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Letters from S: April 2022 – The Art of Letter Writing

Dearest reader,


Do you know what is an epistolary novel? Well, it is one of the earliest forms of novels composed only from letters writen from one character to another. Epistolary novels were at their peak during the 18th century but remained a popular form of story telling up until the 19th century.


Why I want you to know this is because, within the last months, I have had the pleasure of reading Jane Austen's early works (Lady Susan, Love And Friendship, Lesley Castle and The Three Sisters), epistolary novels, where through humour and parody Austen sets out to discribe ordinary and not so ordinary lifes of sisters, mothers, daughters and friends. Thanks to the preface of this particular book I was also introduced to the art of letter writing and women's position in it which urged me to study the subject further.




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What I found was that women's success in letter writing began with a french noble woman, Madame de Sévigné, who was known as Europe's most renowed letter-writer in the 18th century. She was so gifted at writing letters that her contribution to the art of letter writing turned the whole epistolary genre into a genre where women held the role model status.


"I know of no sorrow greater than that occasioned by a delay of the post."

– Madame de Sévigné


As observers and without a say in politics women's letters dealt with topics previously unworthy of literary audiance. Everyday events, emotional relationships, society gossip and nature mixed with spontaneusly naive yet elegant and sensitive manner of expression where in the core of what was considered a brilliant letter. However, dispite of appearing naive and natural not anybody could succeed in writing a perfect letter since letters were, in fact, laborious and demanded highly intellectual, wide-read and well educated mind.


What is more, during the 18th century letters where coveted property for publication which gave women a rare opportunity to gain a reputation as well as to be published in print. Some of the best letters were even read aloud in society gatherings, Madame de Sévigné's letters being definitely frequently featured.


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After learning about women's position in the art of letter writing and reading Austen's epistolary novels, what astonished me, dearest reader, was that women still talk about everyday things with immense succees! For instance, you need not go any further from this or any blog in order to find perhaps the modern equivalent to the 18th century letter writers. Requiring, of course, that us bloggers hold even an ounce of the elegant wit of Madame de Sévigné or our beloved Jane Austen, which we can only hope we do.


Naturally, I would love to hear your toughts on the subject!

Yours truly,


S

 

Read Jane Austen's epistolary novels here in finnish and here in english.


Kilt – vintage | Vest – made it myself | Shirt – secondhand | Hat – unfortunately the shop no longer exists | Tea cup - 90s hand painted vintage | Pearl necklace – Ibero | Earings – Bonanza Paris

 

Sources:

Alenius, Marianne 2011. The Letter – A Genre for Women. The History of Nordic Women's Literature


Koskinen, Inkeri 2006. Uskollinen ystävänne – Kootut kertomukset: Aluksi – Kirjeromaanit ja kirjeiden kirjoittajat. Helmi kustannus ja Tammi 2007


Austen, Jane. Uskollinen Ystävänne – Kootut kertomukset. Helmi kustannus ja Tammi 2007.


Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. epistolary novel. Britannica


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