Last night I was looking through an old book I bought recently, a compilation of letters written by Charles Dickens to his best friend, Thomas Beard.
I always knew that in Victorian London the postal system was famously efficient, making despatches and deliveries up to seven times a day. (Crazy, huh? My mail comes once a day, at 6pm.) But what struck me last night while I was reading Dicken's correspondence was how immediate and informal many of the letters were. Just take a look:
Monday 12th October 1845
My Dear Beard,
I have a confidential question to ask you. One that may rather amaze you. If you can come round to me tonight -- do.
Or this one:
First July 1856
My Dear Beard,
Will you come here tonight at 6 (no party) to eat Turtle and a steak?
Or, finally, this:
Friday 11th October 1861
My Dear Beard,
I understand from Letitia you are going to poor Austin's funeral tomorrow. Let me take you. I will leave here at 10, and will pick you up at 20 minutes past, at the corner of the Edgeware Road in Oxford Street. One word to say that this is agreed upon.
Do you see what I'm getting at? They don't sound like lengthy 19th century missives, they sound like...emails.
Each is brief and to the point -- just like an email. Each not only demands an immediate response, it takes for granted the feasibility of it -- just like an email. Each is part of a to-be-continued conversation -- just like an email.
Suddenly, my perceptions of a ponderously slow Victorian age came crashing down. I saw a world just like ours, in which messages were dashed off, delivered and replies immediately sent. Write a letter to someone in the morning to meet you at the pub for lunch, and they'd receive it, RSVP, and be sitting at the bar stool when you walked in. I find it fascinating to think that the way people communicated in the 19th century was so similar to the way we do today. We do it wirelessly, they did it by horse, carriage and fleet-footed mailman. What's old is new again.
And in a corollary to that theme, what's new is old again.
I recently purchased an iPhone and went on a hapless search for a case that would satisfy my admittedly strict design needs. Those ubiquitous rubberized cases don't do it for me. In my perfect world, I envisioned something that would resemble nothing so much as an old leather-bound book. Red, preferably. (Hey, a girl can dream.)
Well, there is a God.
Introducing the Sena Walletbook Case for iPhone 3G. Isn't it beautiful? It's practically identical to one of my favorite leather diaries ever, the Smythson 2009 Bijou Organizer.
See how it opens just like a book? And the front cover folds back easily so talking on the phone isn't awkward. Best of all, it's just $49.95.
Here it looks completely at home atop a stack of antique tomes. I love the idea of dressing up a piece of millennium technology in the wrappings of a 19th century journal.
I like to think Charles would approve.