Monday 2 May 2011

What Shall I say? A Guide to Letter Writing for Ladies

I came across an amusing book that was published in 1898 which told  a lady the correct way to write letters on various subjects. I hope you find this Victorian insight as fascinating as I did.

The notepaper should always be clean. A woman who uses soiled notepaper must not complain if her correspondence  suspect her of being slovenly and untidy.
White notepaper is always correct. Those who prefer paper in fancy colours should see to it that the colour is not  so dark as to render the handwriting difficult to read.
Don't use very common paper unless compelled. Stationery is so very cheap now, that there is very little excuse for writing letters on paper that is apt to run or show through on the other side.
Black ink is always 'good form.' Those who prefer violet or fancy ink must at least consider their correspondent sufficiently to avoid inks which are so faint as to make the handwriting difficult to read.
The Letter
First, a word in regard to the handwriting, which cannot be too plain. Legibility is the first requisite. Never mind about flourishes or 'style'. If your handwriting is pleasant to the eye as well as easy to read, so much the better; never sacrifice legibility to show. Avoid underlining as much as possible. This is a bad habit which belongs to women rather than men.
Letter to neighbour regarding the gossiping of servants.
 Dear Mrs Maitland,
         Do you think we could combine in any way to prevent waste of time on the part of our respective servants in gossiping over the garden fence? I'm sure it must be as annoying to you as it is to me.
        The spot chosen for these lengthy stolen interviews is, unfortunately, out of sight both of your windows and mine, or the matter could be readily dealt with. Can you suggest anything?
        With kindest regards,
            Believe me,
                Yours sincerely,
                      May Willman.
Laurel Bank, Monday

I should fail miserably on the handwriting and and probably on the note paper and ink as well. I only have one correspondent  and that is an elderly lady of 83 who still handwrites letters. I'd much prefer to e-mail all ring, but feel it only fair that I write a letter back to her. My handwriting is so appalling I doubt she can read it anyway.

Next time I shall give you an example of how to write a letter rejecting your lover, complain of being bitten by a vicious dog and how to address a bishop or a duke and other dignitaries.

Letter writing is definitely a dying art, I think the only time anyone puts pen to paper now is when writing Christmas or birthday cards. I must say I do like getting cards through the post instead of junk mail and bills.

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