I quit!The Art of Writing a Resignation Letter | Culture

phosphorusPerhaps the best touch is the handwritten serial number in the date; Oliver Dowden’s resignation letter to Boris Johnson is neatly typeset and well-spaced (in a layout sense), leaving him a blank space , asking him to insert “24th” after June, as if he temporarily considered sitting on the letter for a few days while seeing how things were going well, but then decided to abscond sharply, of course before he had to get on breakfast TV. The culture minister’s entire message – like a former publicist – is a neat exercise in passive-aggression and reasonable shirking, with the central claim that “someone has to be held accountable” (but who? Who might be responsible for this mess? ?), salutes those who “work tirelessly” and “deserve better” (not you, you lazy bastard), and promise future loyalty (once you drop your hook, man). As Dear John’s letter put it, rather than “it’s not you, it’s me”, it’s more like “it must be you”.

A facsimile of a letter printed in a newspaper headed by the House of Commons
Dowden’s letter. Photo: Oliver Dowden/Pennsylvania

Of course, a resignation letter is the last thing you want to call attention to your shortcomings, especially if you’re even suspected of quitting before you’re pushed. Thus, the perfect sample might include condemnation, hurt feelings, self-righteousness, and appeal to the recipient’s sense of morality and fair play. It may elaborate on all the reasons why the sender finds it difficult to accept, or it may claim to act on behalf of the greater good; it may be angry or regretful.

Probably none of these. Bill Shankly, for example, when submitting his resignation to the chairman of the board in 1974, tended to focus: “Dear sir, I would like to retire as soon as possible from the position of manager of Liverpool Football Club, if you are willing to accept the necessary steps to start my pension .” It was signed by W. Shankly. While Shankly may have learned something about brevity from Richard Nixon, his resignation letter to Henry Kissinger was only 11 words long.

Of course, even more interesting is that you can almost smell the burning letters of the bridge. In 1924, William Faulkner quit his job as postmaster at the University of Mississippi when he decided that a life of government service was unsuitable for a great American novelist in the making: “As long as I live in a capitalist system Next, I want my life to be affected by the demands of the rich. But if I’m going to follow the orders of every rogue villain with a two-cent investment stamp, I’ll be damned.” Grandiose is impressive, but It should be noted that the “request of the rich” is really just about delivering the letter on time, or not at all — an obligation of Faulkner, who, if he likes to play a game of golf, often closes his office, surprisingly failing to deliver. accomplish.

Others have a greater claim to the moral high ground. Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1939 letter to the daughters of the American Revolution began with self-deprecation—”I was never a very useful member,” the first lady wrote—and quickly turned to accusation. She declared that the group had been given “an opportunity to lead in an enlightened manner” but failed to prevent her from singing at Constitution Hall by enacting white-only performance rules for African-American opera singer Marian Anderson. Roosevelt then arranged for Anderson to sing in front of an audience of 75,000 at a concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

Political resignations are complex beasts because their effects can extend far beyond the quitters. Nigel Lawson resigned as chancellor in 1989 due to the adverse influence of Margaret Thatcher’s economic adviser Alan Walters, ceding the post to John · Major (John Major).The following year, triggered by highly dramatic events Jeffrey Howe resigns, the Major became Prime Minister. What is most striking about Howe’s own letter is its detail. Running to 17 paragraphs of commentary on the heated debate over the right and wrong of the ERM and Monetary Union, the emotional content is limited to respectful sadness. However it changed everything.

Would Dowden have the same effect? It’s too early to tell, of course, but it feels too illusory and obviously self-serving to go down in history as a turning point in Conservative Party history. What’s more interesting is what kind of letter the seemingly impassive Johnson himself might have written. One can only imagine it as a sinister amalgamation of false Churchillism and cod Latin, like a mover walking around with a child’s broken swing.