Archive for the ‘letters of advice’ Category

One of the more poignant letters produced at the DLO’s workshop. The writer has many years of experience in the art and we think this is apparent form her sophisticated style. The letter appears to be a friend who has grown a little too fond of the bottle. Sadly, a very common thing in Australian society. The DLO believes something needs to be done. We would have made public statements to the effect if we were not worried about our funding sources being removed.  

Dear Miss _______,

I do hope this letter finds you well and that the winter hasn’t bought on your aches and pains as last year’s winter did.

Unfortunately I have heard from Mr George that you are, and may I be so blunt as to say, ‘hitting the bottle’ again. This disturbed me to the point of my nervous itch and you know how that distresses me.

Miss Abigail, it is with some regret that I was chosen to be the ‘letter-writer’, however, as I have been chosen I will not ‘mince words’ with you.

To live the good life one must give up the ‘demon drink’ and whilst I am at it, the profanities that Miss Brown heard you using have been a shock to us all, that also must be ceased immediately.

I do hope you take it upon yourself to begin immediately to mend your ways and lead a good life.

Yours sincerely,

Miss ______________


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Another gem from Miss Wagner as part of the ‘lucky dip’ letter writing exercise at a DLO workshop. Miss Wagner selected a scenario about writing to someone who is about to make a bad choice. Miss Jolie seemed to fit into that category. Miss Wagner used a standard line in advice letters, which is useful for added diplomacy. See if you can pick it! Miss Jolie has not yet responded to Miss Wagner’s concerned epistle. She must be very busy indeed.

I’m not sure the marriage congratulations are quite appropriate. I think Miss Wagner is a bit behind the times, Ms Jolie and Mr Pitt wedded many years ago now.  

Dear Miss Jolie,

You do not know me – I don’t think, at least, but I am a very great fan of your work. My favourite movie of yours is Girl Interrupted.

I ask you to reconsider your decision to adopt your 7th child. You say in Womans Weekly (18/05/10) that you ‘are attracted to children who are already born.’  This may be so, and I can well understand it, but it does not follow that you will be able to give that child the care and attention it needs.

How is it that you did not perceive this immediately, since you usually see so clearly and judge so correctly?

But belated congratulations on your marriage to Mr Pitt.

Yours most respectfully,

Dolores Wagner (Miss)

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Advice is dreaded, even when it is apparently desired. It is usually offensive to self-love in the hope of finding approbation. You must, therefore, be very economical of advice. A father owes it to his son, a mother to her daughter, a tutor to his pupil, a friend to his friend [or HER friend, in this case]. In these cases, do not be sparing of counsel, even when it is ill received, for you are merely discharging a debt. But in any other circumstances, see that you are entreated more than once before your assume the character of a counselor, and when you are compelled to be one, act with the utmost caution. As advice almost invariably contains a tacit reproof of actual faults, or dangerous inclinations, the sternness of reason should be disguised under inviting exteriors; and prudence demands an air of timidity in offering advice to a superior. It will be proper to introduce, frequently, some form of speech like the following: ‘’It would appear to me;’’ ‘’I may be deceived;’’ ‘’Were you not perhaps mistaken?’’ ‘’If I may presume to express my sentiments’’ ‘’How is it possible that you did not perceive it, since you usually see so clearly, and judge so correctly’’? The bitterness of counsel will be scarcely perceptible, if the person who gives advice is modest, and bestows suitable praise on the person who receives it.

From The Letter Writer’s Own Book: or, The Art of Polite Correspondence (1843) – published by John B. Perry.

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My dear Miss Beeton,

I was sorry to see you distressed by your accountant’s suggestion that owning a property and earning a hefty salary are the most important things in life.

In my experience, apparent ‘commonsense’ can in fact be tyranny, that stifling oppression of the status quo.

In those sometimes interminable hours sorting mail together in the DLO, I’ve come to know you intimately. What’s right for your accountant is NOT right for Ethel May. How is it that you did not perceive this immediately, since you usually see so clearly, and judge so correctly?

A good life is about having something to love, something to do (that you enjoy) and something to look forward to. These principles are from a somewhat dubious self-help book, but they resonated with me.

You are lucky in that you have someone to love – dear old Ebenezer is just such a rock. I suspect, and think you will concur, that the real source of your discontent is that it is time for you to move on from the DLO.

Admittedly, we’ve had some good times here. Remember those wonderful, personal letters we used to pore over – love, compassion, envy, even hatred – the full gamut of human emotions right there, on the page? It was so enervating. These days, we only deal in cold, hard correspondence; bills, advertisements, requests for donations. Ultimately unsatisfying, and moreover, there’s often little to do. For women who were bought up by the rule that idle hands lead to idle work, it’s incredibly frustrating.

I think we must both find a job where our considerable talents and invaluable experience are both appreciated and amply rewarded.  Now we’ve turned our minds to it, let’s apply our efforts without delay. It is a challenge we are more than capable of meeting.

Here’s to us, Miss Beeton.

And I remain, as always, your affection friend, & c –

Miss Dolores Wagner

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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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Dear Sir

How pleased I was to hear of your interest in our humble endeavours! I know that my dear colleague, Miss Wagner, has written to you already of the features of good letter-writing. She has a great talent in these matters, and she possesses a formidable knowledge of epistolary etiquette.

Given this, I wish only to add a few notes on the proper appearance of letters, which you might collate with Miss Wagner’s suggestions.

I Choose a fine note-paper. White or cream is best.

II Marry this with a bold black ink.

III Think of your hand as you would the quality of your speaking voice. Write each letter boldly, and avoid imitating the affectations of others.

IV Try to write with a good pen. Never blame a sloppy appearance on a bad pen – a gentleman must learn to write with both.

V Avoid gold-edged note-paper and cheap perfumes. Both are merely tawdry.

With care, the physical appearance of letters can match the elegance of your prose. Though, of course, nothing is more beautiful than the truth, especially when it is written from the heart.

I invite you to write again of your thoughts on this project, and to share with us the fruits of your letter-writing endeavours.

Believe me, dear sir, to be yours truly.

Ethel May Beeton

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