Roy Foster

Seamus Heaney’s letters confirm that he really was as nice as he seemed

Not only did he reply eloquently to anyone who sent him a book or poem, he even wrote at courteous length to unknown, self-important curmudgeons

Seamus Heaney, photographed at the Edinburgh international Book Festival in 2002. [Getty Images]

Seamus Heaney wrote letters everywhere – waiting for his car to be repaired at a country garage, sitting over a glass or more of Paddy late at night, and above all in aeroplanes, ‘pacing the pages against the pilot as he takes us in to Heathrow or Shannon’, as he wrote to a friend in 1995.

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