top of page
  • Writer's pictureFlea Market Love Letters

Writing Through the Decades: "Complete Letter Writer for Ladies And Gentlemen"

Today we're looking at the "Complete Letter Writer For Ladies and Gentlemen". In this blog we'll look at this mid-century letter writing guide from publishers Ward, Lock & Co. We'll take a perusal of the suggested composition of a letter and chuckle at the scathing preface. It's hard to believe we're almost at the end of this series but it's fantastic to feature this volume as the penultimate Writing Through the Decades November edition.

This edition has been nearly impossible to date. I would put it in the 1930s to 1940s? The publishing information was vague and unhelpful beyond the house and city of printing. That's Ward, Lock & Co. with offices in London, England and Melbourne, Australia. It seems the publishing house was famous for another green letter writing guide from the 1910s the ladies "What Shall I Say?".

For those intersted, it looks like Ward, Lock & Co. are still in the business of letter writing guides or they were at least in 2012.

How to Write a Letter:

This guide is a little different than the other 10 which we've featured so far, in that it opens with the construction of the letter rather than suggested templates. Readers may know that here at Flea Market H.Q. are interested in the history of the letter, generally, so insights like this are worth their weight in gold!

What I appreciate about this chapter is that it doesn't focus on how to address the envelope but rather how to structure the letter itself. Writing a letter and writing an envelope, while complimentary, are not the same so to see such a detailed breakdown of the letter is interesting -- at least to us!

I struggled with dating this edition -- a common thread in this series -- but I did learn in researching that the line "postal district in the metropolis" above references the nearly 3,000 U.K. postal districts! Postal districts came into the U.K. in the 1850s. Then in 1959 postcodes were introduced in the U.K. Postcodes are used to divide areas for mail sorting, with there being an average 23 districts to an area.


But my hands-down favorite part of this particular letter writing guide? That has to be the preface. It calls letter writing guides of the past "quite useless" accusing their templates of being "grandiloquent and uninteresting". It goes on to suggest that those who felt previously to deploy a letter writing guide were "unable to construct an intelligible sentence for themselves"!

This preface suggests a real and resolute "prejudice against letter-writers" for needing the very tool you've just purchased -- ouch! But, says the Editor of this preface and of the collection, don't worry because no one will think any less of you for being in possession of this handbook -- no, they will think even better of you.

So what do you think? Would you have been persuaded by the preface when this letter writing guide hit the market? Or left it on the shelf for its tongue and cheek take-down of its own purpose?

Before we go, I have to share my sneaky other favorite find from flipping through this guide. As mentioned in the preface there are indeed form letters in sections divided for the Lady and for the Gentleman. But before they open? Ha! As the saying goes: 'If there's a sign there, there's a reason!' I can't help but wonder the reason!

Get in Touch.

Thanks for reading! Have you been enjoying these flip through history blogs? Let us know! Have a guide you'd like to see featured? Or a letter story you're eager to share? Send us an email at

23 views0 comments


bottom of page