Lewis Carroll and the letter

mail Manners are eagerly received but not always eagerly executed and for some it is merely the fact that our 21st century ideals often collide with those of the 20th century and the ages following behind. For one’s lack of perceived manners, or shall we dare say perceived rudeness, is often just an oversight, still a faux pas to some but not in the posture of present day decorum and modern thinking. For example; upon accepting a gift proper etiquette would require a hand-written note back to the giver letting he or she know that we are appreciative of their thoughtfulness. However, this practice has now been exchanged with an email, a call on the phone, or even a text. Thus many would attest to the assumption that good upbringing does seem to mandate a written response which has been transported and delivered by the mail carrier, while others still would disagree; finding the more informal thank you equally fitting.

In consequence to the formers’ position, the art of letter writing has since been dismissed like the home phone line that is offered a conciliatory smile and hence has been sentenced to the back of the closet; reinstated by a smarter cell that travels with us wherever we journey. It has become our side kick, riding shot-gun in our pocket or hand-bag, a trusted device that allows us to do away with pen and pencil, paper and pads; freeing us up from those mundane tasks such as…letter writing. However, there still is something very nice about receiving a letter, no matter how technologically sophisticated one has become. There is still something very lovely about pulling open the letter box, and as you sift through your bills and solicitations an envelope peers out with no other intention than to give you news, wanting nothing more than your attention. There is something quite special about knowing that someone picked out the stationary, sat down with their solitude to compose a personal thought; that they mulled over what to say, reread their sentences transcribed in their own words, and sailed their message along the paper freely as one would skip across a lake on a sunny afternoon. Or, just perhaps each word they wished to convey was produced from strained ponderings and like tapping syrup from a maple tree, the words came out slowly with long moments of rephrasing.

Yet, whatever method had evolved to get the message across, it was eventually folded into an envelope and the deliberate act of placing perhaps a very colorful stamp in the corner, the same spot that Benjamin Franklin would have blotted centuries ago, was acted upon; sealed and then slipped into a post box for transport, trusting its delivery to our ever-ready postal service…and considering it may have traveled by way of rugged terrain or choppy seas…it is still quite reasonable in price.

Yes, the letter! This blogger must confess that she still writes them and dearly enjoys the reciprocation of their receipt. The quiet stroll to the post box..up the driveway… mundane to some yet the probability that by chance there may be a letter in the box is certainly worth the trek up and back.

lewis carroll 2 In today’s post I present to you again the esteemed thinker: Lewis Carroll. His wit and facility at word play, logic, and fantasy are noted by most that enjoy his writing. He has left his mark in history through his rare and diversified literary gifts whereby he possessed a talent for writing prose as well as verse, and though he is often exclusively remembered for his “Alice in Wonderland” stories, his diaries and letters validate a multi-faceted author.

I now suggest a brief time-out from your hectic day to read a portion from his work titled, “Eight or Nine Words about Letter Writing” (1890). Here is the popular Lewis Carroll on “How to end a letter”.

“ If doubtful whether to end with ‘yours faithfully’, or ‘yours truly’, or ‘yours most truly’, &c. (there are at least a dozen varieties, before you reach ‘yours affectionately’), refer to your correspondent’s last letter, and make your winding-up at least as friendly as his; in fact, even if a shade more friendly, it will do no harm!

A Postscript is a very useful invention: but it is not meant (as so many ladies suppose) to contain the real gist of the letter: it serves rather to throw into the shade any little matter we do not wish to make a fuss about. For example, your friend had promised to execute a commission for you in town, but forgot it, thereby putting you to great inconvenience: and he now writes to apologize for his negligence. It would be cruel, and needlessly crushing, to make it the main subject of your reply. How much more gracefully it comes in thus! “P.S. Don’t distress yourself any more about having omitted that little matter in town. I won’t deny that it did put my plans out a little, at the time: but it’s all right now. I often forget things, myself: and ‘those who live in glass-houses, mustn’t throw stones’, you know!”

When you take your letters to the Post, carry them in your hand. If you put them in your pocket you will take a long country-walk (I speak from experience), passing the Post-Office twice, going and returning, and, when you get home, will find them still in your pocket.”

6 thoughts on “Lewis Carroll and the letter

  1. I am in the habit of using “best” and “best wishes” because it’s common in academic life. It’s also kind of lazy. On the other hand, if I use something else, people might think it was an affectation. Funny thing is, I love getting hand-written letters (which a few friends still do send occasionally, mostly for more private information), but they do give me a little buzz of stress because I feel that I have to reciprocate and they take so much more time than an email. Sad.

  2. I hadn’t written or sent a hand written letter in years, until one blogger, who also delivers mail, was lamenting the fact she never gets real birthday cards any more. I told her I would send her a birthday card, and we have since exchanged a few hand written letters and birthday cards (our birthdays are two weeks apart). She lives in the Netherlands, and I live in the wild west in NM, so it’s interesting to see how long it takes our mail to get across the Atlantic. I think it’s great to get hand written letters and cards, but for me it’s painful to write longhand, and my handwriting is horrible, so I feel bad for the recipient who has to decipher my scrawl. I prefer to send letters I’ve printed from my computer, or use email or text messaging, but they are definitely less personal.

    • Timothy, I know what you mean, anything hand-written can be laborious! Much thanks for your insight! Regards and have a wonderful rest of the day. (It is nice of you to send a b’day card to the Netherlands, too!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s