These letters were not just letters; they were highly contrived, insufferably self-conscious miniature diaries, stretching over several days, and featuring scrawled quotes from Keats or Beckett, or whoever was on the Leaving Cert that year. Photograph: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

I can still recite it, almost word for word. “Dear Jennifer,” it opened in his distinctive spidery hand. “It is with a heavy heart that I write to le(...)