Kilvert's Diary 

A wild rainy night. As I write I hear the scraping and squealing of the fiddle and the ceaseless heavy tramp of the dancers as they stamp the floor in a country dance.

Few have written more beautifully about the British countryside than Francis Kilvert. A country clergyman born in 1840, Kilvert spent much of his time visiting parishioners, walking the lanes and fields and writing in his diary. Full of passionate delight in the natural world and the glory of the changing seasons, his diaries are as generous, spontaneous and vivacious as Kilvert himself. He is an irresistible companion.

This new edition of William Plomer’s original selection contains new archival material as well as a fascinating introduction illuminating Kilvert’s world and the history of the diaries..

Letters to Milena

You are the knife I turn inside myself; that is love. That, my dear, is love.

Franz Kafka's letters to his one-time muse, Milena Jesenska - an intimate window into the desires and hopes of the twentieth-century's most prophetic and important writer

Kafka first made the acquaintance of Milena Jesenska in 1920 when she was translating his early short prose into Czech, and their relationship quickly developed into a deep attachment. Such was his feeling for her that Kafka showed her his diaries and, in doing so, laid bare his heart and his conscience. 

In 1924 Kafka died in a sanatorium near Vienna, and Milena died in 1944 at the hands of the Nazis, leaving these letters as a moving record of their relationship.

The Journals of John Cheever 

I know some people who are afraid to write a business letter because they will encounter and reveal themselves...

John Cheever's journals reveal the inner life of this remarkable writer and the contradictions that drove him. He loved his wife and their children, but was acutely lonely; he loved women, but he also loved men; he hated himself for his drinking, but for much of his life was dependent upon it; he was a great writer, but one whose acute levels of perception often crippled him as a person.

These candid, beautiful and often startling journals begin in the late 1940s and continue through three decades and provide peerless insights into the creation of his novels and stories, as well the man himself.

 

Modern Nature

Always becoming, never arriving. Life is at a standstill - only ideas flash past. In such confusion I find myself running after them: Hey! Stop! Stop! But they escape, leaving me staring at a grey English spring.

 In 1986 Derek Jarman discovered he was HIV positive and decided to make a garden at his cottage on the barren coast of Dungeness.

Facing an uncertain future, he nevertheless found solace in nature, growing all manner of plants. Modern Nature is both a diary of the garden and a meditation by Jarman on his own life: his childhood, his time as a young gay man in the 1960s, his renowned career as an artist, writer and film-maker. It is at once a lament for a lost generation, an unabashed celebration of gay sexuality, and a devotion to all that is living.

Selected Letters

My brain hums with scraps of poetry and madness.

The finest and most enjoyable of Virginia Woolf's letters are brought together in a single volume. It is a marvellous collection - spontaneous, witty, often flirtatious and powerfully moving.

Whether bemoaning some domestic travail, commenting publicly on the state of the nation, or discussing cultural, artistic or personal concerns, Virginia Woolf is one of the great correspondents.

This volume displays Woolf's courage and brilliance, her generosity and love of gossip, and her close and enduring friendships.

Kurt Vonnegut: Letters

I think it’s important to live in a nice country rather than a powerful one. Power makes everybody crazy.

This collection of Vonnegut’s letters is the autobiography he never wrote – from the letter he posted home upon being freed from a German POW camp, to notes of advice to his children: ‘Don’t let anybody tell you that smoking and boozing are bad for you. Here I am fifty-five years old, and I never felt better in my life’. Peppered with insights, one-liners and missives to the likes of Norman Mailer, Gunter Grass and Bernard Malamud, Vonnegut is funny, wise and modest. 

Like Vonnegut’s books, his letters make you think, they make you outraged and they make you laugh. Written over a sixty-year period, and never published before, these letters are alive with the unique point of view that made Vonnegut one of the most original writers in American fiction.

Related articles