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N ancient times, the practice of letterwriting, in our modern sense of the term, was altogether unknown. To say nothing of the scarcity and cumbrous character of the materials employed for writing, the state of society was such that correspondence' was not considered necessary. Formal, stately, and even elegant epistles were, no doubt, frequently indited-usually with the view of conveying instruction; but these old-world productions do not bear the remotest resemblance to that rapid, off-hand, genial effusion, the letter of later times.

Scriptural and Roman Letters.

In the Old Testament Scriptures we find occasional allusions to what are termed 'letters,'



Scriptural Letters.

of which the earliest occurs in the eleventh chapter of the Second Book of Samuel, where we have the following record of a letter written upwards of a thousand years before the birth of Christ And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the fore-front of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.' Again, in the second chapter of Second Chronicles, reference is made to the written answer of Hiram, King of Tyre, to Solomon's message respecting the building of the Temple; and a few hundred years later, there are several interesting allusions to letters, and the mode of their despatch, in the Books of Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah.

In striking contrast to our modern and less dignified style of closing with the writer's signature, the Romans began their letters with a præloquium, or address, which embraced the name of the writer as well as that of the person to whom the letter was written.1 Thus,

1 'Even the way in which a Roman begins his letter, heading it with his name at full length, is significant. Whereas we skulk with ours into a corner, and often pare it down to initials.' -Guesses at Truth, Ist series, p. 198.

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Roman Letters.


'L. Catilina, Q. Catulo, S.;' that is, Lucius Catiline greets, or wishes health to, Quintus Catulus, the letter 'S' being intended to inIdicate the words 'Salutem dicit.' When the person addressed happened to be an intimate friend, the epithets 'humanissimus,' optimus,' 'suavissimus,' and 'suus,' were frequently added. Sometimes the præloquium was conceived in the following terms: Si vales, gaudeo; ego valeo; or, Si vales, bene est, ego valeo'— the initials of these words being often only given. The letter frequently ended with the word 'Vale,' 'Ave,' or 'Salve,' to which, in some instances, Mi anime' was added, as an expression of endearment. Unless previously communicated, the place where the letter was written was subjoined; and the date always expressed the day, frequently the year, and sometimes the hour. The Romans used no signature or subscription, except when writing to an emperor. There was rarely any address or inscription on the outside, the letter being usually intrusted to a letter-carrier (tabellarius), who was made acquainted with the person for whom it was intended. It was tied round with a string, of which the knot was


Roman Praloquium.

sealed; and the seal usually consisted of a head of the writer, or of one of his ancestors, impressed on wax or chalk. In the twenty-third chapter of the Acts, we have an example of the Roman præloquium in the letter of the 'chief captain,' respecting the Jews' persecution of Paul Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.' The apostolic epistles furnish other interesting examples. Thus, Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord.' Again: 'James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.' The place where the epistle was written, and the name of the person by whom it was sent, are also frequently indicated at the close, as in the case of Paul's epistle to Philemon, which bears to have been written from Rome to Philemon by Onesimus a servant.'

Female Letter-Writers.



Characteristics of Male and Female


In the case of modern correspondence, I presume it will be universally admitted that, apart from other characteristics, the sex of a letterwriter may generally be inferred from the style. If the epistles of the 'Lords of Creation' are more precise and succinct than those of the gentler sex, there can be no doubt that they are quite eclipsed by the ladies in respect to graphic description and liveliness of touch. course, I do not refer to dry, matter-of-fact, business letters, on legal, commercial, or scientific subjects—to be afterwards noticed,—in the composition of which the male sex may reasonably be expected to be most successful; but to that light and airy effusion in the shape of the friendly epistle, with which we are all more or less familiar. Penned without premeditation, the inspiration of the moment-racy, fluent, and natural; here gay and joyous, there serious and grave, full of the most charming detail without being tedious, genial and good-humoured, if not clever and witty, and

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