“the use of the post-office is in her own hands” – Anthony Trollope, Pillar Boxes, and Love Letters


Anthony Trollope invented the pillar-box, and then regretted it. That’s one of those facts which has been at the back of my mental library for a while: I couldn’t quite remember where I’d read it.  But, like Browning and his dictionary, or Tennyson and his pint of cream, it’s one of the little vignettes which popped up whenever I was thinking about nineteenth-century literature.

pillar box

He regretted it, goes the story, because it allowed young women to correspond with men without having to take the letter to a male relative to have it franked and sent by post. Like the railway which enabled Lady Audley to get up to all sorts of dastardly things and be back in time to look innocent, it was a technological advance which threatened a particular moral framework.  My tutor used to say you didn’t understand nineteenth-century literature and mentality properly until you’d thought long and…

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