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Mr. and Esquire.
Esquire has become so common that it has ceased to be a mark of particular respect, and it is better generally to use plain Mr. instead, except when writing to members of Parliament, landed proprietors, and gentlemen of the legal and medical professions' 'By all means, the same authority seriously continues, 'avoid putting a handle on both ends of a name, by writing Mr. John Smith, Esq. A late eminent sculptor, however, is said to have had such a weakness for squirearchical distinction that in writing, on one occasion, to a Scotch member of Parliament regarding the sale of a bas-relief, he thus expressed himself:
John G-, Esq. presents his compliments to Mr. D— and begs to state that John G-, Esq. is prepared to dispose of the piece of sculpture in question for the sum of £50. John G-, Esq. will be glad to learn,' etc.
Some years ago, an English gentleman made several unsuccessful applications for letters at one of the Brazilian post-offices. At length the postmaster allowed him to examine the unclaimed letters, among which he found a good many bearing his name, followed by the word 'Esquire.' On this being pointed out to
the postmaster, he innocently explained that he thought the letters in question were intended for a Mr. Esquire ! A friend of my own, whom I shall call William Wallace, was once paying a visit at a country-house, where the footman happened to bear the same Christian name and surname as himself; and one 'fine' morning a letter duly addressed William Wallace, Esq., was put into his hands, on the reasonable assumption that it was intended for him. On perusing its contents, he was somewhat puzzled by most of the writer's allusions ; but the mystery was eventually solved by the discovery that the letter was intended for the gentleman in plush! I have heard of an eccentric member of the English Bar, with a great respect for blood, who employs three different styles of address on letters to his male correspondents. In the case of a well-born gentleman, he writes the designation without abbreviation, and with a small initial letter,—thus, “esquire.' To a person generally acknowledged as a gentleman, he condescends to give the abbreviated designation of · Esq.,'—the initial, however, being a capital letter; while a doubtful individual must be satisfied with the letter 'E' followed by an
irregular dash, which may mean anything or nothing In addressing letters to persons entitled to more than ordinary consideration, it is now a pretty common practice to write 'etc., etc., etc.,' after the name and designation. Without being able to speak positively on the subject, I am inclined to think that this is a comparatively recent 'innovation.' In jocular allusion to the late Sir John Sinclair's numerous titles and distinctions, his humorous correspondent Sir Adam Ferguson once addressed a letter to him thus :• Sir JOHN SINCLAIR, Bart.,
A.M., F.R.S., TUVWXYZ.'
Imperfectly Addressed Letters.
Notwithstanding a somewhat prevalent opinion to the contrary, a very large amount of trouble is expended by the post-office authorities upon insufficiently or wrongly addressed letters, which, 'considering that the time of the department is the property of the country,' as
1 The subject of Esquires and other names of worship is treated in a very learned, as well as very amusing manner by Dr. Nares, in his curious work entitled Heraldic Anomalies.
· Blind Officers.
the Postmaster-General truly remarks, 'ought scarcely to be given, to make up for what generally arises from the carelessness of the writers, without an additional charge.' In terms of the official regulations, whenever a letter is found, the address of which is illegible or incomplete, it is passed at once to the blind officer,' whose duty it is to try to decipher the writing, to correct any evident mistake or omission, and to put the letter in course to reach its destination. The blind officers' are supplied with all the principal Directories, Guides, and Gazetteers, by the help of which, and of their own intelligence, they generally succeed in making out the destinations of the letters referred to them. Like the compositors of a printing establishment, these 'blind officers' appear to possess the faculty of deciphering the most illegible handwriting, and cases might, no doubt, be adduced where they have been able to interpret addresses which the writers themselves would have failed to read a few days after the despatch of their letters. Occasionally we see in the newspapers specimens of very extraordinary addresses, remarkable not only for their utter disregard
of orthography, but also for their ingenious combinations and divisions of words, all in strict accordance with phonetic principles. Thus, Hagness Itchcock, Oileywhite, Amshire (Agnes Hitchcock, Isle of Wight, Hampshire)- John Orsel, Ash Bedles in Such, Lestysheer (John Horsel, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire) -Coneyach lunentick a Siliam (Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum)—and Schromphraydavi (Sir Humphrey Davy). In his interesting account of the British Post-Office-under the title of Her Majesty's Mails—Mr. Lewins gives the following as a specimen of the long and involved addresses that frequently appear on the letters of our Irish fellow-countrymen : To my sister Bridget, or else to my brother Tim Burke, in care of the Praste, who lives in the parish of Balcumbury in Cork, or if not, to some dacent neighbour in Ireland.' The same writer once saw a letter bearing the name of a large town in the West of England, on which the remainder of the address was, Mary H-, a tall woman with two children. He pays a great compliment to our own portion of the kingdom, when he says that 'the Scotch people exhibit the greatest care in such matters. ..
1 See Appendix, No. V.