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a letter writer’s heritage

Heritage

I just received this WhatsApp message, “Would you please write another generic and/or personified donation letter for us on this new school project?” I cannot remember when I have stopped writing my own formal/informal letters. The last time I wrote was for someone else for charitable donation. As usual, when I receive a letter writing request I need all information of the project and meditate for a number of days, sometimes weeks. I could look at the numerous letters and newsletters I have received to find tips if any. But since they have not persuaded me to donate there is really no point looking at them.

In my recent month-long trip to clear a house of old stuff so that it can be put up for sale, I found and carried back some old books. They are mostly books printed in the 1950s. I asked for permission to keep some for myself. Here is one which I quite like: Ladies’ & Gentlemen’s Letter-Writer, printed in Great Britain, 1953. 

I cannot resist taking the liberty to quote the following sample letters. Enjoy.
All the names are fictitious of course.

November 20th
Dear Sylvia,
Here is a cheque for £5. I know just how difficult things are these days. In fact my own account is nearly overdrawn, so try and let me have the £5 promptly at the end of the month.
Love,
Pamela.

December 12th
Dear Sylvia,
What about my £5? Be a dear, and let me have it as soon as you can, since I’m getting rather short myself now.
Love,
Pamela.

December 20th
Dear Sylvia,
I wrote on the 12th, asking for repayment of my loan (which you promised to repay at the end of November), but I have heard nothing from you. I hope you haven’t spent all your last salary on Christmas presents, because I really need that £5 very badly. Could you send it by return?
Love,
Pamela.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hard times then and now. History does not change over mankind and circumstances. We now use digital ways to communicate instead of physical paper and ink. We gain speed. We can even delete our side of the record. But the mark is there on the other side unless he/she deletes too. In the house where I just cleaned up I found tons of paper records, old letters, magazines, books, exam papers, certificates, pictures, children’s school books, drawings, manuscripts, boxes and boxes of them. Some magazines are still in their original wrappers as though they have not yet been read. When I return to my own abode after a long absence, I too find many magazines (from some faithful mutual funds) in wrappers. I just do not have time to read them. The worst is that they come in two languages so I get two per month!

Many years ago I made a decision to get rid of my papers. So I gave away books. I burned my papers, pictures, certificates, thesis, whatever. Yet, many years later when I see some old pictures in my siblings’ collection I take a photo of those which depict me as a very young person. I find one such group photo lately. In those days people were expected to be respectfully serious and close their mouths when not talking. When all mouths were dutifully closed, me at five was captured in history with my mouth gapping, staring at the camera. Was it a premonition that one day I would do such verbose talking on screen?

“Every body allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female.”
― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

“Every body at all addicted to letter writing, without having much to say, which will include a large proportion of the female world at least…”
― Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

“Andy: But they gave us an out in the Land of Oz. They made us write. They didn’t make us write particularly well. And they didn’t always give us important things to write about. But they did make us sit down, and organize our thoughts, and convey those thoughts on paper as clearly as we could to another person. Thank God for that. That saved us. Or at least it saved me. So I have to keep writing letters. If I can’t write them to you, I have to write them to someone else. I don’t think I could ever stop writing completely.”
― A.R. Gurney, Love Letters*

*Love Letters is a lovely play. Quoting from online sources:

A new Letter begins
In the age of instant communication, iPhones and Twitter, Love Letters is bringing memories of a simpler time to Broadway in 2014, helmed by Tony-winning director Gregory Mosher. The limited engagement includes appearances by Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, Candice Bergen, Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg, Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen. The first celebrity pair in the new revival is Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy, who will reprise the role of Andrew. “[Love Letters] is an extraordinary piece,” Dennehy told Today. “You cannot stage a play more simply than this, and yet it’s about everything in life. First love, loss of opportunities, loss of life, loss of love…It’s a beautiful play, and all you do is speak it.” But there’s two things the play won’t include: “Tweets and twerks,” Dennehy joked. “There are no twerks in this play.”

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