I love reading letters. It is a shockingly invasive idea if you think about it. I would not want anyone who did not already love me very much to go through my email 'Sent' box. I am not big on grammar in my emails. I do not always take the time to say exactly what I mean. An outsider reading my email written to a close friend or family member would not be able to make sense of the fragmented jumble of tangled references. An outsider reading an email from me to my mother would think I was a repetitive, unlettered but affectionate loon.
Letter writing is no longer an art. Correspondence is not something we make room for in our day. We squish lopsided, frothy emails into whatever negative space is left after we finish doing what we really need to do. The email often just reports the doing.
Rebecca. I remember reading about the Second Mrs. de Winter's first morning at Manderley. Du Maurier was wonderful about giving this sad, loving character just enough obstacles to trip over. The Second Mrs. de Winter did not know the routine of the house and so went to the Library. But the fire was lit in the Morning Room. Rebecca always went to the Morning Room after breakfast to do her correspondence. I imagined letters written at an efficiently organized, slender legged desk on stationery embossed with her long sloping "R". That normality of Rebecca's routine shows the shift in the twentieth century away from penmanship, skill, effort in letter writing.
My father writes in a beautiful slanting script with a heavy fountain pen. He takes fountain pens very seriously. I would have no idea how to write with a fountain pen. Virginia Woolf threw fire lit arrows of possessive prose out to her lover, Vita Sackville West. F. Scott Fitzgerald's letters to Zelda. Antoine de St. Exupery's letters to his wife, his rose. Byron's letters to his sister. Keats's letters to Fanny Brawne. Napoleon's letters to Josephine. They reek of thought, love, effort and artistry. Mmm. Must try that sometime.