Here is the second in the series "Forms of Address" and
the positing, originally sent to VICTORIA, is my own. Again I
urge my fellow Dickensians to join in.
From Patrick McCarthy
I was interested in what Patrick Leary spotted as
standard variations on Victorian conventions in addressing one's
correspondents and what they could do for the people involved.
He also asks when it was that the conventions began to change.
At first I thought it might be useful to look at the special
variations rung in by famous writers as providing a clue to
the question. It is true enough that the variations are a means
of showing the regard in which the addressee is held, but the
standard remains intact.
Dickens and Thackeray, both careful observers of the standard,
shape their salutations to the addressees. Dickens addressed most of his
male friends by their surnames, the notable exception being Mark Lemon, who went
from "Dear Lemon" to "Dear Mark" in 1851 and remained "Mark" until the two
men quarreled after Dickens's separation from his wife. Of course he
varied other personal addresses: Clarkson Stanfield, the artist,
went from "Stanfield" to "Stanny," though in a letter from Italy
he was "Carissimo Amico Mio!" And Macready became after his
retirement "My dearest Macready."
Thackeray's antennae are as sensitive as CD's and at times
playful. Like Dickens, he addresses the quarrelsome John Forster
as "Forster" but writes of him as "Jack," and though he varies
his friendly salutations to his friends the Rev. and Mrs. Brook-
field, the borders are clearly demarcated. With girls he
gave playfulness longest rein, freely using their first names, in
one instance at least when the "girl" was a young woman of seventeen.
But we could multiply instances of this kind endlessly.
Patrick Leary has noted that the Bloomsbury group agreed to call
one another by their first names, but Oscar Wilde, somewhat
before them, seems to have done so for a variety of correspon-
dents. Naturally, for each individual special considerations
entered, usually inflected by jaunty spirits. Whitman, whom he
had met three months earlier and was famous and considerably his
senior, he addressed as "My dear dear Walt."
D. H. Lawrence (an interesting case as regards class)
addressed "Katherine" (Mansfield), "E.M." (Forster) and
"Ottoline" (Lady Ottoline Morrell), but does not (in the H. T.
Moore collection) address Bertrand Russell by his first name.
Not surprisingly, Lawrence addresses him as "My dear Russell" as
he launches into one of his most excoriating attacks.
But Patrick Leary asks about when the norms began to change,
and I now think it fatally easy to find instances of variations in
the letters of artists and creative writers and from them to
conclude that the norm is changing. Whose letters should we look at?
The norms are middle-class, are they not, so would not the private cor-
respondence of, say, politicians and medical doctors and lawyers
be the best indices to change?
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