Friday, 17 July 2015

Correspondence Blog

When my late Uncle Stephen died, he left behind a number of old books. Dusty volumes, torn and battered, some might have thought beyond redemption. One of these volumes was called the Boy's Own Paper Annual and it was a collection of 52 brief journals running from October, 1886, through to September, 1887, (I have since bought several further albums).

As the title implied, the papers were aimed at male youths, and the articles covered such topics as Castles of England, Cricket, Arctic Experiences, and Talking Birds.

Alongside non-fiction were short stories and serials by some of the best adventure writers of the time; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Wilkie Collins, etc. Regular features were prominent with competitions, a monthly calendar of events, and the opportunity for boys and young men to write with queries to the editors and contributors. 

I suppose I have always enjoyed letters or correspondence sections in magazines and newspapers. Often flicking to the pages, usually near the back or front of a publication, where real people have revealed something of themselves in writing to the editors. 

This Correspondence section was intriguing. It contained replies from the editors but did not print the boys' original questions leaving one often guessing what the query was about. Curious, I flicked through the large tome, stopping at these Correspondence pages and remarking how varied and eclectic the interests of the Victorian boy were. 

Many replies dealt with hobbies and collections, or the keeping of pets. Some replies were rude and abrupt, others helpful and informative. Subjects ranged from emigration and employment to taxidermy and etiquette (not, I hasten to add, simultaneously). 

As a taster for this blog I shall begin with the reply that grabbed my attention and led me to write this book. Incidentally it begins with the initials of the young chap who had made an obscure and probably disturbing query:- 

A. B. A. - Banish madness from your mind and leave the dog alone. 

As with the rest of this blog, I shall leave you to be the judge.

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