This volume of ten essays discusses the pivotal role that letters have played in social, economic and political history from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The recent scholarly interest in the history of reading has as yet yielded few studies which consider letters as a category of readable material. The contributors to this book seek to redress this oversight, viewing letters as texts which can reveal information, not only about their writers and readers, but about the wider historical context in which they were written. Topics covered include the mercantile letter, diplomatic correspondence, and what these epistolary forms suggest about the rise of a polite, literate culture in the eighteenth century; the experience of immigration from Europe to America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the relationship through the letter; and the working of gender in the epistolary form. Rebecca Earle provides an overview of how the study of letter-writing can open up new avenues of historical as well as literary investigation. This, together with contributions form leading international scholars, makes Epistolary Selves an essential text for those researching the letter genre.
Contents: Introduction: Letters, writers and the historian, Rebecca Earle; Part One: The Letter Collection: ’Paper Visits’: The post-restoration letter as seen through the Verney Archive, Susan Whyman; The immigrant letter between positivism and populism: American historians’ uses of personal correspondence, David Gerber; Part Two: Letters, the Family and Public Life: Formative ventures: eighteenth-century commercial letters and the articulation of experience, Toby Ditz; The Sentimental Ambassador: The letters of George Bogle from Bengal, Bhutan and Tibet, 1770-1781, Kate Teltscher; Letters, social networks and the embedded economy in Sweden: some remarks on the Swedish bourgeoisie, 1800-1850, Ylva Hasselberg; Part Three: Women and the Letter Form: A woman writing a letter, Carolyn Steedman; The power to die: Emily Dickinson’s letters of consolation, Daria Donnelly; ’You let a weeping woman call you home?’: Private correspondence during the first world war in Austria and Germany, Christine HÃ¤mmerle; ’Letters are everything these days’: Mothers and letters in the second world war, Jenny Hartley; Bibliography; Index.