Sample Letter of Thanks and Appreciation by William James

What You Say When You Want To Write A Letter of Thanks and Appreciation: A Sample Letter by William James

William James was a famous psychologist and philosopher who died in 1910 His thinking has had a tremendous impact on contemporary motivational inspirational literature. ( recommends that you read some of the writings of William James in order to see for yourself how inspiring his writing can be.)

This post is a beautiful letter that the great psychologist wrote to his students at Radcliffe College who had given him, as an expression of appreciation and affection, an azalea tree.

Here is an excerpt from that letter of thanks:

Cambridge April 6, 1896
Dear young ladies,
I am deeply touched by your remembrance. It is the first time anyone ever treated me so kindly, so you may well believe that the impression on the heart of the lonely sufferer will be even more curable than the impression on your minds of all the teachings of philosophy 2A

I now perceive one immense omission in my psychology–in the deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated, and I left it out altogether from the book because I had never had it gratified until now.

I fear that you have let loose a demon in me, and that all of my activities will now be for the sake of such rewards….

Believe in the extreme pleasure you have caused me, and in the affectionate feelings with which I am and shall always be faithfully yours.

William James. believes that you can incorporate elements of this sample letter into your own letter of thanks and appreciation. But not every detail, because it is a bit too flowery for today’s correspondence, and it has a humorous tone that could me misunderstood.  You must be careful with humor in a letter of this kind, because you do not want the recipient of your message to think that you do not take seriously whatever he or she did for you.

But we do the words below can be adapted to your own message:

  • “I am deeply touched…”
  • “…the impression on (my) the heart…”
  • “,,,extreme pleasure you have caused me…”
  • “…the affectionate feelings with which I am and shall always be faithfully yours,”
  • If you can honestly state that the gift caused something good to happen, do say it.

One final observation.  The Principles of Psychology by William James was a very important book in its day and had a tremendous impact on science and literature. It was called a masterpiece: John Dewey predicted that it would rank “as a permanent classic, like Locke’s Essay and Hume’s Treatise.” For the author to state that this gift caused him to modify his thinking is impressive.  I very much agree with James that one of the one of the deepest principles of human nature “is the craving to be appreciated.”  –Gene Griessman

—Gene Griessman is an award-winning professional speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-435-2225 or Learn more about Gene Griessman at and

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