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IN so far as the perfection of materials for
writing, and the facility of means for sending
letters are concerned, we may have little more
to hope for in this country. Our paper and
ink are materials so perfectly adapted for
their purpose, that it is difficult to imagine in
what way they can be substantially bettered
by inventors that shall be hereafter. Quill
pens, to be sure, have to be superseded; but
in order that this their destiny may be accomplished,
steel or metallic pens have to be
very much improved. They are improving
steadily. In the matter of transmission,
though there is scarcely a grander civil institution
in the world than our English postal
system, we dare still rely upon the march of
science for increased rapidity of transit; and,
consequently, increased frequency of communication.
Letters will hereafter be absolutely
sent more rapidly from hand to hand,
and, what is more immediately practicable,
the powers of the electric telegraph, from
being a rare luxury, have to become vulgarised
and pressed into service for the important
correspondence of the million. Then,
too, we may have, some of these days, that is
to say, in " the good time coming," an ocean
penny post.

It is a terrible thing, however, to remember
that while paper, pens, and ink are placed in
such a perfect state beside the fingers of the
people; while the national resources offer to
every man incredible facility for the transmission
of his bit of mind to a distance when
he has written it, yet millions among us
cannot grapple with a pen, and are but dimly
conscious even that they have a bit of mind
wherefrom they could indite a letter. It is
as bad with them as it was with the whole
world thousands of years ago, in those very
prime Old Times which are laid up in Bin.
No. 1 of History.

We should respect those little scraps which
men who have been educated to the handling
of a pen are daily sending abroad, and receiving
from the hands of postmenin London
hourlyat their doors; we should respect
those little scraps which are called letters, if
they were not so thoroughly familiar that we
can scarcely conjure up a notion of the
difficult and slow degrees through which the
power of thus speaking to the absent was
attained by man. It is a marvel of art, which
has become, like nature's marvels, part of our
daily life; a thing that seems almost more
necessary to us, in a civilised condition, than
our legs, though, by-the-by, if the whole
community were legless, we should soon find
out that what can be dispensed with by an
individual, may nevertheless be essential to
a race. Few of us, then, can even by an
effort abstract in our minds the art of letter-writing
from all its familiar relations, so as
to obtain a full sense of its being marvellous.
Let us help the imagination by an anecdote.
In the Brazils, a slave was sent once by a gentleman
to his friend with a basket of figs and
a letter. The bearer was of course illiterate
for those who enslave the bodies of men,
make it a rule to keep the light of the contained
mind from being kindled. The slave
liked figs, and ate a number of them, but his
theft was detected when he reached his destination,
because the accompanying letter told
exactly what the basket should contain. The
thief was greatly puzzled to conceive by what
spell the letter was enabled to tell tales about
him; but the next time he went with fruit,
and his mouth watered for a share of it, he
determined that the paper should not tattle;
so he put it underneath a large stone, and then
sat upon the stone; there he was safe against
the spy, and having taken his refreshment, he
released the letter and completed the remainder
of his duty. To his dismay, again
the talisman testified against him, and brought
down the whip upon his back. Now, let us
go back and briefly trace the origin of this
tale-bearing invention; let us inquire what
were the first letters like, and who were the
first of the Letter-writers?

Let us take a voyage to some far isle in the
Pacific Ocean, where the savages are perfectly
untutored. They may resemble civilised men
as they were in the best or oldest of Old
Times. Do they write letters to each other?
Not exactly, but they write. The first writing
is never private and confidential; it is a
"Know all men by these presents," scratched
upon some rock. These men have minds yet
utterly uncultivated; they cannot advance far
in cultivation, for no written records give to
their present the vantage ground of a true