Those who use long periods of flowered prolixity and pretentious phraseswho write in complicated form with meaningless flourishes, do not make an impression of elegance and erudition upon their readers, but flaunt instead unmistakable evidence of vainglory and ignorance.
The letter you write, whether you realize it or not, is always a mirror which reflects your appearance, taste and character. A sloppy letter with the writing all pouring into one corner of the page, badly worded, badly spelled, and with unmatched paper and envelopeeven possibly a blotproclaims the sort of person who would have unkempt hair, unclean linen and broken shoe laces; just as a neat, precise, evenly written note portrays a person of like characteristics. Therefore, while it can not be said with literal accuracy that one may read the future of a person by study of his handwriting, it is true that if a young man wishes to choose a wife in whose daily life he is sure always to find the unfinished task, the untidy mind and the syncopated housekeeping, he may do it quite simply by selecting her from her letters.
Some people are fortunate in being able easily to make graceful letters, to space their words evenly, and to put them on a page so that the picture is pleasing; others are discouraged at the outset because their fingers are clumsy, and their efforts crude; but no matter how badly formed each individual letter may be, if the writing is consistent throughout, the page as a whole looks fairly well.
You can make yourself write neatly and legibly. You can (with the help of a dictionary if necessary) spell correctly; you can be sure that you understand the meaning of every word you use. If it is hard for you to write in a straight line, use the lined guide that comes with nearly all stationery; if impossible to keep an even margin, draw a perpendicular line at the left of the guide so that you can start each new line of writing on it. You can also make a guide to slip under the envelope. Far better to use a guide than to send envelopes and pages of writing that slide up hill and down, in uncontrolled disorder.
Suitability should be considered in choosing note paper, as well as in choosing a piece of furniture for a house. For a handwriting which is habitually large, a larger sized paper should be chosen than for writing which is small. The shape of paper should also depend somewhat upon the spacing of the lines which is typical of the writer, and whether a wide or narrow margin is used. Low, spread-out writing looks better on a square sheet of paper; tall, pointed writing looks better on paper that is high and narrow. Selection of paper whether rough or smooth is entirely a matter of personal choiceso that the quality be good, and the shape and color conservative.
Paper should never be ruled, or highly scented, or odd in shape, or have elaborate or striking ornamentation. Some people use smaller paper for notes, or correspondence cards, cut to the size of the envelopes. Others use the same size for all correspondence and leave a wider margin in writing notes.
The flap of the envelope should be plain and the point not unduly long. If the flap is square instead of being pointed, it may be allowed greater length without being eccentric. Colored linings to envelopes are at present in fashion. Thin white paper, with monogram or address stamped in gray to match gray tissue lining of the envelope is for instance, in very best taste. Young girls may be allowed quite gay envelope linings, but the device on the paper must be minute, in proportion to the gaiety of the color.
Writing paper for a man should always be strictly conservative. Plain white or gray or granite paper, large in size and stamped in the simplest manner. The size should be 5 3/4 x 7 1/2 or 6 x 8 or 5 1/8 x 8 1/8 or thereabouts.
A paper suitable for the use of all the members of a family has the address stamped in black or dark color, in plain letters at the top of the first page. More often than not the telephone number is put in very small letters under that of the address, a great convenience in the present day of telephoning. For example:
As there is no such thing as heraldry in America, the use of a coat of arms is as much a foreign custom as the speaking of a foreign tongue; but in certain communities where old families have used their crests continuously since the days when they brought their deviceand their right to itfrom Europe, the use of it is suitable and proper. The sight of this or that crest on a carriage or automobile in New York or Boston announces to all those who have lived their lives in either city that the vehicle belongs to a member of this or that family. But for some one without an inherited right to select a lion rampant or a stag couchant because he thinks it looks stylish, is as though, for the same reason, he changed his name from Muggins to Marmaduke, and quite properly subjects him to ridicule. (Strictly speaking, a woman has the right to use a lozenge only; since in heraldic days women did not bear arms, but no one in this country follows heraldic rule to this extent.)
It is occasionally the fancy of artists or young girls to adopt some especial symbol associated with themselves. The butterfly of Whistler for instance is as well-known as his name. A painter of marines has the small outline of a ship stamped on his writing paper, and a New York architect the capital of an Ionic column. A generation ago young women used to fancy such an intriguing symbol as a mask, a sphinx, a question mark, or their own names, if their names were such as could be pictured. There can be no objection to ones appropriation of such an emblem if one fancies it. But Lilly, Belle, Dolly and Kitten are Lillian, Isabel, Dorothy and Katherine in these days, and appropriate hall-marks are not easily found.
In selecting paper for a country house we go back to the subject of suitability. A big house in important grounds should have very plain, very dignified letter paper. It may be white or tinted blue or gray. The name of the place should be engraved, in the center usually, at the top of the first page. It may be placed left, or right, as preferred. Slanting across the upper corners or in a list at the upper left side, may be put as many addresses as necessary. Many persons use a whole row of small devices in outline, the engine of a train and beside it Ardmoor, meaning that Ardmoor is the railroad station. A telegraph pole, an envelope, a telephone instrumentand beside each an address. These devices are suitable for all places, whether they are great or tiny, that have different addresses for railroad, post-office, telephone [or] telegraph.
On the other hand, farmhouses and little places in the country may have very bright-colored stamping, as well as gay-lined envelopes. Places with easily illustrated names quite often have them pictured; the Bird-cage, for instance, may have a bright blue paper with a bird-cage in supposed red lacquer; the Bandbox, a fantastically decorated milliners box on oyster gray paper, the envelope lining of black and gray pin stripes, and the Dolls House might use the outline of a dolls house in grass green on green-bordered white paper, and white envelopes lined with grass green. Each of these devices must be as small as the outline of a cherry pit and the paper of the smallest size that comes. (Envelopes 3 1/2 x 5 inches or paper 4 x 6 and envelopes the same size to hold paper without folding.)
It is foolish perhaps to give the description of such papers, for their fashion is but of the moment. A jeweler from Paris has been responsible for their present vogue in New York, and his clientèle is only among the young and smart. Older and more conservative women (and, of course, all men) keep to the plain fashion of yesterday, which will just as surely be the fashion of to-morrow.
Persons who are in mourning use black-edged visiting cards, letter paper and envelopes. The depth of black corresponds with the depth of mourning and the closeness of relation to the one who has gone, the width decreasing as ones mourning lightens. The width of black to use is a matter of personal taste and feeling. A very heavy border (from 3/8 to 7/16 of an inch) announces the deepest retirement.
Usually the date is put at the upper right hand of the first page of a letter, or at the end, and to the left of the signature, of a note. It is far less confusing for ones correspondent to read January 9, 1920, than 1-9-20. Theoretically, one should write out the date in full: the ninth of January, Nineteen hundred and twenty-one. That, however, is the height of pedantry, and an unswallowable mouthful at the top of any page not a document.
At the end of a note Thursday is sufficient unless the note is an invitation for more than a week ahead, in which case write as in a letter, January 9 or the ninth of January. The year is not necessary since it can hardly be supposed to take a year for a letters transportation.
If a note is longer than one page, the third page is usually next, as this leaves the fourth blank and prevents the writing from showing through the envelope. With heavy or tissue-lined envelopes, the fourth is used as often as the third. In letters one may write first, second, third, fourth, in regular order; or first and fourth, then, opening the sheet and turning it sideways, write across the two inside pages as one. Many prefer to write on first, third, then sideways across second and fourth. In certain citiesBoston, for instancethe last word on a page is repeated at the top of the next. It is undoubtedly a good idea, but makes a stuttering impression upon one not accustomed to it.
As to whether a letter is folded in such a way that the recipient shall read the contents without having to turn the paper, is giving too much importance to nothing. It is sufficient if the paper is folded neatly, once, of course, for the envelope that is half the length of the paper, and twice for the envelope that is a third.
If you use sealing wax, let us hope you are an adept at making an even and smoothly finished seal. Choose a plain-colored wax rather than one speckled with metal. With the sort of paper described for country houses, or for young people, or those living in studios or bungalows, gay sealing wax may be quite alluring, especially if it can be persuaded to pour smoothly like liquid, and not to look like a streaked and broken off slice of dough. In days when envelopes were unknown, all letters had to be sealed, hence when envelopes were made, the idea obtained that it was improper to use both gum-arabic and wax. Strictly speaking this may be true, but since all envelopes have mucilage, it would be unreasonable to demand that those who like to use sealing wax have their envelopes made to order.
The most formal beginning of a social letter is My dear Mrs. Smith. (The fact that in England Dear Mrs. Smith is more formal does not greatly concern us in America.) Dear Mrs. Smith, Dear Sarah, Dear Sally, Sally dear, Dearest Sally, Darling Sally, are increasingly intimate.
The close of a business letter should be Yours truly, or Yours very truly. Respectfully is used only by a tradesman to a customer, an employee to an employer, or by an inferior, never by a person of equal position. No lady should ever sign a letter respectfully, not even were she writing to a queen. If an American lady should have occasion to write to a queen, she should conclude her letter I have the honor to remain, Madam, your most obedient. (For address and close of letters to persons of title, see table at the end of this chapter.)
It is too bad that the English language does not permit the charming and graceful closing of all letters in the French manner, those little flowers of compliment that leave such a pleasant fragrance after reading. But ever since the Eighteenth Century the English-speaking have been busy pruning away all ornament of expression; even the last remaining graces, kindest regards, with kindest remembrances, are fast disappearing, leaving us nothing but an abrupt Yours truly, or Sincerely yours.
I remain, dear madam, is no longer in use, but Believe me is still correct when formality is to be expressed in the close of a note.
Very sincerely yours,
Believe me, my dear Mrs. Worldly,
Most sincerely yours,
Faithfully or Faithfully yours is a very good signature for a man in writing to a woman, or in any uncommercial correspondence, such as a letter to the President of the United States, a member of the Cabinet, an Ambassador, a clergyman, etc.
Sincerely in formal notes and Affectionately in intimate notes are the two adverbs most used in the present day, and between these two there is a blank; in English we have no expression to fit sentiment more friendly than the first nor one less intimate than the second.
Cordially was coined no doubt to fill this need, but its self-consciousness puts it in the category with residence and retire, and all the other offenses of pretentiousness, and in New York, at least, it is not used by people of taste.
In a tearing hurry is a termination dear to the boarding school girl; but its truth does not make it any more attractive than the vision of that same young girl rushing into a room with her hat and coat half on, to swoop upon her mother with a peck of a kiss, and with a by, mamma! whirl out again! Turmoil and flurry may be characteristic of the manners of to-day; both are far from the ideal of beautiful manners which should be as assured, as smooth, as controlled as the running of a high-grade automobile. Flea-like motions are no better suited to manners than to motors.
Gratefully is used only when a benefit has been received, as to a lawyer who has skilfully handled a case; to a surgeon who has saved a life dear to you; to a friend who has been put to unusual trouble to do you a favor.
Abroad, the higher the rank, the shorter the name. A duke, for instance, signs himself Marlborough, nothing else, and a queen her first name Victoria. The social world in Europe, therefore, laughs at us for using our whole names, or worse yet, inserting meaningless initials in our signatures. Etiquette in accord with Europe also objects strenuously to initials and demands that names be always engraved, and, if possible, written in full, but only very correct people strictly observe this rule.
In Europe all persons have so many names given them in baptism that they are forced, naturally, to lay most of them aside, selecting one, or at most two, for use. In America, the names bestowed at baptism become inseparably part of each individual, so that if the name is overlong, a string of initials is the inevitable result.
Since, in America, it is not customary for a man to discard any of his names, and John Hunter Titherington Smith is far too much of a pen-full for the one who signs thousands of letters and documents, it is small wonder that he chooses J. H. T. Smith, instead, or perhaps, at the end of personal letters, John H. T. Smith. Why shouldnt he? It is, after all, his own name to sign as he chooses, and in addressing him deference to his choice should be shown.
A married woman should always sign a letter to a stranger, a bank, business firm, etc., with her baptismal name, and add, in parenthesis, her married name. Thus:
Very truly yours,
Sarah Robinson Smith.
(Mrs. J. H. Titherington Smith.)
Never under any circumstances sign a letter Mr., Mrs., or Miss (except a note written in the third person). If, in the example above, Sarah Robinson Smith were Miss she would put Miss in parenthesis to the left of her signature:
(Miss) Sarah Robinson Smith.
Formal invitations are always addressed to Mr. Stanley Smith; all other personal letters may be addressed to Stanley Smith, Esq. The title of Esquire formerly was used to denote the eldest son of a knight or members of a younger branch of a noble house. Later all graduates of universities, professional and literary men, and important landholders were given the right to this title, which even to-day denotes a man of educationa gentleman. John Smith, esquire, is John Smith, gentleman. Mr. John Smith may be a gentleman; or may not be one. And yet, as noted above, all engraved invitations are addressed Mr.
Never under any circumstances address a social letter or note to a married woman, even if she is a widow, as Mrs. Mary Town. A widow is still Mrs. James Town. If her sons wife should have the same name, she becomes Mrs. James Town, Sr., or simply Mrs. Town.
A divorced woman, if she was the innocent person, retains the right if she chooses, to call herself Mrs. John Brown Smith, but usually she prefers to take her own surname. Supposing her to have been Mary Simpson, she calls herself Mrs. Simpson Smith. If a lady is the wife or widow of the head of a family she may call herself Mrs. Smith, even on visiting cards and invitations.
Although one occasionally sees an envelope addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jones, and Miss Jones written underneath the names of her parents, it is better form to send a separate invitation addressed to Miss Jones alone. A wedding invitation addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jones and family is not in good taste. Even if the Jones children are young, the Misses Jones should receive a separate envelope, and so should Master Jones.
Write the name and address on the envelope as precisely and as legibly as you can. The post-office has enough to do in deciphering the letters of the illiterate, without being asked to do unnecessary work for you!
Business letters written by a private individual differ very little from those sent out from a business house. A lady never says Yours of the 6th received and contents noted, or Yours to hand, nor does she address the firm as Gentlemen, nor does she ever sign herself Respectfully. A business letter should be as brief and explicit as possible. For example:
May 17, 1922
I. Paint & Co.,
22 Branch St.,
Your estimate for painting my dining-room, library, south bedroom, and dressing-room is satisfactory, and you may proceed with the work as soon as possible.
I find, on the other hand, that wainscoting the hall comes to more than I had anticipated, and I have decided to leave it as it is for the present.
The difference in form between a business and a social note is that the full name and address of the person written to is never put in the latter, better quality stationery is used, and the salutation is My dear or Dear instead of Dear Sir:
Dear Mrs. Robinson:
I am enclosing the list I promised youLuberge makes the most beautiful things. Mower, the dressmaker, has for years made clothes for me, and I think Revaud the best milliner in Paris. Leonie is a little milliner who often has pretty blouses as well as hats and is very reasonable.
I do hope the addresses will be of some use to you, and that you will have a delightful trip,
Dear Mrs. Town:
I do deeply apologize for my seeming rudeness in having to send the message about Monday night.
When I accepted your invitation, I stupidly forgot entirely that Monday was a holiday and that all of my own guests, naturally, were not leaving until Tuesday morning, and Arthur and I could not therefore go out by ourselves and leave them!
We were too disappointed and hope that you know how sorry we were not to be with you.
Dear Mrs. Neighbor:
My gardener has just told me that our chickens got into your flower beds, and did a great deal of damage.
The chicken netting is being built higher at this moment and they will not be able to damage anything again. I shall, of course, send Patrick to put in shrubs to replace those broken, although I know that ones newly planted cannot compensate for those you have lost, and I can only ask you to accept my contrite apologies.
Always sincerely yours,
Katherine de Puyster Eminent.
In the following examples of letters intimate and from young persons, such profuse expressions as divine, awfully, petrified, too sweet, too wonderful, are purposely inserted, because to change all of the above enthusiasms into pleased with, very, feared, most kind, would be to change the vitality of the real letters into smug and self-conscious utterances at variance with anything ever written by young men and women of to-day. Even the letters of older persons, although they are more restrained than those of youth, avoid anything suggesting pedantry and affectation.
Do not from this suppose that well-bred people write badly! On the contrary, perfect simplicity and freedom from self-consciousness are possible only to those who have acquired at least some degree of cultivation. For flagrant examples of pretentiousness (which is the infallible sign of lack of breeding), see VIII¶9. For simplicity of expression, such as is unattainable to the rest of us, but which we can at least strive to emulate, read first the Bible; then at random one might suggest such authors as Robert Louis Stevenson, E. S. Martin, Agnes Repplier, John Galsworthy and Max Beerbohm. E. V. Lucas has written two novels in letter formwhich illustrate the best type of present day letter-writing.
Although all wedding presents belong to the bride, she generally words her letters of thanks as though they belonged equally to the groom, especially if they have been sent by particular friends of his.
Dear Mrs. Norman:
To think of your sending us all this wonderful glass! It is simply divine, and Jim and I both thank you a thousand times!
The presents are, of course, to be shown on the day of the wedding, but do come in on Tuesday at tea time for an earlier view.
Thanking you again, and with love from us both,
Dear Mrs. Worldly:
All my life I have wanted a piece of jade, but in my wanting I have never imagined one quite so beautiful as the one you have sent me. It was wonderfully sweet of you and I thank you more than I can tell you for the pleasure you have given me.
Dear Mrs. Eminent:
Thank you for these wonderful prints. They go too beautifully with some old English ones that Jims uncle sent us, and our dining-room will be quite perfectas to walls!
Hoping that you are surely coming to the wedding,
With all you have on your heart just now, it was so sweet and thoughtful of you to go out and buy me a present, and such a beautiful one! I love itand your thought of me in sending itand I thank you more than I can tell you.
Dear Aunt Kate:
Really you are too generousit is outrageous of youbut, of course, it is the most beautiful bracelet! And I am so excited over it, I hardly know what I am doing. You are too good to me and you spoil me, but I do love you, and it, and thank you with all my heart.
Dear Mrs. Neighbor:
The tea cloth is perfectly exquisite! I have never seen such beautiful work! I appreciate your lovely gift more than I can tell you, both for its own sake and for your kindness in making it for me.
Dont forget, you are coming in on Tuesday afternoon to see the presents.
Sometimes pushing people send presents, when they are not asked to the wedding, in the hope of an invitation. Sometimes others send presents, when they are not asked, merely through kindly feeling toward a young couple on the threshold of life. It ought not to be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Dear Mrs. Kindly:
I cant tell you how sweet I think it of you to send us such a lovely present, and Jim and I both hope that when we are in our own home, you will see them often at our table.
Thanking you many times for your thought of us,
Dear Mrs. Chatterton:
The mirror you sent us is going over our drawing-room mantel just as soon as we can hang it up! It is exactly what we most needed and we both thank you ever so much.
Please come in soon to see how becoming it will be to the room.
I really think it was adorable of you to have a chair like yours made for me. It was worth adding a year to my age for such a nice birthday present. Jack says I am never going to have a chance to sit in it, however, if he gets there first, and even the children look at it with longing. At all events, I am perfectly enchanted with it, and thank you ever and ever so much.
Dear Uncle Arthur:
I know I oughtnt to have opened it until Christmas, but I couldnt resist the look of the package, and then putting it on at once! So I am all dressed up in your beautiful chain. It is one of the loveliest things I have ever seen and I certainly am lucky to have it given to me! Thank you a thousandand then moretimes for it.
I am fascinated with my utility boxit is too beguiling for words! You are the cleverest one anyway for finding what no one else canand every one wants. I dont know how you do it! And you certainly were sweet to think of me. Thank you, dear.
Dear Mrs. Kindhart:
Of course it would be! Because no one else can sew like you! The sacque you made the baby is the prettiest thing I have ever seen, and is perfectly adorable on her! Thank you, as usual, you dear Mrs. Kindhart, for your goodness to
Dear Mrs. Norman:
Thank you ever so much for the lovely afghan you sent the baby. It is by far the prettiest one he has; it is so soft and closehe doesnt get his fingers tangled in it.
Do come in and see him, wont you? We are both allowed visitors (especial ones) every day between 4 and 5.30!
Bread and butter letters, as they are called, are the stumbling-blocks of visitors. Why they are so difficult for nearly every one is hard to determine, unless it is that they are often written to persons with whom you are on formal terms, and the letter should be somewhat informal in tone. Very likely you have been visiting a friend, and must write to her mother, whom you scarcely know; perhaps you have been included in a large and rather formal house party and the hostess is an acquaintance rather than a friend; or perhaps you are a bride and have been on a first visit to relatives or old friends of your husbands, but strangers, until now, to you.
As an example of the first, where you have been visiting a girl friend and must write a letter to her mother, you begin Dear Mrs. Town at the top of a page, and nothing in the forbidding memory of Mrs. Town encourages you to go further. It would be easy enough to write to Pauline, the daughter. Very well, write to Pauline thenon an odd piece of paper, in pencil, what a good time you had, how nice it was to be with her. Then copy your note composed to Pauline off on the page beginning Dear Mrs. Town. You have only to add, love to Pauline, and thanking you again for asking me, sign it Very sincerely, and there you are!
Dont be afraid that your note is too informal; older people are always pleased with any expressions from the young that seem friendly and spontaneous. Never think, because you can not easily write a letter, that it is better not to write at all. The most awkward note that can be imagined is better than nonefor to write none is the depth of rudeness, whereas the awkward note merely fails to delight.
From a Young Woman to a Formal Hostess After a House Party
Dear Mrs. Norman:
I dont know when I ever had such a good time as I did at Broadlawns. Thank you a thousand times for asking me. As it happened, the first persons I saw on Monday at the Towns dinner were Celia and Donald. We immediately had a threesome conversation on the wonderful time we all had over Sunday.
Thanking you again for your kindness to me,
To a Formal Hostess After an Especially Amusing Week-End
Dear Mrs. Worldly:
Every moment at Great Estates was a perfect delight. I am afraid my work at the office this morning was down to zero in efficiency; so perhaps it is just as well, if I am to keep my job, that the average week-end in the country is differentvery. Thank you all the same, for the wonderful time you gave us all, and believe me
Dear Mrs. Worldly:
Every time I come from Great Estates, I realize again that there is no house to which I always go with so much pleasure, and leave on Monday morning with so much regret.
Your party over this last week-end was simply wonderful! And thank you ever so much for having included me.
Dear Mrs. Town:
We had a perfect time at Tuxedo over Sunday and it was so good of you to include us. Jack says he is going to practise putting the way Mr. Town showed him, and maybe the next time he plays in a foursome he wont be such a handicap to his partner.
Thanking you both for the pleasure you gave us,
Dear Aunt Annie:
Now that it is all over, I have a confession to make! Do you know that when Dick drove me up to your front door and I saw you and Uncle Bob standing on the top stepI was simply paralyzed with fright!
Suppose they dont like me, was all that I could think. Of course, I knew you loved Dickbut that only made it worse. How awful, if you couldnt like me! The reason I stumbled coming up the steps was because my knees were actually knocking together! You remember, Uncle Bob sang out it was good I was already married, or I wouldnt be this year? And thenyou were both so perfectly adorable to meand you made me feel as though I had always been your nieceand not just the wife of your nephew.
I loved every minute of our being with you, dear Aunt Annie, just as much as Dick did, and we hope you are going to let us come soon again.
With best love from us both,
The above type of letter would not serve perhaps if Dicks aunt had been a forbidding and austere type of woman; but even such a one would be far more apt to take a new niece to her heart if the new niece herself gave evidence of having one.
It was hideously dull and stuffy in town this morning after the fresh coolness of Strandholm. The back yard is not an alluring outlook after the wide spaces and delicious fragrance of your garden.
It was good being with you and I enjoyed every moment. Dont forget you are lunching here on the 16th and that we are going to hear Kreisler together.
From a Man Who Has Been Ill and Convalescing at a Friends House
I certainly hated taking that train this morning and realizing that the end had come to my peaceful days. You and John and the children, and your place, which is the essence of all that a home ought to be, have put me on my feet again. I thank you muchmuch more than I can say for the wonderful goodness of all of you.
From a Woman Who Has Been Visiting a Very Old Friend
I loved my visit with you, dear Mary; it was more than good to be with you and have a chance for long talks at your fireside. Dont forget your promise to come here in May! I told Sam and Hettie you were coming, and now the whole town is ringing with the news, and every one is planning a party for you.
David sends his best to you and Charlie, and you know you always have the love of
After a visit to a formal acquaintance or when some one has shown you especial hospitality in a city where you are a stranger:
My dear Mrs. Duluth:
It was more than good of you to give my husband and me so much pleasure. We enjoyed, and appreciated, all your kindness to us more than we can say.
We hope that you and Mr. Duluth may be coming East before long and that we may then have the pleasure of seeing you at Strandholm.
In the meanwhile, thanking you for your generous hospitality, and with kindest regards to you both, in which my husband joins, believe me,
Very sincerely yours,
Katherine de Puyster Eminent.
An engraved card of thanks is proper only when sent by a public official to acknowledge the overwhelming number of congratulatory messages he must inevitably receive from strangers, when he has carried an election or otherwise been honored with the confidence of his State or country. A recent and excellent example follows:
A letter of business introduction can be much more freely given than a letter of social introduction. For the former it is necessary merely that the persons introduced have business interests in commonwhich are much more easily determined than social compatibility, which is the requisite necessary for the latter. It is, of course, proper to give your personal representative a letter of introduction to whomever you send him.
Seemingly few persons realize that a letter of social introduction is actually a draft for payment on demand. The form might as well be: The bearer of this has (because of it) the right to demand your interest, your time, your hospitalityliberally and at once, no matter what your inclination may be.
When you have a friend who is going to a city where you have other friends, and you believe that it will be a mutual pleasure for them to meet, a letter of introduction is proper and very easy to write, but sent to a casual acquaintanceno matter how attractive or distinguished the person to be introducedit is a gross presumption.
Dear Mrs. Marks:
Julian Gibbs is going to Buffalo on January tenth to deliver a lecture on his Polar expedition, and I am sending him a card of introduction to you. He is very agreeable personally, and I think that perhaps you and Mr. Marks will enjoy meeting him as much as I know he would enjoy knowing you.
With kindest regards, in which Arthur joins,
Also Mr. Norman would send a private letter by mail, telling his friend that Mr. Gibbs is coming, as follows:
I am giving Julian Gibbs a card of introduction to you when he goes to Buffalo on the tenth to lecture. He is an entertaining and very decent fellow, and I think possibly Mrs. Marks would enjoy meeting him. If you can conveniently ask him to your house, I know he would appreciate it; if not, perhaps you will put him up for a day or two at a club.
At the same time a second and private letter of information is written and sent by mail:
I wrote you a letter to-day introducing Jim Dawson. He used to be on the Yalvard football team, perhaps you remember. He is one of the best sort in the world and I know you will like him. I dont want to put you to any trouble, but do ask him to your house if you can. He plays a wonderful game of golf and a good game of bridge, but he is more a mans than a womans type of man. Maybe if Tom likes him, he will put him up at a club as he is to be in Chicago for some weeks.
A very dear friend of mine, Mrs. Fred West, is going to be in New York this winter, while her daughter is at Barnard. I am asking her to take this letter to you as I want very much to have her meet you and have her daughter meet Pauline. Anything that you can do for them will be the same as for me!
The private letter by mail to accompany the foregoing:
Mildred West, for whom I wrote to you this morning, is a very close friend of mine. She is going to New York with her only daughterwho, in spite of wanting a college education, is as pretty as a picture, with plenty of come-hither in the eyeso do not be afraid that the typical blue-stocking is to be thrust upon Pauline! The mother is an altogether lovely person and I know that you and she will speak the same languageif I didnt, I wouldnt give her a letter to you. Do go to see her as soon as you can; she will be stopping at the Fitz-Cherry and probably feeling rather lost at first. She wants to take an apartment for the winter and I told her I was sure you would know the best real estate and intelligence offices, etc., for her to go to.
I hope I am not putting you to any trouble about her, but she is really a darling and you will like her I know.
In other days when even verbal messages began with the presenting of compliments, a social note, no matter what its length or purport, would have been considered rude, unless written in the third person. But as in a communication of any length the difficulty of this form is almost insurmountable (to say nothing of the pedantic effect of its accomplishment), it is no longer chosenaside from the formal invitation, acceptance and regretexcept for notes to stores or subordinates. For example:
Will B. Stern & Co. please send (and charge) to Mrs. John H. Smith, 2 Madison Avenue,
1 paper of needles No. 9
2 spools white sewing cotton No. 70
1 yard of material (sample enclosed).
Mrs. Eminent wishes Patrick to meet her at the station on Tuesday the eighth at 11.03. She also wishes him to have the shutters opened and the house aired on that day, and a fire lighted in the northwest room. No provisions will be necessary as Mrs. Eminent is returning to town on the 5.16.
Tuesday, March 1.
A letter of recommendation for membership to a club is addressed to the secretary and should be somewhat in this form:
To the Secretary of the Town Club.
My dear Mrs. Brown:
Mrs. Titherington Smith, whose name is posted for membership, is a very old and close friend of mine. She is the daughter of the late Rev. Samuel Eminent and is therefore a member in her own right, as well as by marriage, of representative New York families.
She is a person of much charm and distinction, and her many friends will agree with me, I am sure, in thinking that she would be a valuable addition to the club.
Although the written recommendation that is given to the employee carries very little weight, compared to the slip from the employment agencies where either yes or no has to be answered to a list of specific and important questions, one is nevertheless put in a trying position when reporting on an unsatisfactory servant.
Either a poor reference must be givenpossibly preventing a servant from earning her livingor one has to write what is not true. Consequently it has become the custom to say what one truthfully can of good, and leave out the qualifications that are bad (except in the case of a careless nurse, where evasion would border on the criminal).
That solves the poor recommendation problem pretty well; but unless one is very careful this consideration for the poor one, is paid for by the good. In writing for a very worthy servant therefore, it is of the utmost importance in fairness to her (or him) to put in every merit that you can think of, remembering that omission implies demerit in each trait of character not mentioned. All good references should include honesty, sobriety, capability, and a reason, other than their unsatisfactoriness, for their leaving. The recommendation for a nurse can not be too conscientiously written.
A lady does not begin a recommendation: To whom it may concern, nor This is to certify, although housekeepers and head servants writing recommendations use both of these forms, and third person letters, are frequently written by secretaries.
Selma Johnson has lived with me for two years as cook.
I have found her honest, sober, industrious, neat in person as well as her work, of amiable disposition a very good cook.
She is leaving to my great regret because I am closing my house for the winter.
Selma is an excellent servant in every way and I shall be glad to answer personally any inquiries about her.
While we are not altogether surprized, we are both delighted to hear the good news. Jims family and ours are very close, as you know, and we have always been especially devoted to Jim. He is one of the finestand now luckiest, of young men, and we send you both every good wish for all possible happiness.
Just a line, dear Jim, to tell you how glad we all are to hear of your happiness. Mary is everything that is lovely and, of course, from our point of view, we dont think her exactly unfortunate either! Every good wish that imagination can think of goes to you from your old friends.
Dear Mrs. Brown:
We are so glad to hear the good news of Davids success; it was a very splendid accomplishment and we are all so proud of him and of you. Please give him our love and congratulations, and with full measure of both to you,
We are overjoyed at the good news! For once the reward has fallen where it is deserved. Certainly no one is better fitted than yourself for a diplomats life, and we know you will fill the position to the honor of your country. Please give my love to Alice, and with renewed congratulations to you from us both.
We all rejoice with you in the confirmation of your appointment. The State needs just such men as youif we had more of your sort the ordinary citizen would have less to worry about. Our best congratulations!
Intimate letters of condolence are like love letters, in that they are too sacred to follow a set form. One rule, and one only, should guide you in writing such letters. Say what you truly feel. Say that and nothing else. Sit down at your desk, let your thoughts dwell on the person you are writing to.
Dont dwell on the details of illness or the manner of death; dont quote endlessly from the poets and Scriptures. Remember that eyes filmed with tears and an aching heart can not follow rhetorical lengths of writing. The more nearly a note can express a hand-clasp, a thought of sympathy, above all, a genuine love or appreciation of the one who has gone, the greater comfort it brings.
Write as simply as possible and let your heart speak as truly and as briefly as you can. Forget, if you can, that you are using written words, think merely how you feelthen put your feelings on paperthat is all.
Supposing it is a young mother who has died. You think how young and sweet she wasand of her little children, and, literally, your heart aches for them and her husband and her own family. Into your thoughts must come some expression of what she was, and what their loss must be!
Or maybe it is the death of a man who has left a place in the whole community that will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill, and you think of all he stood for that was fine and helpful to others, and how much and sorely he will be missed. Or suppose that you are a returned soldier, and it is a pal who has died. All you can think of is Poor old Stevewhat a peach he was! I dont think anything will ever be the same again without him. Say just that! Ask if there is anything you can do at any time to be of service to his people. There is nothing more to be said. A line, into which you have unconsciously put a little of the genuine feeling that you had for Steve, is worth pages of eloquence.
A letter of condolence may be abrupt, badly constructed, ungrammaticalnever mind. Grace of expression counts for nothing; sincerity alone is of value. It is the expression, however clumsily put, of a personal something which was loved, and will ever be missed, that alone brings solace to those who are left. Your message may speak merely of a small incidentsomething so trifling that in the seriousness of the present, seems not worth recording, but your letter and that of many others, each bringing a single sprig, may plant a whole memory-garden in the hearts of the bereaved.
As has been said above, a letter of condolence must above everything express a genuine sentiment. The few examples are inserted merely as suggestive guides for those at a loss to construct a short but appropriate note or telegram.
The letter to one whose loss is for the best is difficult in that you want to express sympathy but can not feel sad that one who has long suffered has found release. The expression of sympathy in this case should not be for the present death, but for the illness, or whatever it was that fell long ago. The grief for a paralysed mother is for the stroke which cut her down many years before, and your sympathy, though you may not have realized it, is for that. You might write:
Your sorrow during all these yearsand nowis in my heart; and all my thoughts and sympathy are with you.
Mr. President And occasionally throughout a conversation, Sir.
The President of the United States or merely The President, Washington, D. C. (There is only one President)
My dear Mr. President:
I have the honor to remain, Most respectfully yours, or I have the honor to remain, sir, Your most obedient servant.
I have the honor to remain, Yours faithfully, or, I am, dear Mr. President, Yours faithfully,
Mr. Vice-President and then, Sir.
The Vice-President, Washington, D. C.
My dear Mr. Vice-President:
Same as for President
Believe me, Yours faithfully,
Justice of Supreme Court
The Hon. William H. Taft, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Washington, D. C.
Dear Mr. Justice Taft:
Believe me, Yours very truly, or I have the honor to remain, Yours very truly,
Believe me, Yours faithfully,
The Chief Justice or, if an Associate Justice, Mr. Justice Holmes.
Member of the Presidents Cabinet
The Secretary of Commerce, Washington, D. C. or: The Hon. Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce, Washington, D. C.
Dear Sir: or Sir:
My dear Mr. Secretary:
Same as above.
Same as above.
The Secretary of Commerce.
United States (or State) Senator
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Washington, D. C. or a private letter: Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, (His house address)
Dear Sir: or Sir:
Dear Senator Lodge:
Same as above.
Same as above.
Senator Lodge. On very formal and unusual occasions, Senator Lodge of Massachusetts.
Member of Congress (or Legislature)
Mr. Bell, or, you may say Congressman
The Hon. H. C. Bell, Jr., House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. or: State Assembly, Albany, New York.
Dear Sir: or Sir:
Dear Mr. Bell: or Dear Congressman:
Believe me, Yours very truly,
Governor Miller (The Governor is not called Excellency when spoken to and very rarely when he is announced. But letters are addressed and begun with this title of courtesy.)
His Excellency The Governor, Albany, New York.
Dear Governor Miller:
I have the honor to remain, Yours faithfully,
Believe me, Yours faithfully,
The Governor (in his own state) or, (out of it,) The Governor of Michigan.
His Honor the Mayor, City Hall, Chicago.
Dear Sir: or Sir:
Dear Mayor Rolph:
Believe me, Very truly yours,
His Eminence John Cardinal Gibbons, Baltimore, Md.
I have the honor to remain, Your Eminences humble servant.
Your Eminences humble servant.
Roman Catholic Archbishop (There is no Protestant Archbishop in the United States.)
The Most Reverend Michael Corrigan, Archbishop of New York.
Most Reverend and dear Sir:
Most Reverend and Dear Sir:
I have the honor to remain, Your humble servant,
Same as formal close.
The Most Reverend The Archbishop.
Bishop (Whether Roman Catholic or Protestant.)
To the Right Reverend William T. Manning, Bishop of New York,
Most Reverend and dear Sir:
My Dear Bishop Manning:
I have the honor to remain, Your obedient servant, or, to remain, Respectfully yours,
Father or Father Duffy
The Rev. Michael Duffy,
Reverend and dear Sir:
Dear Father Duffy:
I beg to remain, Yours faithfully,
Mr. Saintly (If he is D.D. or LL.D., you call him Dr. Saintly.)
The Rev. Geo. Saintly, (If you do not know his first name, write The Rev. .... Saintly, rather than the Rev. Mr. Saintly.)
Sir: or My dear Sir:
Dear Dr. Saintly: (or Dear Mr. Saintly if he is not a D.D.)
Same as above.
Faithfully yours, or Sincerely yours,
Dr. (or Mr.) Saintly
Rabbi Wise (If he is D.D. or LL.D., he is called Dr. Wise.)
Dr. Stephen Wise, or Rabbi Stephen Wise, or Rev. Stephen Wise,
Dear Dr. Wise:
I beg to remain, Yours sincerely,
Your Excellency or Mr. Ambassador
His Excellency The American Ambassador, * American Embassy, London.
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
I have the honor to remain, Yours faithfully, or, Yours very truly, or, Yours respectfully, or very formally: I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant.
The American Ambassador.
In English he is usually called Mr. Prince, though it is not incorrect to call him Mr. Minister. The title Excellency is also occasionally used in courtesy, though it does not belong to him.
In French he is always called Monsieur le Ministre.
The Hon. J. D. Prince, American Legation, Copenhagen, or (more courteously) His Excellency, The American Minister, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Sir: is correct but, Your Excellency: is sometimes used in courtesy.
Dear Mr. Minister: or Dear Mr. Prince:
Same as above.
Mr. Prince, the American Minister, or merely, The American Minister as everyone is supposed to know his name or find it out.
If he has held office as assemblyman or commissioner, so that he has the right to the title of Honorable he is addressed: The Hon. John Smith, otherwise: John Smith, Esq., American Consul, Rue Quelque Chose, Paris.
Sir: or My dear Sir:
Dear Mr. Smith:
I beg to remain, Yours very truly,
[* Although our Ambassadors and Ministers represent the United States of America, it is customary both in Europe and Asia to omit the words United States and write to and speak of the American Embassy and Legation. In addressing a letter to one of our representatives in countries of the Western Hemisphere, The United States of America is always specified by way of courtesy to the Americans of South America.]
Foreign persons of title are not included in the foregoing diagram because an American (unless in the Diplomatic Service) would be unlikely to address any but personal friends, to whom he would write as to any others. An envelope would be addressed in the language of the person written to: His Grace, the Duke of Overthere (or merely The Duke of Overthere), Hyde Park, London; Mme. la Princess dAcacia, Ave. du Bois, Paris; Il Principe di Capri, Cusano sul Seveso; Lady Alwin, Cragmere, Scotland, etc. The letter would begin, Dear Duke of Overthere (or Dear Duke), Dear Princess, Dear Countess Aix, Dear Lady Alwin, Dear Sir Hubert, etc., and close, Sincerely, Faithfully, or Affectionately, as the case might be.
Should an American have occasion to write to Royalty he would begin: Madam (or Sir), and end: I have the honor to remain, madam (or Sir), your most obedient. (Your most obedient servant is a signature reserved usually for our own Presidentor Vice-President.)