of famous persons generally disappoint. Letters, unless specifically written for the public, are personal in essence. It is one human being in contact with another, sharing things that, often, only the two can fully understand. The letters of great persons are no different. At best, they provide a glimpse into secrets, a chance to hear the unguarded thoughts of public figures. There is the potential excitement of revelation. Occasionally, our desires are satisfied and then some. We come across, for instance, James Joyce writing his wife Nora: “Some night when we are somewhere in the dark and talking dirty and you feel your shite ready to fall put your arms round my neck in shame and shit it down softly.”

In such moments of intimacy, dirty or less so, the aura of fame is stripped away… More…