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Mary?

July 9, 2009 The Letters 2 Comments

I have now carefully read twelve years of correspondence between Mrs. Greg and Manchester City Art Gallery staff and I have enjoyed the formal and polite language that they use. It is so much of its day, and you can tell instantly from the phrasing, as well as the layout and typography that these letters could not possibly have been written now… This extends to what they call each other. It is never Mary, or William – but always Mrs. Greg and Mr. Batho. She even signs herself M.Greg, never Mary…

Maybe we should rename the site!?

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  1. quite contrary says:

    I noticed that Miles (the Curator at Platt) always calls her Mrs Greg in a very reverend sort of a way. But I prefer Mary as I feel I know her quite well now. More intimate. Although I suppose it's that thing of being allowed/invited to call your friends' parents by their first names for the first time – it always feels a bit awkward. Even now there are lots of people who I still call Mr and Mrs so and so. Bygone ages.

  2. lizmitch says:

    Yes, the language and idiom they use is wonderful. I especially like their polite enquiries about each other's health and holidays – it gets increasingly intimate despite the formality of the language. And signing your letters 'believe me' is delightful. To modern ears it sounds like an expression of heartfelt sincerity, though more likely simply a well-used convention of the time.

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