Curator Joanna opens five novels in which letter writing plays an important role.

For a bonus postal link, all five novels later featured on British postage stamps. 

1. Dracula, Bram Stoker

‘Tales of Terror’ featuring an image of Count Dracula, 1997

Perhaps the best known and most successfully executed example of an epistolary novel, a novel in letter form, Bram Stoker deploys journal entries, ships’ logs and newspaper clippings to bring different voices and authenticity to his Gothic tale. Through the novel’s many letters, the reader explores how the characters are connected and mines their private thoughts as they face off with the bloodthirsty Count 

24 May.

My dearest Mina,—

Thanks, and thanks, and thanks again for your sweet letter. It was so nice to be able to tell you and to have your sympathy.

My dear, it never rains but it pours. How true the old proverbs are. Here am I, who shall be twenty in September, and yet I never had a proposal till to-day, not a real proposal, and to-day I have had three. Just fancy! THREE proposals in one day! Isn’t it awful! 

Extract of a letter from Lucy Westenrato Mina Murray, Dracula

2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

‘Jane Austen’ stamp, depicting a scene from Pride and Prejudice, 2013

The 18th century is known as a golden age in letter writing, and many novels written in this century were entirely in epistolary formJane Austen wrote the first draft of Pride and Prejudice in the 1790s, and it’s believed this early version, entitled First Impressions, could have been written in the epistolary. The final version, published over 20 years later, mentions over 40 letters 

Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten: and the effort which the formation and the perusal of this letter must occasion, should have been spared had not my character required it to be written and read.  

Extract of Mr Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice 

3. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

‘Jane Eyre’ stamps marking 150th Death Anniversary of Charlotte Bronte, 2005

Mr Rochester and Jane’s telepathic communication marks a key turning point in Jane Eyre, as they reach out psychically to each other. The novel includes more earthly communication through letters, and significantly, letters not delivered until years after they were sent. 

My aunt informed me, to relieve her conscience, that three years earlier, she had received the following letter from my uncle, my mother’s other brother, John Eyre:

‘Madam,—Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my niece, Jane Eyre, and to tell me how she is? It is my intention to write shortly and desire her to come to me at Madeira. Providence has blessed my endeavours to secure a competency; and as I am unmarried and childless, I wish to adopt her during my life, and bequeath her at my death whatever I may have to leave.

‘JOHN EYRE, Madeira.’

Letter from John Eyre to Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre

4. And Then There Were NoneAgatha Christie

Agatha Christie stamps, 2016

The killer in Agatha Christie’s classic whodunnit, reveals his identity in a message in a bottle, thrown into the sea, caught by a fisherman and handed to the police.  

I have wanted—let me admit it frankly—to commit a murder myself. . . . I was, or could be, an artist in crime!

Extract from the epilogue of And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie 

5. Frankenstein, Mary Shelly

‘Tales of Terror’ stamp featuring an image of Frankenstein’s monster, 1997

Another Gothic novel using the epistolary form, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein begins with four letters from Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret Saville. The gradual introduction of the story builds suspense and adds believability 

To Mrs. Saville, England

St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17–

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.

Extract of letter from Robert Walton to his sister, Margaret SavilleFrankenstein 


Have we missed any? Let us know via FacebookTwitter or Instagram. To make the list, the novel must be both featured on a stamp and include a letter within its pages.

– Joanna Espin, Curator

Sign up to our newsletter for stories of extraordinary communication and more.