“My dear and beloved….”

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Okay, I’m going to risk showing my age again here. If you are around mine, you likely recall this as well. We are perhaps of the last generation that actually wrote letters on paper, by hand, which we stamped and put into the post:

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a postmarked stamp.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a postmarked stamp.

I recall email catching fire when we were in our twenties – in the early 1990s. I got my first PC in 1994. The web came on about the same time.

Aside from on the odd occasion now, such as “thank you” notes, I don’t really write proper letters any longer. And I know I’m hardly alone in that. We all want “instant” replies.

Have we lost something intangible there? It used to be “special” receiving a letter. Compared to a Facebook message, or a text, or an email, it took extra effort to write a letter.

Moreover, today, with the net, it takes mere seconds to find oneself in contact with people the world over. And it’s immediate. There was a time not so long ago it was not that way:

Excerpt from "Passports," on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Passports,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

Researching the next novel, over the last few days I’ve been reading letters written back in the 1780s and 1790s. Historians give thanks for such correspondences – especially of “the intimate” sort. We know today a lot more than we would otherwise about the lives of people like, for example, John and Abigail Adams when they were apart – separated by the Atlantic Ocean in particular – than we do when they were actually living in the same house together.

When we come to some “break” in a correspondence, or if some party – horrors! – destroyed letters, we are confronted with emptiness and silence. Sometimes the gaps go on for years. We are then left wondering: What was going on?

And when we read a final letter, and we know already that it is to be the last one, it can be truly sad.

I have a history degree, so I know. Don’t let anyone kid you. Historians are, by definition, romantics. 😉

Hope you’re having a good Tuesday, wherever you are. 🙂

8 comments

        1. “Uh, what class is this?” the smiling 70-something political science professor asked as he stuck his head through the doorway just before the lecture was due to begin.

          “It’s international economics,” the 30-something woman professor turned to him and replied.

          “Oh, you mean mythology!” he shot back with a laugh.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Ah yes, letter writing…by hand no less. Lost art? Or abandoned skill? Hmmm. I’m thinking, not yet entirely but also both.

    I’ve penned a few letters, notes, and anonymous love poems in my time (ha! I kid about the last one. I preferred to allow the objects of my affection ample opportunity to know who it was they were laughing uncontrollably at. 😀). I kinda miss it sometimes. But I’m usually right as rain again after I pop a few pills of “Have-you-lost-your-mind.”

    I’m also a romantic. And writing certain things by hand does lend a personal touch usually not accompanied by the comparative sterility of texts and emails.

    PERSON TEXTED: Who IS this…??

    PERSON TEXTING: It’s ME–your father.

    PERSON TEXTED: Oh, sorry, dad. I didn’t recognize your font.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Here’s an exercise: get your dad’s fountain pen and write a page a day. Very therapeutic, like those color within the lines books that now are the rage.

        My hand writing with ball point pens is crap. With my Waterman’s fountain pen (bought in a store not far from you 21 years ago I will add 🙂 it is not too bad.

        Liked by 1 person

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