Author Topic: The language of Victorian letters  (Read 21040 times)

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Alixz

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2006, 10:28:33 AM »
Also, I doubt very much that Alix ever thought that her personal correspondence would be reproduced for the whole world to read.

If the dynasty had not ceased to exist, I am sure that the letters would have been stored and edited by someone before they were made public.

I does make one wonder, though, why she burned all of her diaries and letters to Queen Victoria?  What could have been in them that she would not want the new regimes to get a hold of?

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2006, 05:28:04 PM »
This is a wonderful thread and I'm sorry I didn't find it sooner!

It has been my understanding that Alexandra held on to the correspondence she shared with Nicholas so as to vindicate herself as a patriotic Russian should she be formally accused as being a traitor.

On the other hand, perhaps Alexandra considered her correspondence with her Grandmama Victoria to be strictly between an elderly lady and her granddaughter, and nobody's business except theirs. Yes, her letters to Nicholas do contain personal and intimate references. But overall they do underscore that she was pro-Russian and did not support the German side.

It's interesting to learn that Nicholas used written language in a way which even now seems reasonably current. I've noticed that myself, by the way--maybe it's the translation, or maybe not, but very often his letters to family members (other than his mother) seem in tune with today's conversation and hint at a wry sense of humor.

Alexandra, on the other hand, comes across as emotional, romantic, and very stream-of-consciousness.

Actually, they each reflect their own gender stereotypes. Perhaps part of the issue lies in the fact that Alexandra--and Eleanor Roosevelt, and other women of the time--tended to write just as convention expected them to write, penning effusive endearments to the men whom they loved, whereas men were less constricted by convention--and expected to be rational rather than emotive-- both in life and on the page.

Offline imperial angel

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2006, 08:48:24 AM »
It is true that women were expected to write in a certain way, and did. Everyone else wrote that way, so it was the convention. Many people do things that in vogue without really thinking about it. And no doubt the flowery language of Victorian letters originates from this. Also, Alexandra was a emotional, romantic person, at least in youth, and it was natural for her to use this style as it was used at the time, but as well because this was her personal nature. It was entirely in her personality to write this way.

I agree that Nicholas seems to have written in a more contemporary style, as did at times otma. They seem in their letters to be normal girls having fun before the revolution, in a palace of course, but still human. These writings speak to us in a way we find relevant today, and not in a way that we regard as an archaic mode of letter writing. This could be the translation at times, as well. As for why Alexandra would burn letters between her and her grandmother, more than likely she simply thought of them as private letters that had no official importance. The letters bewtween her and Nicholas had some political importance, while those between her and Queen Victoria had little importance, in her mind, beyond the personal.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by romanov_fan »

Offline CountessKate

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2006, 03:01:50 AM »
Many Victorians were great believers in destroying personal correspondence after an individual's death, and Queen Victoria herself was very much of this view.  She occasionally asked her daughter Vicky to burn letters in their correspondence (sometimes Vicky did, mostly she didn't) and it is likely Vicky would have done the same with the whole correspondence with her mother before her own death except that she wanted to have her own point of view known and had the opportunity to get the letters out of Germany where they would be safe.  Perhaps Alix, foreseeing an uncertain future, did what she thought was right towards her grandmother, in the knowledge that QV would have absolutely loathed the thought of strangers looking at personal letters, however inocuous.  

Alixz

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2006, 06:34:30 AM »
Alix's letter to Nicholas do indeed show that she was pro Russian, but perhaps her letters in the early years, Victoria did die in 1901, showed less that stellar patriotism.

From 1894 to 1901, Alix was struggling with her acceptance into and of Russian society.  She had yet to have an heir.

Queen Victoria was not pro Russian in her views and even though she liked Nicholas, she still did not like the fact that Alix had moved to Russia.

Who knows what thoughts could have been put to paper in those troubled years for Alix.  Who knows what advice Granny gave her in regard to Russian society and Dagmar.  And also, perhaps Alix did a lot of whining to Granny about her situation and her homesickness and society's take on the long awaited and as yet unconcieved male heir.

Remember that all of Alix's letters to Victoria were returned to Alix after Victoria died in 1901, so Alix had both sides of the conversation for anyone to read and interpret.

And then again, Victoria did believe that personal letters should be destroyed and maybe that was all there was to it.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Alixz »

Offline imperial angel

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #20 on: March 17, 2006, 11:13:27 AM »
I think that it was simply the fact that Alexandra knew Queen Victoria would have wanted their letters burned, as she held the traditional view that such things should be burned. Alexandra still honoured her grandmother's memory, and would do what Queen Victoria wanted, even then. As well, she may have felt it was private, and the letters served no purpose from the viewpoint of proving she was patriotic, and devoted to her husband and Russia. Her letters to her husband proved this, all together.

If the letters were private and proved nothing, then why save them? And it is possible these letters did reflect badly on her early years in Russia, on issues like her struggles with having a male heir, society, and other members of the Russian Imperial family, such as Dowager Empress Marie. And  also perhaps Queen Victoria expressed her less than pro Russian views. We will never know, so we can only conjecture.. alot.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by romanov_fan »

Offline hikaru

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #21 on: March 19, 2006, 09:13:47 AM »
I know that they were the special manuals to write letters at those days.
The phrases , the using of the words should be different by the person to whom the letter should be addressed.
It is intresting, if the royal persons used such kind of books. Or only middle class used it?

Alixz

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #22 on: March 19, 2006, 03:17:35 PM »
Actually, there were manuals in my day.

I took some secretarial courses in my youth and (I had almost forgotten) we were taught about writing letters and how to phrase things depending on whom the letter would be going to.

Offline imperial angel

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2006, 06:37:22 PM »
Yes, letter writing manuals were once rather common, although not so much anymore. In this age, manners and letter writing manuals are often not so much in vogue. ;) I suppose royalty was trained how to write a proper letter, as part of their training and education in general for their role. Perhaps letter writing manuals were used. They were certainly more important, and more common place back then.

David_Pritchard

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #24 on: March 29, 2006, 08:06:16 PM »
Quote
Yes, letter writing manuals were once rather common, although not so much anymore. In this age, manners and letter writing manuals are often not so much in vogue. ;) I suppose royalty was trained how to write a proper letter, as part of their training and education in general for their role. Perhaps letter writing manuals were used. They were certainly more important, and more common place back then.

[size=14]My dear and much appreciated Imperial Angel,

It may surpize you to learn that I have five letter writing manuals in my library (or more exactly one letter writing manual, one diplomatic protocol manual and three etiquette books with chapters on letter writing). I find my manual from the 1930's to be very helpful when writing letters of condolence as well as letters of introduction (not an every day occurance). I believe that it is most unfortunate that civilised letter writing has died a slow but quiet death. The changes in society that led to this premature death have cheated us of the pleasures of sending and receiving beautifully written letters that are so much more memorable and meaningful than a telephone call or an e-mail.

With best wishes to all,

David[/size]
[/b]

Offline hikaru

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #25 on: March 29, 2006, 09:34:52 PM »
Now, being in the processe of some historical investigation, and being in search of some person who lived in the beginning of 20th century, I started to think that nothing will remaine after our generation: in the beginning of the 20th century, they had a  lot of letters - we have only e-mails, which will not be remained, I suppose :(

Offline imperial angel

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #26 on: March 31, 2006, 12:15:36 PM »
Yes, it is true that letter writing, although not commonplace, nor considered very important today, is important. I meant to say not that it wasn't important, but that it isn't considered important today, which is a different thing. Certainly, quick communication is important ( in some cases), but meaningful communication is as well, as David Pritchard so wisely said ( forgive me if this a misinterpretation).
And letters do linger long whereas words spoken are fleeting, and easily forgotten. I think it is sad that letter writing isn't so common now, and fewer people have any idea of how to write a proper letter, in the age of e-mail, phone, and IM, etc. I am of this age, so it it sadly includes me, although I didn't realize what e-mail was until I was nine, and in my younger years was pretty sheltered from technology. ;)

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #27 on: March 31, 2006, 06:14:41 PM »
Manners and letter writing not in vogue? Mercy me! So those of us who are conscientious about good manners as well as personal and professional correspondence are to be relegated to the social dustbin?

Actually, I agree that good manners and carefully composed correspondence are not always the norm. But whether something is in vogue and/or typical should never be the issue . . . it should be whether something is RIGHT. And being aware of the feelings of others, then behaving in accordance with that awareness, is ALWAYS right, as is appropriately expressing one's self on paper, particularly after someone has treated you kindly and/or presented you with a gift, or if someone you know is grieving the loss of a loved one, or in professional circumstances.  

A good argument can be made that one's appearance isn't everything. Yet the way you look and the way I look--in terms of grooming and attire--says quite a bit about who we are. So it is with the written word.  And, of course, every time you and I post on this website we make an impression--for better or for worse--regarding our individual levels of kindness, civility, character, education, conscientiousness, flexibility, and a great deal more. All of this through the way we choose to arrange characters on a computer screen!

As for manners . . . the essence of good manners is being thoughtful of others. This is something parents should begin teaching their children--by example as well as by monitoring--from the late toddler stage on.  And yet I've observed and heard at supposedly professional offices, staffed by people 18 years and older, the following behaviors: loud and abrasive voices; self-induced belching followed by gales of laughter; indiscreet statements (i.e., telling a phone caller that someone who has temporarily stepped away "is in the bathroom; ya wanna wait til he gets out?"); mumbling; a lack of eye contact when responding to a question; chewing with one's mouth open; failure to clean up after one's self; the unabated use of inappropriate language; and--overall--a "me-ism" that makes "me" oh-so-cute--however I behave--and informs others that if you don't indulge my me-behavior, you risk becoming my victim.

No wonder people flock to history-based websites, searching for something they sense is missing from their own lives!  

Offline imperial angel

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #28 on: April 02, 2006, 06:29:41 PM »
Great analysis! I love the points you make! Manners and proper letter writing ought to be in vogue, and I am not saying they are not practiced by some people today, but it's more uncommon than it was in the age of Nicholas and Alexandra,etc. Certainly, in the business world, proper communication is supposedly esteemed, although in actual practice that sometimes fails, as your examples point out. In personal communication I would think it's rather the same. And doubtless back then, there were those who did not have the best manners too. ;)

Alixz

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Re: The language of Victorian letters
« Reply #29 on: April 05, 2006, 05:57:18 PM »
Some of our traditions have changed, but when I go to a bridal shower and the bride stands up at the end of opening all of her gifts and yells out "thank you", I am astonished.  Nothing ever comes in the mail!

Also at weddings, I dislike the printed "thank you scroll" left at everyone's place.

While it is nice to get a thank you note, I am always amazed to read one that says, "Frank and I will use your gift often.  Thank you so much,  Frank and Sue".  When I read manuals about thank you notes for my wedding, I read that they are to written by the bride and signed by her alone.  Always mention the groom, but never sign for him especially if you have already mentioned him in the body of the note.

Also, they are supposed to be sent within a month of the wedding.  Now I know that most brides are still working in this modern day and don't have all the time in the world to write a think you note, but any time in the first two months would be nice.

I think the best one I ever heard about was of the wedding where the happy couple expected money from everyone.  Just a couple of guests didn't bring money and brought a gift.  Those who brought a gift never got a thank you note ::)  ::)