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Books Writing

On letter writing

Letter writing features large in many of the books that I read and enjoy. 

Books by Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens are set in the 19th century and it is easy to forget now what it was like in the time before SMS messages, email, WhatsApp, telephone, cell phones and other modern communication methods.

The letters in these books are rarely trivial matters as they invariably refer to some significant event or sentiment.

I occasionally wonder what it would be like now in 2020 to write and send a personal letter to someone. What would the recipient think? That I had lost my mind? 

Or would they be pleasantly surprised and thrilled and would it cast their minds back to long forgotten memories of times past?

I can recall sending and receiving letters from my parents when I was in boarding school in St. Finian’s College, Mullingar in the 1970s. Every year, a few weeks prior to my birthday, I would write to my uncle in the United States, the uncle who was my godfather, enquiring how he was keeping and telling him how I was getting on in school.

He would always write back and send $5 or $10 for my birthday. I was as thrilled to receive a note of foreign currency as I was to receive the monetary value.

As I write this it has just struck me that it would be nice to write a personal letter to my wife and mother, and there is nothing stopping me. 

Writing it by long hand would probably give an even greater thrill to the recipient on account of the time, care, and personal touch that such a letter would show.

I must check out Amazon.co.uk and see what type of writing paper is available now. And that raises the question: are there people out there still who write personal letters by hand? Is there a market for such paper and envelopes?

I am listening to “Can You Forgive Her?” by Anthony Trollope at the moment and as I travelled to work this morning Alice Vavasor has written to her cousin Kate Vavasor to tell her that she has been put in fear by Kate’s brother, George, and cannot continue with her engagement to him.

All our letters nowadays are typewritten and most of them are sent by banks or utility companies. You will receive the occasional promotional flyer from some retailer or other but this is invariably a rudimentary description of goods and prices, and not a sparkling piece of persuasive writing.

Perhaps in another twenty to fifty years even those workhorse pieces of written communication, delivered by the postal service, may appear to be a quaint part of our past. Then, communication will probably be by email or video or some other electronic means.

Letters such as those written by Alice Vavasor and the heroines of Jane Austen novels will truly be relics of wonder and amusement.

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