Epistolary: Letters As A Literary Form

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For countless years, or better to say ever since the mighty pen and paper became customary in our daily lives, people who desired to get in touch with others disconnected by distance had no more than one manner to carry out it, and the way was nothing but writing letters. Letters were the lone way of long-distance communiqué, at least until the time of the discovery of the telegraph in the nineteenth century. No wonder therefore that by the eighteenth century, letter writing was so widespread that one of the earliest prose’s is found to be a novel comprising only of letters of a daughter to her parents, and the epistolary system lent that novel what pragmatism it had. This novel was Samuel Richardson's Pamela. Subsequently letter writing took a prominent place in literary genre, and all through the eighteenth century, in the wake of the institution of the post office in 1660, a spurt in literacy coupled with a growing middle class, letter writing developed into an all-time universal amusement activity for people in every strata of the society, including both men and women. In this way the letter developed into a type both of private communication and of public speech, where remarkably women were encouraged not just to contribute, but to stand out more significantly The growth of letter writing, in the eighteenth century is inextricably linked particularly with women,. In its personal capacity, letters permitted a woman confined to the boundaries of her home to be in touch with the outside world with both men and women. The variety of published letters was a treasured platform from which freely confirm scholarly aptitudes of women

An authoritative study regarding epistolary or English letter writing is that of How (2003) who in his writing “Epistolary spaces: English letter-writing from the foundation of the Post Office to Richardson's Clarissa” effectively describes and investigates the nature of letter writing from the establishment of post office. He also explores the term ‘epistolary spaces’, a trend believed to have come into existence in the wake of the Post Office, became accessible to the general public.

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The advent and development of postal service is credited with paving the way for a new vogue in literature that is termed as literature or novel in the form of letter writing. Dierks endows us with a better-off and more refined version of post office role in advancing the genre of letter writing. Letter-writing and postal communication all through the Atlantic is associated to the eighteenth century revolution of consumerism, to the middle-class business growth, and at the same time to the manoeuvres of Empire. By the early on eighteenth century, the Royal English Empire created a new-fangled communications infrastructure, which was in fact was a tool of bureaucratic culture and royally control. Moreover, postal services turned out to be bureaucratised in its place of being outsourced to service providers or upper-class dominations. A vital landmark in the field of postal service development in England was the Postal Act of 1711 integrated the royally coast into a fully-fledged royally postal service. This Act came with a number of legal provisions that systematized the postal service in England as national postal service. In the light of this development, letter writing became the common phenomenon of correspondence not only for only royal people, but as well people at large in the society. The availability of Post Office made available cheaper and fast means of communication, and therefore letter writing became the fashion and passion of common people, previously restricted to just royal men and women who were able to afford the high costs of letter writing. In his work How conducts a comprehensive study of five authentic letters, interpreting the letters in relation to their societal and political concerns and attending to such issues in the forms of class, sex, compilations of model letters and the substance of London to English epistolary spaces. He presents epistolary spaces in an assorted manner of illustrations in which he describes the fresh urban culture of London, in the love letters of Dorothy Osborne (1652-4); courtly enclaves, in the diplomatic letters of the dramatist Sir George Etherege (1685-9); and aristocratic redoubts in the letters connecting the Countesses of Hertford and Pomfret (1739-41). How finds Richardson’s ground-breaking novel Clarissa establishing a trend named epistolary novel, which contains a large number of letters defining standard writing of epistolary novels. Letter writing emerged as a powerful medium of correspondence for both common and uncommon people and gradually it finds a place in the literary genre.

However, there came a revolution in post and letter writing in the age of Victorian England, and this revolution was the advent of the Penny Post in 1840, where the Penny Post formed the Victorian comparable of the internet. The Penny Post in true form of post office enabled a revolution in the field of correspondence and letter writing which facilitated the public stay connected We may well suppose that just as the Internet in our times, Penny Post during Victorian England brought about huge brightness with that of enormous anxiety. Economical postage, Penny Post considered as promoting new form of staying connected with the related and loved ones, facilitating couples to arrange clandestine meeting, delivering secret letters at various levels of people in the society. The advent of the modern post office in the form of Penny Post was acclaimed for its usefulness of royal letters, though criticized for generating immorality in private affairs. Nevertheless, Penny Post created true revolution in the field of advent and development of postal service that immensely contributed in the vicinity of letter writing.

The earliest form of post office might be traced in the 16th century correspondence system when horses were used for transporting royal letters. King Henry VIII of England during the 1530s AD appointed Sir Brian Tuke for supervising the royal correspondence system and travelled routes from London to Edinburgh, Scotland, Holyhead, Falmouth, Dover, and Dublin. In this route, between junctures or posts there was distance somewhat twenty miles in measurement lengthwise. Following this distance, exhausted horses were deployed for fresh stand-in. From 1574, at every destination in the route there was posted one Post Master who possessed at least three horses presented for exercise of correspondence or corresponding royal letters. However, post office came into existence in real sense when a public postal service was established in 1635. Post-boys used to carry out letters riding on horses, although because of the dismal condition of the roads the running of this post office system was sluggish and tough for the post-boys and horses. The post-boys used to wear scarlet livery and hardly toured more than three miles per hour in those early on days. Correspondence or letters were used to carry from post to post by post-boys and were delivered to the local postmaster or postmistress, who used to take away the letters for the locale and had them collected or delivered, and subsequently the post-boy would go on to the next post, moving the remaining of the letters or correspondence.

The Penny Post is attributed to facilitating people from all sections of the society with similar rights to correspond at low rates. Moreover, Penny Post paved the way for developing a new wave of socialising in British society working for advancement of learning in the area of letter writing, where ethical concerns were not less considered. Therefore postal reformers found this advancement in worldwide communication networks (in terms of both the post and the telegraph) influential in keeping up royal associations and structuring the communication of global Anglo-Saxonism telegrams. In this framework Postal advent and growth raises significant issues as regards the ceremonial dynamics of Victorian age letter writing, studying which a complex issue in relation to the portrayals of postal networks documented to be controlled by the prejudices of gender, class, sexuality, and race. Undeniably, Postal Pleasures adds vital input to the enormous literary creations during the nineteenth century. To put it more precisely Postal Pleasures covered up the void created by Penny Post, paving way for a new genre of letter writing and correspondence. It also created a new literary genre encompassing the social realities of gender, class, sexuality, and race.

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Epistolary: Letters As A Literary Form. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/epistolary-letters-as-a-literary-form/
“Epistolary: Letters As A Literary Form.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/epistolary-letters-as-a-literary-form/
Epistolary: Letters As A Literary Form. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/epistolary-letters-as-a-literary-form/> [Accessed 16 Jul. 2024].
Epistolary: Letters As A Literary Form [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2024 Jul 16]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/epistolary-letters-as-a-literary-form/

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