kevs presents 001Helene Hanff never read fiction, saying that “I never can get interested in things that didn’t happen to people who never lived.” 

She was, however, a devourer of English literature, as this list of the books she ordered from Frank Doel and Marks and Co., between 1949 and 1968 attests. I compiled this  list from two sources:



Requested books:

Austen, Jane – Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Belloc, Hilaire – essays

Beowulf (mentioned, but no interest in reading)

Book Lover’s Anthology

Cassell’s dictionary

Catullus – Loeb classic edition; (Latin text; verse trans. by Sir Richard Burton, prose trans. by Leonard Smithers–HH not a fan as the translators “cleaned up” the language)

Chaucer – Canterbury Tales (“a modern English version, not Old English or Anglo-Saxon”) (translated by Hill, published by Longmans 1934)

Chesterfield – essays

Delafield – Diary of a Provincial Lady

De Tocqueville – Journey to America (1831-32)

Dobson, Austen ed. The Sir Roger De Coverley Papers 

Donne, John – Complete Sermons (p.78 – FPD says the sermons an only be found in the 40-vol. complete works)

“Elizabethan poets”

Goldsmith – essays

Grahame, Kenneth – Wind in the Willows (w/Shepherd illus.)

Greek New Testament

Hazlitt – Selected Essays Of William Hazlitt 1778 To 1830, Nonesuch Press edition.

Horace – Loeb classic edition

Hunt, Leigh – Essays

Johnson, Samuel, On Shakespeare, 1908, Intro by Walter Raleigh

Jonson, Ben – Timber

Lamb – Essays of Elia (MacDonald Illus. Classics, 1823); Tales from Shakespear

Landor, Walter Savage – Vol II of The Works and Life of Walter Savage Landor (1876) – Imaginary Conversations

Latin Anglican New Testament

Latin Vulgate Bible / Latin Vulgate New Testament

Latin Vulgate Dictionary

Leonard, R. M. ed. The Book-Lover’s Anthology, (1911).

MacDonald Illustrated Classics

Memoirs of (Louis the) Duke de Saint-Simon – trans. by Francis Arkwright

Newman, John Henry. Discourses on the Scope and Nature of University Education. Addressed to the Catholics of Dublin– “‘Idea of a University” (1852 and 1858)

Ouiller-Couch, Arthur , Oxford Book of English Prose

Ouiller-Couch, Arthur The Oxford Book Of English Verse

Ouiller-Couch, Arthur, The Pilgrim’s Way

Oxford Dictionary (“Shorter”)

Plato – Four Socratic dialogues (Oxford pr.) (1903)

Plato – minor dialogues

Pepys, Samuel – Pepys Diary – 4 Volume Braybrook ed. (1926, revised ed)

Sappho – Loeb classic edition

St. John, Christopher Ed. Ellen Terry  and  Bernard Shaw : A Correspondence / The Shaw – Terry Letters : A Romantic Correspondence

Sterne, Laurence, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, (1759)

Stevenson, Robert Louis. Virginibus Puerisque

Walton, Izaak.  The Compleat Angler . J Major’s (2nd ed., 1824).

Walton, Izaak. The Lives of – John Donne – Sir Henry Wotton – Richard Hooker – George Herbert & Robert Sanderson

Woolf, Virginia – The Common Reader (2 vols) (1932)

Wyatt, ThomasPoems of Thomas Wyatt


  1. HH never read fiction, but did order Laurence Sterne’s “Tristram Shandy,” where the character telling the story isn’t even born yet.
    I rest my case…

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