Letter writing is becoming something of a lost art and that is a shame. Email is instant gratification but a letter is something that you can hold in your hand, pack into a box and look at years later. And while I am not a believer in graphologie (or graphologists), I can't help but think that they may be on to something when they say, "Ecrire c'est choisir de laisser une trace" (To write is to choose to leave one's mark). There is something about people's handwritten letters that is so personal and distinctive that I can't help but feel that "courriel" is a lesser medium. Here, for example, is an extract from a letter I received recently from an elderly family member:
"Très chère Victoria,Could all of the above been said in an email? Well, yes, but it wouldn't have been the same. Her handwriting is exquisite and her grammar impeccable- she was a schoolgirl when World War II erupted in Europe. Along with her letter, she included a medal which she had blessed at a chapel in Paris - just try to do that via an Internet connection. The medal I placed in a small leather case along with the others, all of which were passed down to me from my Canadian-American Great Aunt George-Anne. The letter, of course, goes into the Flophouse Archives.
Hier Mercredi, l'équipe de prière s'est réunie.
Nous ne sommes pas nombreuses, mais les prières sont simples et sincères. Tu as été au coeur de notre intercession ainsi qu'une dame, plus agée que toi, que nos amies du groupe connaissent, et qui, elle, est très atteinte d'un cancer des poumons..... Voici une prière que je trouve tres belle, ce sont des personnes du groupe qui l'ont donnée pour toi...
Souviens-toi que même si nous nous croyons seuls, notre Dieu d'Amour et de Liberté est toujours avec nous. Je t'embrasse très très fort...."
Part of keeping the art of letter writing alive is to read the great correspondence of the past for inspiration. To this end, Shaun Usher is doing us all a great service. I need to get back to my painting but I'll leave you with a few links to some of my favorite letters on his site. If you like my teasers and want to get a daily shot of great writing, just subscribe to Usher's Twitter feed here.
Older Mistresses are So Grateful!: Benjamin Franklin giving advice about marriage and choosing a mistress.
To My Old Master: Emancipated slave, Jourdon Anderson, explains a few things to his former master, Colonel P.H. Anderson.
DO NOT be So Bloody Vulnerable: Relationship advice from Noel Coward to Marlene Dietrich.
This is My Son. He Speaks Greek: A letter to Ted Turner from his very angry father in response to Turner's decision to study Classics at university. I think the final line of his father's letter is a classic: "You are in the hands of the Philistines, and dammit, I sent you there. I am sorry."