It is a trait that we learn from our creator. He almost broke up with me but decided to forgive me. I feel terrible about what happened, but I know that I was the.
"Can you ever forgive me?" Read Israel's forgery of a Dorothy Parker letter by clicking enlarge. hide caption
"Can you ever forgive me?" Read Israel's forgery of a Dorothy Parker letter by clicking enlarge.
"I'm feeling more and more like the wicked witch of the East." Read one of Israel's forged Lillian Hellman letters by clicking enlarge. hide caption
"I'm feeling more and more like the wicked witch of the East." Read one of Israel's forged Lillian Hellman letters by clicking enlarge.
"You told me nothing about Bob. Am I to assume that it is over?" Read one of Israel's forged Noel Coward letters by clicking enlarge. hide caption
"You told me nothing about Bob. Am I to assume that it is over?" Read one of Israel's forged Noel Coward letters by clicking enlarge.
For Lee Israel to take an interest in a celebrity, they had to be dead. Otherwise, they could get her into trouble. That's because she built a career from pretending to be them.
In the early 1990s, Israel faked around 400 letters from deceased celebrities, including writers Noel Coward, Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellman, and sold them to literary dealers. Until the FBI came knocking three years into her creative enterprise, few people asked any questions.
Although she says her career as a forger is supremely dead, she's turned this period of her life into a memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger, published by Simon and Schuster.
Her foray into forgery "happened incrementally, like most evil things do," she tells Madeleine Brand on a recent afternoon. She had been a New York Times best-selling biographer — penning the histories of actress Tallulah Bankhead, journalist and TV personality Dorothy Kilgallen and cosmetics queen Estee Lauder. The latter one was not so successful, Israel says, and was the start of her "downward tumble."
Step One: A Simple Theft
She needed money for her sick cat, money "to survive." So it began with a simple theft.
"I went to the library and was given a bunch of letters, which I should not have been given in a nonsecure area," Israel says.
She says she needed $40 to get her cat's tests back, so she "took a couple of Fanny Brice letters, slipped them in my sneakers, and sold them to a place called Argosy on the east side of New York City."
She got $40 a piece for the letters, and "for the first time in a long time, I had some jingle in my jeans," she says.
As she stole and sold more and more letters, she began to realize that autograph dealers would pay more for better content — so she began supplementing.
Step Two: Hot Content
"There was a big white space at the bottom of a letter after 'Yours truly, Fanny Brice.' I got an old typewriter, and I wrote a couple of hot sentences that improved the letter and elevated the price."
Israel then stopped stealing, she says. Working as a biographer had been perfect training for forgery. Satire, parody, literature, research — important parts of her previous, legal works — all go into letters, she says.
"I used what talent I had and what voice I had to duplicate the voice and the letters of some very famous people," she says.
It was also a bit like writing fiction, Israel says, which can sometimes be more fun than writing reality.
"You own the character. I finally owned Noel Coward and Edna Ferber and Louise Brooks and people like that," she says. "I had always adored large personalities, I had a good ear and I guess a talent to amuse. I could be funny, and that's how I did it."
For Dorothy Parker, for example, "I had her letterhead duplicated blank, and then I wrote stuff." The dealers were "spectacularly incurious," she says.
"I had a whole cock-and-bull story made up about the cousin who died and left me these wonderful letters. I never had to explain," Israel says.
She faked 400 letters over a period of three years.
Sexuality Raises A Red Flag
Eventually, Noel Coward's sexuality did her in. She thought she had figured out how to capture his essence.
"It was very good Coward; it was better Coward than Coward. Coward didn't have to be Coward. I had to be Coward and a half," she says.
Several of her letters even made it into The Letters of Noel Coward, published in 2007.
But Israel got a little too bold with the nods to his homosexuality.
"There were a lot of references to 'Dear boys' and 'Hey boy' and 'How is Bernie?' and that sort of thing. But the fact of the matter is — and I don't think I gave it much thought, but somebody else did: Noel Coward came up in a very difficult period to be homosexual. It was a jailing offense. So it would have been very unlikely for Coward to put all these kinds of campy [references] into any kind of correspondence that went out into the world."
West Coast dealers smelled something fishy. Not long after, a New York dealer who bought several Parker forgeries threatened to testify before a grand jury unless she paid him $5,000.
"That was the end of my career as a forger," she says.
But she wasn't ready to totally give up the criminal life. She still needed a source of income.
Step Three: Steal Some More
"So this is when I think it gets bad, I mean evil, I mean you know, bad. Hold your ears if you can't stand it. I went to very prestigious archives, and I would duplicate the letter. I'd go back to the library, and I'd switch," she says. "And then I'd have a real letter from usually a very well-known writer, and a friend of mine would sell the letters."
It worked for a while, until the FBI caught up with her and her ex-con friend. It's not that she didn't know she was doing something wrong all along, she says.
"I'm not a sociopath, of course I knew," she says. "But I also knew that I had no choice, it seemed to me."
Step Four: Write A Book
Israel didn't serve jail time, but she was sentenced to five years' probation and six months' house arrest. She was also barred from many libraries.
For money these days, she's still writing — but only under her own name. Her publisher Simon and Schuster carefully vetted each and every fact in her book, she says.
Beyond that, her options are limited.
"Copy editing gives me enormous pleasure. So would another book, but I can't think of one right now. I'm a little dry," Israel says.
And there's still a chance to make money off her forgeries — "honestly," of course.
"It has come to my attention that some of the letters are now on the market as Lee Israel's forgeries. ... My work has received some attention and marvelous reviews, and people have liked the letters. And so they're salable, apparently," she says.
Memoirs of a Literary Forger
by Lee Israel
It is a trait that we learn from our creator. He almost broke up with me but decided to forgive me. I feel terrible about what happened, but I know that I was the.
We have shared four great years together. We have had our issues but always manage to stay strong for each other.
I don't want for any disagreement, anger, frustration or anything else to hinder the love we have for each other. I love you to the end of the earth and back and will not want to trade that for anything in this world.
I know from the bottom of your heart you love me too. I want us to be committed to a better relationship. I want us to always share our happiness and well-being for each other. I don't want us to isolate anything from one another. I want us to be able to share everything. I really don't want us to build separate lives, I want us to focus on making ours stronger.
Love is sharing thoughts, feelings, ideas and concerns (good or bad), coming clean with everything and appreciating each other. There's no such thing as a great relationship, we just have to work at it to make it the best it can be. The main thing is Love and Respect for one-another. Many relationships have problems, we just have to strive to make it better and make it work.
It's been a few days, it feels like months have gone by.
I remember the days, months, years we spent together, how we walked hand in hand in the streets, how we kissed without a care in the world, how we played and laughed under the sheets... I miss all of that.
Most importantly, I miss YOU. It's all inside my head... and I can't get it out. I love you so much. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me.
You are one of the best things ever happened to me. You are always in my heart, mind and soul... Loving you has made me stronger and made me a better person than I was.
You gave me light when I was on the edge of darkness, and for that I will be forever grateful.
Thank you for everything you have changed in my life...for all the laughter, and for all the great times we have shared. You are every reason, every hope and every dream I have ever had. You are the world to me!
I know deep in my heart that the purpose of my soul is to love you each and every day in this lifetime. Goodbye for now. Know that I love you.... I always have.. and I always will.
All my love...
This letter needs no specification of a sender or receiver. It is not from me or from you. It could be from anyone. It is not to any one person, but rather to many people. It is to and from every one of our hearts.
Dear human being,
I want to write to you so I can let you know that you have let me down. I could write the words over and over again, but I realize it changes nothing. I could scream it at the top of my lungs and let the world know how you have hurt me, but the past will not hear me or pay me any mind. I could hate you. I could keep that hatred for you deep inside of me and let it hide there safely as a reminder of the pain you brought me. But I am the only one who knows that it exists and lets it eat away at my heart, so why create it?
I was your friend. I was your family. I was your lover. You are a person that could have been any number of things to me. Heartbreak plays no favorites when it chooses people in life to let you down. I really always had faith in you. I trusted you and the promises that you made to me. I believed in your aspirations and disregarded your ambiguity. I let you in, against my best wishes. I relentlessly defended you. I saw the beautiful parts of who you were. I made plans with you and kept them in my head like a guaranteed magnificent destination. I loved you. I gave you all that I had and now I am left feeling empty and cheated. But do you know what the strangest and most unbelievably frustrating part of all of this is? I forgive you.
You and I are different people, but in the end we are the same. We are only human. As humans, we let each other down. We promise love before we know what it really means. We abuse trust. We break hearts. We make mistakes. I have made my fair share of mistakes as well. I’m sure I have hurt you too. I know there are parts of you that I will never truly understand and therefore cannot fit into the small boxes of reasoning that I have tried to place around these complex situations. I know that there was a reason why I believed in you, and therefore there is a reason why I still want the absolute best for you. Friendship, family, and relationships seem so well defined with their expectations, but very rarely are all of those expectations going to be met. That is the chance you take in believing in people. In the end, loving each other only teaches us about love, as a separate and beautiful entity that is unparalleled to anything else in this world.
You could be a lover, friend, parent, child, or borderline stranger. Whoever you are, I want you to know that you have hurt me, but I forgive you. I don’t forgive you because it makes me feel like a good person. I don’t forgive you because I don’t want to deal with the recognition of your actions. I don’t forgive you because I have forgotten. On the contrary, I forgive you because I remember. I remember that you are a human and humans teach each other in both positive and negative ways. I remember that you brought me memories and emotions that made me feel alive. I remember that if you were worth my trust and love, you are worth my forgiveness and I am worth the relief of being able to let go. I know I am strong and alive, and free to experience all depths of love and loss. I am blessed for the moments that I have and the moments that I have lost. You are a piece of me, and that piece will not eat away at my soul like hatred would. It will live inside of me in a place that is preserved by forgiveness, happiness and humility. And for that I will be a better person going forward.
P.S. Forgiveness will make the future kinder to the both of us.
Another human being
An Open Letter to Anyone Who’s Lost Someone Too Soon
An Open Letter to the Man Who Broke My Heart
An Open Letter to the Child I’ll Adopt One Day
An Open Letter to My College Self
An Open Letter To My Birth Parents
An Open Letter To My Anxious Mind
Lexi is the founder of HerTrack.com. She is also an SEO Nerd living in New York City with her cat and collection of cheesy coffee mugs. Lexi contributes to a number of online publications and is always trying to get involved in the conversation. She's an advocate for equality, knowledge, healthy relationships, compassion, self-confidence, integrity and above all, love. She's addicted to caffeinated beverages and people who make her smile.View all posts by Lexi Herrick
Take time now to write a letter to the person you have hurt. You may choose . I don't blame you for being mad at me, but please forgive me. I don't want that to.
You know how moms wish we had more energy, more sleep, and get more done? What if I told you there’s a tool that can help you get all three… guaranteed?
You’d probably be skeptical, yet excited, and eager to try it out. Well, it’s not a magic pill, but rather a tool we all resist: forgiveness. And self-forgiveness is the most important type of forgiveness for moms.
I have transformed my life and literally created miracles in my life by simply being more forgiving, and practicing self-forgiveness. I’ve also witnessed many moms all around the globe create a life they love just by being willing to set themselves free of the poisons we call shame, guilt, and resentment.
Today I want to share a liberating exercise that will help assist you in your journey to release unresolved hurts that are draining your energy, so you can be more positive, more present, and more productive – in all areas of your life. It’s called a self-forgiveness letter, and it simply consists of writing a heartfelt a forgiveness letter to yourself.
I once had a young mom in one of my workshops who was not only apprehensive to write a self-forgiveness letter, but she actually flat out told me it was “the silliest exercise she’d ever heard of.” I also thought it would be a waste of time the first time I heard about it, so I knew where she was coming from.
I kindly thanked her for her feedback and I was convinced she wasn’t going to even try, but it turns out, she ended up writing several pages and admitted to the room that she felt so blocked, stuck, and unhappy and that she felt she was finally free of the negative emotions that were stunting her personal growth.
My favorite author of all times, Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez (Gabriel García Márquez) once said: “What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it,” and writing self-forgiveness letter is going to help you gain perspective and remember what has happened in a way that doesn’t obstruct your divine identity or your divine connection.
The secret to self-forgiveness is to offer oneself the same compassion and support we would offer to someone we love unconditionally. To write a forgiveness letter to yourself will feel more natural when you imagine you are talking to a dear friend you care deeply about who is struggling with the same concerns or has treated herself in the same ways.
Another way to write a great self-forgiveness letter is to write it from the perspective of a friend (real or imaginary) who is accepting, forgiving, and wise. This friend loves you dearly and has a deep respect and admiration for you.
I have wronged you so much throughout my life and I haven’t apologized. I want you to know I’m deeply sorry.
I am sorry for criticizing you, telling you I hated you, that you are worthless, and that you are not good enough. I am sorry for every name I’ve called you and every mean word I’ve said to you.
I am sorry for believing what others said to you in anger: that you won’t, that you can’t, that you shouldn’t.
I am sorry for each and every single time I compared you to someone else.
I am sorry for unwise choices I made. I am sorry for blaming you, for shaming you, and inflicting you with constant guilt.
I am sorry for doubting you and keeping you from doing what you love and pursuing your dreams.
I’m sorry for pressuring you to complete Cinderella-size to-do-lists. I’m sorry I called you a failure and for measuring your worth against them, driving you to endless anxiety, depletion and depression.
I am sorry for setting unrealistic standards and ridiculous expectations on you, and feeling like you were a disappointment. I’m sorry for judging you so harshly.
I am sorry for not allowing you to rest when you were tired, heal when you were hurt, and relax when you most needed it. I’m sorry for making you feel guilty when you actually made an effort to take care of yourself, laugh, and live in the moment.
I am sorry for giving away your power to people who hurt you and created toxicity in your life.
I am sorry for always keeping you busy and not making time for you, for not listening to your heart, and not trusting your intuition.
I’m sorry for not taking care of your body. I am sorry I deprived you of sleep and proper nutrition. I am sorry I made unhealthy choices that cost you, sabotaged you, and hurt you.
I am sorry I have consistently taken you for granted and neglected your needs. I have not taken you seriously or treated you with the respect you deserve.
I am sorry for all of the times I let you fall. I am sorry someone else’s opinion and the image they saw of you was more important to me than how you felt and what was most important to you.
I am sorry for not treating you with love. I am sorry for not saying more encouraging, empowering words, and for not loving you the way I love others.
Please forgive me!
With deep love, admiration, and gratitude,
Once you write your self-forgiveness letter, read and re-read it until it sinks in. Sometimes it helps to set it down for a while to really feel words soothing, healing, and comforting you.
Like with all forgiveness letters, it feels really good to burn the letter as a conscious choice of letting go and moving forward. I love watching the paper burn and, as it does, releasing everything that it symbolically represents. As it turns into ashes and smoke, I affirm myself that my history does not have power to hurt me or define me.
My commitment to change is not infallible and there will be more to forgive myself for. But I am free for now… and that is enough.
Have you ever written a forgiveness letter to yourself? I am excited to hear your thoughts on this energizing, therapeutic and profoundly healing practice, and any tips you may have. I wish you every happiness!
I’d love to keep connected with you! Join my Instagram community | Sign up for my Blogging 101 course at no cost!
Subscribe to blog post Updates | Like on Facebook | Follow on Twitter
Mom, Dad, as I sit here crying writing you this letter I can't help but think what a to mom from son or daughter, Please Forgive me Apology Letter for Behavior.