From Roger Angell:
Letters aren’t exactly going away. Condolence letters can’t be sent out from our laptops, and maybe not love letters, either, because e-mail is so leaky. Secrets—an expected baby, a lowdown joke, a killer piece of gossip—require a stamp and a sealed flap, and perhaps apologies do as well (“I don’t know what came over me”). Not much else. E-mail is cheap, and the message is done and delivered almost as quickly as the thought of it. The sense that something’s been lost can produce the glimmering notion that overnight mail itself must have been a sign of thrilling modernity once. The penny post (with its stamps and its uniform rates) arrived in the United Kingdom in 1840, and in the decade that followed Anthony Trollope, a postal inspector, was travelling all over Ireland on the swift new express trains and persistent locals, to make sure that every letter, wherever bound, was actually being delivered the next day. On those same trains, he sat and wrote novels, and in the novels dukes and barristers and young M.P.s and wary heiresses and country doctors were writing letters that moved the plot along or reversed it or tilted it in some way. The restless energy of Victorian times, there and here at home, demanded fresh news and lots of it. I myself can recall the four-o’clock-in-the-afternoon arrival of the second mail of the day at our house when I was a boy, and the resultant changes of evening plans.