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Miss Dora Baggins' Book of Manners  by Dreamflower

 CHAPTER 13: THE WRITING OF LETTERS

One of the Finest Institutions of the Shire is the Shire Post. When Thain Isumbras II became betrothed to Iris Brandybuck, the sister of Calimac Brandybuck, Master of Buckland in the year of Shire Reckoning 924, he undertook a Daily Correspondence with her. Messengers from Tuckborough* to Brandy Hall were passing one another along the Way. Soon they were persuaded to carry other messages as well.

It was Inigo Grubb, the Mayor of Michel Delving at the time, who proposed Formalizing the Messenger Service, and extending it Shirewide. As the Idea came from him, the Mayor was put in Charge of Implementing the Service. Prior to that time, letters were Dependent upon Travelling Tradesmen or those who had Business in other Parts of the Shire, or Private Messengers, hired at great expense. The Arrangement soon became quite Popular, and Hobbits who were Lettered began to Write to their scattered Family and Friends. Since that time the Post has become an Important Part of Shire Life. It is quite Unthinkable now that such an Institution should not exist!

It is now Incumbent on any Hobbit who has the Skill of Writing to send such Letters. One cannot imagine not being Able to Keep in Touch this way; even Hobbits who do not Read or Write may be able to ask a Neighbor to read a Message, or Pay a Scribe to pen one for them.

There are many Reasons to Write Letters: Invitations to such Events as Weddings or Birthday Parties, and the Answers to such Invitations; Announcements of Family News, such as a Birth or Death in the Family, or simply Tidings of How One is Faring; Condolences for those who have Suffered a Bereavement; Congratulations for Good Fortune or Happy Occasions, such as a Betrothal or a Coming of Age; a Simple Message of Good Cheer and Friendly Advice, which should Always be Welcome--all of these may be Entrusted to the Post!

Some People do not seem to know What to Say in Letters. It is hoped that this Chapter may be of use to Such Persons.

INVITATIONS

Though Invitations to Weddings have been dealt with in an earlier Chapter, there are, of Course, other sorts of Occasions for which Invitations must be Sent, such as Birthdays, Feasts of Welcome, a Dinner Party, or simply to Take Tea.

All Invitations for the same Event should be Identical in Wording. Do not attempt to Convey more Personal News or Queries in the Invitation, lest two Persons should compare them. Instead, if one happens to have a Closer Friendship with some Guests than others, send a separate Letter by the Same Post. It may cost an extra Farthing, but that is worth it to Avoid Hurt Feelings.

Here is the sort of Letter of Invitation one might write for a Party:

“Dear Aunt Caramella,

On Monday, the 15th of Thrimidge, I shall be celebrating the occasion of my forty-fifth birthday with a small party. I very much hope that you will consent to be one of my guests.

The party will begin at 2 o’ clock of the afternoon, and will continue through tea and supper.

I look forward to your company.

Your fond niece,
Amalda Boffin”

You will Note that for a Party, both the Day and the Date are included, as well as the time for the Beginning and Ending of the Event. It is as well, also, to specify the Meals which will be Observed. In the above Example it may be seen that by starting at 2 o’ clock, Luncheon would not be Expected, while Tea and Supper are a Part of the Occasion.

For something more Informal in Nature, the Invitation may also be less Formal:

“Dear Cousin Lily,

I am having a few friends to tea, on Mersday next. I hope that I may look forward to the pleasure of your company then.

Love,
Your cousin,
Salvia,”

One Notes that the date is unnecessary, as the Occasion is for the Following Week, and of course the Time does not need to be Stated, as the Invitation is for Tea Only.

There are also those times when one wishes the Company of only One Person. In such a case, the Invitation is not General, and one may thus be more Personal in one’s Invitation:

“My dear Uncle Largo,

It has been too many months since we have had occasion to spend some time together, and I find myself missing your congenial presence. It occurs to me that perhaps you could see your way clear to making a visit to me for a week or two.

I will be free in Forelithe from any pressing business, if you could possibly come during that time.

I hope that all is well with you. We have had a lovely Spring here, and the cherries are in blossom. I did have a bit of a cold in Astron, but am feeling in fine fettle now.

I look forward to your answer, and hope very much that I may see you soon!

Love,
Your Nephew,
Hamilcar”

Note here that the Invitation is not specific as to Days or Dates, but does indicate the Month when such a Visit would be Convenient. One also sees that it is Proper to give news of oneself, and to ask after the Recipient.

There are also those Occasions when one may find it Necessary to Invite Oneself. This should not be done Lightly; Habitually Begging Invitations may gain one a reputation as a Sponger! However, it is always better to Stay with Family when one is Travelling, rather than to stay at an Inn. Therefore such a Letter should be carefully Worded. Also, one should not be ready to take Offense if the Recipient does not find it Convenient. He or she may already have Other Guests, or may be Travelling and Away from Home at the Time. A politely worded Refusal should never be taken amiss.

If one should find oneself in need of such an Invitation, it might be worded Thusly:

“Dear Cousin Uffo,

We find that we shall be needing to travel to Overhill next week on a matter of business, and are wondering if you might find it quite convenient to put us up for two or three days?

Marjoram and I will be making the journey with only little Fosco. We shall be leaving the other children here in the care of their Grandmother Chubb. We would expect to arrive mid-week, probably before luncheon on Hensday, and if all goes well with my business, we will be returning home on Highday, or Sterday at the latest.

We shall await your answer by return post.

Fondly,
Your Cousin Falco”

One may see here that the Request is worded as a Question, and that it is not Taken For Granted that the Reply will be in the Affirmative. A Time and Day for both Arriving and Departing are given, as well as the Number of Persons in the Travelling Party. One hopes that Cousin Uffo will find the visit Congenial.

A Word here to those who Receive Invitations: it is the Polite thing to Answer at Once, by the very next Return Post, if possible. Most certainly one should Reply within Three Days at the very Most! If for some reason one is uncertain of one’s Plans, it is best to make that known as well. One should simply Inform one’s Potential Host of said uncertainty, and let him or her know that a more Definite Answer will be forthcoming As Soon As Possible.

ANNOUNCING GOOD NEWS

One of the Best Sorts of Letters, to both Write and to Receive are those messages which convey Good News to the Recipient. These should be written in the Spirit of Good Cheer which the Happy Event has inspired, and Never Under Any Circumstance should the Appearance of Gloating be Allowed!

A Letter announcing the Arrival of a New Member of the Family should always include the most Pertinent Information: the date on which the Child arrived; his or her Gender and Name; his or her Weight and Height at Birth; and very importantly, the State of Health of both Mother and Child.

“My dear Lilac,

It is with great joy that I announce to you that my son Ludo and his wife Emerald are delivered of a fine son. Little Loys was born on the morning of Highday, 4 Wedmath, at five o‘clock. He weighed three pounds and was nine and three-quarter inches long! A fine healthy lad!

Lilac is doing well, though weary from her labor, of course. The other children are quite taken with their new brother.

I hope very much that you might be able to visit soon, and meet my new grandson.

Love,

Your friend,
Lavender Puddifoot”

One may take note that such a Letter is Not written by the New Parents, but rather by the Child’s Grandmother. It is the Usual Task of Grandparents or an Older Aunt, Uncle or Cousin to inform Friends and Family Members who do not live Nearby. If needs be, a Sibling who is old enough may also write such a Missive. The New Parents will have more than enough to do, after all.

While the Prospective Bride herself may choose to write the Letters of Announcement on her Betrothal, it is also usual for her to receive the Help of her Mother, Sisters and Cousins. She may prefer to write those Letters which are going to Close Family and Friends, leaving the Announcements going to lesser Acquaintances and more distant Relations to her Helpers.
“Dear Great-aunt Wisteria,

We thought that you might like to know that my sister Topaz has accepted the suit offered her by Tico Noakes, and is now betrothed.

They are planning to wed next Spring, and the family is most excited. We will certainly keep you informed as the plans unfold, and will let you know when a date for the wedding is set.

Affectionately,
Your niece Tourmaline,”

There are, of course, other Pleasant Events which one may wish to write Letters of Announcement for. The important thing is to Convey one’s Happiness, while including all the Pertinent Information.

When one Receives a Message announcing Good News it is Important to respond with a Letter of Congratulations. The Congratulations should go to the Principal Persons involved. In the case of a Birth, to the Proud Parents, or in the case of a Betrothal, to the prospective Bride, if one is Connected to her, or to the prospective Groom, if one is Connected to him.

“Dear Topaz,

I was most pleased to hear the news of your betrothal from your sister Tourmaline.

I am sure that you and Tico will have a very happy future together, and I have long thought the two of you were well-suited as a couple.

I look forward to hearing more of the wedding plans. Please let me know if I may be of any help to you.

Love,

Great-aunt Wisteria”

ANNOUNCING BAD NEWS

Sadly, there are also those Events which may cause Sorrow or even Consternation. It is rather difficult to have to announce a Bereavement or the news of Serious Illness, yet in Fairness to Loved Ones who do not live Nearby, it is a task that Needs Doing. Again, it is often a Duty undertaken by Close Relative, but not necessarily the Principals, who will Understandably have Other Things on their minds.

“My dear Isembrand,

I am very sorry to have to tell you that our cousin Bella was taken ill suddenly on Sunday last. She succumbed rapidly to a high fever, which took her away three days later.

Her parents and brothers are very distraught, as you may understand. The funeral is to be on Highday. If you are able to make so swift a journey, your presence would be of much comfort to them.

Love,

Cousin Sapphire”

When one receives such a message, if one attempts to Travel to the Funeral, then of course one will not need to send a Return Reply, as the letter would not Arrive in time. If, however, one is unable to Attend, then an Immediate Letter of Condolence, as described in the Previous chapter should be sent.

Of course, there are other Disasters than Bereavements. It should be left to the judgment of the Recipient of such Sad News whether a Letter expressing Sympathy or one’s own Presence would be better under the Circumstances.

FRIENDLY LETTERS

If one has a wide Social Circle, or a number of Family Members who live at a Distance that Prohibits much in the way of Visiting, then a Nice Letter giving News of one’s simple Daily Doings, and perhaps a bit of Advice, is Always a Pleasant thing to Send or Receive.

Since the Circumstances of every Hobbit differs widely, it would be useless to try and give Examples of such Letters. However, there are some things to Keep in Mind.

First of all, it is needful to Address one’s Correspondent in a manner that Reflects one’s Relationship. There are those who are Mere Acquaintances, whether Family or not, and those who are Heart-friends, whom one would naturally Address in the Fondest Terms.

As to the Tone of one’s Letters, keep in Mind that there are those who would be very Happy to hear every Detail of one’s Day, down to how many scones one consumed at First Breakfast. On the other hand such a Recital might be quite Tedious to others of one’s Acquaintance.

When offering Advice, try Always to Couch one’s Suggestions in the Kindest Way Possible. However, it is Wise to be Firm when the Matter is one of some Urgency.

QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT THE WRITING OF LETTERS

How soon should one Answer one’s Correspondence?

If one is Planning a long and Chatty Reply, one may Reasonably let a few days pass. However, one should not Allow longer than one Week pass before sending an Answer. This does Not Apply to Invitations, however, which should be Answered within Three Days at most.

What if one does not wish to Enter into a Long Correspondence with Someone?

There may be Reasons why one would wish to Discourage the Exchange of Letters with another: sometimes a lass may not wish to Correspond with a lad who shows her more Regard than she is prepared to Return; someone may be Uncongenial, and send Letters filled with Unkind or Unpleasant Gossip; or one may simply not have the Time for a Frequent Correspondence. In such case, send Replies that are Terse, conveying the Bare Minimum of Information. This will usually Get the Point Across without Rudeness.

How does one know if one is Sending Letters too Often?

If the Replies one Receives match the Description above, then one may be Fairly Assured that one is sending Too Many Letters to that person.

IN CONCLUSION

Keeping up a Lively Correspondence with one’s Friends and Relations is an Amusing and Rewarding Activity. There is nothing More Pleasant than Receiving News from afar from one’s Loved Ones, and there is no Better Way to Receive Letters than to Send them!
_______________________________________

*The Great Smials was not built until 1083, over 150 years later.





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