Letters of Condolence
The Book of Eulogies:
A Collection of Memorial Tributes,
Poetry, Essays and Letters of Condolence
edited with commentary by Phyllis Theroux
Letter of Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) to the mother of
The grief which I feel for the loss of a very kind friend is sufficient to
me know how much you suffer by the death of an amiable son: a man, of
whom I think it may be truly said, that no one knew him who does not
lament him. I look upon myself as having a friend, another friend, taken
Comfort, Dear Madam, I would give you, if I could; but I know how little
the forms of consolation can avail. Let me, however, counsel you not to
waste your health in unprofitable sorrow, but go to Bath, and endeavor to
prolong your own life; but when we have all done all that we can, one
must in time lose the other.
I am, Dear Madam,
Your most humble
Letter of playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) to Mrs. Patrick
Campbell on the death
of her son, killed in action in World War I.
London, 7 January 1918.
Never saw it or heard about it until your letter came. It is no use: I
sympathetic; these things simply make me furious. I want to swear. I do
Killed just because people are blasted fools. A chaplain too, to say nice
about it. It is not his business to say nice things about it, but to shout
“voice of thy son's blood crieth unto God from the ground.”
No, don't show me the letter. But I should very much like to have a nice
with that dear Chaplain, that sweet sky-pilot, that…
No use going on like this, Stella. Wait for a week, and then I shall be
clever and broadminded again and have forgotten all about this. I shall be
as nice as the Chaplain.
Oh, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, DAMN.
And oh, dear, dear, dear, dear, dear, dearest!
Letter from New Yorker editor-in-chief William Maxwell (1908- ) to
Morrow Williams on
the death of her brother, Stephen, in 1987.
If you love someone with your whole heart it is unbearable to have them
die. And because
you can't bear it, you don't let it happen. Without even thinking about it
you, the one who didn't
die, change, enlarge your nature so that there is room for them too, and
they go on living in you
and through you. It is something I have experienced.
The following letter was written by Robert Williams (1970-1995) to his
mother, Martha, after
his younger brother, Matthew (1972-1989), had been killed in an automobile
accident when he
was seventeen. Four years later, Robert was killed the same way. His own
letter was read at
I have just been sitting here thinking about Matt and feeling very sad.
But I also thought of
what you were saying about being so busy when Matt was here and this just
made me want to
express my appreciation and feelings for you. I am here in this world and
I love you as deeply
as I know love. Whatever happens through the course of our lifetimes or if
you are feeling
deeply lonely, you can always count on me and on this love.
heart and soul,