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Diary: No pause from Pinter on Stoppard rejection

Unseen Harold Pinter letters have been acquired by the British Library.
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One of the never-ending laments of modern life is the lost art of letter writing. Real letters, sent through the post, not iMessages filled with poo emojis.

Gone are the days in which fledgling love birds would spill their hearts out to one another on scented paper, when one’s letter writing was as identifiable as one’s face. Among the most deeply revered letter-writing skills so rarely seen today are the withering put-downs and the searing rejection letters like those famously sent to now-household names such as Sylvia Plath, Madonna and George Orwell.

Nowadays, these vintage correspondences stay alive by circulating Twitter and Instagram, generally accompanied by less funny comments than those they contain.

Harold Pinter was a master of this kind of communication. The king of the elongated pause, he could make a 20-word letter more weighty than most of can muster in an entire side of A4.

Several of Pinter’s letters have made their way to the surface in recent times, including a brief note currently doing the rounds. It was composed in 2001 to fellow playwright Tom Stoppard, who it would appear was engaging in the perennial theatrical quest of raising some cash.

It reads:

“Dear Tom, Thank you for your invitation to host a fundraising dinner in the private room of a top London restaurant. I would rather die.”

He then signs off, ever so casually: “All the best, Yours, Harold.” And between each line of text, appropriately, is a double space.

Send stories to tabard@thestage.co.uk

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