Monday, 8 November 2010

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Years ago, I bought a second-hand book and inside it was a postcard. The postcard dated from the 1920s and was written in lovely copperplate writing. It was just a note from one friend to another, but to me it was a treasure. It rests in my mum-in-law's attic at the moment (along with a large amount of other stuff, which my father-in-law constantly reminds me of: 'Well, we would buy more Christmas presents, if we had somewhere to store them' - you know the kind of thing!).

But, I wonder whether the art of letter writing has been lost. I have kept up a long term correspondence with a friend - proper letter writing, not emails or postcards, but full on, several pages long, lots of gossip and news, kind of letter writing. I love it. There's nothing like receiving a letter from a friend because it represents something that an email doesn't. It signals that that person cares about you: cares enough to spend an hour or so thinking carefully about words on a page, sentiments, feelings, thoughts. As Katrina once said, 'every time I go for the mailbox, I gotta hold myself down, cos I just wait til you write me you're comin' around'. These days, she'd get a text wouldn't she? Not quite the same thing is it?

Letters from the past are prized. If you search on ebay for letters, even those written as late as the 1960s, they are expensive and you'll have a fight on your hands if you bid. All of those letters that scholars have pored over for generations, written by famous writers, politicians, royalty, have given us clues to the past. How will future scholars unlock the same archives, when the archives were only available for a short time in cyberspace. An email is quickly written, quickly deleted and quickly forgotten.

So, get out your pens and paper. Send a friend a note; a real note, not an email or a text, but something hand written and personal, for their sake and for the scholars of the future, give them something to study and ponder over.

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