Beckett's handwriting

Samuel Beckett manuscript

'I enjoyed Nicholas Lezard's review of the new edition of Samuel Beckett's letters ("Love, styes and stools", 21 March), but am obliged to defend Beckett's handwriting, which Lezard describes as "shocking". I can't speak for the letters seen by the editors of the book, but I once spent two happy years reading and writing about the vast Beckett manuscript archive held at the University of Reading. In those documents, at least, his hand was tiny, precise, and quite readable, usually in anthracite-shiny black ink. I liked how he wrote on loose sheets of mathematics paper, the faint grid lines familar from school exercise books, but my favourites were the originals of his "Mirlitonnades" poems, neatly and deliberately inscribed on throwaway pieces of paper - napkins, strips of newsprint, cheroot boxes. He also seemed to be an inveterate doodler; the manuscripts were often illuminated by odd little sketches, funny, spooky, often unexpectedly filthy. But always neat.'

Dr Peter Mills
Leeds Metropolitan University