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 Post subject: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 13:47 
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How do others feel about the letters in the books? I'm thinking particularly of the instances where we get to read part or all of a letter, like Mary Leonard's letter to Jacynth, though not forgetting that letters in general were more important at the time when the books were written (no e-mail, texts, Skype or internet, and phone calls were relatively expensive).

They're obviously very useful for introducing a new character (e g May Walton's letter to Jo about Ted in Theodora) or for putting another point of view (Kate Dalziel's brisk response in Adrienne to her cousin Janet Henderson's letter alleging that Adrienne cheats at her school work). I think EMBD also liked them as 'bombshells' (Maisie Gomme to Jo in Kenya)...

Does anybody here keep up with letter-writing? I know I was quite keen when younger, but fall shamefully short with it now, even in the form of e-mails.


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 13:49 
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I really like the letters! I think it is a shame letter writing is dying out (not that I'm doing anything to prevent it).

One thing I don't understand, though, is why the letter writer always signs their name in capital letters. Was this a thing or is it an idiosyncrasy of EBD's?


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 14:07 
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I don't think signing one's name in capitals was a thing. Or if it was, it predates my time at boarding school (1953-59).

I like letters featuring in the books since I remember very clearly how much they featured in our lives. From the weekly letter home, to the huge excitement of receiving letters from as many people as possible, they were very important indeed.

When I left school and lived in Germany for a few months, I wrote twice a week to some of the seniors and they wrote back. It really didn't matter much who the letters were from - it was going to the slab where they were placed every morning and finding that someone had written to you that we delighted in.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 14:25 
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The capitals are supposed to indicate a signature, I think.

Some of the letters work quite well - the batch in Tom, for example, is effective. The one that doesn't that I can think of off hand is the one in Problem which is basically a badly spelled info dump of a half-term outing.

Oh, and if you haven't read them, Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevemer's Cecilia and Kate novels are delightful - they're written in epistolary form, set in Regency Europe with magic.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 14:57 
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I love the letter that Rosamund receives from home shortly after she starts at the Chalet School. Her mum writes a long letter and then her dad adds a couple of lines at the bottom (like the letters I used to get from home when I was at university!), and both her sisters write their own notes and put those in as well, and her mum comments that the budgie's missing her. There are so many dysfunctional families in CS land that it's lovely to see a family who all genuinely care about each other.

However, I really dislike the way that EBD shows Rosamund's letter home being full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors: it just seems designed to show that people who aren't of the Chalet School class can't write properly. I'm sure that plenty of other girls made mistakes in their letters, especially when trying to spell words in foreign languages, but it's only Rosamund's errors that EBD makes a point of showing us. Having said which, "Grandma" Learoyd writes a brilliant letter putting the CS authorities in their place over what she sees as their unfair treatment of Gay. As in Gone With The Wind, older ladies in CS-land seem to have more freedom than anyone else to say exactly what they think :lol:.

Even when I was at university, in the mid-1990s, letters were still very important. Mobile phones and e-mails were just coming in then, and most people didn't own their own mobile or have personal internet access. As Cestina said, going to the pigeon-holes in the morning (at the halls of residence) and finding that there was a letter for you was very exciting. And, when I was a little kid, I loved getting letters so much that I made my grandparents write to me, even though we saw them and spoke to them all the time :lol:. Stamps were a lot cheaper back then! And we were encouraged to have French pen-friends - we were supposed to write to them in French and they were supposed to write back in English.

I write very few personal letters now, though. E-mails and Facebook are just quicker, easier and cheaper!

I used to love getting postcards, as well, but people don't really bother with them now. I send them to my nephews because they like getting post :D, but not to anyone else, and I can't remember the last time anybody sent one to me.

ETA - I think EBD sometimes forgot who'd been at school with whom, but it's amazing how many CS people seem to keep in touch with each other by letter! Len complains somewhere that Tom Gay owes her a letter (why??), and ... I can't remember who it is, but someone with no obvious connection to her receives a letter from Daisy.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 15:58 
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I have to confess to loving any book that has letters as part of the story, or indeed books of letters. I loved - and wept over - the letter Jacynth received from her aunt. I'm reading the letters between Patrick Leigh Fermor and Deb Devonshire at the moment. Very amusing!!

Alison H wrote:
I used to love getting postcards, as well, but people don't really bother with them now. I send them to my nephews because they like getting post :D, but not to anyone else, and I can't remember the last time anybody sent one to me.


We always send postcards on holiday and do tend to receive a lot, too, but they're beginning to price themselves out abroad with postage costs. I do still write a lot of letters, especially if someone needs a long response, as I think more clearly and write more quickly with a pen in my hand than a laptop on my knee, being a very slow typist. :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 16:30 
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It seems to have been standard publishers' style - certainly used in the Chambers reprints we've been doing for EJO - to use capital letters at the beginnings and ends of letters to convey handwriting - or at least to mark the difference from the main text.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 20:15 
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I used to be a note-sender - the kind of person who sent newspaper clippings or things I'd overheard or come across that I thought might amuse someone. I did not expect replies.

These days I find that I often don't know friends' addresses particularly if they are young and live in another part of the country. It does mean that I don't send birthday and Christmas cards (or, indeed postcards) as often as I used.

I notice that, although I write "letter-style" emails, the replies tend to be short and off-the-cuff. It seems that sharing news is only done in very short or "instant" formats and it's becoming a struggle to keep up with what people are doing. All those archives of letters mined by biographers and historians are simply not going to exist in future.


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 22:11 
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I love letters still. They can be a great social and family history.

The book detailing letters between the Mitford Sisters is fascinating.

Rosamund's letter from home is so moving because they are such a close knit and loving family. Auntie's letter to Jacynth is sad. I like all the CS letters though.


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 22:43 
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What does strike me, after thinking about all the different examples cited, is the wonderful variety of styles used - the bravery and pathos of Mary Leonard's last letter to her much-loved niece Jacynth; the close family relationships implied as well as spelt out in Rosamund's and her family's letters; the realistic way that Robin, who can seldom have had any spare time as a nun, says in a letter to Joey "This letter's being written by penny numbers [i e in bits at a time] even more than usual and you're lucky to get it"; the unfeelingness of Margaret Bain's letter to Annis; the sheer irritation (and I bet EMBD enjoyed writing it) of Maisie Scott's style, all underlinings and exclamation marks.

ETA Oh, and one of the earliest ones, James H Kettlewell's letter proposing to Madge. That must have been an awful one to answer...


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 12 Apr 2017, 22:52 
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And Mr Baker senior's letter in Problem - another quite different character revealed in a letter.

I like the use of letters in the books. It's a way of conveying information that's the nearest thing to dialogue when the character can't be present in person, more interesting than plain narrative.

I send picture postcards sometimes. I have a couple of friends who don't have email, and it's a way of showing that I'm thinking of them without sitting down and writing a letter. My mum likes to get a postcard if I go away or visit somewhere different, too.

I agree future historians are going to feel the lack of letters and diaries, now everything's doner electronically. Local newspapers are another wonderful source that have all but disappeared.


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 13 Apr 2017, 07:50 
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I too like the use of letters - when EBD does it well, it adds depth to the character of whoever's writing the letter - quite often people we don't know that well, such as friends and relatives, as well as giving an insight into their particular relationship with the recipient (I suppose it's a way of 'showing not telling' people's homelife). I think as well, it can be a way to move on time quickly - very often if EBD wants to get from the first few weeks of term to half term, for example, she uses devices such as 'the middles were well-behaved for the next three weeks' to move the action on in time. Sometimes the letters let her move action on in time quickly by describing a few weeks in a couple of letters!


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 13 Apr 2017, 13:58 
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I still send postcards although it's sometimes hard to find stamps abroad, so I post them when I get home. I think getting post is lovely.

If I visit an art gallery I also like to buy some postcards (depending on the art) and send them to my grandmas, just to say hello.

Thanks for the explanations re block capitals!


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 13 Apr 2017, 14:06 
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abbeybufo wrote:
It seems to have been standard publishers' style - certainly used in the Chambers reprints we've been doing for EJO - to use capital letters at the beginnings and ends of letters to convey handwriting - or at least to mark the difference from the main text.


I notice with the books I proofread (all pre-1923) that small capitals are often used for the opening and closing parts of a letter (and the closing is split over multiple staggered lines). I expect all-capitals was a similar convention, possibly of a later time (or the printer didn't have small capitals?).

It's also common to have some extra vertical space above and below the correspondence.


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 14 Apr 2017, 03:25 
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JayB wrote:
I agree future historians are going to feel the lack of letters and diaries, now everything's done electronically. Local newspapers are another wonderful source that have all but disappeared.


I am currently doing a thesis on online storytelling and I have found wonderful resources online of blogs, forums etc some of which are very personal especially on the forums.

So I think people will always want to communicate but it will simply be the format used that changes. And many newspapers have simply moved online but will keep their archives for searching later on.

So the emotions and stories are still there, just different research skills needed.

Cheers,
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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 14 Apr 2017, 06:56 
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Local newspapers are still going strong round here :D .

I agree about the lack of letters, though. Everything goes on Facebook or Twitter now, and I can't see that people in 100 years' time are going to be able to go through those newsfeeds as easily as we can go through old letters.

Then again, a lot of old letters got thrown away.

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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 14 Apr 2017, 07:18 
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We like to send postcards when we are on holiday in the UK to the family that look after our cats here in Normandie Last year we were surprised that it cost £1 a postcard that is more than sending a standard Birthday card to the UK about 1euro 10 centime( about 83p)


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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 14 Apr 2017, 09:04 
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Alison H wrote:
Everything goes on Facebook or Twitter now, and I can't see that people in 100 years' time are going to be able to go through those newsfeeds as easily as we can go through old letters.


They won't be there to go through. But probably nor will we so problem solved.

(You can see I am depressed at the thought of leaving my Czech haven and heading back to the UK and real life tonight :( )

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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 14 Apr 2017, 10:05 
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Alison H wrote:
I agree about the lack of letters, though. Everything goes on Facebook or Twitter now, and I can't see that people in 100 years' time are going to be able to go through those newsfeeds as easily as we can go through old letters.

Then again, a lot of old letters got thrown away.


Or burned. I never forgave Cassandra Austen for burning her sister Jane's letters.

Actually many companies keep emails because of legal reasons and one issue FB and Twitter are facing is because they don't have proper archives facilities and many court cases are now based on things which were posted on social media.

So I think they will hopefully develop better archive systems which will help future historians.

Cheers,
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 Post subject: Re: Letters in the Books
PostPosted: 14 Apr 2017, 15:14 
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And Princess Beatrice "edited" Queen Victoria's letters to remove all the juiciest bits!

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