24 October 2009

A paean to bad penmanship

Note from poet Thomas Bailey Aldrich to zoologist Edward S. Morse:

My dear Morse:

It was very pleasant to receive a letter from you the other day. Perhaps I should have found it pleasanter if I had been able to decipher it. I don’t think I mastered anything beyond the date, which I knew, and the signature, at which I guessed.

There is a singular and perpetual charm in a letter of yours — it never grows old, and it never loses its novelty. One can say every morning, as one looks at it, “Here’s a letter of Morse’s I haven’t read yet. I think I shall take another shy at it to-day, and maybe I shall be able in the course of a few years to make out what he means by those t’s that look like w’s and those i’s that haven’t any eyebrows.”

Other letters are read and thrown away and forgotten, but yours are kept forever–unread. One of them will last a reasonable man a lifetime.

Admiringly yours,

T.B. Aldrich

(Found at the always-interesting Futility Closet)


  1. That's my friend Sally to a tee! I keep begging her to get online so she can type her messages.

  2. Many, many years ago when I began work as a Korean translator for the government, my boss and I, the two senior translators, like many other translators, would hand write our translations which then went to a secretarial pool for typing. We were both regularly called to task by management because of complaints from the typists. Interestingly, my writing in Korean, Japanese, or Chinese is much more legible.


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