Friday, February 17, 2017

Poison Pen Letters

Last night's letter looks written with a poison pen, which got me thinking about poison pen letters. A little research netted more results than imagined. Agatha Christie wrote at least one story about the power of the poison pen, as did an ocean liner load of writers over the years. Who doesn't like a who-done-it with a pen and paper? Would such letters work with today's technology? Burner phones seem to get the job done without leaving easily solved clues beyond tracking cell tower ping maps. Envelopes would have too many traceable clues, including telltale DNA. Besides, tabloids do the work for the sender, and pays them for the privilege of poisoning the intended target. Are poison pen letters the things of old fashioned mystery plots for the likes of Agatha Christie and Perry Mason? Hmm. 

"A poison pen letter is a letter or note containing unpleasant, abusive or malicious statements or accusations about the recipient or a third party. It is usually sent anonymously. In the term "poison pen," the word poison is used figuratively, rather than literally. Poison pen letters are usually composed and sent to upset the recipient. They differ from blackmail, which is intended to obtain something from the recipient. In contrast, poison pen letters are purely malicious."

In the United Kingdom, Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 covers most cases of poison pen letters.[1]  (Wikipedia)

Poison Pen Letter:


composed or sent maliciously, as a letter, usually anonymously andfor the purpose of damaging another's reputation or happiness:
The newspaper received a poison-pen letter alleging that the mayorwas misusing city funds.

characterized by or given to the sending of poison-pen letters:
a poison-pen campaign; a poison-pen writer.

There's at least one song about the poison pen letter:
Lyrics from a song, "Poison Pen Letter:"

"Poison Pen Letters"

Dying alone would be a privilege 
if all my friends were like you. 
Dying would be a privilege. 
if all my friends were like you.

You can buy a poison pen letter kit from Amazon here: Poison-pen-Letter-Writing-Set. It has "Everything you need to let someone know how you really feel." (About the Author:  Anon, the author, remains anonymous but lives in London and keeps busy writing malicious missives.)

Books about the poison pen letter:

The Moving Finger
Gaudy Night
The Skull Beneath the Skin
The Duchess of Malfi
A Dog's Ransom
The Human Stain 
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters

Then there's blackmail . . .

. . . to be continued


  1. I certainly hope you haven't got a real poison pen letter! who could include such pretty decorations if they are being malicious to you? Please tell me it isn't so!!

    1. LOL. That's a letter I answered right after reading about or watching a trailer for an Agatha Christie movie about her missing years. Then there was a discussion about blackmail and poison pen letters, and I had my topic for a post. But not until after the three of us had researched the subject. You're so sweet. Your lovely "pretty decorations" led to "pretty poison, and we were off to the races again! LOL.

      More and more people are rediscovering the joy of handwritten letters. It does my heart good. :)

  2. PS I received two letters from you this past week and a reply is in the works!!!

    1. Don't give them a second thought. I'm trying my best to catch up and sometimes I find myself two-letters deep in the behind category. I'm actually working to get Letter Amnesty Day declared as a real deal. :)

      Be well. And thanks for commenting. Too often I read posts and get to thinking about what I've read, go on to Google something from the post and forget to leave a comment. :D

  3. oh dear oh my I can hardly wait to dicuss blackmail LOL it and you take care and stay safe my dear .

    1. I'm working on it. LOL. I just finished another little book that's a cute as they come, all the while promising myself to get cracking on the Blackmail. Speaking of which? Do you know some people are still silly enough to try blackmailing others in this day of modern technology? The local news makes for great blog post ideas. ;)

      Thanks for commenting. And be well! This is the year to be well. :)