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Bright Posts

John Keats and Fanny Brawne – Letter exchanges in the early 1800’s Movie – Bright Star 2009  Director Jane Campion Writers Jane Campion(screenplay) Andrew Motion (biography “Keats”)

Film Screencaps/ Keats Letter

It’s 1818 in Hampstead Village on the outskirts of London. Poet Charles Brown lives in one half of a house, the Dilkes family the other. Through association with the Dilkes, the fatherless Brawne family knows Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown and the Brawne’s eldest daughter, Fanny, don’t like each other. She thinks him arrogant and rude; he feels that she’s a pretentious flirt, knowing only how to sew (admittedly well as she makes all her own fashionable clothes), and voicing opinions on subjects about which she knows nothing. Insecure struggling poet John Keats comes to live with his friend, Mr. Brown. Miss Brawne and Mr. Keats have a mutual attraction to each other, but their relationship is slow to develop, in part, since Mr. Brown does whatever he can to keep the two apart. Other obstacles face the couple, including their eventual overwhelming passion for each other clouding their view of what the other does, Mr. Keats’ struggling career, which offers him little in the way of monetary security (which will lead to Mrs. Brawne not giving consent for them to marry), and health issues which had earlier taken the life of Mr. Keats’ brother, Tom. – Huggo

Declaration by Letter. Its pivotal power defines and strengthens the storyline’s progression and drama. The detail and attention to letter writing is highly appreciated in this film.
The arrival and ritual

Screencap: Keats writing a letter, using a book of poetry as a base.

The envelope and construction

The writing and penmanship

The content and inclusions

The emotional reaction

The reply and response

The underpinning of Bright Star’s screenplay is rich on the transmission of letters, and of course, based on the romantic writings of Keats. More about his writing and correspondence to be found at http://keatslettersproject.com/.  There are many other historical, film, book, drama series, shows or movie examples. A great number of fantastic series to binge, too numerous to list, all set in the mid 1800s to early 1900s. In most plots, you will often see something by arriving by post. Lettermo members will pause at those scenes, to appreciate and ogle the paper, pen, ink, fold, style penmanship and addressing detail! (Recently watched the Duchess of Duke Street 1976-77 series and you can count the letters/desks/pens and stationery, from episode to episode!) From events, arrivals, announcements, invitations and important news, everything was predicated by the coming and going of a handwritten Letter. Letters of importance can start or end wars, be a hopeful beginning or a poignant end, both in fiction and real life.

There is a fundamental emphasis on letter writing in Bright Star, and the way it lends power to the storyline and development. Scripts, scenes, props and cinematography shots were created around the arrival, writing, placement and sending of the missives, posts, envelopes!

Mr. Charles Armitage Brown sent a flirty handcrafted Valentine to Fanny. It was in the shape of a suitcase, and when opened, revealed the message: 

Screencap: The Suitcase Valentine from Mr. Brown

Darling Valentine,
I am not sure you should have a kiss for your amber enchantress eyes or a whipping. – Yours, the Suitcase

Fanny remarked in earlier conversation at the color of Mr Brown’s eyes, “being suitcase brown” (plain). The Valentine was an emotive and forward response for the time period, with a recognition of her wit and banter meant to get under her skin. This Valentine, sealed with a red wax heart, invoked jealousy from John Keats. He was furious that his friend would send a Valentine to his Lady, even though Brown sent it for his own selfish reasons – in order to discredit Fanny’s character as a well-suited match for John Keats. They were 20-somethings in 1819, so the hormones ran high, too!  How the sending and receiving of a slip of paper with a written message enraged and affected Keats, further demonstrates the importance of letter writing!  It framed the expression of Love between John and Fanny in future scenes, letter excerpts included. His poetic pinings for her can make your heart swell! So young, and so well expressed in written form and poetry, you can imagine if Keats lived beyond 25, how masterful and powerful his creations would have become. #letterlocking #vintagevalentine

Another thing to be noted is how Mr Brown constructed theSuitcase Valentine. Crafted on a diagonal perspective, it opened just like a chest or case; a 19th century 3D Effect! Some time and thought went into it, hand drawn and colored too! Perhaps a mail artist would appreciate its simple but effective design! The attention to small detail in paper, pen, construction and style is appreciated in this century. #mailart

Keats Penmanship & Letter – From keatslettersproject.com

In today’s world, a letter written with attention to its recipient can be just as meaningful and powerful, hopefully without fits of jealousy or fireplace burning! Finding a penpal in the 21st century is rare and therefore more cherished. You can find some of these great humans, the like-minded and letter-laden spirits, here at lettermo.com.  Even a few short friendly sentences on a card to a friend or loved one can brighten the spirit, inspire and bring a nostalgic comfort. The investment of the letter writer’s time is the highest value in a Letter! It is a compliment and a recognition of you personally. Your letter is truly a gift, created especially for you. I hope humanity does not lose the beautiful process and the appreciation of a Letter’s value. We need only look to the wonderful writers of the 19th Century: Bronte, Emerson, Whitman and Keats, made masters by what they chose to put down on paper, and send out to the world.

Screencap: Fanny takes a walk to open and read Keats Letter.

Seek out inspiration from poets, writers, filmmakers like Jane Campion, your fellow Letter enthusiasts and penpals. They can cure writer’s block, or give you an idea about how you want to convey something. It is enriching to read their words, or watch their creations, and allow them to inspire your own letter-writing content and individual style.

Film Timestamp 1:03:23 

“When I don’t hear from him, it’s as if I’ve died, as if the air is sucked out from my lungs, and I am left desolate, but when I receive a letter, I know our World is real. It’s the one I care for.” – Fanny Brawne (while clinging to the letter)

Screencap: Fanny Brawne fawns over her letter arrival from John Keats

Gear up to send yours out to the world for The Month of Letters 2022 LetterMo22 – A whole two centuries after Keats wrote his!! Bonus if you have those nice wax seals! #lettermo #lettermo22 post your images and give the world your time-wise words. (incoherent musings, late replies, bags of tea, and poetic inclusion’s count too!) 

 Letter Mo 2022 Badge 1  Cooksterz L  - @cooksterzgram 

Welcome to LetterMo 2022

Hooray! Happy LetterMo to the letter writing community around the world.

Join the fun and spirit of letter writing and challenge yourself to write and send a piece of mail for every day the mail runs in your country. Everyone’s situation is different and life happens, especially these past years, so do what you can. Catch up when you need to and however you need to. The spirit if the program is to write more this month, and connect by mail.

Thanks to all the volunteer administrators who run the program – we would not be here without you!

What Are You Writing About?

As February 1st draws near, how is your planning going for the month? Have you got names pencilled in your calendar? Signed up at LetterMo to become a member and requested new penpal addresses? Other than the basic introductory information, you may wonder what you can write about.

Here is a list of occasions that you can draw inspiration from. Remember to thank your Mail Carrier on February 4th! Send fan mail to your favourite Weatherperson (5th). Share a recipe for your favourite plum pudding (12th) or Margarita (22nd). Express your gratitude for Caregivers Day (18th) and support for World Day of Social Justice (20th).

There’s always something interesting to write about and share! Which is your favourite occasion listed below? Let us know if there something else you celebrate in your region.

Click on the image for a full size PDF.

LetterMo Members Only Areas

A reminder that areas of our site are for registered members only.

Once you have signed up and have been approved, you must log in to the LetterMo site so you can access the forums.

If you’re new, head to the Guidelines: Month of Letters 2022 – Start Here so you can find out how to interact with others. Say Hello in Introductions 2022 Post and find some new penpal matches.

REMINDER:  Sign up and log in from the menu bar on the right side indicated in the blue rectangle and not the top left. You must be logged in to the site to access the forums and content otherwise you will get a “page not found” message.

The Countdown Is On

Can you believe it? February is almost here! 
Have you got your

  • Postage stamps ✅
  • Pens✅
  • Ink✅
  • Stationery✅
  • Postcards✅
  • Washi and stickers✅
  • Signed up for a letter writing challenge❓

The letter writing community is lucky to kickstart the year by having two different programs during the month of February. Why February? It’s the shortest month of year and often not the best weather, so letter writing is a great way to pass the time while staying cosy indoors.

So what are the two different programs? A Month of Letters, or as we call it LetterMo around here, was started by writer Mary Robinette Kowal who took a month break from the internet. International Correspondence Writing Month or InCoWriMo, is an obvious nod to NaNoWriMo for the inspiration to write every day.

So what are the differences between #LetterMo and #InCoWriMo? See the chart below.

The various elements of LetterMo requires a team of dedicated volunteers who run things behind the scenes. We are also lucky to have built a strong community over the years that welcomes newcomers each year and shares their knowledge of the program and love of mail.

You may wonder, do people participate in both? There are definitely people who do the crossover as well as write and send out more than one letter a day! If you want to see some of the mail that is sent out, visit our Instagram profile and check out our stories – LetterMo 2021 or check out #LetterMo2021

With people around the world discovering or rediscovering the joy of the written word received by post, we hope letter writing will no longer be classified as a “lost art”

Are you ready? Come join the fun – sign up today! See you in the forums!

Let us know in the comments what you are doing to be ready for February 1st.

National Handwriting day

John Hancock's signature, as captured from the US Declaration of Independence

Ever heard the phrase “we just need your John Hancock” in reference to signing a contract or form? This idiom refers to one of the US’s founding fathers, and his noticeably bold signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Hancock’s signature towers over the names of others present at the signing of the US Declaration of Independence

Born on January 23, 1737, Hancock’s birthday was given a new purpose in 1977, when it was declared National Handwriting Day. The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA) reminds us that “handwriting can add intimacy to a letter and reveal details about the writer’s personality. Throughout history, handwritten documents have sparked love affairs, started wars, established peace, freed slaves, created movements and declared independence.”

The WIMA also has recommendations of how we can celebrate National Handwriting Day:

  • Write a note. A quick handwritten note can make huge impact on someone’s day, from a note in your child’s lunchbox to a love note to a sweetheart.
  • Pen a poem. Not everyone is Shakespeare, but poetry is a great way to bring out your innermost thoughts about something you are passionate about.
  • Jot in your journal. Writing down your deepest thoughts in a private journal can help work through things you with which you may be struggling.
  • Sign your name. Channel your inner John Hancock and practice your signature, there is still a place today to sign on the dotted line.

And of course our favorite:

  • Compose a letter. The days of writing a letter on paper and sending it in the mail are not gone, reach out to someone you haven’t communicated with in a while by writing them a letter. Everyone loves getting mail!

So sharpen your pencils, refill your ink wells, and pull out your stationary. Everyone can take advantage of a little practice, whatever form of your LetterMo letters, be they typed, handwritten, or pictorial.

A child’s first poem, an ode to spring.

An Introduction to the Victorian Letter Writers Guild

LetterMo pal and ECL Society of Letter Writers founder Denise provides insight into one of the writing groups she and some members her society are part of if you are looking for additional pen pals after February. This one is for Ladies only.

“Do people still write letters?”

That was my reply to a patron at the library where I work when she suggested that we start a letter writing social.  Of course, now I know the answer is yes!   To begin gathering information for a letter writing social, I decided I should first find myself pen pal.  I searched the internet to find a pen pal matching site that didn’t involve a fee and was for females only and that is when I found the Victorian Letter Writers Guild.  

The Victorian Letter Writers Guild was started in May of 2017 by Sarah Coller, who believed “scattered amongst our fast-paced, stressed-out society, there is a special kind of people hiding in plain sight who come from all walks of life and possess varied interests and goals, but all hold one desire in common—a longing for a more relaxed and thoughtful way of life.”  Sarah now has hundreds of ladies who apply for pen friends both domestically and internationally.  

Sign up at victorianletterwritersguild.blogspot.com not only to be notified of quarterly pen pal matches but also for birthday and holiday card exchanges. 

However, you may be wondering, “Does my letter have to be Victorian themed/decorated/written with a fountain or quill/worded with flowery 19th century language?

Sarah says this is not necessary. The term “Victorian” is used in reference to the “old fashioned” art of letter writing – not so much to the style of letters or art work employed. Of course, many who join the exchanges enjoy this aesthetic, as well, but using it is not mandatory. She doesn’t want people to be intimidated by believing one must be a fantastic artist or eloquent speaker to participate in our exchanges. She further confirms, “We are average women with average lives who share a love for simplicity and beauty. If you can relate, you belong here!”

Her blog also features: 

  • Creative ideas for designing extra-special correspondence
  • Mail art techniques
  • Historical information regarding letter writing, Victorians, etiquette, and more
  • Quarterly pen friend exchanges
  • Writing-related swaps and giveaways

Getting a pen pal is easy!  Once you’ve signed up for her blog, simply wait for the quarterly pen pal match up to arrive via email and fill out the short questionnaire about yourself and what you hope for in a pen friend.  The VLWG pen pal match is quick and free.  Sarah hand matches everyone and within days you’ll receive an email with your new pen pal.  You can get yourself a new pen pal every quarter if you like.  How many pen pals is really ever enough?  Over the years, I have received many pen pals and treasure every one Sarah hand matched just for me.  

You can also follow along on Instagram @victorianletterwritersguild.  

If you enjoy handwritten correspondence with like-minded people, The Victorian Letter Writers Guild may be for you!

Dear Friend,

Thanks to longtime LetterMo member @oliviarrow for
sharing her own personal experience with uplifting words from “secret friends” that started her on a lifelong journey paying it forward and sending kind words to stranger.

In this part of the LetterMo challenge, maybe you’re running out of people to write who you already know or have written before. You might want to send notes to folks you don’t know, but you feel a little funny writing to strangers. What do you say? How do you know what they like? What if you say the wrong thing? 

I’m here to tell you to get over the fear and DO IT

Like many LetterMo participants, I was introduced to letter writing as a young person and have been the grateful recipient of innumerable mailings ever since. As a teenager, there was a period when I was struggling a lot and had body issues and depression. That’s when I first got a card signed “Your Secret Friends” with a message of encouragement, love and support.

I received a few of them and they were written in different penmanship with no return address except for “Y.S.F.” To this day, I do not know who sent me those love letters, but I have kept them for over 25 years because they made me feel like I had value and was loved at a time when I didn’t think that was possible. 

Those cards remind me how easy and accessible it is to uplift others with a stamp and a few kind words.

Since I received those wonderful surprises from my secret friends, I have sent many letters and cards to countless strangers around the world, simply to spread love and encouragement. I am happy to help you get started on your own journey to spread kindness!    

A great place to start is lettermo’s very own #MailMission post in the Resources section, where you will find links to send mail to troops, children in hospitals, and senior citizens, to name a few. From that list, I have done More Love Letters, where letter requests are posted on the first of every month with short paragraphs about why the recipient could use your support.

Another site I have used in the past is Girls Love Mail, for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The site offers pointers on what to say or avoid if you need a little help composing your letter. This year they have a campaign to collect 25,000 letters called 2021 MILES OF MAIL.

Then there’s The Letter Project, which I only just learned about. The Letter Project is a faith-based organization for women and girls to write and receive encouraging mail. 

As if those weren’t enough resources to choose from, there are still more ways for you to spread kindness through the mail and letters.

  • You might take a more grassroots approach and try contacting a local care home about reaching out to seniors and people who are isolated in your area.
  • You can send a love letter to your favorite local restaurant
  • Maybe fan mail to performers or businesses you love who have been struggling due to the pandemic.

This has been a particularly tough time for so many people, so don’t underestimate how valuable your encouragement can be, even anonymously. Maybe you can send some cards to Spread Joy 24-7 to leave around in public spaces for strangers to find.

You get the idea, there are more resources than I can list here, but you have plenty to get started with whatever route speaks to you. Do you have a favourite #MailMission that you are dedicated to? Please share in the comments below.

84, Charing Cross Road

epistolary adj
epis·to·lary | \ i-ˈpi-stə-ˌler-ē  , ˌe-pi-ˈstȯ-lə-rē  \
1: of, relating to, or suitable to a letter
2: contained in or carried on by letters
3: written in the form of a series of letters
Merriam-Webster  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epistolary

When putting pen to paper, the words convey a story – whether it is a fantastical tale of swashbuckling heroes, or in the thoughts shared with a friend. A series of letters can be a powerful thing, painting an image of an entire world from hints hidden in each envelope.

One of my favorite epistolary books is 84, Charing Cross Road, which is a selection of real correspondence between the author, Helene Hanff, and bookseller Frank Doel.

The collection starts in October 1949, with a letter sent from her New York apartment, in which Helene inquires about used copies of several titles. Her queries to the London based Marks & Co. Booksellers are handled by one FPD. Over the course of her letters and requests for various titles, Helene gets the bookseller, Frank Doel, to open up.

There is great contrast between Helene’s bombastic personality, and Frank’s staid one, but you get the sense of genuine care between the two. This friendship grows over twenty years, over many book orders, and Helene ordering much coveted foodstuffs sent to the shop in the heavily rationed England, making sure to include other shop workers in her generosity.

Her actions cause other staff at the shop to reach out:

“Please don’t let Frank know I’m writing this but every time I send you a bill I’ve been dying to slip in a little note and he might not think it quite proper of me. That sounds stuffy and he’s not, he’s quite nice really, very nice in fact, it’s just that he does rather look on you as his private correspondent as all your letters and parcels are addressed to him.”  Cecily Farr, 7th April, 1950

The book contains several letters between Helene and others in Frank’s life, including co-workers, his wife, and even one from a friend who is traveling and visits the bookshop on Helene’s behest, writing back a lovely description of the establishment. Several letters include plans for Helene to travel to London and visit the bookshop herself, though as of the time of the last letter in the book, in 1969, she had not. Marks & Co. closed in 1970, the year the book was published.

It is the little things in the letters, the attitude of Helene when she has not received any books in a while (including the absence of capitalization), the warm responses and small details about the shop included in the invoices from Frank, that draw a reader in, so much that at times it feels more like fiction than non-fiction.

Personal correspondence contributes not only to literary endeavors, but also to history, providing first hand accounts of life – a snapshot in time of the senders’ world. Letters can bring to life events that history books may paint with a broad brush through small details, such as the food rationing in Britain during and after the second world war. 

Other epistolary stories I’ve enjoyed include Bram Stokers Dracula, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn.

Do you have a favorite tale conveyed via correspondence? Perhaps you and a pen pal may find something to talk about in this unique form of literature.

In February, mail one item every day it runs. #lettermo Sign up to find Lettermo Penpals!