Keats on hand-writing

Keats on hand-writing

Keats’ letters are treasures – he is every bit as fine a correspondent as he is a poet.  Here he chides a friend for visually attractive but sprawlingly illegible hand-writing. ‘You must improve in your penmanship; your writing is like the speaking...
The scrutiny that precedes reading

The scrutiny that precedes reading

Yes, there is that small ceremony that precedes the reading of a letter, particularly a hand-written one delivered by post.  You look at the envelope, the stamps, the hand-writing (familiar or new?), the franking date and place.  Then you open it and examine the paper...
A real craving of nature

A real craving of nature

Branwell Bronte, the sister-eclipsed son in a family of six, caused them and his father great heartache through alcoholism and opium addiction, dying young.  However, in a saner moment, he wrote to Wordsworth of another, healthier craving. ‘I read for the same...
A mosaic of letters

A mosaic of letters

Referring to the letters between Mary Delany and her beloved sister Anne, Molly Peacock aptly describes them as a paper mosaic, given that Mary more or less invented the art of collage. ‘In a way, Mary’s letters to Anne are a paper mosaick of days and weeks,...
Letters and the lapse of time

Letters and the lapse of time

A moving comment on the effects of time and separation, and the hiatus of news caused by war. Firstly, the sorrow and regret of discovering the death of a loved one after months of silence, only thanks to the efforts of strangers.  Then the question of how many other...
Straight as an avenue of poplars

Straight as an avenue of poplars

When was the last time you received – or wrote – an 18 page letter?  I think I have managed to write one or two in my life and that’s even allowing for my quite large handwriting. What was in this letter, completely covered in a tall, straight hand...
A letter by boat and about a boat

A letter by boat and about a boat

This letter is magical. It is delivered by boat and announces the arrival of another boat at an assignation point. So much promise!  May the whole world seem to be open before you. ‘Tonight a letter by boat from her.  “I have bought us a twenty-foot cutter,...
In mourning

In mourning

In the 19th century, it was customary to use black-bordered paper and envelopes to inform someone of a death.  Here Sebastian finds unused sheets in some forgotten bureau in the vast pile that is Brideshead, and decides to inform his friend Charles of the death of his...

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