Letter writing, by contrast, provided him with a freer outlet for creative expression, and his surviving correspondences number in the thousands. From that extraordinary output Hugh Macdonald has gathered some 500 letters that span the composer's life and chart the course of his artistic career. The first letter, written by a brash fifteen-year-old Berlioz to a group of music publishers, suggests that they bring out his work at their own expense. The last letter, in which Berlioz begs his brother-in-law for money, reveals the once-prodigious composer and writer reduced to a pathetic state of poverty. Dipped into or read straight through, Selected Letters of Berlioz is entertaining and informative reading for any music lover. Translated aptly and colorfully by Roger Nichols, Berlioz's letters blend personal sentiment with deep insight into nineteenth-century thought, providing an entrancing portrait of one of the century's leading artistic figures.