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

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.

21 thoughts on “[Wayback Repost] Why do letters seem more daunting than email?”

  1. Having been a letter writer for several years now, I don’t particularly find this challenge all that difficult, other than remembering to do it every day instead of when the whim takes me to write. And since I may not have a penpal’s letter to answer, then I need to think outside my normal circle of penpals and write to others. I saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with a few old penpals that had lapsed, family members that live outside of the city, friends I haven’t seen in a while, and strangers or persons of stature. I think it’s a great challenge and maybe it will even boost the joy of those who process all this mail and deliver it to us. 🙂

  2. I love your post. And I totally agree.

    Email, tweets n twitters, FB comments all have their place and moment in time where they are the appropriate way to respond.

    However, sending a letter, postcard, or notecard is the only way to connect with someone on a more personal, even intimate, level.

    The act of sending a missive does take time, but more importantly it takes thought. What paper will I use? What will I add (stickers, washi, etc.)? What will I say? Combined these choices will be a bright spot in someone’s day. Added bonus? It was created specifically for them.

  3. Great article on postcard apps but you should also take a look at Postsnap’s easy to use postcard app.
    http://www.postsnap.com
    https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/postsnap-best-postcard-sending/id650814139?mt=8
    The app offers a number of unique features compared to the other apps reviewed including:
    – Guest checkout with Apple Pay
    – Extensive personalization options including collage layouts, stylish borders which can be adjusted in size with a slider and the option to add editable text in a variety of font types and colors and position it anywhere on the cards
    – iPhone and iPad support
    – Apple Pencil support
    – Facebook and Instagram integration
    – US postal address verification and UK postcode lookup
    Cards are printed and posted in our facilities in the UK, USA and Australia on the same or next working day and so cards typically arrive quickly. Enjoy!
    Stephen Homer
    Founder
    Postsnap

  4. I have been writing letters for several years now. My go to paper is Rhodia Premium or Rhodia Ice pads. I also Life pads too. I like them because they are not quite as slick as the Rhodia.

  5. I love Tomoe River paper for letter writing. I buy 100 sheets at a time and print my own mermaid stationery. I found an envelope that I like and ordered a mermaid address stamp and finish it off with mermaid washi tape.

  6. I too love journals to pull apart for writing. For me the most important aspect of the paper is the pattern. I love to have some colour and some design on the paper. I’ve managed to find a number of nice colours and designs at one of my local “Home Sense” discount stores in the book section. Most of the small journals are a perfect size to fit in the envelopes I use. If not I just give one edge a bit of a trim (but sometimes I really like the ripped edge look too!) ;P

  7. Hi, Christmas cards & more recently a letter (a bill) from the UK to Australia have taken 3 weeks to arrive. The exterior of these envelopes were stamped with a mark such as this from the latest envelope:
    DLC 992-4
    14:55
    26/07/2017
    The example quoted arrived at the Australian address on 28/07/2017, unfortunately it contained a bill dated 06/07/2017 which had to be paid within 14 days, by 20/07/2017.
    Why is the post so slow? What does the DLC 992-4 stamp signify? Would appreciate your feedback.

  8. My letter that I wrote was in September. The person who it was for still hasn’t gotten it and it’s now November….
    I don’t understand why it’s taking this long. I live in AZ and he lives in NY. I want answers.

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