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Dead-Letter Office.


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morning' or 'Tuesday evening,' without the specification of either the month or the yearto say nothing of the hour, which we have seen the Romans sometimes included—is frequently the only indication of the date ; and when the envelope is not preserved, or the post-mark is illegible, the difficulty of supplying the omission is often insurmountable. As a general rule, moreover, the place where a letter is written, including the post-town, ought to be distinctly stated, in order that the authorities may thereby have it in their power to return the letter to the writer through the Dead-Letter Office,' in the event of its not reaching its destination. As already indicated, however, this is now frequently accomplished through the medium of the address of the sender on the flap of the envelope. Apropos to dates, a lady friend has in her possession some very characteristic letters, written by an eccentric Scotch merchant to a correspondent in Manchester towards the beginning of the present century, in one of which an erroneous date is very amusingly corrected. Immediately below the date- ioth February 1811—the writer quaintly adds, • Hout awa! it's the rith.'1

1 See Appendix, No. VI.


Sealing-Wax and Wafers.


Except for business and official purposes, sealing-wax is now rarely used. Wafers are specially interdicted in the manuals of letterwriting, in consequence of their raising a suspicion of hurry, vulgarity, and disrespect!' Lord Nelson, in sending a despatch to the Danish Government, during the heat of the bombardment of Copenhagen, refused a wafer. No!' said his Lordship ; 'do not let them suppose we are in a hurry, or confused.' Again, Sir Walter Scott is said to have once returned a wafered letter to the writer with this remark: -'I am not a particular man, but I detest wafers.' There is, moreover, no real security in wafers, and probably still less in adhesive envelopes, which are now in almost universal use. Both may easily be loosened by the application of either water or steam. The best mode of securing a letter is first to wafer it and then seal it with wax. When, however, an adhesive envelope is used, the proper course is to damp, rather than wet, both sides of the flap, before pressing it down ; and if the paper is

; very thick, the upper side should be again damped after being pressed down.

The following table, compiled from the annual

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Increase of Correspondence.


reports of the Postmaster-General, will furnish some idea of the progressive rate of increase in the number of letters delivered in the three divisions of the United Kingdom :

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Accordingly, in the year 1868, the proportion of letters delivered to the population was, in the case of the whole kingdom, 26 to each person ; being 30 to each person in England, 24 to each person in Scotland, and only 10 to each person in Ireland. Considering the enormous multitudes in first and second childhood who never write at all, and also those enviable individuals with whom the receipt of a letter constitutes an


1 At the announcement of the death of Morgan Owen, an eminent Welsh bard and antiquary, at the age of 80, about two years ago, it was stated that he had never either written or received a letter during his whole life.


Receipt of Letters.

historical event, the appetite or necessity for letter-writing, among certain classes of the community, must be what our old friend Dominie Sampson would have termed 'prodigious.' What effect the extended use of the telegraph may produce upon correspondence, time alone will show; but it is hardly to be expected that, however cheap the transmission of messages may yet become, the electric wire will take the place of the pen to any great extent, except in the case of certain commercial and political communications.

Receipt of Letters.

The receipt of a budget of letters at one's morning meal is generally productive of a mixture of pleasure and pain. It rarely happens that they are all gratifying. The happiness which we derive from one or two joyous epistles from friends or relatives at a distance is considerably modified by the simultaneous appearance of a bankrupt tradesman's bill, an application for a loan, or the intimation of an unexpected death. Cowper's description of the

A Provost's Correspondence.


postman of last century is perfectly applicable to our own day :

'He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful : messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indifferent whether grief or joy.'

The multifarious character of the communications received by the chief magistrate of a large community was very happily referred to by a late estimable Lord Provost of the Scottish metropolis, at a dinner which was given to him, about four years ago, by a number of his fellowcitizens :— His first magisterial breakfast,' he said, 'is scarcely over, but among the letters and parcels which bestrew his table are several ominously fastened packets unlike anything his previous experience has ever met with ; they are opened of course in due turn, and the first is found to contain a considerable volume of manuscript poems, ready for publication, and only awaiting his Lordship's criticism, with perhaps a small advance towards the necessary expenses, to be repaid in any number of copies. Under the next seal is discovered a different surprise, but a no less complimentary tribute to the wisdom of the robe;



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