Archive for the ‘letter-writing manuals’ Category

To my dear Ms Blanch

Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement.  Indeed, thank you for your attendance at our humble workshop.

I must confess, over the past few months in the Dead Letter Office, Miss Wagner and I have often been plagued by self-doubt.  We fretted that our presentation might appear ‘school-marmish’ or conceited, or even simply irrelevant.  While our research is naturally of deep interest to ourselves, we feared that our passions might only be of passing interest to others.

So, you can imagine the joy that we felt when our modest presentation met with your enthusiastic reception.  We are so thrilled that we could take your creative mind and obvious talent with words away from the gruelling task of washing the lacy tablecloths of others. 

Thank you so much for sharing your letters with us.  We will proudly present them in our upcoming edition of our letter-writing manual.

We remain, as always, your humble and faithful servants.

Sincerely Yours

Ethel May Beeton


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When writing this letter, Miss Beeton turned to a classic manual on courtly love, eloquence and compliments.  She included a poem that was originally composed to an imprisoned Lady.  She intended it to cheer Sir Walter’s chilly heart, but now fears that it might be interpreted as emasculating. This, of course was not what she intended.  Learned readers, we leave it for you to judge.

To the right worshipful Sir Walter Really, our much esteemed colleague and friend,

I must confess that Miss Wagner and I were taken aback by your latest correspondence.  You painted such a pitiful picture of your circumstances, that I was momentarily at a loss for how to respond.

In my confusion, I turned to the writings of Edward Phillips, author of The Beau’s Academy, or the Modern and Genteel way of Wooing and Complementing after the most Courtly Manner, in which is drawn to Life the Deportment of most Accomplished Lovers, the Mode of their Courtly Entertainments, the charm of their Persuasive Language, in their Addresses, or more Secret Dispatches (1699).  Poor Edward does tend to waffle on a bit, but he helpfully includes the following verse, addressed to an imprisoned Lady, which seemed to be most suitable to your current predicament:

Look out bright eyes and clear the air

even in shadows you are fair

Caged beauty is like fire

that breaks out clear still and higher

Though the body be confin’d

and though Love a prisoner bound

Yet the beauty of your mind

neither check nor chain hath found

Look out nobly then and dare

Even the fetters that you wear.

Miss Wagner and I hope that these sentiments warm your prison cell and steady your exhausted hand.

Please do not despair, for whatever happens, Miss Wagner and I will remain your most faithful correspondants.

We would be happy to receive word from you, whether to reminisce on your past achievements, or to lighten the pain of your imprisonment.

We remain, as always,

Your faithful and devoted servants in correspondence

Ethel May Beeton

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Miss Beeton and Miss Wagner are concerned that they might share their thoughts on letter-writing with a wider audience.  With this in mind, they attempt to publicise their cause with a letter of introduction.

Miss Ethel May Beeton and Miss Dolores Wagner humbly request that you accept this letter of introduction.  Miss Beeton and Miss Wagner are compiling a treatise on the proper forms of all correspondence — love letters, letters of friendship, letters of complaint, letters of reproach & C.  As employees of the Dead Letter Office, Miss Beeton and Miss Wagner are skilled in the art of epistolary etiquette.  They offer their services to any who have doubts as to the proper formation of a letter, or who are simply too busy to attend to their letter-writing obligations. 

They request that you might make them known as worthy people to those who share an interst in the epistolary arts.  If your introduction extended so far as to display the attached information in your fine establishment, they would be very much obliged.

Believe us, dear …

to be, Yours Truly,

E M Beeton and D Wagner

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My dear Miss Wagner

Many thanks for your kind letter.  I must say how thrilled I am that you have accepted my proposal.  My mind is racing with possibilities. 

You must forgive this short note.  I will write again as soon as I have time to collect my thoughts.  Until then, I have enclosed two reference works that I have found most useful in my work.  I trust that you too, will find some kernel of wisdom within these pages.

Believe me when I say that I am most excited to work with you.

Yours faithfully,

Miss Beeton

A guide for ladies

A guide to letters narrative and descriptive, and of thanks, congratulations, consolation and friendship

A guide for ladies on all forms of epistolary etiquette

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