Let’s find some more inspiration among old, handwritten correspondence, shall we? This week I’ve pulled three excerpts from three very different letters, the contents of which I like to think are reflected in the authors’ penmanship. A responsible nature shines through the first letter’s careful, deliberate script; likewise the carefree, jovial humor in the second missive’s loose scrawl. And the last? One doesn’t even need to read the words to feel the frantic, distracted desperation (poor soul).
Just who are these scribblers? You tell me, dear writers. You tell me.
1917. “He was willing to have me write you to save him the trouble. Do up the pkgs for him. Pay the postage & insurance for him. He to get all the honor and I the trouble and no thanks from him. I made up my mind he had made a cat’s paw of me long enough.”
1898. “A few days ago I met Eugene Marshall – quite an interesting gentleman – who said you belonged to the L. tribe and thought from appearance that we might be relatives. You must be a ‘mighty handsome man’ for him to spot us so readily.”
1924. “I know you will think I am weak but this note which comes from the very bottom of my heart and which is bathed with the bitterest tears I have ever shed is a testimony to that superhuman love you have created in me!”
There is nothing so lovely as a handwritten letter. Although, with penmanship going the way of the dodo these days, perhaps it would be more accurate to say there is nothing so lovely as an old handwritten letter, with its spindly scripts and ink blots. But even with our unpracticed, hurried handwriting of today (yes, me too), a sentence written by hand always says more than one generated by ones and zeros: letters cramped with effort, or breezy and loose, slanting to the left or right, or standing straight and proud.
Old letters and postcards fascinate me: the challenge of deciphering the words (some of which will always remain a mystery), finding patterns in the letterforms, glimpsing a day in the life of someone I will never meet. This week, I’ve collected three letters, and chosen an excerpt from each, handwriting and all.
1856. “I wish you could hear my birds sing, they will be company for me when we go do housekeeping. I wish you could come down this fall, do you think of coming to see me before you go out west?”
1924. “I just feel a (not very strong) but persistent longing for you and a lurking heart ache, nothing like the hysteria of last week.”
1865. “[I]t is so cold to day the leaves are all blowing of [sic] the poplers [sic] around the yard. I must stop now, excuse my bad writing. [D]on’t let any one see this.”