Gandhi’s note to Hitler suggesting peace, a child’s advice for poorly President Nixon to eat his greens and classic Steve Martin humour for a fan: Some of the greatest letters you will ever read

By Ted Thornhill

As Adolf Hitler pulled the world ever closer to conflict in 1939, Mohandas Gandhi wrote him a personal letter, urging him to pull back from the brink ‘for the sake of humanity’.

The German dictator never received the letter because it was intercepted by the British government – but it’s been published in a book called Letters Of Note, along with many other remarkable missives.

Here we’ve selected some of the most memorable. Along with Gandhi’s letter they include a child’s dietary advice for President Nixon, a tongue-in-cheek reply to a fan from Steve Martin and a letter from the co-discoverer of DNA, scientist Francis Crick, to his son, explaining the achievement.

From Gandhi to Hitler

Plea: Gandhi wrote to Hitler and told him that he alone could prevent the world from descending into savage conflict

Plea: Gandhi wrote to Hitler and told him that he alone could prevent the world from descending into savage conflict

He even asked him for forgiveness should the letter irk him in some way.

Eat your greens, President Nixon

 Cold facts: In 1973 President Nixon received a letter with dietary advice from an eight-year-old, concerned about his pneumonia

This letter to President Nixon, from eight-year-old John W James, urging him to eat his vegetables to see off a bout of pneumonia, went down a storm. So much so that the U.S leader read it out to his White House staff, according to Letters Of Note.

July 1973 was a tumultuous time for Nixon, with the Watergate scandal in full swing, so this letter was no doubt a breath of fresh air.

Steve Martin humour

Smiles better: Steve Martin penned this 'personal' letter to a fan

This letter from Hollywood star Steve Martin was sent to 17-year-old fan Jerry Carlson in 1979 and in just a few lines shows why he’s such a popular comedy actor.

His mixed format letter, that needs just a few blanks filled in, is a perfect mixture of the personal and the humorous.

DNA pioneer Francis Crick to 12-year-old Michael Crick

Science lesson: Francis Crick, who co-discovered the structure of DNA, told his son of the discovery weeks before the public found out

In 1953 British scientist Francis Crick made, with James Watson, one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century – the double-helix structure of DNA.

And he wrote a letter to his son Michael explaining it all several weeks before the public were alerted.

Charmingly, he makes every effort in the letter to explain what DNA is and how it works in a way that won’t bamboozle the 12-year-old.

Iggy Pop turns agony uncle

Pop-ular: In a handwritten letter to a fan, Iggy Pop explains how she'd brightened up his 'dim life' with a long letter and proceeds to offer her some sage life advice

Letters Of Note explains that it took Iggy Pop nine months to reply to the then 21-year-old Laurence in Paris, who had written a tale of woe to him about the state of her life, but the wait was worth it.

In 1995 she recalled: ‘By the time I finished I was in tears. He had read the whole 20 pages. Including my description of being the child of an acrimonious divorce…. the fear, the anger, the love.’
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