Over at the blog Booktryst: A Nest for Book Letters, Stephen J. Gertz has posted most of the text of Carroll’s pamphlet “Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter Writing,” with some commentary about its relevance 120 years later. The original pamphlet “was very popular, going into five editions 1890-1897.” Mr Gertz says:
The Net has been compromised; it’s lights out for email. Time to get out a piece of stationary, a pen, and write an old-fashioned letter. But how? What’s a 21st century citizen to do? Ask Mr. Dodgson!
Finally, do not, under any circumstances, use emoticons or texting shorthand to express yourself. Mr. Dodgson would disapprove – in around 800 – 900 words, minimun.
The website Letters of Note has two Lewis Carroll correspondences up today, both to Isabel Seymour in 1869. They are part of the Rosenbach Museum & Library’s collection in Philadelphia, where the Lewis Carroll Society of North America will be holding its spring meeting on April 24th, 2010. (There’s also an installation by Sue Johnson inspired by Carroll and poet Marianne Moore at the Rosenbach up thru June.) The first letter is an apology for stealing Isabel’s train ticket:
May 15, 1869
My dear Isabel,
Words cannot tell how horrified, terrified, petrified (everything ending with “fied,” including all my sisters here saying “fie!” when they heard of it) I was when I found that I had carried off your ticket to Guildford. I enquired directly I got there whether anything could be done, but found you must have arrived in London some time before I got here. So there was nothing to be done but tear my hair (there is almost none left now), weep, and surrender myself to the police.
I do hope you didn’t suffer any inconvenience on account of my forgetfulness, but you see you would talk so all the way (though I begged you not) that you drove everything out of my head, including the very small portion of brain that is usually to be found there.
Miss Lloyd will never forgive me for it—of that I feel certain. But I have some hope that after many years, when you see me, an aged man on crutches, hobbling to your door, the sternness of your features may relax for a moment, and, holding out the forefinger of your left hand, you may bring yourself to say, “All is forgotten and forgiven.”
I hardly dare ask what really happened at Paddington, whether the gentleman and lady, who were in the carriage, helped you out of the difficulty, or whether your maid had money enough, or whether you had to go to prison. If so, never mind: I’ll do my best to get you out, and at any rate you shant be executed.
Seriously, I am so sorry for it, and with all sorts of apologies, I am sincerely yours,
C. L. Dodgson
And there’s a second one at Letters of Note. Thank you Melissa Brice of Canary Promotion + Design for the tip.