A source of sorrow to the Hale family is the injustice inflicted on their son and brother, Frederick. Wanted for trial by the Royal Navy after leading a mutiny against a murderous captain, he is in exile in Spain and can only return to England incognito. This reference to his letters, which Margaret’s mother asks to see again, evokes the vital link that hand-written letters provided before there was any other means of contact over distance.
“Go to my little Japan cabinet, dear, and in the second left-hand drawer you will find a packet of letters.” Margaret went. There were the yellow, sea-stained letters, with the peculiar fragrance which ocean letters have.’
Source: Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (London: John Murray, 1925), p. 124