Much of the talk recently among auctioneers and dealers has been about online activity replacing traditional methods of selling. The discussion brings to mind how, over the past 20 years or so, the email has replaced the letter. It’s quick, convenient and effective for business, but it also means that the only correspondence that hits the doormat these days are bills (those not arriving electronically, anyway), flyers for pizza restaurants and promotional leaflets for everything from fun days out to funerals.
I pity the young who have never experienced the thrill of a hand-written envelope with their name on it popping through the letterbox. It also means that we are quickly losing that window on the soul that has helped us understand the thoughts and feelings of the notable and notorious over the years.
Two letters coming to auction in the past week or so remind us of this. The first is a poignant note from 1991 addressed by Princess Diana to a friend, in which she muses on what the next ten years will bring – a haunting thought as she was only to live for another six years.
The other is really exceptional, a thankyou letter from the newly crowned King George VI to his speech therapist, Lionel Logue (remember the film!) in which he expresses his undying debt to Logue for helping him get through the Coronation. Accompanied by the gift of a cigarette case, it sold for £76,000.
Emails may be convenient, but they aren’t everything.