Monday, February 9, 2009

Cn U Hv Lnch? :)

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.

Ever yours,

Charles Dickens

Or this one:

First July 1856

My Dear Beard,

Will you come here tonight at 6 (no party) to eat Turtle and a steak?

Ever heartily, 

Charles Dickens

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.

Ever affectionately,

Charles Dickens

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.


LINDA from Each Little World said...

You're right — those letters certainly do put a modern spin on the 19th century. I knew the postal service was good, but I had no idea it was that frequent. Makes me feel so much better about using e-mail. I remain a cellphone-less Midwesterner; but when I finally succumb, I will remember your little red cover.

Anonymous said...

I am in love with the case, but what's the name of the book??? Maybe I have overlooked it in your post......if so, sorry....:-(

Tricia said...

First let me say it's great that you have the perfect red books to stack pyramid style!

If you're new to iPhone, you may be interested in some fun uses posted on my blog on Feb.3 ( My husband read it and commented, "Hmmm, sounds like you're getting old". Ah well, I just LOVE all the neat stuff I can do with my iPhone (not to mention its compatibility with the Mac). It's a virtual office when I'm on daily long walks with the dog -- listen to music, take calls (if need be), snap photos, jot down ideas on Notes, check the market (horrors), read emails, time myself, check tomorrow's weather, and on and on... or shut the whole thing off and enjoy being outdoors!

Like the features of your case. I just have one of those rubbery cases from the Apple shop, but yours has nice credit card can go to the market with just your iPhone and leave the heavy bag in the car! Thanks for the link.

Bart Boehlert said...

He would totally approve.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

C. T.: If you're referring to the Dickens book, it's called "Dickens to His Oldest Friend", edited by Walter Dexter. Haskell House, Publishers of Scarce Scholarly Books, 1973.

Style Court said...

Before I scrolled down to the second half of your post, I was thinking "these notes sound just like my emails, except for the formal salutations."

Things really don't change as much as people assume.

Anyway, we're kindred spirits: red lampshades and red croc accessories. Stunning find.

Meg said...

The English post is amazing! I sent a package from London to New Zealand the week before Christmas and it got there in 4 days, just in the nick of time! I was very impressed and not at all surprised to hear it was quick back the day of Charles Dickens!! I love your Iphone case, it's smart sassy!

Joanne Kennedy said...

I just went to the Dickens Fair yesteday (see my post) and it was very interesting to see and hear how different life was back then.


Anonymous said...

MILLLLLLE GRAZIE!!! You're the best!

JMW said...

Ah, Dickens. Such a favorite of mine. Everyday I pass an old building in my river town where he once lodged.

beauty comma said...

That looked really stylish! - especially the last picture. I might be a bit pedantic, but I think most electronic equipment fits really badly with both clothes and home décor =D With a case like this, you can put the phone on the coffee table and it will look great!

columnist said...

Great post, and wonderful observation about old and modern communications. I'm actually thinking of "writing" a letter again. How wonderful is that? I'm quite pleased that it might take a day or two aswell, although happily there is the option of "biking it" over, but I rather like the idea that it will have to rely on the vagries of the Thai postal system. It's so novel, it's new!


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