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:
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:
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. 🙂