“I have had to give up writing to my close friends”

March 27, 2012 @ 6:50 pm | Filed under:

This exchange from Two Gardeners gave me a curious sort of comfort today. May, 1959. They’ve been corresponding occasionally for a year. Katharine writes:

Dear Miss Lawrence,

Can you ever forgive me for having been so rude as not to write you long before now to acknowledge all the helpful things you have done for me and for your good letters and postcards?

She hastens to explain that she had fallen ill and spent a long time recovering from a kidney infection. This apology is followed by several wonderful pages of garden notes and commentary. And finally:

This letter is much too long and I must wind it up fast. Our first calf was born today and another will be along soon…The first bantam chick has cracked its shell and it is suddenly hot, so spring must be here at last. The seventy-five chicks for broilers and laying hens have come out from under the brooder stove. We try to do much too much and our lives are too full. I’m sure yours must be, too, especially when you get letters of this length.

Elizabeth responds:

First, please believe that I never even notice when letters are not answered, much as I love the answers when they come. I can’t bear to think that you would ever have answering on your mind. And in turn please don’t fault me if I don’t answer. If I don’t by return mail, I probably never will. I have had to give up writing letters to my close friends. And answer only business letters; and garden ones, for as you know that is the only way to get any real information.

By this point in the correspondence it is clear they are on their way to becoming real friends—Katharine ends her letter with “And I find myself quoting ‘Elizabeth.’ Do I dare call you that? Anyway, I’ll sign myself, Katharine”; and Elizabeth’s reply opens with “Dear Katharine”—and I love seeing how they’re working out the relationship. The warmth and mutual respect, the delight in finding a conversation partner who brings wit, knowledge, and original thought to the discussion of one’s pet subjects. Surely many of us who’ve connected with one another here in blogland can relate…

And there they are, in the late ā€™50s, when there were only a handful of television channels, for Pete’s sake, and no internet, no social media, struggling to keep up a valued correspondence in the thick of a busy and sometimes bumpy life.

As I said, comforting indeed.

Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate your comments here? And how I wish I were better at keeping up my end of these many correspondences, both in the comment box and outside it? šŸ™‚

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10 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. sarah says:

    My mother and grandmother used to write one another every week. Phone calls were deemed extravagant and costly, and I think that regular correspondence was just assumed. They were very practical notes–weather, family events, and occasional political commentary. I laugh at the memory of every time we would leave my grandmother’s home after a visit, the same dialogue would occur. “No need to write this week. Won’t be anything left to say. Save the stamp.” The other would agree, and there would be no letter.

    Dennis’s now deceased grandfather used to write us regularly. His letters were so eloquent and a joy to read. I was always so honored to receive them as it was obvious much time went into each carefully chosen word. I kept them all. It really is a lost art.

  2. Ellie says:

    Those are wonderful quotes. (and the bit about garden letters being the only way to get any real information — what a hoot)

    {{hugs}} sometimes our ongoing presence means more than words anyway. I think comment boxes can be like any other social gathering: not every one who attends is chatty …

  3. Hannah says:

    What a lovely development of a friendship. Knowing someone through her writing can be, n some ways, richer than exchanging daily brief chats, don’t you think?
    I wonder if these two women ever got to meet in person?

  4. mamacrow says:

    two somewhat tangential remarks –

    I was wondering if you’d read 3000 Mile Garden, a gardening corespondance between Roger Phillips and Leslie Land? I discovered the televised version years ago quite by chance, immediately bought the book and fell utterly in love.

    Secondly, it’s interesting how we’re all talking about letter writing here, when in the UK they’re just taken the price cap off stamps and there’s going to be a huge hike in prices *sigh*

    I don’t write as many letters as often as I should or would like, but I do value the corespondances I have oh so very much

  5. Avila says:

    I am 9 years old. I am a great fan of the Laura Ingalls series. I really love your book On Tide Mill Lane. I like your way of writing about old-fashioned times. I hope I can read some of the Martha series, too! Love, Avila

    (from Avila’s mother– how ironic that Avila wanted to write you a fan letter and I settled for commenting on the author’s blog.. after a post like this!)

  6. Karyn @ Kloppenmum says:

    I wonder what it is that drives us, not just now but through the generations, to do too much? Really enjoying these posts – such a window into the past and their lives. šŸ™‚

  7. Alysa says:

    I love this post! OH, I love letters!

  8. Melissa Wiley says:

    Dear Avila, thank you for your wonderful letter! I’m thrilled to know you enjoyed Tide Mill Lane. I loved writing it. I hope you enjoy Martha too!


    mamacrow, I will look for the collection of letters you’ve mentioned. Kind of goosebumpy knowing there’s another treasure out there waiting…


    Thanks, all of you, for chiming in here. I am so enjoying this discussion. I could happily quote the entire book to you…it is full of riches.

  9. KimN says:

    I am one of those non-chatty people at social gatherings (and on blogs) to whom Ellie refers. Especially on a writer’s blog….so stressful to see if one’s grammar is all in line!
    I promptly requested (per usual after reading your words)these books at my library and already got Two Gardeners. It is indeed delightful. Thank you for sharing the treasures you find with us. Your recommendation broaden our literary world.