A few weeks ago, we featured Benedict Cumberbatch’s reading of the letter Alan Turing (whom Cumberbatch portrayed in last year’s The Imitation Game) wrote before his 1952 conviction of “gross indecency.” It came from Letters Live, “a series of live events celebrating the power of literary correspondence” put on by publisher Canongate and Cumberbatch’s production company SunnyMarch and “inspired by Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note” — a site Open Culture readers surely know well by now.
Back in 2013, Josh Jones wrote a post here on Virginia Woolf’s handwritten 1941 suicide note, “a haunting and beautiful document, in all its unadorned sincerity behind which much turmoil and anguish lie.” Having seen that note, perhaps you’d also like to hear it performed. If so, you’ll want to watch the Letters Live video at the top of the post, which offers an interpretation of the To the Lighthouse author’s declaration that “I can’t fight any longer” by Cumberbatch’s Sherlock co-star Louise Brealey.
If you haven’t had your fill of literary correspondence read aloud by these noted British performers, do pay a visit to Letters Live’s Youtube page, where you can also hear Brealey reading letters from Bessie Moore and Clementine Churchill as well as Cumberbatch reading letters from Chris Barker and more from Alan Turing. Watching internet videos of live performances of traditional letters — the mind may reel at all these simultaneous layers of mediation and interpretation, but the pieces of correspondence chosen still speak straight to the heart.
Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.