Johannes Vermeer, “Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid” (c.1670), oil on canvas, 72.2 x 59.7 cm, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (image via Web Gallery of Art)

On Thursday, The New York Times published an open letter to the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia: “Few public servants have found themselves with a choice as weighty as yours, between following their conscience and obeying a leader trying to evade scrutiny — Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, who behaved nobly in Watergate, come to mind. You can add your name to this short, heroic list. Yes, it might cost you your job. But it would save your honor, and so much more besides.”

I refused to attend his funeral. But I wrote a very nice letter explaining that I approved of it.

—Mark Twain

Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it.

Alvin Toffler

The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.

—Blaise Pascal, Lettres Provenciales

Happy is the novelist who manages to preserve an actual love letter that he received when he was young within a work of fiction, embedded in it like a clean bullet in flabby flesh and quite secure there, among spurious lives.

—Vladimir Nabokov

Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.
Anything goes.

—Cole Porter

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.

—Walt Whitman

You must not suppose, because I am a man of letters, that I never tried to earn an honest living.

—George Bernard Shaw

The art of letters will come to an end before A.D. 2000. I shall survive as a curiosity.

—Ezra Pound

I hold that the parentheses are by far the most important parts of a non-business letter.

—D. H. Lawrence

O well’s me o’ my gay goss-hawk
That he can speak and flee!
He’ll carry a letter to my love,
Bring another back to me.

—“The Gay Goss-Hawk,” traditional ballad

I knew one that when he wrote a letter he would put that which was most material in the postscript, as if it had been a bymatter.

—Francis Bacon, “Of Cunning”

Never write a letter if you can help it, and never destroy one!

—John A. Macdonald

You don’t know a woman until you have had a letter from her.

—Ada Levenson, Tenterhooks

I have received no more than one or two letters in my life that were worth the postage.

—Henry David Thoreau

Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane
Ain’t got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home
My baby, just-a wrote me a letter

—Miklos Rozsa, “The Letter” (1967)

A letter is an unannounced visit, the postman the agent of rude surprises. One ought to reserve an hour a week for receiving letters and afterwards take a bath.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Hyperallergic's Weekend editors are Natalie Haddad, Thomas Micchelli, Albert Mobilio, and John Yau.