‘The Letter-Writers’ by Elizabeth Taylor

While this may not be Elizabeth Taylor’s best story (I’m still working my way through them, slowly but surely), it’s certainly one of her most memorable. A lonely middle-aged woman named Emily is preparing to meet a man she has been writing to for the last ten years. Over the years, she has confided such intimacies in Edmund – he had always seemed so approachable and attentive at a distance, perhaps overly so. As she waits for Edmund to arrive at her cottage for lunch, Emily worries that their meeting will be a mistake. Can she live up to the impressions created by her letters? Will Edmund be disappointed by the real Emily once he meets her in the flesh? Will he ever write to her again? Somewhat inevitably, the lunch is rather strained – the atmosphere made all the more difficult by the most awkward of starts and the interference of a nosy neighbour, the pushy Mrs Waterlow. The story itself is quietly devastating, and yet there is a glimmer of hope at the end.

First published in Cornhill Magazine. Collected in The Blush and Other Stories, Peter Davies 1958, republished by Virago Modern Classics, 1986. Also in Complete Short Stories, Virago, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s