The envelope above held a later letter from my grandfather postmarked 1965. I didn't have the envelope from the 1957 letter described in this article.

My grandfather, Robert Beverley Herbert, was 78 years old when he wrote the letter below to me, his seven-year-old granddaughter in Virginia. He was a busy attorney in Columbia, South Carolina, yet he took the time to write to me fairly often.

That was 58 years ago, yet as I hold the yellowed page this morning, I can still hear his voice and remember the thrill of finding a real letter addressed to me in our rural mailbox. This is the oldest one I have, but how moved I am to be reminded of his encouragement of my writing.

Writing journal

Writing journal from my grandfather

I was glad to get your letter and to know that the book reached you all right,” he began. The book he refers to was actually a beautiful leather-bound journal. I was breathless at the allure of those exquisite, lined white pages, each with an embossed page number in the upper corner.

Is there anything more filled with promise than a blank page?

It can hold absolutely anything…thoughts, hopes, memories, and dreams!

He said he would send me another when I filled it up, and he kept his promise at least three times over the years. My early entries, of course, were dreadful and boring, but he knew then what the best writing teachers have always known: writers must write to hone their craft, even when the writing is rough and terrible.

I believe he sent a personalized journal to each of his 16 grandchildren at one time or another, along with the encouragement to write in it and write letters to him.

“I hope you will do a lot of writing. The more you do the better you will do it, and it will be a pleasure to you as long as you live.”

Oh, how right he was!

A personal note or letter is a powerful thing, even when it is typed, as his was. His own writing was riddled with errors and lack of punctuation, but he shared the vivid details of his life and managed to convey his deep devotion to me and to his family. Each one is a treasure.

Is there a child or young person in your life to whom you could write a letter and plant the seeds of that child’s future? Don’t wait for more time or better stationery or a nicer pen. Don't fret over what to say. Just talk as though you were together in person.

Don't wait.

Do it today.



Page 2 of 1957 letter from author's grandfather


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