Saturday, 4 December 2010

Lost Letters

Letters are dead, emailing is in. When was the last time you opened a stamped addressed envelope that contained a personal scribble rather than a bank statement? Such was the novelty of receiving a handwritten postcard last week that reading it felt all Downton Abbey-esque, like I should stand up afterwards with furrowed brow and gravely announce to the room that war had been declared.

You can only protest so much about the death of the letter before sounding like a new-age Neanderthal, but it does call into question how contemporary politicians, authors, actors and Jordan are going to record their correspondences for posterity (and posthumous serialisation in Hello! Magazine). With letters it’s easy: simply pile them up in a forgotten bureau for a grieving relative to discover. But emails? Do you create a special folder in your inbox labelled ‘The Juicy Bits’? Or does said relative have to sift through years of spam to come up with the goods?

Provided they can be found, it’s unlikely such emails will match the cloistered intimacy one can assume with letters. There’s something terribly sobering about seeing your words typed up in an email, poised to become permanent as soon as you hit the send button. Between clinical clicks of the keyboard and penis enlargement pop-ups there’s not much room left in which to divulge the secret poetries of the soul.

With that in mind, there's no better time than now to appreciate the art of letter writing. The website Letters of Note collates all manner of interesting epistles which you can search for by name, era, type or topic. Genius! Within five minutes I had burst out laughing at a series of apoplectic memos sent by a CEO to his company and then almost burst into tears reading Capt. Robert Falcon Scott’s tender farewell to his wife as he fought a losing battle with the South Pole. It’s enough to inspire me to get out a pen and some paper and put them to practise again. As soon as I answer those emails that is. 

1 comment:

  1. "Between clinical clicks of the keyboard and penis enlargement pop-ups..."

    Genius.

    Letters are a wonderful, touchable, absolutely personal little piece of history. The poor old email doesn't stand a chance x

    ReplyDelete

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