The art of letter-writing is very close to meet the demands of communication in our modern time. When our dear and near ones lived within the narrow boundary of a little village and when we used lo see and talk with them every day, there was no occasion or opportunity of communicating our thoughts in the form of letters. Hence letter-writing was then almost unknown with the exception of a few love-letters. But when families broke up and the circle of our acquaintance grew wider and wider, and when on account of the difficulties and prohibitive cast of conveyance it was not possible to see them frequently, letters become the vehicle of our thoughts and feelings. When bodily separation became inevitable, men look to these letters to prevent separation of minds.
History When The Art Of Letter Writing Was Professionally Studied And Become Immense Part of Communication
As time went on more and more attention was paid to its composition. It was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in England that letter-writing was studied as an art. Before the invention of railway and steamship, when travelling was slow, costly and difficult and when postage was too heavy for men to write too many letters they took a great deal of pains over their private correspondence. Men had then ample leisure—the sick hurry of the modern age was unknown—and they put forth their best in letter-writing and slowly perfected this art, Lady Mary Montagu’s letters giving an account of her travels and residence in the East, Chesterfield’s letters, to his son Horace Walpole’s and Cowper’s letters to their friends are some the notable examples of letters raised to the literary rank.
The last group of letters was written without any idea of their ever being published and therefore they are the happiest specimens of the class—open, frank and spontaneous, full of humour and pathos. In the course of time letter-writing was brought to such a perfection that the epistolary form came to be adopted and used with immense success in general literature. Among works written in this form which made their mark in the English literature may be mentioned White’s Natural History of Melbourne, Goldsmith’s Citizen of the World, Locke’s Letters on Toleration, Burke’s Letters on the Regicide Peace and Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol. Novelists also adopted this form as was seen in Richardson’s novels, Smollett’s Humphry Clinker and Scott’s Humphry Clinker and Scott’s Gauntlet.
10 Important Elements About The Art of Letter Writing In Every Sphere of Life
Besides letters proper and general literature written in epistolary form, there was another class of letters known as newsletters. They preceded newspapers, “A man of rank or political influence when he left the city and returned to the country for a time, employed some professional letter writer to keep him posted up in current politics ami the news of the court.” These were known as newsletters and they played an important part in the political life of the day. In course of time, printed newspapers superseded these newsletters.
We have seen the different uses to which letters were put. They would not have been put so many uses but for their artistic excellence. The next question therefore for us to ask is: Wherein lies the secret of this excellence? The first requisite of a good letter is its spontaneity. No doubt great efforts have been taken to write it, but no trace of such a strain should be visible on the face of it. Art lies in concealing art. The reader of a good letter must feel that the contents of that letter have been penned with perfect ease. There must be grace, flow and eloquence in it. Cowper’s letter have become classic because in them we have a combination of these qualities. Secondly, good letters should not have the appearance of a frank and hearty talk.
It should not have an air of half-concealing and half revealing yourself; it must read like a genial conversation put into writing. When these factors are »anting letters are stiff and formal. Thirdly, it must not be monotonous Sparkling wit, genial, humour and pathos must be lit up the contents of a letter if it is to be made interesting. Otherwise it is likely 10 pro’, e tedious to the reader, and of all things tedious letters are least to be tolerated. These, we find excellently illustrated in the Letters of Cowper, Walpole and Lady Montague. Everything they wrote sparkled with, wit and was mellowed with a gentle humour. Much also depends upon the length of a letter. It should neither be too long nor too short. When the postage was heavy people generally wrote long letters because they could not afford to write too many letters, but in modern time people like letters to be short.
But with the invention of speedy locomotion and with the din and bustle of modern industrial life everything has changed. People generally write letters now-a-days because they must and not because they will. What was once a cherished art and solace is now for the most part looked upon as a heavy-duty. Life has become so busy and its distractions so many, that men and women have no time to write well planned artistic letters. They scratch a few lines hurriedly and think that they have done their duty. They prefer visiting friends to corresponding with them. And those who have leisure pass their time in outdoor amusements and pastimes instead of corresponding.
The Ultimate Secret of The Art OF Letter Writing
But it is at the same time true that there is a much larger amount of correspondence today than there was in the eighteenth century. The income from the post office has gone up by leaps and bounds. The cheap postage enables every one to write. Secondly, the vast increase in trade and commerce and the linking up of the different parts of the globe have necessitated a larger correspondence. The daily letter-bag is now mostly filled with business letters, hurried questions and answers and things of that nature. Some big men arc so much over-flooded with letters that they find no time to answer them and publish their replies in newspapers. That labour and care which were spent on letters in the previous Century are now lost. Consequently the epistolary art has declined. Here and there we find an attempt to revive it, but the lime spirit seems to be against such an effort. If that day ever comes when men will have time to call their own, when they will get back their capacity to possess their soul in patience and when emotional attachments will be greater than business attractions, then perhaps will the art of letter-writing again come back.