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  • Writer's pictureFlea Market Love Letters

Writing Through the Decades: "Beeton's Complete Letter Writer For Ladies And Gentlemen" (20th Cent.)

Todays Writing Through the Decades entry is one of the most eye catching covers on the Letter Writing Guide shelf at Flea Market H.Q. This "Beeton's Complete Letter Writer For Ladies And Gentlemen" is advertised as "Entire New Edition, - One Shilling". I found this particular volume on Ebay and I can confirm it is both neither entirely new nor did it cost one shilling but boy is it beautiful!

We're fine admirers of font here at Flea Market Love Letters so when I saw this beautiful cover I must admit I was drawn to how much they managed to fit together! It is very informative, a good example of "what's on the tin". Shall we dive in and see what we can take today from this vintage letter writing guide?

The subtitle of this particular guide tells us a bit as well: "Containing Love Letters Complimentary Notes Invitations Business Letters Descriptive Letters Applications with Domestic, Fashionable, Friendly Correspondence". While we don't know a publication date we can guess from the prevalence and popularity of letter writing guides in early 20th Century culture that this likely comes from the late 1890s to the 1910s but I would not wager must later than that. We'll explore that reason later in the section "For Ladies". In the meantime, enjoy this incredibly dry instruction for how to address the envelope of a letter.

While some of the guides we've reviewed for this series are quite humorous or cheerful, it seems Beeton's beat is for the service of the letter first and foremost!

For Ladies:

In this "Application for Employment as a General Servant" we can surmise that in this use case the letter template for the "the lady" is in fact for a maid. Seeking employment in another house should provide references and demonstrate demure respectability. Forget about fibbing on this resume ladies!

Just a few pages before we see an invitation form "From a Lady inviting another to visit her under painful circumstances". It's lovely to see that emotional and mental health are addressed as templates for the lady here. Almost one hundred and fifty years after publication it's good to remember: Asking for help is always okay.

For Gentlemen:

When I was flipping through and saw this letter form I knew I had to pull it for the blog, surely. How many times have you struggled to find the perfect way to "Request[-ing] Ship-owners to take a Youth as an Apprentice" in your 21st Century life? Some things never go out of style...okay, maybe this one did but still! Ever had to write a recommendation letter for someone? I know next time I do I will be pulling my trusty copy of Beeton's from the shelf for sure.

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Jeremy Humphries
Jeremy Humphries
Aug 25, 2023

Samuel Beeton died in 1877, aged 46. He was husband of the famous Mrs Beeton. After he published her Book of Household Management in 1861, he wrote and published a series of guides and self-help books, including this one. So the first publication was before 1877, but there were revised publications after his death.

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