Letter-Writing.—We are very sorry to confess the humiliating fact that, notwithstanding the number of editions of the “Complete Letter-Writer” that have been issued, and the quantity of female seminaries scattered through the country, very many of our sex are not elegant correspondents. We do not mean by this that they spell incorrectly, fold awkwardly, or seal splashingly—this last has been in some measure corrected by the introduction of self-secured envelopes; but, nevertheless, a letter may have its round periods and distinctly marked paragraphs, yet be destitute of the pith and marrow of a really agreeable epistle.

Letter-writing is generally complained of as a bore, or ridiculed as a school-girl weakness, yet it is the medium of much pleasure and happiness, and, as such, should always be a favorite occupation with our sex especially, who have ever been distinguished as excelling in the art. If it is a bore to send kindly messages, to interchange lively criticism upon popular music or reading, to record excellent or earnest thoughts, the writer can have very little to say, and that little might as well be left altogether, in nine cases out of ten.

The tone of such a correspondent would be frivolous, trifling, gossiping, and no doubt the shafts of mischief, intended or careless, wing her words.

We commend to such a lady the laconic and affectionate epistle of the French wife to her husband, if so be she must needs write at all: “Je vous écris parceque je n’ai rien à faire; je finis parceque je n’ai rien à dire. I write to you because I have nothing to do; I finish because I have nothing to say.”

This would, at least, be common honesty, and a harmless, if not satisfactory communication.

Letter-writing, in its happiest aspect, is, as we have said, a pleasant interchange of thought, and may be made the medium of usefulness and happiness. If every idle word we speak bears witness against us, every thoughtless sentence written must have double weight. Spirited narratives of passing events, a summer day’s tour, even of domestic incidents, clever criticisms, or suggestions, hearty good wishes, or the offering of sincere sympathy, these can never offend charity or good taste; but to write because it is expected of us is a tiresome hypocrisy no one should feel bound to keep up, out of which mischief to ourselves or others is almost sure to arise.


Originally published in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Vol. 48, January, 1854

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