The nature of the epistolary genre was revealed to me: a form of writing devoted to another person. Novels, poems, and so on, were texts into which others were free to enter, or not. Letters, on the other hand, did not exist without the other person, and their very mission, their significance, was the epiphany of the recipient.
It is not quite true that there are no good letters written in America: among my own circle of correspondents there, there are ladies and gentlemen whose letters would stand a comparison with any for frankness, grace, and epistolary beauty of every kind. But I am not aware of any medium between this excellence and the boarding-school insignificance which characterizes the rest.
if I believed that the choice lay between a sacrifice of the completest order of biography and that of the inviolability of private epistolary correspondence, I could not hesitate for a moment. I would keep the old and precious privacy,-the inestimable right of every one who has a friend and can write to him, - I would keep our written confidence from being made biographical material, as anxiously as I would keep our spoken conversation from being noted down for the good of society.
An isolated person requires correspondence as a means of seeing his ideas as others see them, and thus guarding against the dogmatisms and extravagances of solitary and uncorrected speculation. No man can learn to reason and appraise from a mere perusal of the writing of others. If he live not in the world, where he can observe the public at first hand and be directed toward solid reality by the force of conversation and spoken debate, then he must sharpen his discrimination and regulate his perceptive balance by an equivalent exchange of ideas in epistolary form.
She raised her hand to cut me off. "I am aware of your epistolary flirtation. Which is all well and good-as long as it's well and good. Before I ask you some questions, perhaps you would like some tea?" "That would depend on what kind of tea you were offering." "So diffident! Suppose it was Earl Grey." I shook my head. "Tastes like pencil shavings." "Lady Grey." "I don't drink beverages named after beheaded monarchs. It seems so tacky." "Chamomile?" "Might as well sip butterfly wings." "Green tea?" "You can't be serious." The old woman nodded her approval. "I wasn't." "Because you know when a cow chews grass? And he or she chews and chews and chews? Well, green tea tastes like French-kissing that cow after it's done chewing all that grass." "Would you like some mint tea?" "Only under duress." "English breakfast." I clapped my hands. "Now you're talking!