1881: Love Letters

This week I received a lovely gift from a coworker, Gene, who was looking to lighten his bookshelves at home. Knowing I had my little obsession with advice books (he came to my Valentine’s Day presentation at the Library of Congress), he so graciously gave me a book written in 1881 called National Encyclopedia of Business and Social Forms: The Laws of Etiquette &c.; &c.; by James D. McCabe.

Coincidentally, the book has a section on correspondence, which ties in nicely with the Post article I mentioned in my previous post.

For those of you thinking about texting a very brief note to the one you are wooing, let’s take a look back at how things were done back in the 1880s, waaaay before all this technology hit. I was going to quote something from the “Love Letters” section, but this one from “Letters of Excuse” struck me as a bit more entertaining, and more appropriate for the length of a blog post. The subject for this sample letter is “To a lady, apologizing for a broken engagement.”

Richmond, Ind., May 10th, 1881.

My Dear Miss Lee:

Permit me to explain my failure to keep my appointment with you this evening. I was on my way to your house, with the assurance of a pleasant evening, when I unfortunately stepped upon some slippery substance, lost my footing and fell to the ground, spraining my ankle severely. I am now confined to the house in consequence of this accident.

I regret my disappointment as much as the accident, but hope that the future may afford us many pleasant meetings.

Sincerely your friend,
Albert Holliday

Now, would you prefer this instead?

“sorry cant keep fun date W U this evening. but slipped and fell 2 the ground, hurt ankle. stuck @ home. sorry, try again 2MORO?”

Yeah, I didn’t think so.