+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

coloured letters was able to trace them
through every stage, till they were tied up
ready to be ' bagged,' and sent away. While
thus employed, his companion made the
following observations:—

In an opposite side of the enormous apartment,
a good space and a few officials are
devoted to repairing the carelessness of the
public, which isin amount and extent
scarcely credible. Upon an average, 300
letters per day pass through the General
Post-Office totally unfastened; chiefly in
consequence of the use of what stationers are
pleased to call ' adhesive ' envelopes. Many
are virgin ones, without either seal or
direction; and not a few contain money.
In Sir Francis Freeling's time, the sum of
5000l. in Bank notes was found in a ' blank.'
It was not till after some trouble that the
sender was traced, and the cash restored to
him. Not long since, an humble post-mistress
of an obscure Welch post-town, unable to
decipher the address on a letter, perceived, on
examining it, the folds of several Bank notes
protruding from a torn edge of the envelope.
She securely re-enclosed it to the secretary of
the Post-Office in St. Martin's-le-Grand; who
found the contents to be 1500l., and the
superscription too much even for the hieroglyphic
powers of the 'blind clerk.' Eventually the
enclosures found their true destination.

It is estimated that there lies, from time to
time, in the Dead-Letter Office, undergoing
the process of finding owners, some 11,000l.
annually, in cash alone. In July, 1847, for
instanceonly a two months' accumulation
the post-haste of 4658 letters, all containing
property, was arrested by the bad super-
scriptions of the writers. They were
consignedafter a searching inquest upon each by
that efficient coroner, the 'blind clerk'to the
Post-Office Morgue. There were Bank notes
of the value of 1010l., and money-orders for
407l. 12s. But most of these ill-directed letters
contained coin in small sums, amounting to
310l., 9s. 7d. On the 17th of July, 1847, there
were lying in the Dead-Letter Office bills of
Exchange for the immense sum of 40,410l.
5s. 7d.

'I assure you,' said a gentleman high in this
department, ' it is scarcely possible to take up
a handful of letters without finding one with
coin in it, despite the facilities afforded by the
money-order system. All this is very distressing
to us. The temptation it throws in the way
of sorters, carriers, and other humble employés
is greater than they ought to be subjected to.
Seventy men have been discharged for
dishonesty from the District Office alone during
the past two years.'

' But the public do use the Money-Order
Office extensively? '

This question was startlingly answered by
reference to a Parliamentary Return which
showed that there were issued and paid in
England and Wales alone, during the year
which ended on the 5th of January, 1849,

6,852,911 Post-office orders for sums amounting
to the enormous aggregate of 13,678,3 7 7 l.
3s. 1d.

Taking up a thin card-board box of artificial
flowers, which had been shaken into the
form of an irregular rhomboid, under the
pressure of several pounds' weight of letters
and newspapers, a ' sub-president ' remarked
' The faith the public have in us is
extraordinary. Here is an article which is designed
to go safely to Dublin; yet not one single
precaution, except this thin piece of twine, is
taken by the sender to ensure its preservation.
Here, again, is a pair of white satin shoes, fast
losing their colour from friction with damp
newspapers and the edges of books. The
other day the toe of a similar packet protruded
from its very thin casing, and the stamper
not being able to stop his hand in time,
ornamented it, in vividly blue ink, with the words,
"York, Feb. 1, 1850, D." You will see by this
Parliamentary Return of the articles found
in the Dead-Letter Office what curious things
are trusted to our care.'

The obliging gentleman then produced the
document. Its lists showed, amongst other
articles,—tooth-picks, tooth-files, fishing-flies,
an eye-glass, brad-awls, portraits, miniatures,
a whistle, corkscrews, a silver watch, a pair of
spurs, a bridle, a soldier's discharge and sailors'
register tickets, samples of hops and corn, a
Greek MS., silver spoons, gold thread, dinner,
theatre, and pawn tickets, boxes of pills, shirts,
night-caps, razors, all sorts of knitting and
lace, 'doll's things,' and a vast variety of
other articles, that would puzzle ingenuity to

' Besides carelessness we have to contend
against ignorance,' was remarked as the
visitors were introduced to the 'blind' table, and
to the hawk-eyed gentleman who presides at it.
'He is provided, you perceive, with a small
library of local and general Directories, Court
Guides, Army, Navy, and Clergy Lists; and
much he needs them, as will be seen by these
fac-similes.' Several transcripts of curiously
addressed letters were then produced. ' Where
would you or I have sent a letter


certainly not to its proper destination, which
turned out to be the " Amphitrite," Valparaiso,
or elsewhere? Who but our friend
here would have found out that another boy