Victorian Rituals
 


 
Letter Writing

Fragments of friendship, made by women in the Victorian Era, used their ingenuity and clever hands to fashion objects to give away including the letters they so carefully wrote. Many would take care to turn an ordinary envelope into a work of art with illustrations and or painted script, and even addresses rendered with intricate pin pricks. And Sealing wax was a favorite way to protect the contents of the envelope.

There were suitors known as faint-hearted lovers who couldn't muster a proposal. According to The Lover's Casket, an etiquette book that strictly covered courting techniques, had indeed said that the suitor could write his proposal by letter if he could not bring himself to say the words.

The Lovers Letter Writer, a popular 19th-century English manual, supplied the answers to correct letter writing. Covering love, courtship, marriage, friendship, relationships and business. In all, there were 66 examples. The samples covered every conceivable social need along with a handy formula for a cryptogram meant to be read between the lines.

This example of a cryptogram was headed Female Ingenuity and was used by a newly married young lady who was obliged to show her husband all the letters she wrote.

I cannot be satisfied, my dearest friend;
blest as I am in the matrimonial state,
unless I pour into your friendly bosom,
which has ever been in unison with mine,
the various sensations which swell
with the liveliest emotions of pleasure, Victorian Letter Writing
my almost bursting heart. I tell you my dear
husband is the most amiable of men.
I have now been married seven weeks, and
have found the least reason to
repent the day that joined us.
My husband is
in person and manners far from resembling
ugly, cross, old, disagreeable and jealous
monsters, who think by confining to secure a wife;
it is his maxim to treat,
as a bosom friend and confidant, and not
as a plaything or menial slave, the woman
chosen to be his companion. Neither party,
he says should always obey implicitly;
but each yield to the other by turns.


The letter's message was:

I cannot be satisfied, my dearest friend,
unless I pour into your friendly bosom,
the various sensations which swell
my almost bursting heart. I tell you my dear
I have now been married seven weeks, and
repent the day that joined us.
My husband is
ugly, cross, old, disagreeable and jealous.
It is his maxim to treat
as a plaything or menial slave; the woman
he says, should always obey implicitly.

Another sample is to be used by a lady in answer to a letter in which her suitor intimates his wish to discontinue acquaintance. A lady should permit a suitor to withdraw, but not without having the last word.

Sir:

I acknowledge the receipt of your last letter, which now lies before me, and in which you convey the intimation, that the position which, for some time past we have regarded each other, must henceforth be abandoned. Until the receipt of this letter, I had regarded you in the light of my future husband; you were, therefore, as you have reason to know, so completely the possessor of my affections, that I looked with indifference upon every other suitor. The remembrance of you never failed to give a fresh zest to the pleasures of life, and you were in my thoughts at the very moment in which I received your letter.

But deem me not so devoid of proper pride as to wish you to revoke your determination, from which I will not attempt to dissuade you, whether you may have made it in coll deliberation, or in precipitate haste. Sir, I shall endeavor to banish you from my affections, as readily and completely as you have banished me; and all that I shall now require from you is this, that you will return to me whatever letters you may have of mine, and which I may have written under a foolish confidence in your attachment, and when you were accredited as the future husband of,

Sir,
Yours as may be,
Henrietta Allston

"Please never stop writing me letters-they always manage to make me feel like my higher self," poet Elizabeth Bishop once implored a friend." In this age of electronic correspondence, letter writing is much more personal or romantic than convenient email. And in an age that valued sentiment and friendship, creating souvenirs to be exchanged was part of the ceremony and the excitement, a reminder forever of the beauty found in the circle of love and friendship.

Find a quiet corner, your very own private domain. "I have everything I need…a page, a pen, and memory raining down on me in sleeves," wrote Harriet Doerr. Take up a clean page and write, but pay close attention to details, no scribbling here please. Calligraphy has always been a form of expressive handwriting. No matter which style you choose, remember that it's not just what you write, but how it is written.

The page itself may be decorated, or plain parchment will do. Get creative. Let your inner self decide what would be a proper expression of your feelings. Perhaps a pink satin ribbon weaved up along one side, through incisions in the page, and tied with a bow towards the top will do. Or by chance you've found the perfect commercial stationary to express your feelings.

And don't forget about the envelope. One shouldn't go to the trouble of creating a beautiful and or sentiment correspondence without considering the envelope. Have it match the stationary or have it stand on it's own. Maybe it could be something as simple as a satin ribbon threaded through slits on the flap and tied in a bow. Or decorate using rubber stamps.

You may decide to ensure the safety of your sentiment by using sealing wax on the flap. I find it best to heat the wax in a spoon and drip the wax onto the flap of the envelope.

No matter who you take the time to write-it is the thoughtful touch that makes your written message seem all the more sincere.



Scented Ink

Blend approximately 100 drops of essential oil (suggested oils are rose or lavender) with a teaspoon of vodka.

Add the mixture, a little at a time, to 2 ounces of ink (deep colors work best).

Stir and ready to use.

Pen

Oh! nature's noblest gift--my grey goose quill;
Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will.
Torn from thy parent bird to form a pen.
That mighty instrument of little men!
--Byron

Letter Writing

Write to me a letter
etched by Sunday morning
sunlight,
centered in a room where
returning robins sing
of the sea-swung
palms and beaches of
Florida. Your chosen words
will glint beyond
their stony use and point
to the history we sense in night, that lore
drunk on nocturnal
breezes (the polyphony of sleep)
when cricket chords mesmerize
wall shadows stretched
tight from your feet
until they forget to be faithful to your body.
When your letter arrives,
I will memorize your words, rendering
your syntax so finely all will be forgotten except
your dancing beyond the ink-stains,
a game of pretend really,
as if you were always
in this room.
--James Pate