Mister Postman, look and see if there’s a letter in your bag for me….

“It was such a surprise to get a second letter from you. When I saw it on the hall table I thought you must have written to reproach me for not writing, because I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had a minute for writing letters. Imagine my delight then when I found out your reason for writing a second time.”[1]

Dear Amy,

Can you ever imagine a world where letters have less importance? To be transported into a time where the anticipation of a letter arriving in the post can take over your whole existence is just wonderful. Today, there is nothing more delightful than receiving a handwritten letter in the post. But, more and more it just doesn’t happen. Today, everything is quicker; technology has made us impatient, we want things ‘snappy’.

“It just happens that your letter has crossed with one I wrote you last night, but didn’t post until this morning. When I got your awfully nice letter, I felt like you did and found it difficult not to reply straight away – and especially as I know I couldn’t get another letter from you till I’d replied. But we couldn’t each go on replying by the next post for a fortnight, so as there didn’t seem to be any conceivable excuse for an immediate answer. I told myself I must wait a whole week.”[2]

Today, in this world, we have the Internet. We have email; we have texts, tweets, Facebook messages, Snap Chat, What’s app and even online dating. Everything can be done on the Internet – it is a giant spider’s web of communicative technology. You just wouldn’t believe it, Amy! Almost lost is the thrill of waiting for the post to arrive – it’s usually full of bills, adverts and general junk mail.

“Your letter did indeed work wonders. It was awfully nice of you to reply so quickly. I’m not in the least depressed now – very much the other way, nearly all my worries having faded away.”[3]

That said, one could have some wonderful conversations by email – the closest most of us come to a handwritten letter. But still everything is faster. If we have to wait longer than an hour for an email reply, we worry it hasn’t been sent, or the receiver of said email is ignoring us. Instant, on-the-go Internet access has created a nation of ‘screen checkers’. Don’t worry; I see the irony as I am typing, on screen…

“You don’t bore me with your letters (especially when they were as interesting as the last one was before Mrs. Baker came in with the supper. I was so disappointed because supper’s so unromantic.)”[4]

Words are romantic. Words are permanent. Words are relief. Words cannot be un-said.

“Pardon me if I appear to be writing to you, but being a free individual I see no reason whatever why I should not indulge in whatever form of recreation I wish. By this simple action I am craving your wrath, dire displeasure and loss of my dear adopted brother’s affection in the future…”[5]

It’s funny, how in the present we wish for things from the past. We love to reminisce about times gone by. Yet we take everything in the present for granted! In this, what has become a culture of ‘the next thing’, of faster cars, bigger debts and smaller, better, more functional technology, we often forget the things that are important…

“Dear Hans, Won’t you please write me just a few lines… I’m feeling most hopelessly depressed. Amy.”[6]

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

 

Links:

‘The Lost Art of Letter Writing’: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2012/oct/23/lost-art-letter-writing

‘The History of the Letter: The First Chain Letter Ever Written, 1891’: https://historyoftheletter.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/the-first-chain-letter-ever-written-1891/

‘History of Handwritten Letters’: http://handwrittenletters.com/history_of_handwritten_letters.html

 

[1]Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 22 November 1922.

[2]Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 18 February 1925

[3]Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 10 December 1924

[4]Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 29 October 1922.

[5] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 5 May 1924

[6] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. No date.

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