Archive for the ‘letters to a colleague’ 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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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 and Miss Wagner would love to invite you to a genteel letter-writing workshop.  Please do come along!

Dear fellow letter-writers, supporters and friends,

Ethel May Beeton and Dolores Wagner are proud to announce that their up-coming letter-writing workshop has been profiled in the Heidelberg Leader. We trust that the accompanying image does not make us appear overly stern. We remain, as always, firm but kind.

We would love you to join us on 28 and 29 August 2010 at Ivanhoe Library for the Lost Arts Festival. Our workshops will commence at 11am and 3pm on Saturday and 2pm and 4pm on Sunday. Stationery, pens, postbox, and a genteel environment conducive to letter-writing, will all be provided. Do come if you can!

There are many other worthy offerings at the Lost Arts Festival. The full program is here: http://www.banyule.vic.gov.au/Assets/Files/2855%20BAN%20LArts%20program_JUL26b.pdf

We remain, dear friends, yours truly.

Ethel May Beeton and Dolores Wagner

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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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My Dear Miss Wagner

For many years now, we have been colleagues in the Dead Letter Office.  Throughout countless shared hours collating poorly addressed mail, I have admired your superior knowledge of the gentle art of letter-writing.

It is, therefore, with great deference that I request your assistance in a matter which is most dear to my heart.  It troubles me that the well-crafted letter is fast being usurped by more abrupt and, yes, more vulgar means of communication.

It comes to mind that a simple guide to the art of the letter, accompanied by a compendium of exemplars, might go some way towards instructing the minds of young gentlemen and ladies in the joys of letter-writing.  I have thus set out to compile such a guide.  I would be most thankful if you joined me and lent your skills to such a task.

I trust that such a project will not be too taxing on you.  I would consider it a great honour if you would join me in such a venture.


with the greatest respect & c.

Miss Beeton

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