By now, we've written our letters and folded them and addressed them, now we just need to seal it shut so that the postman doesn't sneak a peek. Sealing wax was the common method of securing your letter. Red seems to be the most oft seen color when looking at extant examples of letters, but you also occasionally see blue and green as well. Letters sealed in black wax generally meant that someone had died, so if you get a letter sealed in black, you'd better sit down before you open it.
The process of sealing is simple enough, Jas. Townsend has a good instructional video which can be seen Above:
Be sure to exercise caution, don't forget you're playing with fire and paper in close proximity.
Did I answer all of your questions this week? I hope so… but if I didn't, you can contact me via email or Facebook… or post you question in the comments below. I hope this helped, and we're looking forward to getting your letters as part of the MAIL PACKET project. Who's planning on participating? Let us hear from you!
So now you've written your letter and are about ready to send it on its merry way... You don't really find examples of envelopes from the period, people would fold the paper up that their letter was written on and MAKE a little envelope.
How in the world do you do that? I'm glad you asked!
I was rooting around in an attempt to find some resources and stumbled across the following tutorials. Some are easy, some are more difficult.
There has been quite a bit of interest in the Mail Packet project that we're doing for the guys in the the Acasta group. I've gotten a lot of questions about writing letters of the period, so this week we'll be taking you step-by-step through the process of writing a letter that looks like it came from the era. Each day will deal with a different aspect of the process, we'll cover:
Period Handwriting Period Content Letter Folding Addressing Wax Seals
First up we tackle...
The first problem that people tend to encounter when undertaking a hand written letter project is "I don't have nice handwriting". Well, neither did a lot of people in the period... so don't be too hard on yourself. People wrote letters to communicate with friends and loved ones over a great distance, and so long as it was legible, that was what mattered.
There is a great period reference to make use of when trying to learn how to create lettering from the period. I highly recommend George Bickham's little book about penmanship! I have owned several copies of this very book and it is delightful. Not only does it show you how to create each individual letter in various styles, it also has pages for the reader to copy for practice!
You can find a modern edition for sale on Amazon HERE:
Or, if you'd like a period correct copy along with some beginning writing supplies as seen in the image above, click HERE:
If you decide to purchase the period letter writing pack, be sure to tell them the Doctor referred you!
And to see some lovely samples of letters from the period that revolve around Royal Naval officer Francis Godolphin Bond circa 1765-1839, click HERE.
In the meantime, get out your pen and paper and practice, have some fun with it!
Need help with letter content? People wrote letters for all manner of reasons in the period, business, duty, amusement, love, courtship, marriage, friendship etc.
Imagine all the things you do in your modern life that involve communication, now imagine if it all had to be done with a pen and paper. The people we portray wrote as a part of their daily lives, because they had to.
There are a few interesting resources I'd like to share that might inspire you to create content for letters of the period.
A well known book was 'The Complete Letter-Writer', which offered up samples of various types of letters that people wrote. Thank heavens for the fine folks at Google Books for offering a digital version online:
Below, you'll find a the text from a letter of the period to a Royal naval Lieutenant from his Aunt back home, taken from a collection of letters that you can view HERE:
to: Lieut. F. Bond on board His Majestys Ship Pompee, Devonshire Cambridge 9th. March 1798 Received 24th. April
Dear Nephew, With pleasure and a most agreeable surprise did I receive your letter of ye 29th. December many circumstances have occurred which has prevented me from answering it at ye time intended, and I am in fears least your ship should have left ye port - you find I am like all the world apt to flatter myself in thinking a letter may be agreeable but how natural it is to judge from ones own feelings - your apologies are and ought to be accepted as I know your time must be much taken up in professional Duties: I will candidly own that I imputed your silence at being weary of a correspondance with your aunt - and that I had no right to blame you yet I severely felt its loss - with your turn of mind ye company on board a ship cannot be pleasant whose ideas in general extend chiefly to conviviality - but you have comforts which to them are denied -they if alone find time heavy and irksome and know not what to do to arrouse them - whereas you can always find resources within yourself -if providence sends to some more tryals and likewise sensibility to feel them -yet surely the pleasures abovementioned are in some degree adequate - if so the distribution of the almighty are more equal than we are apt to imagine or allow - such has been my firm opinion for many years and thro' it have obtained many comforts in this chequered Life - you could not expect your Brother Thomas to meet with a wife like ye first I fear they are few if any like her and it is wonderful to me he should venture. You did not mention wether your Mother or Charlotte was well if you see them remember me kindly - or when you should at any time chance to meet with an officer belonging to the alarm - you would think of your deceased uncle and inquire wither any writing was found or how his effects was disposed of -I would have wrote when ye vessell came home but as I think they often change their captains knew not what mode to persue. Neither do I make an apology for troubling you to a Benevolent mind - ye acting ye part of a Father to the poor infant will meet its own reward - your uncle Charles and Family were well when I last heard of them - but living fourteen miles distant do not often see or write. I cannot prevail with your cousins to correspond with a gentleman not personally known - but I hope the time will arrive when you will meet and persuade them - I long to see peace wave Her olive branch over this once happy land -but wither it will be in my time I know not my health tho' something better than when I last wrote owing I believe to the mildness of the winter - is far from being established and I have my fears that it never will - may you enjoy that blessing and every other this world affords is the wish of
your affectionate aunt M Bond
Need some ideas for what to write? Try one of these:
Letter from a friend or colleague back home. (But none from immediate 'family' this year if you please.) A bill or request for payment. An overdue payment of debt. A letter carrying news of the war(s)
Tomorrow, come back and we'll talk about folding your finished letter!
Wondering who to write to for the 2018 Mail Packet Project? Here's a listing to the cast of characters who are scheduled (so far) to be in attendance at the Jane Austen festival. Some haven't submitted their short character biographies yet, I'll update this as they do. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have about the project and enjoy!
Remember, this year it'll be 1805 with the Acasta having just returned to Portsmouth.
Shea McLean Second Lieutenant-
A newly appointed officer aboard Acasta.
Lord William Fitzroy Third Lieutenant- Lord William FitzRoy, KCB was a Napoleonic War British Naval officer and politician (and a REAL PERSON!), retiring as Admiral shortly before his death in 1857. With the Acasta Fitzroy is portrayed as a young Lieutenant just beginning his adventures. He was the third son of Augustus FitzRoy, Duke of Grafton and former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Serving in or near almost every major naval action of the Napoleonic War(s), FitzRoy’s story is an exciting and interesting tale of adventure, ambition, and promotion.
James Apple Carpenter- Born in Hackney, England 1766 in April. Grew up in a family of Carriage makers and blacksmiths with a moderate shop in the east end. His father, james Appel was born in Hesse and went back to take care of family affairs some time ago. His mother, Barbara Bedwell still manages the shop and has a tendency to be to lenient on collecting payment for finished work. He has a son, Hunter that turned 18 in October of 1814 and since has gone to sea under the name of Nathaniel Bekket. He also has a daughter, Golden Jewel that turned 16 in August of 1814 that has moved with her mother to Chataguey, just outside of Montreal, Quebec. He has a new wife, Lynne, who now keeps his house in Hackney and looks in on his mother in addition to teaching many if the lesser-sorts to read and write at the new Church of St. John.
Nicholas ArmitagePurser- Volunteered to serve aboard 'HMS Acasta' in 1792, with prior experience in London merchant grocer businesses and counting houses, that gave him some skills requisite for a ship's purser. His half-brother William St George, currently serving as a lieutenant on 'HMS Conqueror' (74), and Armitage does have a wife in London ('Georgiana Carr Armitage')'.
Jean Baptiste GirardSurgeon's Mate- A well traveled old Creole who has usually worked in some medical capacity on merchant ships. He has been impressed onto the HMS Acasta, but is not unhappy there. In his time Baptiste has traveled through both the East and West Indies and spent six years among the Igorots of the Spanish Philippines when a Spanish privateer (on which he was a prisoner) was shipwrecked there. During the French revolution a Captain who he admired and respected was guillotined, cementing his philosophy as a Monarchist. His wife Marie is Igrot; she is currently living in Louisiana on the plantation of Messr. Francois Rochambeau. They have young twin boys.
Early in his career Baptiste learned that he could make extra money by collecting curiosities from his travels to sell to educated gentlemen. His non-formal education in natural history and things medical still allows him to believe many superstitions in both fields.
Padraig 'Pogue' Mahone Master's Mate-Padraig Mahone was born just before the French War, in County Mayo, Ireland. At the early age of 16 years, he left his native home. One pleasant evening, in the month of June, from his home he started, on the rocky road to Dublin, to accept a position as Midshipman, aboard the Brig “Adamant” His first “use” of the Sea. He was impressed by the cleverness of compasses and sextants, log lines and lead lines, and his curiosity for such things led him, rather naturally, to the study of Navigation. After some time, the Adamant was written out of service, and sent to the Knacker’s yard, to be broken up. Padraig found himself without a position, so he made his way to the West End of London, and Drury Lane, where his childhood reading of Shakespeare and other playwrights made the Theatre another natural choice. Padraig found work as a Stagehand, working the pinrail, flying set pieces in and out of the fly loft, a task not unlike the working of running rigging, aboard ship. He also developed a fondness for making handprops; the various items used by Actors, in a play.
When the American War broke out, Padraig went back to the Navy, but his years away had stymied his advancement, and so he signed aboard as a Volunteer, until he could demonstrate his knowledge, and eventually earn himself a position as Master’s Mate. Having always had a penchant for making things, Padraig started making much of his own equipment: Log lines, lead lines, traverse board, a quadrant, (to serve until he could afford a second-hand sextant) and such truck. When he was between ships, in a tavern near Annapolis, Maryland, Padraig (who had been left behind, following an injury) found himself singing in the cellar of a tavern, with a pair of fellow Sailors, whose names he didn’t know at the time, but who turned out to be Hollybrass and Apple, the Boatswain and Carpenter for HMS Acasta. As his injury was mostly mended, he took the opportunity to sign on Acasta, before they sailed, a few weeks later, on the strength of his navigational and rigging experience.
John Griswold Ship's Chaplain- The Rev. Mr. John Phinehas Griswold was born August 2, 1755 in the town of Kenilworth, in the [then] Colony of Connecticut. Descended from Edward Griswold of Warwickshire and loyal to the King, John received his formal education in the Colonies during those turbulent years of the rebellion before traveling to England to complete his ordination. Upon taking residence near Warwick, John met and married the radiantly beautiful Miss Agatha W., the younger sister to Lady Caroline Linnington.
After his ordination, it was the prolific writings of the Rev. John Newton, a former sailor, who greatly influenced Griswold’s faith and practice. Newton’s books and letters along with the sermons of Rev. James Ramsay, a former Naval Surgeon, first alerted Griswold to the possibilities of serving in His Majesties Navy as a Chaplin. News of the successes of the Evangelicals in serving in ships under “Blue Light” Captains drove Griswold to actively seek a place to serve. But it was not until Agatha’s tragic death three years ago that Griswold was able to consider fulfilling that call. Preaching at sea seemed a suitable balm for his weary soul, and a salary of 11.8.0 per annum was of no consequence as eternal prospects far outweighed temporal rewards. Rev. Griswold has served onboard HMS Acasta for the past two years.
Nathaniel Beckett Able Seaman- Hailing from St. Katharine Docks in East End of London, came from a poor family and found himself on the streets fending for himself. He found himself one night climbing up the side of Tower Hamlet at the command of a navy man betting him he couldn't reach the top only to take the bet and walk out the side door of the tower sometime later. Young master Beckett completing his task found himself in his cups with the navy man later. After many ill deserved drinks Beckett awoke and found himself sailing away to his new life a crew member of HMS Superb. Some years later Beckett found himself at port and found himself in company of the French Man and Carpenter of HMS Acasta. He has lent his hand ever since.
Charles Winchester Landman- born in 1760 in Dorchester, England. His mother, Anne Marie Bousard was of French Hugenot descent. His father, James Winchester was a farmer and horse trader from Weymouth. Anne died during childbirth giving birth to the couple’s fourth child. Shortly afterwards James was accused and arrested for a horse deal gone wrong. He spent a year in gaol. During this time Charles and his three sisters were sent to Weymouth to live with his aunt Beatrice. In 1770 upon his release from gaol James sold his farm and business giving the money to his sister-in-law and moved to Portsmouth. After a failed business venture there he joined the Royal Navy aboard HMS Antelope in 1772. He never returned.
Charles was sent to Bournemouth to apprentice as a blacksmith. His master, Silas Hartford, was a hard man, being overly fond of gin. Charles was a little too free with his tongue for Silas and the master struck Charles across the face with a bar of pig iron. After less than a year Charles broke his indenture and ran away to Portsmouth and took a job on a fishing vessel. At age seventeen Charles signed on to a coastal trading ship making runs between Portsmouth, Plymouth and Falmouth. At age twenty-two he joined the crew of a mail packet making the run from Portsmouth to Cardiff and Bristol.
In 1787 he married a nineteen year old Bristol girl, Sarah Powels and settled in Bath. Like his father he took up horse trading, also dabbling in farming and sheep. He and Sarah had six children; four daughters and two sons: Elizabeth (b.1789), Rachel (b.1793), Johnathon (b.1795), Sarah (b. 1797), James (b.1799) and Anne (b.1807). In 1800 with the farm failing the family moved to Portsmouth for a year and then to Plymouth.
In April 1802 Charles signed aboard the 18 gun brigantine HMS Imogene on a coastal cruise looking for smugglers. Over the next three years he sailed on several cruises to the Cape of Good Hope and off the coast of Guinea. The ship ran aground and was lost in March 1805, but the entire crew was saved. After this close scrape Charles left the service, returned to Plymouth and took a job aboard a number of coastal trading vessels over the next two years. In 1812 Charles signed aboard a merchant vessel, the Nancy, bound for Barbados. This vessel was captured by the American brig Federal off the coast of the Azores two weeks later. The entire crew was taken captive and were to be taken to France. Charles, along with 32 others, signed aboard to supplement the crew after part of the crew of the Federal went aboard the captured Nancy. En route to Boston one month later the Federal was taken by the HMS Acasta. All British crew members (and a number of Americans) joined the crew of the HMS Acasta. At present Charles is still aboard HMS Acasta and solemnly vows if he ever sets foot on the shores of old England he will never go to sea again!
Nathaniel Johnson Able Seaman-
Sam'l Linden Volunteer 1st Class-
Former ship's boy who was recently promoted to 'Volunteer First Class' and is well on his way to 'Midshipman'.
Noah Thomas Boy-
Ship's boy who is eager for his promotion to Volunteer 1st Class
Mark Thomas Landsman-
One of the newer recruits to join the crew.
Nick Weremeichik Landsman-
One of the newest recruits to join the crew.
Drew Godzik Landsman-
One of the new recruits to join the crew.
The ‘Mail Packet’ is an educational project conducted by the ‘HMS Acasta’ Royal Naval reenactment group. The project began in 2013 and the crew have received hundreds of period letters and packages from all over the world! It’s an awesome educational opportunity, not only for the recipient and the writer, but also for the public that gets to see and share in the experience.
The MAIL PACKET for 2018 will be delivered at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky on the weekend of July 13-15!
People wrote letters for all manner of reasons in the period, business, duty, amusement, love, courtship, marriage, friendship etc.
Imagine all the things you do in your modern life that involve communication, now imagine if it all had to be done with a pen and paper. The people the Acastas portray wrote as a part of their daily lives, because they had to.
A few prompts on what you might write:
A Letter from a friend or colleague back home.
(But none from 'immediate family' if you please. Imagine how awkward it is to get three different letters from women claiming to be your ‘wife’ or ‘mother’.)
A bill or request for payment, they’re not just for your modern mailbox!
An overdue payment of a debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)
Letters should be addressed thusly:
Recipient's Rank and Name
While the sender’s 'return address' was occasionally added, it was not a universal thing like we know on the mail of today.