A Valentine to PAPER (I love you, Paper!)

I recently came across this lovely old book which is a compilation of authentic love letters written by an Englishwoman who remains anonymous.  The reader can follow the outcome of their lives together through her letters.

An English Woman’s Love Letters (Anonymous), Chicago: W. B. Conkey, 1901

From the first letter:

“Beloved – This is your first letter from me: yet it is not the first I have written to you. There are letters to you lying at love’s dead letter office in this same writing—so many, my memory has lost count of them!

This is my confession: I told you I had one to make, and you laughed – you did not know how serious it was – for to be in love with you long before you were in love with me, nothing can be more serious than that!”

Laid between the pages of the book was an old custom-printed calling card from a lady named Miss Hunsicker, with a small note on the back.

A lady's calling card, laid into the book

So often when I open an old book, it isn’t just the book that enchants me, but the paper items which have been laid in by a previous owner.  A letter, an old train ticket, an advertisement, a postcard, or a valentine.  The future portends that there will be little, if any, of these small treasures left to forthcoming generations.

Paper treasures, found in books

Will there be romantic letters for posterity – or any letters at all – from this texting, go-green, digital era?  It is something to think about.  I made a New Year’s resolution this year to write more letters.  It’s a scarce occasion worth celebrating when a hand-written letter, even a note, appears in one’s mailbox.  In future, will we even have mailboxes??

In a recent meeting at my workplace (local community college), we were gathered to discuss the new “go-green” paperless policy our organization is set upon.  I’m swept along with the others, of course, to follow this policy.  But by the end of the meeting I looked down on my writing pad (oh no, it’s paper!) and I had doodled “paper” with a big heart around it.  Being the scoundrel I am, I couldn’t help flashing it around the table at meeting’s end.  To my pleasure, there were some who were in agreement with me.

I am dreading the day when we are told the library space will be confiscated for other more pressing uses, and the stacks of books cleared out.

I think not only about the printed word that will be lost to posterity, but about all the jobs that are being lost daily as we embark on this paperless age – foresters, paper companies, office supply companies, shipping companies, U.S. Post Office and their workers…to say nothing of publishers, newspapers, magazines…the list goes on and on.  The “replacement” jobs, in this digital age, are mostly imaginary or mostly overseas.  And what about the forests?  Will we keep land set aside for managed forests if we have no “use” for them?

I have some letters I have kept for forty years – yes, even love letters…and letters from Father, Mother, my sisters, and close old friends.  Will someone else enjoy them one day?  Perhaps – or perhaps not.  But at least there will be that chance.  I enjoy having them.  The most ordinary letters take on charm as the years pass.

To inspire letter writing, it’s helpful to get a beautifully smooth writing pen to make penmanship a pleasure, some attractive stationery, and a supply of stamps!  One needs a comfortable place…a “room of one’s own” to write in.  Let us do our part to leave something behind to inspire and enchant those who come after us…and to leave a trail of clues as to the life we are experiencing now.

Found in a book...my valentine to you


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