You might want to be careful what you do with old love letters. In 1855 and 1856, an English gentleman wrote almost 60 such letters to Fanny Reade. We can only imagine Fanny's reaction when she received them, but we do know one thing for sure: she placed them in a secret compartment in her rosewood writing slope. They remained there until this year.
Fifty years ago, one of Fanny Reade's relatives sold the now faded piece of furniture for 10 shillings (50p) at a local auction at Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. The letters were safely hidden for the next half century until the writing slope was sent to a furniture restorer. He identified the mechanism that exposed the secret compartment. Fanny's secret affair was secret no more.
You can read this interesting story in the London Telegraph's web site at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/08/19/nletters19.xml.
My thanks to John Rees for telling me about this story.