a few opening lines (aka: correspondence 101)

“If you write to me, could you possibly seal your letter? Or if not, don’t mention the book, because I don’t want my servants to get to know all about that.”

“I enclose with this letter some unpublished pages extracted from my forthcoming book which I should very much like to see appear in your review.”

“The story is so well-known that the name of the fiancé will be obvious if I tell you that the lady in question is Madam Bischoffsheim…”

“I should be most grateful if you would read this letter to the end, destroy it or send it back to me, and not breathe a word of it to anyone whatsoever.”

“It was very nice of you to write to me about your marriage; it would have been nicer still if you had invited me to it.”

“I send you herewith, in very inelegant form and on the paper which I use to light my anti-asthmatic powders—all that I have to hand—my warmest and most sincere congratulations on your wonderful prize.”

“Although you abandon me I often look at your little face and think and think.”

“I telephoned you last night at the Gil Blas.”

“I’m already behindhand in thanking you for your beautiful letter and now I receive three cards.”

“I should be infinitely grateful if you could tell me whether, in your opinion, this contract prevents me legally (without risk of a lawsuit, etc.) from publishing my second volume with another publisher.”

“Thank you very much for your letter—one sentence was ravishing (crepuscular, etc.)…”

“I’m genuinely sorry to keep bothering you, especially if you are still on holiday and would no doubt prefer to forget for a while that there is such a thing as a stock exchange.”

“I should have preferred to tell you this in person.”

“You said you would write to me, you have written to me, and I am amazed.”

Opening lines to various letters, from Marcel Proust: Selected Letters, Volume Three, 1910 – 1917.
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the art of familiar letter writing

 
Was recently in a lovely hotel. One I’ve been in before, lucky me. On that previous occasion there was a folder that contained stationery, i.e. a few sheets of hotel letterhead, a couple of envelopes, a comment card, a pen, a Things to Do in the Area brochure. I like that welcomey sort of touch. Immediately after unpacking I like nothing better than plonking myself down in an armchair, feet on the coffee table and reading a letter from hotel management that says things along the lines of we’re so glad you’re here, and give us a dingle if you need anything, anything at all and please take your feet off the coffee table.

Makes me feel at home.

Plus, I love free pens.

And I adore hotel stationery.

I have a small collection of pages that goes back years and years, a decade or more some of it. Every now and then I’ll send a letter to someone on one of those precious sheets, sometimes recalling a moment from way back then, or making no reference at all to the place but merely using it as my personal stationery.

I think it’s damn funky.

However, it seems, at this hotel anyway, stationery has been done away with for reasons of “everyone uses email now”. And the ‘welcome’ letter is now a video, because no one watches enough TV already or is in any way tired of looking at screens. That is, after all, why we go on holiday, is it not? To look at different screens or, at the very least, our own screens in a different light, against mountain backdrops, to text in sultry salted air…

Well then, I thought, what to do in that hour before dinner, about three days into the holiday, when the sun is just thinking of lowering itself behind the lake and the patio is still all warm with it and I have a glass of cool sauvignon blanc and a bag of chips in front of me… Seems like the perfect time to write a letter and comment on morning rambles collecting walnuts and stones and finding an owl with its leg stuck in the net of a volleyball court and contacting the local and very wonderful SPCA who contacted one of their staff in the area who was at home and who was only too happy to trade slippers for shoes and come right over to help said owl.

Stationery would have been nice, but we’ve gone over that. Instead, I tore pages from a notebook and that worked well enough, even better because of the lines—saves the recipient having to turn the paper at an angle to read. And when I asked the front desk for an envelope, they had one, a hotel one even. The young woman apologized for the logo and I said, no, that was great, that was perfect! I don’t think she quite understood my euphoria given how she was not yet born when the art of familiar letter writing was in its heyday. It occurred to me only much later that they probably also had sheets of paper with the hotel logo, although not offered because no one knew what they were for.

Sigh.

So I’m writing this lovely hotel, where I spent a lovely few days. I’m writing them on my own stationery. With a pen. A stamp will be involved. Feet will take me to a nearby mailbox. I will breathe en route. I will ask if they foresee a time when the art of letter writing, if only from hotel stationery, might be revived. I will mention a very exquisite spot in Newfoundland where I had the privilege of staying a few years ago and where I was mightily impressed with many things, not the least of which was a postcard (or two), pre-stamped and featuring a nice shot of the inn and environs. Smart marketing, that. And they’ll mail it for you too.

I’ll update this post with said hotel’s response. Which, with a bit of luck, will come on hotel stationery.

More handwritten thoughts:

the postman brought all that

pocalogging to my own tune

dear mr. postman

the reason i like mail