A reader was asking for names of good correspondence instruction books. Letter writing is something sorely needed today, and in a moment I will tell you how important it was in the past to write letters when your loved ones were far, far away.
In spite of the rapid way of keeping in touch today, it is disappointing that people do less communicating. Ladies of my acquaintance complain of phones that never ring, inboxes with no personal email, mailboxes near the house with no letters, no text messages, no skype or other video conversations, no one answering personal invitations to tea, no one dropping by for a visit and no one stopping to chat in the shops or even the post office.
To make it easier for people who find it hard to correspond, I sometimes ask them to simply text me a smiley face or object from the emoticons on their cell phones, to keep in touch, but even that, it seems, is too time consuming.
One reason we need to restore letters is so folks will know what to do when they receive them. A friend of mine sent letters to friends and found months and months later they had not even opened them to read. When we received letters and packages we had to avoid the temptation of tearing them open too fast and destroying part of the contents, in our excitement.
There seems to be less real communication, and so those of us who remember how our parents wrote letters and valued them, really have a big job ahead of us. We need to restore letter writing in the same way in which tea time, dressing up, and home education was revived.
Now as to the extreme importance of letters in the past:- I truly would have benefitted from some stern lectures about keeping in touch via letters, but in the past, letter writing was a relaxing pleasure, and it was considered a free-will offering, so our teachers and parents did not make the subject too strict.
Our parents took care of serious correspondence to their parents, and we enclosed notes to them in the same envelope. It would have helped if they had read aloud to us what they had written, and also read aloud the letters they received. This may have educated us as to how letter-writing was done.
We did observe people spending more time writing letters. It was the ONLY way to keep in touch in places that had no phones. If you did not live in a town, there was no word-of-mouth information from neighbors. Folks depended very much on the mail for news from home and from children who had moved away. Letters were very serious business because they were used as records of life. Often a letter would alert someone of a need, resulting in a care package being sent.
Letter writing had a special time-slot in someone's life. It was equal billing to laundry, meal time or grocery shopping. It held a high place of importance and young people dreamed of a desk of their own with a proper pen and bottle of ink. You might have guessed I was born before Bic, Papermate or Pentel.
My mother in law spent every Monday (after loading her washing machine) writing to her sisters and her brother, and her husband's sister and brothers. She sat at the kitchen table with a box of stationery that had two little drawers: one for stamps and one for envelopes, and wrote letters while listening for the washer to finish its cycle.
My parents wrote a lot of letters to their parents who lived whole countries away from them. These letters not only kept the bonds between them strong, but lifted one another out of ordinary toil into another kind of life.
Men and women courted with letters. Their handwriting was their identifying mark. In fact, clear writing was once considered a sign of good character, showing careful attention to detail, and thoughtfulness.
Had I known of the future decline of letters, I would have saved a lot more of the ones sent to me as a young person, tied them in bundles and kept them on display. Had I known the enormity, the value, the impact and the greatness of the custom of letter writing, I would have emphasized more to my own children that their grandparents were super important and their letters were a way of mingling their lives, sharing their history, and being part of them.
I would have said, "Children, do you see this letter that just arrived? It is from a great person in your life. It is better than a letter from a President, because it is a grandparent God put in your life. Writing to your grandparents is a sacred and serious task and it will earn interest in more ways than I can explain. It will give you a sense of who you are, where you came from, and help you know why they value you. Your existence is hugely important to them."
Children, even when fully grown-up, once greeted their Mothers in letters with the words, "Darling Mother." If you are still raising your children, try with all your might to teach them and encourage them to write letters expressing love. Let them pour out their love, and let them be expressive. Avoid banal letters that appear to be written merely out of duty.
It is a comfort to older people to receive intelligent, entertaining, lively letters from the young, full of information and ideas. The aged benefit from the ideas of the youth, and the youth benefit from the stability and knowledge of the olders, and this can be partly achieved with letters. As an older person now, I can tell you, life would be no fun if everyone was my own age. That is one reason why the ages must mingle.
I am afraid most of us did not teach letter-writing seriously, because the relatives and friends may have all been living in the same community and there did not seem to be much opportunity to practice it. Later, when the children removed from home, they were not conscientious about writing letters and did not understand how deeply important letters were.
If this is your situation, create cardboard mail boxes or large pockets for letters, attaching them to the doors of bedrooms. Children can post letters to each other and to their parents all day long, and have an enormously great time. It teaches a wonderful form of communication.
In the past, our parents set us up with pen-pals (cousins, children of their friends) so we could experience the world of letters. "Write as though you were speaking aloud" we were told. We usually began a letter by saying we were very glad to receive their letter. After that, we asked of their welfare. Then, it was very important to comment on every thing the other person wrote. That is why it was called "answering" a letter.
Naturally I am lecturing myself as well, for I have a stack of unanswered cards and letters which daily I pledge to work on.
In other news, I spent the day cleaning the kitchen, and of course a clean kitchen Makes it tempting to create something. Since I had been wanting to try the wafer papers from Fancy Flours, I made a half recipe of cookies: just enough to fill a regular size cookie sheet:
am a messy cook, (I would rather be sewing) and many of my dishes look more like mud-slides but they are always full of flavor. I do not make picture-perfect meals and my food is very old fashioned and plain. Lately I have decided to learn to cook, so I am taking an online French cooking course and enjoying it. I will write more about that, later.
Cookies are not my expertise, (I would rather be sewing) and I do not make very neat and tidy looking ones but these taste good. I made them because I was curious about the edible wafer papers which are supposed to be replicas of old postcards.
I want to find some of these prints in real paper, to use for card-making, because cards last a lot longer. Its a shame for such pretty art to be used up so fast.
Here are some cookies from Pinterest that are much better-looking, which I am using for inspiration and ideas in making greeting cards:
Below is one of the cards made by my daughter, inspired by this cookie art. You can see more of these cards on her blog, The Pleasant Times, on my blogroll.
Here is the information from a comment:
Download pdf. https://archive.org/details/howtowritelette01westgoog