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Archive for the ‘letters enclosing poetry’ Category

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 were most surprised to receive such a dramatic letter from Sir Walter Really.  They had previously assumed that Sir Walter was leading a life of luxury in some inner-suburban mansion.  They had no idea that he was in such dire circumstances.  This letter further illustrates the supreme comfort that can be found by communicating with others through carefully crafted correspondence.

Dear Miss Ethel May Beeton and Miss Dolores Wagner

First I must thank you both for reacquainting me with the simple art of hand-written correspondence.  The pleasure it has afforded me in recent days has been, at once, effortless and sublime.

A lonely candle dispels a chilly night, and my hands are unsteady from exhaustion.  It is nearing the eighth month, 1618, and the night air has already turned to chill.  Another month and the roads will be nothing but frost and I fear I will not survive a full winter in this place…if I am afforded that opportunity.

But, silly me, I race ahead too fast and you must be nauseous with confusion.  For I think it is the case that I did not convey to you the gravity of my current predicament in previous correspondence.

Suffice it to say that my situation is not good.  Simply put, had I not caused outrage to arise in the Honourable Spanish Ambassador at the culmination of my last voyage, I would, right this minute, be beside a fire place cradling an exotic cognac and coveting the company of my darling wife.  Yes!  That is where I would be and not in this prison cell.

Shall I like a hermit dwell

On a rock or in a cell

Tarry not on the darkness of my disposition.  I have not decided to write to you of my woes.  I write to recount my glory days.  To rejoice and to savour fond memories rekindled at the end of this quill.  To distract myself from the inevitability of my future and to give me something meaningful to do while I enjoy the world’s finest tobacco – smuggled in, my dears, from my private stash by guards easily bribed.

I shall write again before my time is up.

Sincerely Yours

Sir Walter Really

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Miss Beeton was recently invited to play at a musical recital, organised by her brother.  To her dismay, she has realised that her brother advertised this as an open event on Facebook.  Added to this, the venue is the cellar under her brother’s house, accessed via a large trapdoor and a three metre ladder.  Miss Beeton writes to caution her brother as to the safety of this scheme.

To my dear brother

How pleased I was to receive your invitation to your musical soiree!  I would be honoured to join your quartet.

Only one thing mars the pleasure of your happy invitation.  I note that you have publicised this Friday’s festivities as an open event on Facebook.  While I am, as much as any other, a fan of a raucous party, I find the logistics of this event a little troubling.  What measures have you taken to ensure that this event does not get out of hand?  More importantly, how will you prevent tipsy visitors from toppling into your trapdoor?

I do not mean to dissuade you from hosting these musical events, my dear brother.  I know you to be a man of tact and thoughtfulness, so I trust that you will consider these issues and take measures to ensure the safety of your guests. 

I enclose a small poem on the nature of music that you may find amusing.

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted.

(from The Merchant of Venice)

I remain, as always, yours truly

Ethel May

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