Writing Through the Decades: "The Correct Guide to Letter Writing" (1890s)
Updated: Jun 7
Hello and welcome back to the halfway point of the 2021 "Writing Through the Decades" Vintage Letter Writing Guide blog series. Today we're looking at "The Correct Guide to Letter Writing: by a Member of the Aristocracy" fifteenth edition from Fredrick Warne & Co.
*Unsolved Mysteries Theme Song*
Update: A previously incorrect version of this blog believed this edition dated to the 1930s, however, thanks to the sleuthing of some attentive Flea Market Love Letters readers we are confident in adjusting the time frame to the 1890s. Thanks readers!
But let's get to what you came here for! A close reading of this antique letter writing guide. Will it stand the test of 2021? Let's find out!
Preface: "...a reliable guide to inexperienced letter writers.."
The preface of this edition comes with some stinging remarks meant to validate the customers feelings for investing in this fifteenth edition of the guide. This one is better, the preface assures, because it is not like the others. This one is the one for the letter writer of today...while somehow also getting away with calling the letter writer of today "inexperienced" and seeking "practical, sensible, and concise" writing style tips.
Table of Contents: Look Who's Getting Married!
The longest chapter in this guide seems to be the Proposals of Marriage which is interesting if you think about the fact that oftentimes the more "Business Forms" letter guides we've reviewed were clearly written for men. While this guide doesn't have a disclaimer it's certainly got an emphasis on matters of the heart more than the purse!
"Mr. Lloyd & Edith": He's Broke But We Like Him
Here we have a Mother Announcing Her Daughter's Engagement to the "everything we could wish as a son-in-law" here titled "Mr. Lloyd". He sounds like a total dish! The "son of a very old friend" and had he not been "I doubt if we should have given our consent". Lucky "Edith" to wait "till next year before thinking of being married" as poor Mr. Lloyd's "prospects are are not very good". Hell, you wouldn't read that on an Instagram caption today!
Mrs. Monck: "Let me have a line before then..."
In other amorous pursuits we have "Earnest Temple" setting his sights on "Mrs. Monck". Supposedly the gentleman would deploy this letter template when a wealthy widow in search of a Boy To--- excuse me, "companion" -- might display a "manner of late -- [which is] dare I say encouraging?".
So what do you think about these letter templates for and about the young (and old!) in love? After comparing six volumes from the mid-20th Century for this series, it's interesting to see how forthright and upfront previous generations "suppose" they were about circumstances and connections. In this generation of over-sharing and social media there could be something here in defense of the argument that "Think Before You Tweet" could be applied to vintage letters as well!
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