Love letter 1844

Letters from the Past

A love letter to Miss Thomson, in London
from Leonard, in 1844


Eunice Shanahan

This letter is later than most of those in our collection, as it is enclosed in a very small envelope measuring only 4 x 2-3/4 inches (10 x 6.5 cms). Before the introduction of the Penny postage in 1840, it would have cost double the amount to post a letter included in an envelope. Frank Staff in his book The Penny Post 1680 to 1918 wrote

Envelopes were a novelty for the public, and quickly became very popular. Until now, the mere fact of enclosing a letter inside an envelope would have incurred extra postage, so that they were never used except occasionally by those having the privilege of franking......The new envelopes were not gummed, they were required to be sealed by wax or wafer.

Although the penny adhesive stamp had been in use since 6th May 1840, when this letter was written in 1844 it was not compulsory either to pre-pay the postage, or to use the penny stamp. This little envelope shows that this letter was lodged at the London Twopenny post Receiving House KENT RD S.E.,(this office was open from 1837), and that it had been prepaid. There is no indication on the envelope that a postage stamp had been affixed, and subsequently removed. The letter was then transferred to the General post where it received the transfer date stamp into the General Post of the type in use from July 1843 with the letter A at the bottom of the frame PAID JU 11 1844. This was applied at the Chief Office of the General Post as it has the month before the day.

The envelope is sealed with red sealing wax and a signet with a difficult to decipher design.

It is addressed to Miss Thomson, 124 Fenchurch St, City.


(Envelope showing on the front the Receiving house stamp in red Kent Rd. W.E. 1d paid and the Octagonal date stamp of the General Post also in red JU 11 1844 PAID and the time on either side of 8 Nt.)

The letter inside is written on two separate sheets of paper, both sheets have been folded in half and the first is then written on all four sides, but the second is written on only three.

There is no address, just the day but the 1844 calendar confirms that June 11th was Tuesday, so he must have posted it the day he wrote the letter. This is what he wrote on the first page, with underlined words!

Tuesday morng,
My dearest Elizabeth,
I have received your kind note and have perused it over and over again, and for the soul of me I cannot divest myself of the feeling of thinking it rather cold and formal.

He then writes on the inside of the letter using the two pages as two columns.

It may be fancy!! I can not discover one encouraging word , it would seem as if all the affectionate outpourings of your heart evaporate when you arrive in Fenchurch St. symptoms of wavering, as if you were to be tempted from your purpose, forgive me my dear girl if I worry, but I do fancy you are luke-warm when absent from me.

So Mrs L thinks it “highly impudent”, I confess I am at a loss to discover any thing so startling!!! I am always happy to listen to the advice of a friend, yet, I am quite capable of acting and judging for myself, particularly in those affairs – affairs of the heart.

He continues the letter on the back of this page and then onto the next sheet.

You have not named the day for my Boys visit, will Friday suit you? You perhaps will do me the honor to write and inform me. Now this is what I call cold and formal language, not the breathings of love and affection – don’t be X X (*) my Lizza, even although I have dared to abbreviate your sweet name. I wonder if you can guess my name. Comprenez vous?

Note: He is obviously an educated man as he has asked her if she understands, using French,(comprenez vous) and he must also have known that she could read French.

I hear you were in Fleet St yesterday and you came down the street near Waithmans Corner, I had just turned into Bridge St by the same corner one minute or two before you – so they say – I was very X X (*) and annoyed that I did not meet you.

Mrs L is not being partial to children, so I must leave them to your charge. I mean my Boys, if they go, till then farewell Dear E.
Believe me most
Affectionately yours

Note (*) These XX are an abbreviation for the word ‘cross’.

As he has signed the letter Leonard, I wonder what he meant when he wrote “ I wonder if you can guess my name ”.

It would be interesting to know whether this couple ever married, but without a surname for the writer, Leonard, it would be very difficult to trace the records.

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