Writing Through the Decades: "The Ladies Letter Writer" (1954)
In this third installment of Writing Through the Decades series, this month we're taking a look at "The Ladies Letter Writer: A Guide to Correspondance on All Subjects with Commercial Forms. Etc." from 1954.
When I saw this on Ebay I had to have it for the cover art alone! But if it was the 1950s and you ever needed to write a letter to oh say, the Queen? This would have been your go-to resource for addressing Her Majesty (and a number of other official services).
The publishers of this letter writing guide were Frederick Warne & Co. LTD. Founded in the 1860s in England Frederick & Warne Co. LTD. are famous for their history as children's book publishers. Most notably, they published Beatrix Potter!
Interestingly these "guides" either don't have authors or when they do -- like in the case of the 1914 love-letter guide -- it's more of a character name. It leaves one to wonder who was dictating the norms that these guides promised to be upholding!
It's always the introductions or prefaces of these guides that give the most insight into the time when they were circulated.
In the Ladies Letter Writer the author advices that "model letters should not be copied slavishly".
This guide seems to err more on the practical less romantic side of letter writing as indicated by the emphasis on forms and "all subjects" as promised by the subtitle.
You can see the background of the publishers in the U.K. through the emphasis of "Accepted Forms for Beginning, Concluding and Addressing Official and Social Letters" including categories for Medical Profession(-als), the Navy and Air Force, and yes even Royalty.
That isn't to say that all the silly foils of the human heart are forgotten! In the below a woman excuses herself for her jealousy.
Letter writing was still a fundamental way of communication both personally and professionally well into the start of the 21st Century. While many of the examples in this guide are dated, they tell us about how letters shaped lives.
Fond of Letters?
You're in the right place then! Check out the Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society for all things letter appreciation. I am proudly a card-carrying member of the society since November 2020. Interested in letter writing in 2021 and want to deploy some of Humphrey's advice? Join "Penpalooza" a large international collective of letter writers. Already letter writing and want a cool coffee mug? Check out our Write More Letters Project merchandise -- 100% of the proceeds go to charity.