A question from 1909:
Is letter writing, in the artistic sense, a lost accomplishment? There are plenty of people who would not linger long over a reply. It is often asserted that Rowland Hill and the penny post killed the old-fashioned style of letter. That is not true, however, for it survived in old-fashioned hands into the mid-Victorian era, when it received its coup de grâce by the invention of what our fathers, when in a superior mood, called that “modern abomination,” the ubiquitous post-card. Correspondence has since its advent grown pithy, brisk, prosaic. The majority of men have not the time in this cast-iron, express-paced age, with its telegraphs and telephones, and constant business and social demands, for the old elaborate letter of genial gossip and kindly compliment. Sentiment, some would even say, is at a discount, and whatever may be the cause, imagination and fancy, to say nothing of wit and humor, have grown curiously rare under a penny stamp. The world is too much with us now. Our interests are too many, our work too insistent, our mental indolence perhaps too great, for that expansive style of correspondence which has vanished for the most part with quill pens and sealing wax.Damned post-cards! Nevertheless, Reid says, “letter-writing is not a lost art.”
Stuart J. Reid, in the Introduction to Horace Walpole’s Letters (London: Cassell, 1909).
This tiny volume of Walpole’s letters is one of the books I have from Jim Doyle. I took it off the shelf the other day, after not looking at it for many years.
Other letter-related posts (Pinboard)
Rowland Hill (By weight, not distance)
William Wordsworth, “The World Is Too Much with Us”
[Mac Dictation for “pithy, brisk, prosaic”: “pissy, brisk, Prozac.”]