Letters in the Regency, plus a sample of my new novel.

January 29, 2013 in Journal

In the other side of my life, when I’m not writing letters, I write novels. My publisher has put an excerpt of my newest book up on the website and since Chapter two involves a great deal of mail, I thought that it might be something that you were interested in.

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette KowalJane entered the parlour carrying the morning mail, eager to show her husband the letter that they had received from London. She stopped in surprise in the doorway. The snow had ceased during the night, and the morning sun made a dazzling wave across the parlour. It cast Vincent’s form into severe relief as he stood next to the fireplace, scratching his back against the corner of the mantelpiece. His eyes were closed and his brow furrowed in concentration. In spite of his blue coat of superfine wool, tan trousers, and tall boots, Vincent looked like nothing so much as a bear come in for the winter. Jane half expected him to produce a honeycomb and begin eating it. She laughed, covering her mouth in delight at the image.

This book is set in 1816 and sending a letter in England was a little different than what we have here in the modern U.S.A. To start with, there were no envelopes. You folded the paper you wrote on to create your own envelope, then sealed it with wax.  There were several different ways of doing the folding, but here’s a tutorial on one version.

A crossed letter by Jane AustenPostage was based, in part, on the number of sheets of paper. Because the person receiving the letter paid for it, courtesy demanded that you use as few sheets as possible. This resulted in “crossed letters” in which you turned the paper ninety degrees and continued writing across the existing lines of text. It’s easier to read than one might think.

If you lived in London, mail ran several times a day so you could exchange multiple letters with an individual via a sort of analog internet.

If you are interested in reading a sample of Without a Summer, my publisher has the first two chapters up on their website. Chapter two is chock full of mail.

3 responses to Letters in the Regency, plus a sample of my new novel.

  1. I have recieved a crossed letter including one from you I believe….excellent! I can’t wait!

  2. Don’t forget, if they needed even more space, they’d sometimes go diagonally as well.

    I used to transcribe stuff. It was awesome.

    • And they wrote allllll the way to the edges of the paper. Using big margins was a display of wealth. A member of parliament could “frank” letters, which meant that the government would cover sending it. This meant that they did not need to conserve paper when sending letters.

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