Dear Lovey Dovey

seize a pencil or penQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My boyfriend is going away for a month and I was just wondering if you had any neat things that we could do to keep in touch. Plus, he’s sixteen and I’m thirteen so it’s really hard for me to trust him while he’s down there.


A Dear Anonymous:

I think I’ll avoid that trust issue, and instead focus on your quest to keep in touch. I’d like to explain the very ancient art of letter writing (probably before your time). I know, I know, it sounds scary and foreign, but before we had phones and email, people actually wrote letters to one another to share stories and experiences. Read on about this unusual concept in this quote by author Richard A Wells. His book Manners, Culture and Dresswas written in 1891.

1891: Letters and Letter Writing

Delightful is the art of letter-writing and one not hard to be acquired. To write a good letter doubtless requires some experience; to write one which is marked by originality and beauty requires, in some degree, a peculiar talent. But almost any person of ordinary intelligence can learn how to express himself or herself in an acceptable manner upon paper.

Good grammar, correct orthography, precise punctuation, will not make a clever communication, if the life and spirit of the expression are wanting; and life and spirit will make a good impressive epistle, even if the rhetorical and grammatical proprieties are largely wanting. Some of the most charming letters we ever saw or read were from children, who while they tortured grammar, yet reproduced themselves so completely as to make it appear that they really were chattering to us.

It is comparatively easy to compose. The secret of it is hidden in no mystery ~ it is simply toconverse on paper, instead of by word of mouth. To illustrate: if a person is before you, you narrate the incidents of a marriage, or a death, or of any circumstance of interest. It is an easy and an agreeable thing to tell the story. Now, if the person were so deaf as to not be able to hear a word, what would you do? Why, seize a pencil or pen and write out just what you would have told them by words. That very writing would be a delightful letter! It is this naturalness of expression and individuality of a letter which so delights the recipient.

Source: Wells, Richard A. Manners, Culture and Dress of the Best American Society. Springfield, Mass.: King, Richardson & Co., 1891.
~ pp. 169-70 ~