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How to be Insulting by Letter

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree returned the script of a play sent to him by a budding young playwright and attached the following letter:

'My dear sir,

I have read your play.

Oh my dear sir!

Yours faithfully,


Following the publication of the first part of his book The Age of Reason, which alienated him from many of the leaders of the American War of Independence, Thomas Paine wrote to his former friend, George Washington:

'As to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship, and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an imposter; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.'

In the early days of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln showed growing impatience with his commander-in-chief, General George B. McClellan. He wrote a couple of memorable letters to him strongly criticizing his failure to engage the Confederate forces:

'My dear McClellan,' he wrote in one of them, 'If you don't want to use the army I should like to borrow it for a while.

Yours respectfully,


Then in answer to a dispatch from the general, complaining about the condition of the Union cavalry, he wrote:

'I have just read your dispatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?'


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