Mar 11 2012: A Letter From Peter To Frances, Written In Ink On Blue Paper (c.1970s)

The voice in this letter is that of a boy, Peter, who seems to be writing to a girl, Frances, under some kind of sufferance that his writing is at pains to make clear. From the airily arrogant opening gambit (“I suppose you have been waiting and looking at the front door for letters and one with your pen in but I just haven’t got round to it”) to the seemingly inexhaustible litany of gripes and complaining asides on everything from the weather (“horrid hear”) and price of a stamp (“it cost 7p”) to the indignity of having classes with a student teacher (“he is trying out the job on us – charming isn’t it. He is covered in hair and wears poofy clothes…”) this is the voice of youth in a nutshell: endlessly dissatisfied with what is, at bottom, a pretty comfortable lot, faking a resigned world-weariness with, well, everything. In some ways, it’s almost self-parodic: could a novelist get away with reflecting the authentic blend of pomposity, naivety, self-regard and moaning that make up the early teenage voice found here and not be accused of overdoing the thing? Even so, while part of me can easily imagine Peter today, still writing to his local paper (or the Daily Mail) in a manner not far removed from that seen here, another – more grateful – part knows that he might also have grown out of it soon after sticking that 7p stamp on this particular envelope. Whether Frances wanted anything more to do with him after receiving this will no doubt remain unknown, though I’m sure a novelist could extrapolate an entire future relationship – possibly not excluding marriage, children and an acrimonious divorce – from the few clues found in these two handwritten pages.

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