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Illustrative Cases.



and on the other side appeared no fewer than twelve lines in the shape of a postscript, in which the opinion given in the letter itself was completely contradicted!

A striking illustration of the saying that the pith of a lady's letter is in the postscript, occurred in the case of a young lady, who, having gone out to India, and writing home to her friends, concluded with the following words :P.S.-You will see by my signature that I am married.'

The husband of a lady much given to the habit of postscribing, once laid a wager with her, on an occasion of his leaving home for a short time, that the first letter she wrote to him would not be without one of these codicils. Nothing seemed more certain than that the lady would win. The letter was written and signed, and about to be despatched, when she was tempted to add one line, forming the first postscript,

You see I have written you a letter without a postscript. This did not suffice, for there followed, as a P.P.S., immediately afterwards :Who has won the wager-you or I ?'

A certain class of peculiarly aggravating correspondents are not satisfied with a com

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Altered Character of Letters.

bination of the two evils under consideration. In addition to a lengthy postscript and a page or two of crossing, they actually contrive to find occasion for a few more ‘last words' on the flap of the envelope.

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In the present age of bustle and excitement, the tendency on the part of the male sex to abandon the practice of friendly letter-writing is probably on the increase, and it is to be feared that the more artificial condition of modern society will ultimately exercise an unfavourable influence on the character, as well as on the scope, of even female correspondence. If our grandfathers and grandmothers had fewer subjects to write about, they had more time to discuss them; and the comparative smoothness and simplicity of their lives is most agreeably reflected in their letters. It cannot be disputed, moreover, that the individuality and originality of character which constituted one of the most striking features of their more primitive times, is rarely to be encountered in these later days, when no ordinary mortal

Principal Causes.


ventures to exhibit the very smallest approach to idiosyncrasy, in deference to that inflexible standard of uniformity which the spirit of the age' is supposed to cherish.

The character of modern correspondence has, no doubt, been materially affected by the remarkable facilities for inter-communication afforded by our postal arrangements, as predicted by the son and biographer of Southey. In alluding to his father's later years, he says that with some of his friends his correspondence increased in frequency, and necessarily the interest of single letters diminished, as it was carried on by a multitude of brief notes; and this,' he adds, it seems likely will be so general a result of the new postage system, that in another generation there will be no correspondence to publish.'

Upwards of twenty years ago a writer in the Quarterly Review referred to another cause of the inferiority of modern letter-writing. It is not to be doubted,' he says, 'that the conversational power, as well as the graceful craft of letter-writing, for which the last century was famous, has waned. We believe that the result is partly attributable to the daily, nay

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Old English Letters.

almost hourly, press, which in great measure supersedes the tongue of the talker and the pen of the ready writer. Its effect upon society in this respect is analogous to that of our stupendous machinery upon individual industry.'


Old English Letters. The earliest English correspondence record are the letters of the Paston family, relating to the reigns of Henry VI., Edward iv., and Richard III. (1422-85), and published by Sir John Fenn, a celebrated antiquary of the eighteenth century. The authenticity of these letters, which long formed a subject of controversy, has now been fully established by the recent elaborate investigations of the London Society of Antiquaries. Most of them were written by or to members of the family of Paston in Norfolk ; and, accordingly, although they embrace frequent allusions to public affairs, their chief interest consists in their detailed and unvarnished description of the social and domestic manners of our English neighbours during the fifteenth century. The artless writers of these letters,' says Sir John Fenn, Paston Correspondence.


'here communicate their private affairs, or relate the reports of the day; they tell their tale in the plain and uncouth phrase of the time; they aim not at shining by art or eloquence, and bespeak credit by total carelessness of correction and ornament.'


TO MY WELL-BELOVED SON, JOHN PASTON,-Son, I greet you well, and send you God's blessing and mine, and let you weet (know) that Robert Hill came homeward by Orwellbury, and Gurney telled him he had been at London for money, and could not speeden, and behested (promised) Robert that he should send me money by you ; I pray forget it not as ye come homeward, and speak sadly (seriously) for another farmer. And as for tydings, Philip Berney is passed to God on Monday last past with the greatest pain that ever I saw man; and on Tuesday Sir John Heveningham yede (went) to his church and heard three masses, and came home again never merrier, and said to his wife that he would go say a little devotion in his garden, and then he would dine ; and forthwith he felt a fainting in his leg, and syyd (slid) down ; this was at nine of the clock, and he was dead ere



My cousin Clere prays you that ye let no man see her letter, which is ensealed under my seal. I pray you that you will pay your brother William for four ounces and an half of silk as he paid, which he sent me by William Taverner, and bring with you a quarter of an ounce éven like of the same that I send you closed in this letter ; and say (tell) your brother William that his horse hath one


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