Monday, September 26, 2011


Please, put on a hat and step into my time-travel machine. And men, please remove your hats once inside:

Dear Ella,

Bert and I had such a good time at your card party last month that we want to play host and hostess this time. Could you and Wayne come over Monday evening, December the second, around eight-thirty? We’ll play either Bridge or Canasta, whichever you prefer. The Finnegans and the Nortons will be here, too. You know them, I believe, and they are all excellent card players.

The game and the evening would not be complete without you and Wayne. Please say you’ll come.



Dear Sue,

Wayne and I both appreciate your attractive invitation to play cards at your home on December second. We can’t think of a pleasanter way to spend an evening, particularly as we are Canasta enthusiasts at the moment. Unfortunately, it will be impossible for us to be there with you. My Aunt Harriet in Illinois has asked us to visit her for a week, beginning December first. I haven’t seen her in years, and we have already accepted her invitation. Bill is taking part of his vacation at this time, and he is really looking forward to a pleasant rest and change.

We both regret that we can’t accept, and we do appreciate your thinking of us. Perhaps after we return, you’ll ask us again.


From Alfred Stuart Myers, Letters for All Occasions (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1952). A library book-sale find.
Graph of time devoted to correspondence

The American Time Use Survey shows the fate of correspondence in the early twenty-first century. The above graph for the population as a whole (2005–2009) shows a line that’s virtually flat. The graph for people seventy-five and older shows a barely visible rise, which makes me think that “correspondence” here must mean paper-based communication, exclusive of e-mail.

How far in advance of “December the second, around eight-thirty” would the imaginary Ella and Sue have been writing? And did they always write out the date and time? Their letters, not even sixty years old, are truly from another world, the world of Gracious Living. Why pick up the telephone when you can take the time to write?

Related reading
All letters posts (via Pinboard)

comments: 5

Elaine Fine said...

I have a friend (an older woman) who communicates with me in person and by mail. She calls her postal address her "V-mail" address.

Matt Thomas said...

I wrote someone a non-romantic, paper-based letter just last week. Using stationary and a fountain pen no less. I even licked the stamp myself, then dropped it in a mailbox and patted myself on the back. I realize all of this makes me unusual. I just wasn't made for these times, I guess.

Michael Leddy said...

That does it — I’m going to write a letter tomorrow.

Matt, do they still make non-self-sticking stamps?

Geo-B said...

Sent out 2 fountain pen-written sticker-stamp letters this morning.

Elaine said...

Okay, if it's fair to brag, I mailed a letter to my Freshman Composition teacher (1965-66) last week. In deference to wrist surgeries and carpal tunnel, I typed and printed, but I did write in the date and of course my name, and I hand-addressed the envelope. (I can't remember how to make the computer take over this step, since I use g-mail to format the letters anyway.)

What must I do to be redeemed?