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NOTE. It is of melancholy interest that Mr Fawcett's death 
occurred within a month from the date on which he accepted 
the following Dedication, and before the issue of the Work. 







THE favour with which 'The Eoyal Mail' has 
been received by the public, as evinced by the 
rapid sale of the first issue, has induced the Author 
to arrange for the publication of a second edition. 
This edition has been revised and slightly enlarged ; 
the new matter consisting of two additional illus- 
trations, contributions to the chapters on " Mail 
Packets," " How Letters are Lost," and " Singular 
Coincidences," and a fresh chapter on the subject 
of Postmasters. 

The Author ventures to hope that the generous 
appreciation which has been accorded to the first 
edition may be extended to the work in its revised 

EDINBURGH, June 1885. 


OF all institutions of modern times, there is, 
perhaps, none so pre - eminently a people's 
institution as is the Post-office. Not only does it 
carry letters and newspapers everywhere, both within 
and without the kingdom, but it is the transmitter 
of messages by telegraph, a vast banker for the 
savings of the working classes, an insurer of lives, 
a carrier of parcels, and a distributor of various 
kinds of Government licences. Its services are 
claimed exclusively or mainly by no one class ; the 
rich, the poor, the educated, and the illiterate, and, 
indeed, the young as well as the old, all have 
dealings with the Post-office. Yet it may seem 
strange that an institution which is familiar by its 
operations to all classes alike, should be so little 
known by its internal management and organisation. 
A few persons, no doubt, have been privileged to 
see the interior working of some important Post- 


office, but it is the bare truth, to say that the people 
know nothing of what goes on within the doors of 
that ubiquitous establishment. When it is remem- 
bered that the metropolitan offices of London, Edin- 
burgh, and Dublin have to maintain touch with 
every petty office and every one of their servants 
scattered throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland ; 
that discipline has to be exercised everywhere ; that 
a system of accounting must necessarily be main- 
tained, reaching to the remotest corners ; and that 
the whole threads have to be gathered up and 
made answerable to the great head, which is Lon- 
don, some vague idea may be formed of what must 
come within the view of whoever pretends to a 
knowledge of Post - office work. But intimately 
connected with that which was the original work of 
the Post-office, and is still the main work the con- 
veyance of letters there is the subject of circula- 
tion, the simple yet complex scheme under which 
letters flow from each individual centre to every 
other part of the country. Circulation as a system 
is the outcome of planning, devising, and scheming 
by many heads during a long series of years its 
object, of course, being to bring letters to their 
destinations in the shortest possible time. So intri- 
cate and delicate is the fabric, that by interference 
an unskilled hand could not fail to produce an 


effect upon the structure analogous to that which 
would certainly follow any rude treatment applied 
to a house built of cards. 

These various subjects, especially when they have 
become settled into the routine state, might be con- 
sidered as affording a poor soil for the growth of 
anything of interest that is, of curious interest 
apart from that which duty calls upon a man to 
find in his proper work. Yet the Post-office is not 
without its veins of humour, though the metal to be 
extracted may perhaps be scanty as compared with 
the vast extent of the mine from which it has to 
be taken. 

The compiler of the following pages has held an 
appointment in the Post-office for a period of twenty- 
five years the best, perhaps, of his life ; and during 
that term it has been his practice to note and 
collect facts connected with the Department when- 
ever they appeared of a curious, interesting, or 
amusing character. While making use of such 
notes in connection with this work, he has had 
recourse to the Post-office Annual Reports, to old 
official documents, to books on various subjects, and 
to newspapers, all of which have been laid under 
contribution to furnish material for these pages. 

The work is in no sense a historical work : it 
deals with the lighter features of a plain, matter-of- 


fact department ; and though some of the incidents 
mentioned may be deemed of trivial account, they 
will be found, it is thought, to have at least a 
curious or amusing side. 

The author desires to mention that he has re- 
ceived valuable help from several of his brother 
officers, who have supplied him with facts or anec- 
dotes ; and to these, as well as to gentlemen who 
have lent him books or given him access to files of 
old newspapers, he expresses his grateful acknow- 
ledgments. He also tenders his sincere and re- 
spectful thanks to the Postmaster - General for 
permission granted to make extracts from official 

The Post-office renders an unpretending yet most 
important service to commerce and to society ; and 
it will be a source of deep gratification to the author 
if what he has written should inspire in the reader a 
new and unexpected interest in " the hundred-handed 
giant who keeps up the intercourse between the 
different parts of the country, and wafts a sigh from 
Indus to the Pole." 

NOTE. The Author will be glad to be furnished with any curious 
facts or anecdotes relating to the Post-office, either from his brother 
officers or the public, for use in the event of further editions being 
called for. 



I. OLD ROADS, .... 1 

II. POSTBOYS, . . , . . .14 


IV. FOOT-POSTS, . . . . . .76 

V. MAIL-PACKETS, . , . . . .85 

VI. SHIPWRECKED MAILS, . , . . .100 

VII. AMOUNT OF WORK, . . . .103 







PETTY FRAUDS, . . . . . .175 


OFFICE, . .' 313 




XXIII. VARIOUS, ....... 355 

XXV. RED TAPE, ....... 387 




(From an old Print,) .... To face p. 52 

BURY 27TH DEC. 1836. (From an old 
Print,) . . . , . . . . it i, 54 




IS SUSPENDED, . . . . 152 

STRANGE ADDRESSES, . . . . . n 197-209 






fTIHE present generation, who are accustomed to 
-*- see the streets of our cities paved with wood 
or stone, or otherwise so laid out as to provide a 
hard and even surface suited to the locomotion of 
wheeled vehicles, or who by business or pleasure 
have been led to journey over the principal high- 
ways intersecting the kingdom in every direction, 
can form no idea of the state of the roads in this 
country during the earlier years of the Post-office 
or even in times comparatively recent unless 
their reading has led them to the perusal of ac- 
counts written by travellers of the periods we now 
refer to. The highways of the present day, radiat- 
ing from London and the other large centres of in- 


dustry, and extending their arms to every corner of 
the land, are wellnigh perfect in their kind, and 
present a picture of careful and efficient mainten- 
ance. Whether we look, for example, at the great 
north road leading from London, the Carlisle to 
Glasgow road, or the Highland road passing through 
Dunkeld, we find the roads have certain features 
in common : a broad hard roadway for vehicles ; a 
neatly kept footpath where required ; limits strictly 
defined by trim hedges, stone walls, or palings ; and 
means provided for carrying off surface-water. The 
picture will, of course, vary as the traveller proceeds, 
flat country alternating with undulating country, and 
wood or moorland with cultivated fields ; but the 
chief characteristics remain the same, constituting 
the roads as worthy of the age we live in. 

How the people managed to get from place to 
place before the Post-office had a history, or indeed 
for long after the birth of that institution, it is hard 
to conceive. Then, the roads were little better than 
tracks worn out of the surface of the virgin land, 
proceeding in some cases in a manner approaching to a 
right line, over hills, down valleys, through forests and 
the like ; in others following the natural features of 
the country, but giving evidence that they had never 
been systematically made, being rather the outcome 
of a mere habit of travel, just as sheep-tracks are 


produced on a mountain-side. Such roads in winter 
weather, or in rainy seasons, became terrible to the 
traveller: yet the. only repairs that were vouchsafed 
consisted in filling up some of the larger holes with 
rude stones ; and when this method of keeping up 
repairs no longer availed, another track was formed 
by bringing under foot a fresh strip of the adjoining 
land (generally unenclosed), and thus creating a 
wholly new road in place of the old one. Smiles 
in his ' Lives of the Engineers ' thus describes certain 
of the English roads : " In some of the older settled 
districts of England, the old roads are still to be 
traced in the hollow ways or lanes, which are met 
with, in some places, eight and ten feet deep. Horse- 
tracks in summer and rivulets in winter, the earth 
became gradually worn into these deep furrows, 
many of which, in Wilts, Somerset, and Devon, repre- 
sent the tracks of roads as old as, if not older than, 
the Conquest." And again : " Similar roads existed 
until recently in the immediate neighbourhood of 
Birmingham, long the centre of considerable traffic. 
The sandy soil was sawn through, as it were, by 
generation after generation of human feet, and by 
pack-horses, helped by the rains, until in some 
places the tracks were as much as from twelve to 
fourteen yards deep." In the year 1690, Chancellor 
Cowper, who was then a barrister on circuit, thus 


wrote to his wife : " The Sussex ways are bad and 
ruinous beyond imagination. I vow 'tis melancholy 
consideration that mankind will inhabit such a heap 
of dirt for a poor livelihood. The country is a sink 
of about fourteen miles broad, which receives all 
the water that falls from two long ranges of hills 
on both sides of it, and not being furnished with 
convenient draining, is kept moist and soft by the 
water till the middle of a dry summer, which is only 
able to make it tolerable to ride for a short time." 

In Scotland, about the same time, the roads were 
no better. The first four miles out of Edinburgh, 
on the road towards London, were described in the 
Privy Council Eecord of 1680 to have been in so 
wretched a state that passengers were in danger of 
their lives, " either by their coaches overturning, 
their horse falling, their carts breaking, their loads 
casting and horse stumbling, the poor people with 
the burdens on their backs sorely grieved and 
discouraged ; moreover, strangers do often exclaim 
thereat." Nor does there appear to have been any 
considerable improvement in the state of the roads 
in the northern kingdom for long afterwards, as we 
find that in 1750, according to Lang's 'Historical 
Summary of the Post-office in Scotland,' " the chan- 
nel of the river Gala, which ran for some distance 
parallel with the road, was, when not flooded, the 


track chosen as the most level and the easiest to 
travel in." The common carrier from Edinburgh to 
Selkirk, a distance of thirty-eight miles, required a 
fortnight for the journey, going and returning ; and 
the stage-coach from Edinburgh to Glasgow took a 
day and a half for the journey. A Yorkshire squire, 
Thomas Kirke, who travelled in Scotland in 1679, 
gave a better account of the roads ; but his opinion 
may have been merely relative, for travelling show- 
men to this day prefer the roads in the south of 
Scotland to those in the north of England, on ac- 
count of their greater hardness ; and this derives, no 
doubt, from the more adamantine material used in 
the repair of the Scotch roads. This traveller wrote : 
" The highways in Scotland are tolerably good, 
which is the greatest comfort a traveller meets with 
amongst them. The Scotch gentry generally travel 
from one friend's house to another ; so seldom require 
a change-house (inn). Their way is to hire a horse 
and a man for twopence a mile ; they ride on the 
horse thirty or forty miles a-day, and the man 
who is his guide foots it beside him, and carries 
his luggage to boot." Another visitor to Scotland in 
1702, named Morer, thus describes the roads: "The 
truth is, the roads will hardly allow these conve- 
niences " (meaning stage-coaches, which did not as 
yet exist in Scotland), " which is the reason that the 


gentry, men and women, choose rather to use their 
horses. However, their great men often travel with 
coach-and-six, but with so little caution, that, besides 
their other attendance, they have a lusty running- 
footman on each side of the coach, to manage and 
keep it up in rough places." 1 It might be supposed 
that the roads leading from Windsor, where one of 
the royal residences was, would have been kept in a 
tolerable state, so as to secure the sovereign some 
comfort in travelling. But their condition seems to 
have been no better than that of roads elsewhere. 
An account of a journey made in 1703 by Prince 
George of Denmark, the husband of Queen Anne, 
from Windsor to Petworth, runs as follows : 

" The length of way was only forty miles, but 
fourteen hours were consumed in traversing it ; 
while almost every mile was signalised by the over- 
turn of a carriage, or its temporary swamping in 
the mire. Even the royal chariot would have fared 

1 In the north of Scotland a similar account was given of the 
roads there about the year 1730. The writer of ' Letters from a 
Gentleman in the North of Scotland ' stated that "the Highlands 
are but little known even to the inhabitants of the low country of 
Scotland, for they have ever dreaded the difficulties and dangers of 
travelling among the mountains ; and when some extraordinary 
occasion has obliged any one of them to such a progress, he has, 
generally speaking, made his testament before he set out, as though 
he were entering upon a long and dangerous sea-voyage, wherein it 
was very doubtful if he should ever return." 


no better than the rest had it not been for the relays 
of peasants who poised and kept it erect by strength 
of arm, and shouldered it forward the last nine miles, 
in which tedious operation six good hours were con- 

Yet later still, and in close proximity to London, 
a royal party had a most unsatisfactory journey, 
owing to the miserable state of the roads. It hap- 
pened that in 1*727 George II. arid Queen Caroline 
were proceeding from the palace at Kew to that at 
St James's, when they had to spend a whole night 
upon the way ; and between Hammersmith and Ful- 
ham they were overturned, the royal occupants of 
the coach being landed in a quagmire. A year or 
two after this, Lord Hervey wrote that " the road 
between this place [Kensington] and London is grown 
so infamously bad, that we live here in the same 
solitude as we would do if cast on a rock in the 
middle of the ocean ; and all the Londoners tell us 
that there is between them and us an impassable 
gulf of mud." 

N"o part of the country could boast of a satisfac- 
tory condition of the roads, these being everywhere 
in the same neglected and wretched state, and tra- 
vellers who had the misfortune to use them have 
recorded their ideas on the subject in no gentle 
terms. Arthur Young, who travelled much in the 


middle of last century, thus alludes to a road in 
Essex : " Of all the cursed roads that ever disgraced 
this kingdom in the very ages of barbarism, none 
ever equalled that from Billericay to the King's 
Head at Tilbury. It is for near twelve miles so 
narrow that a mouse cannot pass by any carriage. 
I saw a fellow creep under his waggon to assist me 
to lift, if possible, my chaise over a hedge. To add 
to all the infamous circumstances which concur to 
plague a traveller, I must not forget the eternally 
meeting with chalk-waggons, themselves frequently 
stuck fast, till a collection of them are in the same 
situation, and twenty or thirty horses may be tacked 
to each to draw them out one by one." In a some- 
what similar way he describes the road from Bury 
to Sudbury in Suffolk. Here, he says, " I was 
forced to move as slow in it as in any unmended 
lane in Wales. For ponds of liquid dirt, and a 
scattering of loose flints just sufficient to lame every 
horse that moves near them, with the addition of 
cutting vile grips across the road under the pretence 
of letting the water off, but without effect, altogether 
render at least twelve out of these sixteen miles as 
infamous a turnpike as ever was beheld." In one 
of his journeys, Young proceeded to the north by the 
great north road, thence making branch trips to the 
various agricultural districts. Of many of these 


roads he gives a sorry account. Thus : " To Wake- 
field, indifferent ; through the town of Wakefield so 
bad that it ought to be indicted. To Castle Howard, 
infamous ; I was near being swallowed up in a 
slough. From Newton to Stokesley in Cleveland, 
execrably bad. You are obliged to cross the moors 
they call Black Harnbledon, over which the road 
runs in narrow hollows that admit a south-country 
chaise with such difficulty, that I reckon this part 
of the journey made at the hazard of my neck. 
The going down into Cleveland is beyond all descrip- 
tion terrible; for you go through such steep, rough, 
narrow, rocky precipices, that I would sincerely ad- 
vise any friend to go a hundred miles to escape it. 
The name of this path is very judicious, Scarthneck 
that is, Scare-Nick, or frighten the devil. 

" From Eichmond to Darlington, part of the great 
north road ; execrably broke into holes like an old 
pavement, sufficient to dislocate one's bones." 

" To Morpeth ; a pavement a mile or two out of 
Newcastle ; all the rest vile. 

" To Carlisle ; cut up by innumerable little paltry 
one-horse carts." 

One more instance from the pen of Young and we 
leave him. In the course of one of his journeys, he 
makes his way into Wales, where he finds his b&e 
noire in the roads, and freely expresses himself there- 


upon in his usual forcible style : " But, my dear 
sir, what am I to say of the roads in this country ? 
the turnpikes, as they have the assurance to call 
them, and the hardiness to make one pay for ? From 
Chepstow . to the half-way house between Newport 
and Cardiff they continue mere rocky lanes, full of 
hugeous stones as big as one's horse, and abominable 
holes. The first six miles from Newport they were 
so detestable, and without either direction-posts or 
milestones, that I could not well persuade myself 
I was on the turnpike, but had mistook the road, 
and therefore asked every one I met, who answered 
me to my astonishment, ' Ya-as.' Whatever business 
carries you into this country, avoid it, at least till 
they have good roads ; if they were good, travelling 
would be very pleasant." 

The necessity for a better class of road cannot 
but have forced itself upon the Government of the 
country from time to time, if not for the benefit of 
travellers and to encourage trade, at any rate to 
secure a rapid movement of troops in times of dis- 
turbance or rebellion ; yet we find the state of streets 
in the metropolis, and roads in the country, as in 
1750, thus described in Blackie's 'Comprehensive 
History of England ' : " When the only public 
approaches to Parliament were King Street and 
Union Street, these were so wretchedly paved, that 


when the King went in state to the House, the ruts 
had to be filled up with bundles of fagots to allow 
the royal coach a safe transit. While the art of 
street-paving was thus so imperfect, that of road- 
making was equally defective, so that the country 
visitor to the metropolis, and its dangers of coach - 
driving, had generally a sufficient preparative for 
the worst during his journey to town. This may 
easily be understood from the fact that, so late as 
1754, few turnpikes were to be seen, after leaving 
the vicinity of London, for 200 miles together, 
although it had been made felony to pull them 
down. These roads, indeed, were merely the pro- 
duce of compulsory pauper labour, contributed by 
the different parishes ; and, like all such work, it 
was performed in a very perfunctory manner." 

The same authority gives a further picture of the 
state of the highways some twenty years later, when 
apparently little improvement had taken place in 
their condition : " Notwithstanding the numerous 
Acts of Parliament, of which no less than 452 were 
emitted between the years 1760 and 1764, for the 
improvement of the principal highways, they still 
continued narrow, darkened with trees, and inter- 
sected with ruts and miry swamps, through which 
the progress of a waggon was a work of difficulty 
and danger. One of these the turnpike road from 


Preston to Wigan is thus described by an angry 
tourist in 1770, and the picture seems to have been 
too generally realised over the whole kingdom : " To 
look over a map, and perceive that it is a principal 
one, not only to some towns, but even whole counties, 
one would naturally conclude it to be at least decent ; 
but let me most seriously caution all travellers who 
may accidentally purpose to travel this terrible 
country, to avoid it as they would the devil ; for 
a thousand to one but they break their necks or 
their limbs by overthrows or breakings down. They 
will here meet with ruts, which I actually measured, 
four feet deep, and floating with mud only from a 
wet summer ; what, therefore, must they be after 
a winter ? The only mending it receives is the 
tumbling in some loose stones, which serve no other 
purpose but jolting a carriage in the most intolerable 
manner. These are not merely opinions, but facts ; 
for I actually passed three carts broken down in 
these eighteen miles, of execrable memory." 

Obvious as it must be to every mind capable of 
apprehending ordinary matters in the present day, 
that the opening up of the country by the laying 
down of good roads would encourage trade, promote 
social intercourse, knit together the whole kingdom, 
and render its government the more easy and effec- 
tive ; yet it is a fact that the improvement of the 


roads in various parts of the country, both in Eng- 
land and Scotland, was stoutly opposed by the 
people, even in certain places entailing riot and 
bloodshed. So strong were the prejudices against 
the improved roads, that the country people would 
not use them after being made. This bias may 
perhaps have partaken largely of that unreasoning 
conservatism which is always prone to pronounce 
that that which is is best, and opposes change on 
principle an example of which is afforded by the 
conduct of the driver of the Marlborough coach, 
who, when the new Bath road was opened, obsti- 
nately refused to travel by it, and stuck to the old 
waggon-track. " He was an old man," he said ; 
" his grandfather and father had driven the aforesaid 
way before him, and he would continue in the 
old track till death." Other grounds of objection 
were not wanting, having some show of reason ; but 
these, like the others, were useless in stemming the 
tide of improvement which eventually set in, and 
brought the roads of the nation into their present 
admirable state. 




" Hark ! 'tis the twanging horn ! . . . 
He comes, the herald of a noisy world, 
With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks, 
News from all nations lumbering at his back, 
True to his charge the close-pack'd load behind ; 
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern 
Is to conduct it to the destined inn, 
And, having dropp'd the expected bag, pass on. 
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch, 
Cold and yet cheerful : messenger of grief 
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some, 
To him indifferent whether grief or joy." 


AS described in the preceding chapter, these were 
the roads over which postboys had to travel 
with their precious charges during a long series of 
years, and to their wild and disreputable state must 
to a great extent be attributed the slow rate at 
which the post was then wont to travel. When it 
is considered that these men or boys were exposed 
to all accidents of weather, stoppages by swollen 


rivers, delays through the roads being cut up, to 
their straying from the beaten track during fogs, 
and to all other chances of the road, including 
attacks by footpads or highwaymen, their occupation 
cannot have been a light or agreeable one. It is by 
no means easy to construct a detailed outline of the 
duties which postboys had to perform, or to describe 
under what rules they proceeded from stage to stage ; 
but we have ample evidence of the rate at which 
they covered the ground, and how their speed varied 
at different periods, owing, it must have been in 
some cases, to the lack of supervision. 

The following evidence of the speed of a post 
messenger in the latter half of the sixteenth century 
is furnished by a letter in the correspondence of 
Archbishop Parker, the times at which the letter 
reached the various stages on its journey being 
endorsed upon it. The letter is as follows, 


" SIR, According to the Queen's Majesty's pleas- 
ure, and your advertisement, you shall receive a 
form of prayer, which, after you have perused and 
judged of it, shall be put in print and published 
immediately," &c. &c. 


"From my house at Croydon this 22d July 1566, 
at 4 of the clock afternoon. Your honour's alway, 


" To the Rt. Honble. Sir W. CECIL." 

Endorsed by successive postmasters : 

"Beceived at Waltham Cross, the 23d of July, 
about 9 at night." 

"Keceived at Ware, the 23d July, at 12 o'clock 
at night." 

" Keceived at Croxton, the 2 4th of July, between 
7 and 8 of the clock in the morning." 

" So that his Grace's letter, leaving Croydon at 
4 in the afternoon of July 22d, reached Waltham 
Cross, a distance of nearly 26 miles, by 9 at night 
of the 23d, whence, in 3 hours, it seems to 
have advanced 8 miles to Ware ; and within 8 
hours more to have reached Croxton, a further 
distance of 29 miles, having taken nearly 40 hours 
to travel about 63 miles." 

In 1635 a public post between London and Edin- 
burgh was established, the journey being limited to 
three days. This mail set out as a rule but twice 
a - week, and sometimes only once a - week. An 
express messenger conveying news of the death of 
Charles II., who died on the 6th February 1685, 
was received in Edinburgh at one o'clock on the 


morning of the 1 Oth February ; and it may also he 
mentioned here though the matter hardly reflects 
upon the speed of postboys, who travel by land 
and not by water that in 1688 it required three 
months to convey the tidings of the abdication of 
James II. of England and VII. of Scotland to the 
Orkney Islands. 

Down to this period the mails from London to 
Scotland were carried on horseback with something 
like tolerable speed, taking previous performances 
into account, for in 1689 it is noted that parlia- 
mentary proceedings of Saturday were in the hands 
of the Edinburgh public on the ensuing Thursday. 
This rate of travelling does not appear to have been 
kept up, for in 1715 the post from London to Edin- 
burgh took six days to perform the journey. When 
it is considered that nearly a century before, the 
same distance could be covered in three days, this 
relapse seems to bespeak a sad want of vitality in 
the Post-office management of the age. The cause 
of the slow travelling, which appears to have con- 
tinued for over forty years, comes out in a memorial 
of traders to the Convention of Burghs in 1758, 
wherein dissatisfaction was expressed with the exist- 
ing arrangements of the post, the mail for London 
on reaching Newcastle being there delayed about a 
day, again detained some time at York, and probably 



further delayed in the south ; so that the double 
journey to and from London occupied eleven days 
instead of seven or eight, as the memorial deemed 
sufficient. To the Post-office mind of the present 
age, this dilatory method of performing the service 
of forwarding mails is incomprehensible, and the 
circumstance reflects discreditably both on the Post- 
office officials who were cognisant of it, and on the 
public who submitted to it. It is fair to mention, 
however, that at this period the mail from London to 
Edinburgh covered the ground in eighty-seven hours, 
or in fully three and a half days; and that as a result 
of the memorial, the time was reduced to eighty-two 
hours, and the journey from Edinburgh to London 
reduced to eighty-five hours. In 1763, the London 
to Edinburgh mail commenced to be despatched five 
times a-week, instead of only three times ; and at 
this time, during the winter season, the mail leaving 
London on Tuesday night was generally not in the 
hands of the people of Edinburgh until the afternoon 
of Sunday. We are informed, in Lang's ' Historical 
Summary of the Post - office in Scotland,' that in 
1715 there was not a single horse -post in that 
country. There must, however, have been some 
earlier attempts to establish horse - posts in the 
northern kingdom, for Chambers in his 'Domestic 
Annals of Scotland,' under the year 1660, refers 


to the fact of a warrant being granted against 
interlopers who were carrying letters by foot on 
the same line on which Mr Mean had set up a 
horse-post. A traveller in 1688 relates, also, that 
besides the horse-post from Edinburgh to Berwick, 
there was a similar post from Edinburgh to Port- 
patrick in connection with the Irish packet service. 
Again, Chambers tells us that in 1667 the good 
people of Aberdeen having had "long experience 
of the prejudice sustained, not only by the said 
burgh of Aberdeen, but by the nobility, gentry, and 
others in the north country, by the miscarrying of 
missive letters, and by the not timeous delivery and 
receiving returns of the samen," bestirred themselves 
to establish a better state of things. It was con- 
sidered proper that "every man might have their 
letters delivered and answers returned at certain 
diets and times ; " and it was accordingly arranged, 
under Post-office sanction, that Lieutenant John Wales 
should provide a regular horse-service to carry letters 
to Edinburgh every Wednesday and Friday, returning 
every Tuesday and Thursday in the afternoon. 

In 1715 the first horse-post between Edinburgh 
and Stirling was established, and in March 1717 a 
similar post between Edinburgh and Glasgow was 
set up. This latter post went three times a-week, 
travelled during the night, and performed the dis- 


tance between the two places in ten hours being 
at the rate of about four miles an hour. Were we 
to give further instances of the slowness of the horse- 
posts, we should probably prove tedious, and there- 
fore the proofs adduced on this point must suffice. 
Though the state of the roads may be held to account 
for some of the delay, the roads must not be charged 
with everything. In 1*799 a surveyor in the north 
of Scotland wrote as follows : " It is impossible to 
obtain any other contractors to ride the mails at 3d. 
out, or l|-d. per mile each way. On this account 
we have been so much distressed with mail-riders, 
that we have sometimes to submit to the mails being 
conveyed by mules and such species of horses as were 
a disgrace to any public service." The same sur- 
veyor reported in 1805, that it would give rise to 
great inconvenience if no boys under sixteen years 
were allowed to be employed in riding the posts 
many of them ranging down from that age to four- 
teen. So, what from the condition of the highways, 
the sorry quality of the horses, and the youthfulness 
of the riders, it is not surprising that the writers of 
letters should inscribe on their missives : "Be this 
letter delivered with haste haste haste ! Post 
haste ! Eide, villain, ride, for thy life for thy life 
for thy life ! " unnecessary though that injunction 
be in the present day. 


The postboys were a source of great trouble and 
vexation to the authorities of the Post-office through 
the whole course of their connection with the depart- 
ment. A surveyor who held office about the com- 
mencement of the eighteenth century, found, on the 
occasion of a visit to Salisbury, something wrong 
there, which he reported to headquarters in these 
terms : 

" At this place [Salisbury] found the postboys to 
have carried on vile practices in taking bye-letters, 
delivering them in that city, and taking back the 
answers and especially the Andover riders. On 
a certain day he found on Eichard Kent, one of the 
Andover riders, five bye-letters all for Salisbury. 
Upon examination of the fellow, he confessed that 
he had made it a practice, arid persisted to continue 
in it, saying that he had no wages from his master. 
The surveyor took the fellow before the magistrate, 
proved the facts, and as the fellow could not get bail, 
was committed ; but pleading to have no friends nor 
money, desired a punishment to be whipped, and 
accordingly he was to the purpose. The surveyor 
wrote the case to Andover, and ordered that the 
fellow should be discharged ; but no regard was had 
thereto. But the next day the same rider came 
post, run about the cittye for letters, and was in- 
solent. The second time the said Eichard Kent 


came post with two gentlemen, made it his business 
to take up letters ; the fellow, instead of returning to 
Andover, gets two idle fellows and rides away with 
three horses, which was a return for his masters not 
obeying instructions, as he ought not have been 
suffered to ride after the said facts was proved 
against -him." 

The same surveyor complained bitterly, with re- 
spect to the postboys, " that the gentry doe give 
much money to the riders, whereby they be very 
subject to get in liquor, which stops the males." 
Indeed the temptation of the ale-house was no 
doubt another factor in the slow journeying of the 
postboys, as it was the source of much trouble in 
the days of mail-coaches. 

Mr Palmer, through whose initiative and perse- 
verance mail-coaches were subsequently established 
throughout the country, thus described the post as 
it existed in 1783 : . 

" The post, at present, instead of being the 
swiftest, is almost the slowest, conveyance in the 
country ; and though, from the great improvement 
in our roads, other carriers have proportionably 
mended their speed, the post is as slow as ever. 
It is likewise very unsafe, as the frequent robberies 
of it testify ; and to avoid a loss of this nature, 
people generally cut bank bills, or bills at sight, in 


two, and send the bills by different posts. The 
mails are generally intrusted to some idle boy, 
without character, mounted on a worn-out hack, 
and who, so far from being able to defend himself 
or escape from a robber, is much more likely to be 
in league with him." 

Including stoppages, this mode of travelling was, 
up to 1783, at the rate of about three to four miles 
an hour. 

We are again indebted to Mr Chambers for the 
following statement of careless blunders made by 
postboys in connection with the Edinburgh mails : 
" As indicating the simplicity of the institution in 
those days, may be noticed a mistake of February 
1720, when, instead of the mail which should have 
come in yesterday (Sunday), we had our own mail of 
Thursday last returned the presumption being, that 
the mail for Edinburgh had been in like manner 
sent back from some unknown point in the road to 
London. And this mistake happened once more in 
December 1728, the bag despatched on a Saturday 
night being returned the second Sunday morning after; 
'tis reckoned this mistake happened about half-way 
on the road." We hardly agree, however, that these 
mistakes were owing to the simplicity of the institu- 
tion, but rather to the routine nature of the work ; 
for it is the fact that blunders equally flagrant have 


occurred in the Post - office in recent times, even 
under elaborate checks, which, if rightly applied, 
would have rendered the mistakes impossible. 

Many of the troubles which the Post-office had 
with its postboys may possibly be ascribed to the 
low rate of wages paid by the contractors for their 
services. This matter is referred to by the Solicitor 
to the Scotch Post-office, who was engaged upon an 
inquiry into the robbery of the mail on the stage 
between Dingwall and Tain in the year 1805. The 
distance between these places is about twenty-five 
miles, and five hours were occupied in making the 
journey. One of the postboys concerned stated in 
his declaration that his whole wages were 5s. a- 
week ; and with reference to this, the solicitor in 
his report observes as follows : " Of course it may 
fairly be presumed that no respectable man will be 
got to perform this duty. Dismission to such a man 
for committing a fault is no punishment ; and the 
safety of the conveyance of the mail, which the 
public have a right to require, seems to render some 
regulation in this respect necessary." 

The following account of the violation of the 
mails by a postboy may perhaps be aptly introduced 
here : 

In the autumn of 1808, a good deal of anxiety 
was caused to the authorities of the Post-office in 


Scotland, in consequence of reports being made to 
them that many bankers' letters had been tampered 
with in course of their transmission by post through 
certain of the northern counties. To discover who 
was concerned in the irregularities was rendered the 
more difficult, owing to the fact that the mail-bags in 
which the letters had been despatched were reported 
to have reached their destinations duly sealed. But 
a thing of this kind could not go on without discovery, 
and investigation being made, the storm burst over 
the head of a poor little postboy named William 
Shearer, a lad of fifteen years of age, who was em- 
ployed riding the north mail over the stage from 
Turriff to Banff. From the account we have of the 
matter, it would seem that in this case, as in many 
others, it was opportunity that made the thief ; for 
the mail-bags had on some occasions been insecurely 
sealed, the despatching postmasters having failed to 
place the wax over the knots of the string and the 
postboy was thus able to get to the inside of the 
bags without cutting the string or breaking the seals, 
by simply undoing the knots. Here the temptation 
presented itself ; and although some twenty-six letters 
were found inside his hat when he was searched, it 
is not unlikely that he commenced by merely peeping 
into the letters by pulling out their ends, for several 
bank letters containing notes for considerable sums 


had been so violated, while the contents were found 
safe. To cover one delinquency the boy had re- 
course to others. In order to account for his delay 
on the road, he opened the bag containing his way- 
bill, borrowed a knife from a shoemaker who kept 
one of the toll-houses, and altered his hour of de- 
spatch from his starting-point. The unfortunate 
youth also gave way to drink, stopping at the toll- 
houses, and calling sometimes for rum, sometimes 
for whisky, the keepers sharing in the refreshments, 
which were purchased with stolen money. On one 
occasion the boy opened a parcel intrusted to him, 
and from a letter inside abstracted a twenty-shilling 
note. Whether to render himself all the more re- 
doubtable on the road, over a section of which he 
travelled in the dark, or for some other purpose, is not 
clear, but with six shillings of the aforesaid sum he 
bought a sword, and with two shillings a pistol, the 
balance going in drink. The occupation of riding 
the mail was not for one so young : yet it was found 
that full-grown men often gave more trouble than 
boys ; and it may be here remarked that the adven- 
ture of Davie Mailsetter in the 'Antiquary' is no 
great exaggeration of the service of postboys at the 
period to which it refers. The poor boy Shearer 
was put upon his trial before the Circuit Court of 
Justiciary at Aberdeen ; and when called upon to 


plead, confessed his guilt. There was every disposi- 
tion on the part of the public prosecutor, and of the 
presiding judge, to let the case go as lightly as pos- 
sible against the prisoner doubtless on account of 
his youth ; but the law had to be vindicated, and 
the sentence passed was that of transportation for a 
period of seven years. Since then humanity has 
made progress, and no such punishment would be 
inflicted in such a case nowadays. 

Exposed to all the inclemency of the seasons, both 
by night and day; having to weather snowstorms 
and suffer the drenchings of heavy rain ; to grope a 
way through the dense fogs of our climate, and en- 
dure the biting frosts of midwinter ; or yet to face 
the masked highwayman on the open heath, or the 
footpad in the deep and narrow road, these were 
the unpleasantnesses and the dangers which beset 
the couriers of the Post-office in past years, ere the 
department had grown to its present robust manhood. 
As to the exposure in wintry weather, it is stated 
that postboys on reaching the end of their stages 
were sometimes so benumbed with the cold that they 
had to be lifted out of their saddles. Of the attacks 
made upon them by highwaymen some instances are 
given in another chapter. This we will conclude by 
recording the fate that befell a postboy who was 
charged with the conveyance of the mail for London 


which left Edinburgh on Saturday, the 20th Novem- 
ber 1725. This mail, after reaching Berwick in 
safety and proceeding thence, was never again heard 
of. A notice issued by the Post-office at the time 
ran as follows : " A most diligent search has been 
made ; but neither the boy, the horse, nor the packet 
has yet been heard of. The boy, after passing Gos- 
wick, having a part of the sands to ride which divide 
the Holy Island from the mainland, it is supposed 
he has missed his way, and rode towards the sea, 
where he and his horse have both perished." The 
explanation here suggested is not at all improbable, 
in view of the fact that November is a month given 
to fogs, when a rider might readily go astray crossing 
treacherous sands. 




PEIOR to the middle of the seventeenth century, 
about which period stage-coaches came into 
use in England, the only vehicles available to ordinary 
travellers would seem to have been the carrier's stage- 
waggon, which, owing to its lumbering build and the 
deplorable state of the roads, made only from ten to 
fifteen miles in a long summer's day. The interior 
of such waggons exhibited none of the refinements of 
modern means of travel, the only furnishing of the 
machine being a quantity of straw littered on the 
floor, on which the passengers could sit or lie during 
the weary hours of their journey. Though the stage- 
coaches came into vogue about the middle of the seven- 
teenth century, as already stated, the heavy waggons 
seem also to have held a place till much later for in 
one of these Eoderick Random performed part of his 
journey to London in 1739 ; and it was doubtless 
only the meaner class of people who travelled in that 


way, as the description given by Smollett of his com- 
panions does not mirror, certainly, people of fashion. 
M. Sobriere, a Frenchman, on his way from Dover to 
London in the reign of Charles II., thus writes of his 
experience of the waggon : " That I might not take 
post, or be obliged to use the stage-coach, I went 
from Dover to London in a waggon. It was drawn 
by six horses, one before another, and driven by a 
waggoner, who walked by the side of it. He was 
clothed in black, and appointed in all things like 
another St George. He had a brave Montero on his 
head, and was a merry fellow, fancied he made a 
figure, and seemed mightily pleased with himself." 
Unlike travelling in the present day, when one may 
go 1 miles itf a railway carriage without speaking 
to a fellow-passenger, the journey in the old-fashioned 
waggon brought all the travellers too close and too 
long together to admit of individual isolation, for the 
passengers might be associated for days together as 
companions, had to take their refreshment together, 
lived as it were in common, and it was even the 
custom to elect a chairman at the outset to preside 
over the company during the journey. But the stage- 
coach gradually became the established public con- 
veyance of the country, improving in its construction 
and its rate of progression as the improved state of 
the roads admitted of and encouraged such improve- 


ment. Still, compared with the stage-coaches of the 
best period, travelling by the earlier stage-coaches 
was a sorry achievement. Here is an advertisement 
of stage-coaches of the year 1658 : 

"From the 26th April there will continue to go 
stage-coaches from the George Inn, without Alders- 
gate, London, unto the several cities and towns, for the 
rates and at the times hereafter mentioned and 
declared : 

" Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday To 
Salisbury, in two days, for xx. s. ; to Blandford and 
Dorchester, in two days and half, for xxx. s. ; to 
Burput, in three days, for xxx. s. ; to Exmister, Hun- 
nington, and Exeter, in four days, for xl. s. ; to Stam- 
ford, in two days, for xx. s. ; . . .to York, in four 
days, for xl. s." 

Indeed the charges might have been reckoned by 
time, the travelling being at the rate of about 10s. a- 
day. Another advertisement in 1739 thus sets forth 
the merits of some of the stage-coaches of the period : 

" Exeter Flying Stage-coach in three days, and 
Dorchester and Blandford in two days. Go from 
the Saracen's Head Inn, in Friday Street, London, 
every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday ; and from 
the New Inn, in Exeter, every Tuesday and Thurs- 
day." Then the advejtisement makes known the 
fact, with regard to another coach, that the stage 


begins " Flying on Monday next." They were not 
satisfied in those days with a coach " going," " run- 
ning," or " proceeding," but they set them " flying " 
at the rates of speed which may be gathered from 
these notices. Nearly thirty years later another 
advertisement set forth that the Taunton Flying 
Machine, hung on steel springs, sets out from the 
Saracen's Head Inn, in Friday Street, London, and 
Taunton, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 
three o'clock in the morning, the journey taking two 
days. There were places inside for six passengers, 
and the fares were as follows, viz. : 

To Taunton, . . . . l 16 

Ilminster, . . . . 1 14 

,, Yeovil, . . . . 180 

Sherborne, . . . 160 

Shaftesbury, . . . 140 

Outside passengers, and children in the lap, were 
half these fares. 

To follow out in a historical fashion the develop- 
ment of the coaching period down to the introduc- 
tion of railways, would be beyond the purpose of 
this work, nor will the limits of these pages ad- 
mit of so great an extension of the subject. The 
earlier modes of travelling, and the difficulties of the 
roads, are treated of in several histories of England 
in a general way, and more fully in such books as 


the ' Lives of the Engineers,' by Smiles ; ' Old 
Coaching Days/ by Stanley Harris ; and ' Annals 
of the Koad,' by Captain Malet,' all of which con- 
tain much that is entertaining and interesting. Here 
it is proposed merely to recall some of the incidents 
of the coaching days, so far as they relate to the 
mail-service, between the time when Palmer's mail- 
coaches were put on the road in 1784, down to the 
time when they were shouldered off the road by the 
more powerful iron horse. 

The dangers to which the mail-coaches were ex- 
posed were chiefly of three kinds, the danger of 
being robbed by footpads or highwaymen ; that of 
being upset in the road by running foul of some cart, 
dray, or waggon, or other object placed in the way ; 
and the peril of being overtaken by snowstorms, and 
so rendered helpless and cut off from the usual 

It was an almost everyday occurrence for the 
mail-bags to be robbed on the night journeys, when 
the principal mails were carried. We know of these 
things now through notices which were issued by the 
Post-office at the time, of which copies are still in 
existence. Here are the terms of a notice issued to 
the mail-guards in March 1802 : 

" Three Irishmen are in custody for highway 
robbery. One of them has confessed, and declares 



that their purpose in going out was to rob the mail- 
coach. Their first step was to watch an opportunity 
and fire at the guard, which it is supposed might 
have been easily obtained, as they are so frequently 
off their guard. They had pistols found on them. 
It is therefore necessary, in addition to your former 
instructions, to direct that you are particularly vigi- 
lant and watchful, that you keep a quick eye to every 
person stirring, and that you see your arms are in the 
best possible condition, and ready for instant duty." 

On the 21st December 1805, a bag of letters for 
Stockport was stolen out of the mail-box while the 
coach was in Macclesfield. It was a Sunday night 
about ten o'clock when the robbery took place, and the 
bag was found empty under a haystack near the town. 
The following notice of another robbery was issued by 
the Postmaster-General on the 1st March 1810 : 
" Whereas the bags of letters from this office 
(London), of last night, for the following towns 

Hatfield, St Neots, Spalding, 

Welwyn, Oundle, Lowth, 

Stevenage, Stilton, Horncastle, 

Baldock, Wansford, and 

Biggleswade, Grantham, Boston, 

Kimbolton, Spilsby, 

were stolen from the mail-box, about ten o'clock 
on the same night, supposed at Barnet, by forcibly 


wrenching off the lock whilst the horses were 
changing; whoever shall apprehend and convict, 
or cause to be apprehended and convicted, the 
person or persons who stole the said bags, shall be 
entitled to a reward of One Hundred Pounds," &c. 
On Monday the 19th November of the same year, 
the bags of letters from 

Melton Mowbray, Thrapston, 

Oakham, Higham Ferrers, 

Uppingham, and 

Kettering, Wellingborough, 

were stolen at Bedford at about nine o'clock in the 
evening. _ 

Again, in January 1813, a further warning 
to the guards was issued, showing the necessity 
for vigilance on the part of these officers, by de- 
scribing some of the recent robberies which were 
the occasion for the warning : 

" The guards are desired by Mr Hasker to be 
particularly attentive to their mail-box. Depreda- 
tions are committed every night on some stage- 
coaches by stealing parcels. I shall relate a few, 
which I trust will make you circumspect. The 
Bristol mail-coach has been robbed within a week 
of the bankers' parcel, value 1000 or upwards. 
The Bristol mail-coach was robbed of money the 3d 
instant to a large amount. The ' Expedition ' coach 


has been twice robbed in the last week the last 
time of all the parcels out of the seats. The 
' Telegraph ' was robbed last Monday night between 
Saracen's Head, Aldgate, and Whitechapel Church, 
of all the parcels out of the dicky. It was broken 
open while the guard was on it, standing up blowing 
his horn. The York mail was robbed of parcels out 
of the seats to a large amount." 

The following account of a stage-coach robbery 
committed on that, at one time, notoriously dangerous 
ground called Hounslow Heath, is taken from the 
' Annals of the Eoad,' already referred to in this 
work : 

" In the reign of King George III., a stage-coach, 
driven by one Williams, and going over Hounslow 
Heath on the road between Reading and London, 
was stopped by a highwayman, who, riding up, de- 
manded money of the passengers. A lady gave up 
her watch, a gent his purse, and away goes the high- 
wayman, followed, however, by Williams (the bold) 
on one of the leaders, who ' nailed ' and brought him 
back to the coach, on which he was placed and taken 
to Staines. This occurred on a Tuesday ; the hear- 
ing before the magistrates took place on Wednesday ; 
on Thursday he was in Newgate ; on Friday he was 
tried, and sentenced to be hung on Monday. Williams 
then got up a memorial, petitioning for a reprieve ; 


and on this being presented to his Majesty, the sen- 
tence was commuted to transportation for life. The 
King was so pleased with Williams's daring, that he 
presented him with a key of Windsor Park gates, to 
be used by him and bis descendants so long as they 
drove a coach from Eeading to London. This royal 
authority allowed them to pass through the park 
instead of going by the turnpike road." 

Another very interesting account of a mail-coach 
robbery is given by Mr S. C. Hall in his ' Eetrospect 
of a Long Life,' the object of the outrage being, not 
apparently plunder for plunder's sake in the ordi- 
nary sense, but to recover some legal documents and 
money paid as rent by a man in the neighbourhood 
who stood high in local favour, but was understood 
to have been harshly treated by his landlord. The 
case occurred in Ireland, and is characteristic of the 
way in which the Irish people give vent to their feel- 
ings when they are stirred by affection or sentiment. 

" I was travelling in Ireland (it must have been 
about the year 1818), between Cork and Skibbereen, 
when I witnessed a stoppage of the mail to rob it. 
The road was effectually barricaded by a huge tree, 
passage was impossible, and a dozen men with 
blackened faces speedily surrounded the coach. To 
attempt resistance would have been madness : the 
guard wisely abstained from any, but surrendered his 


arms ; the priming was removed, and they were re- 
turned to him. The object of the gang was limited 
to acquiring the mail -bags ; they were known to 
contain some writs against a gentleman very popular 
in the district. These being extracted, the coach 
pursued its way without further interruption. The 
whole affair did not occupy five minutes. It was 
subsequently ascertained, however, that there had 
been a further purpose. The gentleman had that 
day paid his rent all in bank-notes ; when the 
agent desired to mark them, there was neither pen 
nor ink in the house ; the mail-bag contained these 
notes. Where they eventually found their way was 
never proved, but it was certain they did not reach 
the landlord, whose receipt was in the hands of his 
tenant, duly signed." 

Interceptions of the mail for the purpose of pre- 
venting the serving of writs by means of the post 
are not unknown in Ireland at the present time. In 
August 1 8 8 3 a post-runner near Mallow was stopped 
by two men, dressed in women's clothes and with 
blackened faces, who seized his mail-bag, and made 
search for registered letters which it was supposed 
might have contained ejectment notices. None were 
found, however, and the men returned the other 
letters to the runner. A similar outrage was com- 
mitted in the same neighbourhood in 1881. 


The following exciting and unpleasant adventure 
happened to the passengers by the Enniskillen mail- 
coach on its way to Dublin on the morning of the 
4th January 1813. The coach had safely made its 
journey to a point within two miles of a place called 
Dunshaughlin, the time being about 3 A.M., when the 
mail-guard, watchful as his duty required, espied a 
number of men suspiciously lying on each side of the 
road in advance of him. The night must have been 
clear, and probably there was bright moonlight ; as 
otherwise, at that early hour in the month of January, 
the men lying in wait could not have been observed. 
There, being little doubt that an attack upon the 
mail was contemplated, the carriage was at once 
drawn up, and the alarm given. The drowsy or be- 
numbed travellers, thus rudely aroused and brought 
to a sense of their danger, hastily jumped to the 
ground, and demanded the spare arms which were 
carried for use on like emergencies. These were 
immediately served out to the passengers, who, if 
not animated by true Irish spirit at so early an hour, 
to fight for fighting's sake, were at any rate deter- 
mined to defend their lives and property. At the 
head of the coach -party in this lonely and trying 
situation was a clergyman of the County Cavan 
named King, who, like Father Tom in the play, had 
not forgotten the accomplishments of his youth, and 


who was prepared to carry the message of peace and 
goodwill with the blunderbuss at the ready, this 
being the weapon with which he had armed himself. 
The robbers, perceiving that they were to encounter 
a determined opposition, thought it wise to retreat ; 
and while the guards stood by their charge the 
mail-coach the men were pursued over a field by 
Mr King, on whom they fired, without, however, 
doing any damage. The parson, deeming a return 
necessary, replied with the gaping blunderbuss and 
to some purpose, it was thought, for three of the 
men were within twenty yards of him when he fired. 
The would-be robbers being now driven off, the pas- 
sengers had time to realise their fright ; and gather- 
ing themselves again into the coach, the journey was 
continued, though it is hardly likely that sleep re- 
sumed its sway over the terrified passengers for the 
remaining hours of that particular night. 

These are but a few instances of the robberies 
against which the guards were constantly warned to 
be on the alert, and which they were enjoined to 
prevent. They were provided with a blunderbuss 
and a brace of pistols, to make a good defence in 
case of need ; and it may be interesting to recall 
that the charge for the former was ten or twelve 
shot the size of a pea, and two-thirds of such charge 
for the latter the quantity of lead mentioned being 


sufficient, one would suppose, if well directed, to 
give a hot welcome to any one attempting the mail. 

But the guards were very often not so vigilant 
as they should have been, the ale-houses having then 
the attractions which to many they still have : some- 
times they fell asleep on their boxes, and in other 
respects wofully infringed the regulations. The fol- 
lowing official notice plainly shows this : 

" I am very sorry to be under the necessity of 
addressing the mail-guards on such a subject ; but 
though every direction and inspection are given 
them, and they are fully informed of the punish- 
ments that must follow if they do not do their duty, 
yet, notwithstanding this, and every admonition 
given in every way that can be devised, four guards 
that were looked upon as very good ones, have in the 
course of last week been guilty of such misconduct 
as obliges their discharge for the public, who trust 
their lives and property in the conduct of the office, 
can never be expected to suffer such neglect to pass 
unnoticed. The four guards discharged are John 
, for having his mail-box unlocked at Ferry- 
bridge while the mail was therein ; Wm. , for 

going to the office at York drunk to fetch his mail, 

though barely able to stand ; W. , for bringing 

the mail on the outside of the mail-box and on the 
roof, and converting the mail-box to another use ; 


W. , for going from London to Newmarket 

without firearms." 

On another occasion a guard was fined five guineas 
" for suffering a man to ride on the roof of the mail- 
coach," and at the same time he was told that if he 
had not owned the truth he would have been dis- 
missed this being followed by the quaint observa- 
tion, looking like a grim official joke, " which he may 
be now if he had rather than pay the fine to the 
fund " ! One more notice as to the vice of taking 
drink on the part of the guards, and as showing the 
impressive and formal manner of carrying out a dis- 
missal in the coaching days. The document is of 
the year 1803, and runs as follows, viz.: 

" 1 am very sorry to order in all the guards to 
witness the dismissal of one old in the service; but 
so imperious is the duty, that was he my brother he 
would be dismissed : indeed I do not think there is 
a guard who hears this but will say, a man who 
goes into an ale-house, stays to drink (and at Brent- 
ford) at the dusk of morning, leaving his mail-box 
unlocked, deserves to lose his situation ; and he is 
dismissed accordingly. And I am sure I need not 
stimulate you to avoid fresh misconduct to read 
your instructions, and to mind them. I am the 
more sorry for this, as guards who have been some 
time in the service are fit for no other duty." 


Towards the drivers also of the mail-coaches severe 
measures were taken when they got drunk ; and 
the penalty sometimes took a peculiar form, as wit- 
ness the following public act of submission and con- 
trition : 

" Whereas I, John , being driver of the mail- 
coach, on my way from Congleton to Coleshill on 
Monday, December 25, 1809" (some excuse, per- 
haps, on account of its being Christmas-day), " did 
stop at several places on the road to drink, and 
thereby got intoxicated, from which misconduct, 
driving furiously, and being from my coach on its 
returning, suffered the horses to set off and run 
through the town of Coleshill, at the risk of over- 
turning the carriage, and thereby endangering the 
lives of the passengers, and other misfortunes which 
might otherwise have occurred : for which misdeeds 
the Postmasters-General were determined to punish 
me with the utmost rigour, and if it had been prose- 
cuted, would have made me liable to the penalty 
incurred by the said offence of imprisonment for six 
months, and not less than three ; but from my gen- 
eral good character, and having a large family, have 
generously forgiven me on my showing contrition 
for the past offence, as a caution to all mail and 
other coachmen, and making this public acknow- 


In another case a mail-coach driver was sum- 
moned before a magistrate for intoxication, and 
impertinence to passengers, and was thereupon 
mulcted in a penalty of 10, with costs. 

The accidents that befell the coaches were some- 
times of a really serious character, and were of very 
frequent occurrence some of them, or perhaps many 
of them, being due wholly to carelessness. A person 
writing in 1822 remarks as follows : " It is really 
heartrending to hear of the dreadful accidents that 
befall his Majesty's subjects now on their travels 
through the , country. In my younger days, when I 
was on the eve of setting out on a journey, my wife 
was in the habit of giving me her parting blessing, 
concluding with the words, ' God bless you, my dear ; 
I hope you will not be robbed.' But it is now 
changed to 'God bless you, my dear ; I hope you will 
not get your neck broke, and that you will bring 
all your legs safe home again.' " Sometimes the 
drivers, if it fell in their way to overtake or be over- 
taken by an opposition coach, would go in for proving 
who had the best team, and an exciting race would 
result. Sometimes a horse would fall, and bring the 
coach to grief; and in the night-time the horses 
would occasionally tumble over obstacles maliciously 
placed on the road to bring this about. Whether 
this was always done to facilitate robbery, or out of 


sheer wantonness, is not quite clear, but instances of 
such acts of wickedness were frequent. On the 
night of the 5th June 1804, some evil-disposed 
persons placed a gate in the middle of the turnpike 
road near Welwyn Green, and set up two other gates 
at the entrance of Welwyn Lane, also across the 
road, with the view of obstructing the mail-coach 
and injuring the persons of the passengers. Early 
on the morning of the 14th April 1806, the mail- 
coach was obstructed, in coming out of Dumfries, by 
some evil-disposed persons placing boughs or branches 
of trees across the turnpike road, by which the lives 
of the passengers were put in peril and the mail 
much delayed. A similar outrage was committed 
on the night of the 27th August 1809, when a 
large gate was placed in the middle of the road on 
Ewenny Bridge, near Bridgend, in Glamorganshire. 
In this instance the horses of the mail-coach took 
fright, imperilling the lives of all upon the coach ; 
for it is very likely that they narrowly escaped being 
thrown over the bridge. Again, on the night of the 
30th April 1812, some persons placed eleven gates 
at different points across the road two or three miles 
out of Lancaster, on the way to Burton-in-Kendal, 
whereby destruction was nearly brought upon the 
mail-coach and its human freight. Between North- 
wich and Warrington, early on the morning of the 


19th November 1815, eight or ten gates and a door 
were placed in the way of the mail-coach, and fur- 
ther on a broad- wheeled cart, with the view of wreck- 
ing the mail. On Sunday, the 15th June 1817, 
the horses of the mail-coach were thrown down near 
Newmarket, and much injured, by stumbling over a 
plough and harrow, wickedly placed in their way by 
some evil-doers. These are but a few of the cases 
of such malicious acts, with respect to which rewards 
were offered by the Postmaster-General at the time, 
for the discovery of the offenders. 

But there were other ways in which the mail was 
placed in jeopardy namely, by waggoners with 
teams getting in the middle of the highway, and not 
clearing out smartly to let the mails go by, or by 
otherwise so driving their horses as to foul with the 
mail-coach. And it is curious to observe how such 
cases were dealt with by the Post-office. The fol- 
lowing poster, issued publicly, will explain the mat- 
ter : 


" Whereas I, Edward Monk, servant to James 
Smith of Pendlebury, near Manchester, farmer, did, 
on Tuesday the 24th day of July last, misconduct 
myself in the driving of my master's cart on the 
Pendleton road, by not only riding furiously in the 


cart, but damaging the York and Liverpool mail- 
coach, and endangering the lives of the passengers 
for which the conductor of the mails has directed a 
prosecution against me ; but on condition of this my 
public submission, and paying the expenses attending 
it, all proceedings have been discontinued. And I 
thank the conductor, and the gentlemen whose lives 
I endangered, for their very great lenity shown me ; 
and I promise not to be guilty of such outrage in 
future. And I trust this will operate as a caution to 
all carters or persons who may have the care of carts 
and other carriages, to behave themselves peaceably 
and properly on the king's highway. Witness my 
hand, the 2d Aug. 1804." 

Then there was the danger attending the running 
away of the horses with the coach, of which the fol- 
lowing is an instance, the facts being succinctly set 
forth in a notice of 1810, of which the following is 
a copy : 

" Whereas Walter Price, the driver of the Chester 
and Manchester mail-coach, on Thursday night the 
22d Nov. 1810, on arriving in Chester, incautiously 
left his horses without any person at their heads, to 
give out a passenger's luggage (while the guard was 
gone to the post-office with the mail-bags), when 
they ran off with the mail-coach through the city of 
Chester, taking the road to Holywell, but fortunately 


without doing any injury ; in consequence of which 
neglect, the driver was, on the Saturday following, 
brought before the magistrates, and fined in the full 
penalty of Five pounds, according to the late Act of 
Parliament." And through the city of Chester, with 
its narrow streets ! It seems a miracle how four 
runaway horses, with a coach at their heels, could 
have cleared the town without dire disaster. 

Again, it would come to pass that in dark nights the 
horses would sometimes stumble over a stray donkey 
or other animal which had taken up its night- 
quarters in the middle of the road, and there made 
its bed. Nor were these the only perils of the road, 
which were always increased when the nights were 
thick with fog. On the morning of the 30th Decem- 
ber 1813, the mail from the South reached Berwick 
late owing to a fog, the horses being led by the driver, 
notwithstanding whose care the coach had been over- 
turned twice. The drivers were called upon on occa- 
sions to make up their minds in a moment to choose 
one of two courses, when danger suddenly burst upon 
them and there was no escape from it. A good 
instance of such a case happened to the driver of the 
Edinburgh to Dumfries mail-coach, who proved that 
he could reason his case quickly and take his resolve. 
At one of the stages he had changed horses, and was 
proceeding on his way, the first portion of the road 


being down a steep hill with an abrupt turn at the 
foot. He had hardly got his coach fairly set in 
motion, when to his dismay he perceived that the 
wheelers, two new horses, had no notion of hold- 
ing back. The animals became furious, while the 
passengers became alarmed. It seemed a hopeless 
task to control the horses under the circumstances, 
and to attempt to take the turn at the foot of the 
hill would have assured the upsetting of the coach 
and all its belongings. At this juncture the passen- 
gers observed a strange smile creep over the coach- 
man's face, while he gathered up the reins in the best 
style of the profession, at the same time lashing his 
horses into a good gallop. Terror-struck, the passen- 
gers saw nothing but destruction before them ; yet 
they had no alternative but to await the issue. Op- 
posite the foot of the hill was a stout gate leading 
into a field, and this was the goal the driver had in 
view. Steadying the coach by keeping its course 
straight, he gave his horses all the momentum they 
could gather, and shot them direct at the gate. The 
gate went into splinters, the horses and coach bounded 
into the field, and were there immediately drawn up, 
neither horses, coach, nor passengers being seriously 
hurt by the adventure. 

Of all the interruptions to the mail-coach service, 
none were so serious as those which were occasioned 



by snowstorms, nor were the dangers attending them 
of a light nature to the drivers, guards, or passengers. 
The work achieved by man, either for good or evil, 
how insignificant does it not seem when contrasted 
with the phenomena of nature ! 

In the year 1799 a severe snowstorm occurred 
in the country, which very much deranged the mail- 
service, as may be gathered from the following cir- 
cular issued by the London Post-office on the 27th 
April of that year : 

" Several mail-coaches being still missing that 
were obstructed in the snow since the 1st February 
last, this' is to desire you will immediately repre- 
sent to me an account of all spare patent mail-coaches 
that are in the stage where you travel over, whether 
they are regular stationed mail-coaches or extra 
spare coaches, and the exact place where they are, 
either in barn, field, yard, or coach-house, and the 
condition they are in, and if they have seats, rugs, 
and windows complete." So that here, after a lapse 
of about three months, the Post-office had not re- 
covered the use of all its mail-coaches, and was 
beginning to hunt up the missing vehicles. 

Another snowstorm occurred in January 1814, 
evidence of which, from a passenger's point of view, 
is furnished by Macready in his ' Eeminiscences.' 
He wrote as follows : 


"The snow was falling fast, and had already 
drifted so high between the Eoss Inn and Berwick- 
on - Tweed that it had been necessary to cut a 
passage for carriages for some miles. We did not 
reach Newcastle until nearly two hours after mid- 
night : and fortunate was it for the theatre and our- 
selves that we had not delayed our journey, for the 
next day the mails were stopped ; nor for more than 
six weeks was there any conveyance by carriage be- 
tween Edinburgh and Newcastle. After some weeks 
a passage was cut through the snow for the guards to 
carry the mails on horseback, but for a length of time 
the communications every way were very irregular." 

But Christmas of 1836 must bear the palm for 
snowstorms which have succeeded in deranging the 
mail - service in England, and it may be well to 
quote here some accounts of the circumstances 
written at the time: 

" The guard of the Glasgow mail, which arrived 
on Sunday morning, said that the roads were in the 
northern parts heavy with snow, and that at one 
place the mail was two hours getting over four 
miles of road. Never before, within recollection, 
was the London mail stopped for a whole night at a 
few miles from London ; and never before has the in- 
tercourse between the southern shires of England and 
the metropolis been interrupted for two whole days." 


" Fourteen mail-coaches were abandoned on the 
various roads." 

" The Brighton mail (from London) reached 
Crawley, but was compelled to return. The Dover 
mail also returned, not being able to proceed farther 
than Gravesend. The Hastings mail was also 
obliged to return. The Brighton up-mail of Sun- 
day had travelled about eight miles from that town, 
when it fell into a drift of snow, from which it was 
impossible to extricate it without further assistance. 
The guard immediately set off to obtain all necessary 
aid ; but when he returned, no trace whatever could 
be found either of the coach, coachman, or passen- 
gers, three in number. After much difficulty the 
coach was found, but could not be extricated from 
the hollow into which it had got. The guard did 
not reach town until seven o'clock on Tuesday night, 
having been obliged to travel with the bags on horse- 
back, and in many instances to leave the main road 
and proceed across fields, in order to avoid the deep 
drifts of snow." 

" The Bath and Bristol mails, due on Tuesday 
morning, were abandoned eighty miles from London, 
and the mail-bags brought up in a postchaise-and- 
four by the two guards, who reached London at six 
o'clock on Wednesday morning. For seventeen 
miles of the distance they had to come across fields." 




" The Manchester down-mail reached St Albans, 
and getting off the road into a hollow, was upset. 
The guard returned to London in a post-chaise and 
four horses with the bags and passengers." 

"About a mile from St Albans, on the London 
side, a chariot without horses was seen on Tuesday 
nearly buried in the snow. There were two ladies 
inside, who made an earnest appeal to the mail- 
guard, whose coach had got into a drift nearly at 
the same spot. The ladies said the post-boy had 
left them to go to St Albans to get fresh cattle, and 
had been gone two hours. The guard was unable 
to assist them, and his mail being extracted, he 
pursued his journey for London, leaving the chariot 
and ladies in the situation where they were first seen." 

" The Devonport mail arrived at half-past eleven 
o'clock. The guard, who had travelled with it from 
Ilminster, a distance of 140 miles, states that 
journey to have been a most trying one to both 
men and cattle. The storm commenced when they 
reached Wincanton, and never afterwards ceased. 
The wind blew fresh, and the snow and sleet in 
crossing Salisbury Plain were driving into their 
faces so as almost to blind them. Between Andover 
and Whitchurch the mail was stuck fast in a- snow- 
drift, and the horses, in attempting to get out, were 
nearly buried. The coachman got down, and al- 


most disappeared in the drift upon which he alight- 
ed. Fortunately, at this juncture, a waggon with four 
horses came up, and by unyoking these from the 
waggon and attaching them to the mail, it was got 
out of the hollow in which it was sunk." 

These are some of the reports, written at the 
time, of the disorganisation of the mail-service in 
consequence of the snowstorm. Some slight idea of 
the magnitude of the drifts may be obtained from 
one or two additional particulars. The mail pro- 
ceeding from Exeter for London was five times buried 
in the snow, and had to be dug out. A mail-coach 
got off the road seven miles from Louth, and went 
over into a gravel-pit, one of the horses being killed 
and the guard severely bruised. So deeply was 
another coach buried on this line of road that it took 
300 men, principally sappers and miners, working sev- 
eral hours, to make a passage to the coach and rescue 
the mails and passengers. Near Chatham the snow 
lay to a depth of 30 or 40 feet, and the military were 
turned out to the number of 600 to clear the roads. 

On the line of road from Chatham to Dover, a 
sum of 700 was spent by the road-trustees in 
opening up the road for the resumption of traffic, an 
official report stating that for 26 miles the road 
" was blocked up by an impenetrable mass of snow 
varying from 3 feet to 18 feet in depth." 


Between Leicester and Northampton cuttings were 
made, just wide enough for a coach to pass, where 
the snow was heaped up to a height of 30, 40, and 
in some places 50 feet. About a stage from Cov- 
entry, near a place called Dunchurch, seventeen 
coaches were reported to be laid up in the snow ; 
and in other parts of the country a similar whole- 
sale derangement or stoppage of road-traffic took 

On the 9th January 1837, an official report set 
forth that " the mail-coach road between Louth and 
Sheffield had on the 6th inst. been closed twelve 
days in consequence of the snow, and it is stated 
that it will be a week before the mail can run." 
An attempt was made to get the mail forward 
from Lewes to London by post-chaise and four horses ; 
but after proceeding about a mile from the town, 
the chaise returned, the driver reporting that it was 
impossible to proceed, as the main road was quite 
blocked up with snow to a depth of 10 or 12 feet. 

These were the good old times ; and no doubt to 
us they have a romance, though to the people who 
lived in them they had a very practical aspect. 

The general instructions to mail-guards in cases 
of breakdown were as follows : 

" When the coach is so broke down that it cannot 
proceed as it is on its way to London, if you have not 


above two passengers, and you can procure a post-chaise 
without loss of time, get them and the mail forward 
in that way, with the horses that used to draw the 
mail-coach, that they may be in their places (till you 
come to where a coach is stationed); and if you have 
lost any time, you must endeavour to fetch it up, 
which may be easily done, as the chaise is lighter 
than the coach. 

"If you cannot get a post-chaise, take off one of 
the coach-horses, and ride with your bags to the 
next stage ; there take another horse, and so on 
till you come to the end of your ground, when you 
must deliver the bags to the next guard, who must 
proceed in the same manner. If your mail is so 
large (as the York, Manchester, and two or three 
others are at some part of the road) that one horse 
cannot carry it, you may take two ; tie the mail on 
one horse and ride the other. The person who 
horses the mail must order his horsekeeper at every 
stage to furnish you with horses in case of accidents. 
Change your horses at every post-town, and do all 
your office-duty the same as if the coach travelled. 

" If in travelling from London an accident happens, 
use all possible expedition in repairing the coach to 
proceed ; and if it cannot be repaired in an hour or 
two, take the mail forward by horse or chaise if 
the latter, the passengers will go with you." 


In pursuance of these instructions, many instances 
of devotion to duty were given by the mail-guards, 
in labouring to get the mails forward in the midst 
of the snowstorm of 1836. 

On the 26th of December the Birmingham mail- 
coach, proceeding to London, got rather beyond 
Aylesbury, where it broke down. Some things 
having been set right, another effort was made, and 
some little further way made ; but the attempt to 
go on had to be given up, for the snow was getting 
deeper at every step. A hurricane was blowing, 
accompanied with a fall of fine snow, and the horses 
shook with extreme cold. In these circumstances, 
Price the mail-guard mounted one of the horses, tied 
his mail-bags on the back of another, and set out 
for London. He was joined farther on by two 
postboys on other horses with the bye-bags, and 
all three journeyed in company. The road-marks 
being frequently effaced, they were constantly de- 
viating from their proper course, clearing gates, 
hedges, and ditches ; but having a general knowledge 
of the lie of the country, and Price being possessed 
of good nerves, they succeeded in reaching the metrop- 
olis. The guard was in a distressing state of ex- 
haustion when he reached his destination. This 
was only one instance of the way in which the 
guards acquitted themselves during this memorable 


storm, and for their great exertions they received 
the special thanks of the Postmaster-General. 

At a place called Cavendish Bridge the mails 
were arrested by the storm, and the exertions of the 
coachman and guard were thus referred to by a 
private gentleman of the neighbourhood, who com- 
municated with the Post - office on the subject : 
" I take leave to remark that the zeal and industry 
evinced by the guard and coachman, more especially 
the former (named Needle), upon the trying occasion 
to which your communication has reference, was 
well worthy of imitation, and formed a striking 
contrast to the reprehensible apathy of two gentle- 
men who were inside passengers by the mail." 

A notable instance of the devotion to duty of 
a coachman and mail - guard, and one illustrating 
the dangers and hardships which Post-office ser- 
vants of that class had to encounter, occurred in the 
winter of 1831. On Tuesday the 1st February of 
that year, James M'George, mail-guard, and John 
Goodfellow, coachman, set out from Dumfries for 
Edinburgh at seven o'clock in the morning, and after 
extraordinary exertions reached Moffat, beyond 
which, however, they found it impossible to proceed 
with the coach, owing to the accumulation of snow. 
They then procured saddle-horses, and with these, 
accompanied by a postboy, they went on, intending 


to continue their journey in this way. They had 
not proceeded beyond Erickstane Hill, a rising 
ground in close proximity to the well-known natural 
enclosure called the Deil's Beef-Tub, when it became 
evident that the horses could not make the journey, 
and these were sent back in charge of the postboy 
to Moffat. The guard and coachman, unwilling to 
give in, continued their journey on foot, having in 
view to reach a roadside inn at Tweedshaws, some 
two or three miles farther on. The exact particulars 
of what thereafter happened will never be known, 
beyond this, that the mail-bags were afterwards 
found tied to one of the road-posts set up in like 
situations to mark the line of road on occasions of 
snowstorms, and that the two men perished in the 
drift. The last act performed by them, before being 
quite overcome by exhaustion and fatigue, was in- 
spired by a sense of duty, their aim being to leave 
the bags where they would more readily be found 
by others, should they themselves not live to re- 
cover them. Shortly after this the two men appear 
to have succumbed; for their bodies were found 
five days afterwards within a hundred yards of the 
place where they left the bags, and where at the 
cost of their lives they had rendered their last 
service to the Post-office and their country. 

We who are accustomed to the comforts of railway 


travelling, are nevertheless, in regard to accidents, 
very much like the ostrich ; for though we do not 
purposely close our eyes to danger, we are neverthe- 
less placed in such a position that we are unable, 
when shut up in a railway carriage, to see what is 
before us, or about to happen. 

Far otherwise was the case in the days of coach- 
ing. The passengers, as well as the drivers and 
guards, were not only exposed to the drenchings 
from long-continued rain, the terrible exposure to the 
cold night-air in winter travelling, and the danger of 
attack from highwaymen, but they ran the risks of 
all the accidents of the road, many of which they 
could see to be inevitable before they happened. 
There were occasions when passengers were frozen to 
death on the coaches, and others when they fell off 
benumbed with cold. It is said sometimes that first 
impressions are often correct; but there are, of 
course, erroneous first impressions as well. A story 
is told of a mail-guard in Scotland who had the 
misfortune to be on a coach which upset, and from 
which all the outside people were thrown to the 
ground. The guard came down upon his head on 
the top of a stiff hedge, and from this temporary 
situation rolled into a ditch, where for a moment he 
lay. Coming to himself from a partial stupor, he 
imagined there was something wrong with the top of 


his head, and putting up his hand, he felt a flat 
surface, which to his dawning perception appeared 
to be a section of his neck, his impression being 
that his head had been cut off. This was, however, 
nothing but the crown of his hat, which, being forced 
down over his head and face, had probably saved 
him from more serious damage. Broken limbs were 
accidents of common occurrence ; but affairs of much 
more serious import occasionally took place, of which 
the following is a notable example : 

On the night of Tuesday the 25th October 
1808, the road between Carlisle and Glasgow was 
the scene of a catastrophe which will serve to illus- 
trate in a striking degree one of the perils of the 
postal service in the mail-coach era. The place 
where the event now to be described occurred, lies 
between Beattock and Elvanfoot (about five miles 
from the latter place), where the highway crosses 
the Evan Water, a stream which takes its rise near 
the sources of the Clyde, but whose waters are car- 
ried southward into Dumfriesshire. To be more 
precise, the situation is between two places called 
Kaecleuch and Howcleuch, on the Carlisle road; and 
a bridge which now spans the water, in lieu of a 
former bridge, retains by association, to this day, 
the name of the " Broken Bridge." 

It was at the breaking up of a severe storm of 


frost and snow, when the rivers were flooded to such 
an extent as had never been seen by the oldest people 
in the neighbourhood. The bridge had been but 
recently built ; and though it was afterwards stated 
that the materials composing the mortar must have 
been of bad quality, no doubt would seem to have 
been entertained as to the security of the bridge. 
The night was dark, and accompanied by both wind 
and rain elements which frequently usher in a state 
of thaw. The mail-coach having passed the summit, 
was speeding along at a good round pace, the " out- 
siders " doubtless making themselves as comfortable 
as circumstances would allow, while the " insides," 
as we might imagine, had composed themselves into 
some semblance of sleep, the time being between 
nine and ten o'clock, when, suddenly and without 
warning, the whole equipage horses, coach, driver, 
guard, and passengers on reaching the middle of 
the bridge, went headlong precipitate into the swollen 
stream through a chasm left by the collapse of the 
arch. It is by no means easy to realise what the 
thoughts would be of those concerned in this dread- 
ful experience pitched into a roaring torrent, in a 
most lonely place, at a late hour on such a night. 
The actual results were, however, very serious. The 
two leading horses were killed outright by the fall, 
while one of the wheelers was killed by a heavy 


stone descending upon it from the still impending 
portions of the wrecked structure. The coach and 
harness also were utterly destroyed. But, worse 
still, two outside passengers, one a Mr Lund, a 
partner in a London house, and the other named 
Brand, a merchant in Ecclefechan, were killed on the 
spot, while a lady and three gentlemen who were 
inside passengers miraculously escaped with their 
lives, though they were severely bruised. The lady, 
who had scrambled out of the vehicle, sought 
refuge on a rock in mid-stream, there remaining 
prisoner for a time ; and by her means a second 
catastrophe of a similar kind was happily averted. 
The mail from Carlisle for Glasgow usually exchanged 
" Good-night " with the south-going coach, when they 
were running to time, just about the scene of the 
accident. Fortunately the coach from Carlisle was 
rather late ; but when it did arrive, the lady on the 
rock, seeing the lights approach, screamed aloud, 
and thus warned the driver to draw up in time. 
Succour was now at hand. Something ludicrous 
generally finds itself in company with whatever is 
of a tragic nature. The guard of the Carlisle coach 
was let down to the place where the lady was, by 
means of the reins taken from the horses. HugMe 
Campbell that was the guard's name when de- 
liberating upon the plan of rescue, had some delicacy 


as to how he should affix the reins to the person of 
the lady, and called up to those above, " Where will 
I grip her ? " But before he could be otherwise 
advised, the lady, long enough already on the rock, 
broke in, " Grip me where you like, but grip me 
firm," which observation at once removed Hughie's 
difficulty, and set his scruples at ease. The 
driver of the wrecked coach, Alexander Cooper, was 
at first thought to have been carried away ; but he 
was afterwards found caught between two stones in 
the river. He survived the accident only a few 
weeks serious injuries to his back proving fatal. 
As for the guard, Thomas Kinghorn, he was severely 
cut about the head, but eventually recovered. 

It was usual for the coachman and guard over 
this wild and exposed road to be strapped to their 
seats in stormy weather ; but on this occasion King- 
horn, as it happened, was not strapped, and to this 
circumstance he attributed his escape from death. 
When the mail went down, he was sent flying over 
the bridge, and alighted clear from the wreck of the 
coach. The dead passengers and the wounded per- 
sons were taken by the other coach into Moffat. 

It may be added that the fourth horse was got 
out of its predicament little the worse for the fall, 
and continued to run for many a day over the same 
road; but it was always observed to evince great 


nervousness and excitement whenever it approached 
the scene of the accident. 

Yet the mail-coach days had charms and attrac- 
tions for travellers, if they at the same time had 
their drawbacks : the bustle and excitement of the 
start, when the horses were loosed and the driver 
let them have rein, under the eyes of interested and 
admiring spectators ; the exhilarating gallop as a 
good pace was achieved on the open country-road ; 
the keen relish of the meals, more especially of 
breakfast, at the neatly kept and hospitable inn ; the 
blithe note of the guard's horn, as a turnpike-gate or 
the end of a stage was approached ; and the hurried 
changing of horses from time to time as the journey 
progressed. Ever-varying scene is the characteristic 
of the occasion : the village with its rustic quiet, 
and odd characters, who were sure to present them- 
selves as the coach flew by ; the fresh and blooming 
fields ; the soft and pastoral downs ; the scented 
hedgerows in May and June ; the stretches of road 
embowered with wood, affording a grateful shade in 
warm weather ; the farmer's children swinging on a 
gate or overtopping a fence, and cheering lustily 
with their small voices as the coach swept along. 
And then, the hours of twilight being past, when 

" Day hath put on his jacket, and around 
His burning bosom buttoned it with stars," 


the eeriness of a night-journey would be experienced. 
During hard frost the clear ring of the horses' feet 
would be heard upon the road ; the discomfort of 
fellow-passengers rolling about in their places, over- 
come by sleep, would be felt ; while in the solemn 
dulness of the darker hours of night the monotony 
of the situation would be relieved at intervals, in 
the mineral districts, by miniature mountains of 
blazing coal, shedding their lurid glare upon the 
coach as it passed, and showing up the figures of 
soiled and dusky men employed thereat, thus creat- 
ing a horrible impression upon the passengers, and 
seeming to afford an effective representation of 
Dante's shadowy world. 

Or, on occasions of great national triumph when, 
for example, some important victory crowned our 
arms the coach, decked out with ribbons or green 
leaves, would be the bearer of the joyful and intoxi- 
cating news down into the country, the driver and 
guard, as the official representatives of the Crown, 
being the heroes of the hour. 

But it may be of interest to learn what a mail- 
coach journey was from one who had just completed 
such a trip, and who, in the freshness of youth, and 
with the unreserve which can only subsist in corres- 
pondence between members of a family or dear friends, 
immediately commits his impressions to writing. We 


have a vivid sketch of a journey of this kind from 
no less a personage than Felix Mendelssohn, the 
great musical composer. Mendelssohn was at the 
time a young man of twenty : he had been making 
a tour in Scotland with his friend Klingemann 
the visit being that from which, by the way, Men- 
delssohn derived inspiration for the composition 
of his delightful Scotch symphony ; and the means 
by which he quitted the northern kingdom was by 
mail-coach from Glasgow to Liverpool. The follow- 
ing letter, descriptive of the journey, and dated 
August 19, 1829, is copied from an interesting work 
called ' The Mendelssohn Family ' : 

" We flew away from Glasgow on the top of the 
.mail, ten miles an hour, past steaming meadows and 
smoking chimneys, to the Cumberland lakes, to Kes- 
wick, Kendal, and the prettiest towns and villages. 
The whole country is like a drawing-room. The 
rocky walls are papered with bushes, moss, and firs ; 
the trees are carefully wrapped up in ivy ; there are 
no walls or fences, only high hedges, and you see 
them all the way up flat hill-tops. On all sides 
carriages full of travellers fly along the roads ; the 
corn stands in sheaves ; slopes, hills, precipices, are 
all covered with thick, warm foliage. Then again 
our eyes dwelt on the dark-blue English distance 
many a noble castle, and so on, until we reached 


Ambleside. There the sky turned gloomy again, and 
we had rain and storm. Sitting on the top of the 
' stage,' and madly careering along ravines, past 
lakes, up-hill, down -hill, wrapped in cloaks, and 
umbrellas up, we could see nothing but railings, 
heaps of stones or ditches, and but rarely catch 
glimpses of hills and lakes. Sometimes our um- 
brellas scraped against the roofs of the houses, and 
then, wet through, we would come to a second-rate 
inn, with a high blazing fire, and English conversa- 
tion about walking, coals, supper, the weather, and 
Bonaparte. Yesterday our seats on the coach were 
accidentally separated, so that I hardly spoke to 
Klingemann, for changing horses was done in about 
forty seconds. I sat on the box next by the coach- 
man, who asked me whether I flirted much, and 
made me talk a good deal, and taught me the slang 
of horsemanship. Klingemann sat next to two old 
women, with whom he shared his umbrella. Again 
manufactories, meadows, parks, provincial towns, here 
a canal, there a railway, then the sea with ships, 
six full coaches with towering outsiders following 
each other ; in the evening a thick fog, the stage 
running madly in the darkness. Through the fog 
we see lamps gleaming all about the horizon ; the 
smoke of manufactories envelops us on all sides ; 
gentlemen on horseback ride past ; one coach-horn 


blows in B flat, another in D, others follow in the 
distance, and here we are at Liverpool." 

Speed was of the first consideration, and the 
stoppages at the wayside stages were of very limited 
duration. At an inn, the travellers would hardly have 
made a fair start in appeasing their hunger, when 
the guard would be heard calling upon them to 
take their seats, which, with mouths full, and still 
hungry, they would be forced to do, though with a 
bad grace and a growl the acknowledged privilege 
of Englishmen. A story is told of one passenger, 
however, who was equal to the occasion. Leisurely 
sipping his tea and eating his toast, this traveller 
was found by the landlord in the breakfast-room 
when the other passengers were seated and the 
coach was on the point of starting. Boniface ap- 
pealed to him to take his place, or he would be 
left behind. " But," replied the traveller, " that I will 
not do till I have a spoon to sup my egg." A glance 
apprised the landlord that not a spoon adorned the 
table, and rushing out he detained the coach while 
all the passengers were searched for the missing 
articles. Then out came the satisfied traveller, who 
also submitted to be searched, and afterwards mount- 
ed the coach ; and as the mail drove off he called 
to the landlord to look inside the teapot, where the 
artful traveller had placed the dozen spoons, with 


the double object of cooling the tea for his second 
cup, and detaining the coach till he drank it. 

In the year 1836 the speed of some of the mail- 
coaches was nearly ten miles an hour, including 
stoppages, and this was kept up over very long 
distances. From Edinburgh to London, a distance of 
400 miles, the time allowed was forty-five and a half 
hours ; in the opposite direction the time was cur- 
tailed to forty-two and a half hours. From London 
to York, 197 miles, twenty hours were allowed ; 
London to Manchester, 185 miles, nineteen hours ; 
London to Exeter, 176 miles, nineteen hours; Lon- 
don to Holy head, 259 miles, twenty-seven hours ; 
London to Devonport, 216 miles, twenty-one hours. 
But in the earlier days of the mail-coach, travelling 
was much less rapid; for we find that in 1804 the 
mail-coach from Perth to Edinburgh, a distance by 
way of Fife of 40 miles, took eight hours for the 
journey, including stoppages and the transit by ferry 
across the Forth that is, at the rate of five miles an 
hour. The mail-guards rode about twelve hours at 
a stretch quite long enough, in all conscience, on a 
wet or frosty night. 

An incident of a romantic nature happened about 
the year 1780 in connection with the stage-coach (not 
a mail-coach, however, be it noted) running between 
Edinburgh and Glasgow at that period. The stage- 


coach, drawn by four horses, had been on the road 
for many years, having been established about the 
year 1758. The time occupied in the journey was 
twelve hours ; nor, down to the period in question, 
had any acceleration taken place. A young lady of 
Glasgow, of distinguished beauty, having to travel to 
Edinburgh, a lover whose suit towards her had not 
hitherto proved successful, took the remaining tickets 
for the journey, and so became her sole companion 
on the way. By assiduous attentions, and all the 
winsome ways which the tender passion knows to 
suggest, as well as by earnestness of pursuit, the 
lover won the lady to his favour, and she soon there- 
after became his wife. But the full day did not 
justify the brightness of the morning : the husband 
failed to prove himself worthy of his good fortune ; 
" and the lady, in a state worse than widowhood, 
was, a few years after, the subject of the celebrated 
Clarinda correspondence of Burns." 

In addition to the obvious duties of the mail- 
guards to protect the mails and carry out their 
exchange at the several stations they were sometimes 
required to perform special duties unconnected with 
Post-office work. They were, for example, called 
upon to keep watch in the early part of the present 
century upon French prisoners of war who might be 
breaking their parole, a likely way of escaping being 


by the mail-coaches. The guards were instructed to 
question any suspicious foreigner travelling by the 
coach, and to report the matter to the postmaster at 
the first town at which they arrived. This was doubt- 
less looked upon as a pleasure rather than as a 
hardship ; for they were reminded that the usual 
reward was ten guineas each not a bad price for a 
Frenchman under the circumstances. 

No record of the mail-coach days would be complete 
without a description of the annual procession of 
mail-coaches which used to be held in the metropolis 
on the monarch's birthday. As every corporation or 
society has its saint's day, or yearly festival, so the 
Jehus of the Post-office were not without theirs ; an 
occasion on which they showed themselves to advan- 
tage, and drew admiring crowds to behold them. The 
following account of one of these displays is from the 
'Annals of the Road/ a work of great interest on sub- 
jects connected with coaching generally ; and as the 
description is given with spirit and apparent truthful- 
ness, we cannot do better than give it at length, and 
in this way bring the present chapter to a 'close : 

" The great day of the year was the King's birth- 
day, when a goodly procession of four - in - hands 
started from the great coach manufactory of Mr 
John Vidler, in the neighbourhood of Millbank, and 
wended its way to St Martin's-le-Grand. Splendid 


in fresh paint and varnish, gold lettering and Royal 
arms, they were the perfection of neatness and 
practical utility in build, horsed to perfection, and 
leathered to match. They were driven by coachmen 
who, as well as the guards behind, were arrayed in 
spick-and-span new scarlet and gold. No delicate 
bouquets, but mighty nosegays of the size of a cab- 
bage, adorned the breasts of these portly mail coach- 
men and guards, while bunches of cabbage - roses 
decorated the heads of the proud steeds. In the 
cramped interior of the vehicles were closely pack- 
ed buxom dames and blooming lasses, the wives, 
daughters, or sweethearts of the coachmen or guards, 
the fair passengers arrayed in coal-scuttle bonnets 
and in canary-coloured or scarlet silks. On this 
great occasion the guard was allowed two seats and 
the coachman two, no one allowed on the roof. But 
the great feature, after all, was that stirring note, so 
clearly blown and well drawn out, and every now 
and again sounded by the guards, and alternated with 
such airs as ' The Days when we went Gipsying/ 
capitally played on a key-bugle. Should a mail 
come late, the tune from a passing one would be, 
' Oh, dear ! what can the matter be ? ' This key- 
bugle was no part of the mail equipment, but was 
nevertheless frequently used. 

" Heading the procession was the oldest-established 


mail, which would be the Bristol. On the King's 
birthday, 1834, there were 27 coaches in the pro- 
cession. They all wore hammer-cloths, and both 
guard and coachman were in red liveries, the latter 
being furnished by the mail contractor. They wore 
beaver hats with gold lace and cockades. Sucli 
a thing as a low billycock hat was not to be seen on 
any coach anywhere. Sherman's mails were drawn 
by black horses, and on these occasions their harness 
was of red morocco. 

" The coaches were new each year. In these days 
brass mountings were rarely known ; plated or silver 
only were in use. On the starting of the procession, 
the bells of the neighbouring churches rang out 
merrily, continuing their rejoicing peals till it arrived 
at the General Post-office. Many country squires, 
who were always anxious that their best horses 
should have a few turns in the mail - coaches in 
travelling, sent up their horses to figure in the 

"From Millbank the procession passed by St 
James's Palace, at the windows of which, above the 
porch, stood King William and his Queen. The 
Duke of Kichmond (then Postmaster-General) and 
the Duke of Wellington stood there also. Each 
coach as it passed saluted the King, the coachman 
and guard standing up and taking off their hats. 


The appearance of the smart coaches, emblazoned 
with the Koyal arms, orders, &c., coachman and guard 
got up to every advantage, with their nosegays stuck 
in their brand-new scarlet liveries, was at this point 
strikingly grand. The inspectors of mail - coaches 
rode in front of the procession on horseback." 




" I know of no more universally popular personage than this humble 
official. Bearer of love-letters, post-office orders, cheques, little care- 
fully tied packages, all the more charming that it is difficult to get at 
their contents, it is who shall be first to open the door to him. He is 
welcomed everywhere ; smiling faces greet him at every door. In Eng- 
land, the postman is the hero of Christmas time ; so he strikes the iron 
while it is hot, and on Boxing-day comes round to ask for a reward, 
which all are ready to give without grudging." Max O'Rell in 'John 
Bull and his Island.' 

THOUGH in former times foot-messengers or, as 
they are called, post-runners were employed 
to convey many of the principal mails over long 
stretches of country, their work in this way has 
been almost wholly superseded by the railway and 
by horse-posts ; and while post-runners are perhaps 
now numerically stronger than they ever were, their 
work is principally confined nowadays to what may 
be termed the capillary service of the Post - office. 
They are chiefly employed in conveying correspond- 
ence between country towns and the outlying points 


forming the outskirts or fringes of inhabited districts. 
These men have in many cases very arduous work, 
being required to walk from sixteen to twenty-four 
miles a-day ; and it is not improbable that the cir- 
cumstances of these later times make the duties 
more trying in some respects than they were for- 
merly. For the messengers are so timed for arrival 
and departure that they are prevented from taking 
shelter on occasions of storm, and are obliged to plod 
on in spite of the elements ; whereas in remote times, 
when a runner took several days to cover his ground, 
he could rest and take refuge at one stage, and make 
up lost time at another. Be this, however, as it may, 
it is the fact that very many post-runners die from 
that insidious disease, consumption. 

In the year 1590, the magistrates of Aberdeen 
established a post for conveying their despatches to 
and from Edinburgh, and other places where the 
royal residence might for the time be. This insti- 
tution was called the " Council Post " ; and the mes- 
senger was dressed in a garment of blue cloth, with 
the armorial bearings of the town worked in silver 
on his right sleeve. In the year 1715, there was 
not a single horse-post in Scotland, all the mails 
being conveyed by runners on foot ; and the ground 
covered by these posts extended from Edinburgh as 
far north as Thurso, and westward as far as Inverary. 


About the year 1750, an improved plan of forward- 
ing the mails was introduced in Scotland by the 
horse-posts proceeding only from stage to stage the 
mails being transferred to a fresh postboy at each 
point ; but in the majority of cases the mails were 
still carried by foot-runners. Before the change of 
system the plan of proceeding was this, taking the 
north road as an example : " A person set out with 
the mail from Edinburgh to Aberdeen : he did not 
travel a stage and then deliver the mail to another 
postboy, but went on to Dundee, where he rested 
the first night ; to Montrose, where he stayed the 
second ; and on the third he arrived at Aberdeen ; 
and as he passed by Kinghorn, it behoved the tide, 
and sometimes also the weather, to render the time 
of his arrival more late and uncertain." 

The plan of conveying mails by the same runners 
over long distances continued much later, however ; 
for we find that in 1799 a post-runner travelled 
from Inverness to Lochcarron a distance across 
country as the crow flies of about fifty miles 
making the journey once a - week, for which he 
was paid five shillings. Another messenger at the 
same period made the journey from Inverness to 
Dunvegan in Skye a much greater distance also 
once a-week, the hebdomadal stipend in this instance 
being seven shillings and sixpence. 


As with the postboys, so with the runners ; the 
surveyors seem to have had some trouble in keeping 
them to their prescribed duties, as will be gathered 
from the following report written in the year 1800 : 
" I found it had been the general practice for the 
post from Bonaw to Appin to lodge regularly all 
night at or near the house of Ardchattan, and did 
not cross Shien till the following morning, losing 
twelve hours to the Appin, Strontian, and Fort 
William districts of country ; and I consider it an 
improvement of itself to remove such private lodg- 
ings or accommodations out of the way of posts, 
which, as I have been informed, is sometimes done 
for the sake of perusing newspapers, as well as 
answering or writing letters." 

Nor was the speed of the foot-posts in some 
cases, at any rate very much to boast of, these 
humble messengers being at times heavily weighted 
with the correspondence they had to carry. In the 
year 1805, before the Dumbarton to Inverary mail 
service was raised to the dignity of a horse-post, the 
surveyor, in referring to the necessity for the em- 
ployment of horses, thus deplores the situation : " I 
have sometimes observed these mails, at leaving 
Dumbarton, about three stones or forty-eight pounds 
weight, and they are generally above two stones. 
During the course of last winter, horses were obliged 


to be occasionally employed ; and it is often the case 
that a strong Highlander, with so great weight on 
him, cannot travel more than two miles an hour, 
which greatly retards the general correspondence of 
this extensive district of country." 

In winter-time, and on occasions of severe storms, 
the post -runners have sometimes to endure great 
fatigue ; and it is then that their loyalty to the service 
h put to the test. An instance of stern fidelity to 
duty on the part of one of these men, at the time 
of the snowstorm of 1836, formed the subject of a 
petition to the Postmaster-General from the inhabi- 
tants of Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppy. 

The document recites that a foot-messenger named 
John "Wright continued for nine days, from the 25th 
December 1836, to carry the mails between Sheerness 
and Sittingbourne a distance for the double journey 
of about twenty-four miles. At the end of this time 
he was so completely exhausted and overcome by the 
effects of cold and exposure, that he had to give up 
duty for a time. The memorial sets forth that " the 
road is circuitous and crooked, through marshes, and 
very exposed, without any protection from the drift 
(in many places very deep), and with a ditch on 
either side the water of which was frozen just 
sufficient to bear the weight of the snow, thereby 
rendering the travelling extremely hazardous, inas- 


much as the dangers were in a great measure 
unseen ; and had the postman mistaken his road 
(which from the frequent drifting of the snow and 
the absence of traffic at that time was often un- 
tracked), and fallen into one of these ditches, he must 
no doubt have perished." It appeared further, that 
between the two places there was a ferry which 
the postman had to cross, and that in making the 
passage on the night of the 25th December, the 
boat in which he was nearly swamped, and he 
" was compelled to escape through mud and water 
up to his waist." It is not an uncommon thing for 
messengers to lose their lives in the discharge of 
their duties, and a severe winter seldom passes with- 
out some fatality of this kind. In the winter of 
1876-77, a sad accident befell a messenger employed 
in Northumberland. On a night of intense darkness 
and storm, this man turned off the usual road in 
order to avoid crossing a swollen stream ; and sub- 
sequently losing his way, he sank down and died, 
overcome by exposure and fatigue. In another case 
a messenger at Lochcarron, in Scotland, being unable 
to pursue his usual route over a mountain 2000 feet 
high, on account of a heavy fall of snow, proceeded 
by water to complete his journey ; but the boat 
which he had engaged capsized, and both the mes- 
senger and two other persons who accompanied him 



were drowned. A few years ago, on the evening 
of Christmas-day, a rural messenger at Bannow, in 
Ireland, while on his return journey along a narrow 
path flanked on each side by a deep ditch, is believed 
to have bjeen tripped by a furze-root, and being pre- 
cipitated into one of the ditches, was unfortunately 
drowned. The rural post-messengers having, more- 
over, to visit isolated houses along their route, are 
exposed to the attacks of dogs kept about the pre- 
mises. A few years ago a rural messenger was 
delivering letters at a farmhouse, when he was 
severely bitten by a retriever dog, and he died six 
weeks afterwards from tetanus. 

It is perhaps in the Western Highlands and 
Islands of Scotland that the most trying condi- 
tions for the rural messengers present themselves. 
From Ullapool to Coigach and Bieff in Eoss-shire, 
for example, a journey of twenty-six miles, the mes- 
senger travels out one day, and back again the 
next. Proceeding from Ullapool, the main road is 
followed for about three miles, when the man strikes 
off into the hills, and after a time reaches a river. 
This he is enabled sometimes to cross by means of 
stepping-stones ; but so often does the water cover 
these, that he is generally obliged to ford it, and in 
doing so gets himself thoroughly wet. Then he 
pursues a course along or over one of the most 


dangerous rocks in Scotland for a distance of three 
or four miles, the rock in some places being so 
precipitous that he is obliged to cling to it for dear 
life. After passing this rock he continues some 
distance farther over the hills, and ultimately re- 
gains the main road, by which he completes his 
journey. Apart altogether from the dangerous char- 
acter of the road, the distance which the post-runner 
has to walk day after day must necessarily be severe 
and trying work. 

From Lochmaddy to Castlebay there is a chain 
of posts seventy-five miles long, served partly by 
foot -messengers, partly by horse -posts, and partly 
by boats. The line is intersected by dangerous 
ferries, one between Kilbride and Barra being six 
miles wide, and exposed to the full force of the 
waves from the Atlantic. From Garrynahine to 
Miavaig, in the island of Lewis, there is another 
dangerous service, partly by foot-post and partly by 
boat, the distance being seventeen miles. The road 
lies all through bog a dreary waste while the 
sea portion is on a most exposed part of the coast. 

These are a few instances of the laborious and 
dangerous services performed by the rural postmen. 
Their brother officers in the towns, though in many 
cases having quite hard enough work (Mr Anthony 
Trollope tells that the hardest day's work he ever 


did in his life was accompanying a Glasgow post- 
man up and down stairs on his beat), have not the 
exposure of the men in the country ; and as they 
are familiar to the eyes of every one, any special 
notice of them here would be out of place. 

It may, however, be mentioned, that the men who 
formerly delivered letters in small towns were not 
always in the pay of the Post-office or under its 
control. This appears by an official report of 1810, 
relating to the town service of Greenock, which runs 
as follows : " As the Greenock letter-carrier is not 
paid by Government, nor their appointment properly 
in us, they are of course elected by the magistrates 
or inhabitants of the town, who have the right to 
choose their own carriers, or call for their letters at 
the office." 




employment of vessels for the conveyance 
-*- of mails seems to have passed through three 
several stages, each no doubt merging into the next, 
but each retaining, nevertheless, distinct features of 
its own. First, there was the stage when Govern- 
ment equipped and manned its own ships for the 
service ; then there was an age of very heavy sub- 
sidies to shipping companies who could not under- 
take regularity of sailing without some such assist- 
ance ; and now there is the third stage, when, through 
the great development of international trade and the 
consequent competition of rival shipowners, regularity 
of sailing is ensured apart from the post, and the 
Government is able to make better terms for the 
conveyance of the mails. 

It is curious to take a glimpse of the conditions 
under which the early packets sailed, when they 
were often in danger of having to fight or fly. The 


instructions to the captains were to run while they 
could, fight when they could no longer run, and to 
throw the mails overboard when fighting would no 
longer avail. In 1693, such a ship as then per- 
formed the service was described as one of " eighty- 
five tons and fourteen guns, with powder, shot, and 
firearms, and all other munitions of war." A poor 
captain, whose ship the Grace Dogger was lying in 
Dublin Bay awaiting the tide, fell into the hands of 
the enemy, a French privateer having seized his ship 
and stripped her of rigging, sails, spars, and yards. 
and of all the furniture " wherewith she had been 
provided for the due accommodation of passengers, 
leaving not so much as a spoone or a naile-hooke to 
hang anything on." The unfortunate ship in its 
denuded state was ransomed from its captors for 
fifty guineas. If we may judge from this case, the 
fighting of the packets does not seem always to have 
been satisfactory ; and the Postmasters- General of the 
day, deeming discretion the better part of valour, set 
about building packets that should escape the enemy. 
They did build new vessels, but so low did they rest 
in the water that the Postmasters-General wrote of 
them thus : " Wee doe find that in blowing weather 
they take in soe much water that the men are con- 
stantly wet all through, and can noe ways goe below 
to change themselves, being obliged to keep the 


hatches shut to save the vessel from sinking, which 
is such a discouragement of the sailors, that it will be 
of the greatest difficulty to get any to endure such 
hardshipps in the winter weather." These flying 
ships not proving a success, the Postmasters-General 
then determined to build " boats of force to withstand 
the enemy," adopting the bull-dog policy as the only 
course open in the circumstances. It may be inter- 
esting to recall how these packets were manned. In 
May 1695 the crews of the packets between Harwich 
and Holland were placed on the following footing : 

Per mensem. 
Master and Com- 

ruander, . . ^10 
Mate, . . .' 3 10 
Surgeon, . . 3 10 
Boatswain, . . 350 
Midshipman, . 1 15 
Carpenter, . . 350 
Boatswain's mate, 1 15 

Per mensem. 

Gunner's mate, . 1 15 
Quartermaster, . 1 15 
Captain's servant, 100 
11 Able seamen at 

,1, 10s., . . 16 10 
Agent's instrument, 200 

In all, . . 50 

These wages may not have been considered too 
liberal considering the risks the men ran ; and as an 
encouragement to greater valour in dealing with the 
enemy, and as an additional means of recompense, 
the crew were allowed to take prizes if they fell in 
their way. They also " received pensions for wounds, 
according to a code drawn up with a nice discrimin- 
ation of the relative value of different parts of the 


body, and with a most amusing profusion of the 
technical terms of anatomy. Thus, after a fierce 
engagement which took place in February 1705, we 
find that Edward James had a donation of 5 be- 
cause a musket- shot had grazed on the tibia of his 
left leg; that Gabriel Treludra had 12 because a 
shot had divided his frontal muscles and fractured 
his skull ; that Thomas Williams had the same sum 
because a Granada shell had stuck fast in his left 
foot ; that John Cook, who received a shot in the 
hinder part of his head, whereby a large division of 
the scalp was made, had a donation of 6, 13s. 4d. 
for present relief, and a yearly pension of the same 
amount ; and that Benjamin Lillycrop, who lost the 
fore-finger of his left hand, had 2 for present relief, 
and a yearly pension of the same amount." Some 
other classes of wounds were assessed for pensions 
as follows : " Each arm or leg amputated above the 
elbow or knee is 8 per annum ; below the knee is 
20 nobles. Loss of the sight of one eye is 4, of the 
pupil of the eye 5, of the sight of both eyes 12, of 
the pupils of both eyes 14 ; and according to these 
rules we consider also how much the hurts affect the 
body, and make the allowances accordingly." 

But between different parts of the United King- 
dom, not a century ago, it is remarkable how in- 
frequent the communications sometimes were. Now- 


adays, there are three or four mails a-week between 
the mainland and Lerwick, in Shetland, whereas in 
1802 the mails between these parts were carried 
only ten times a-year, the trips in December and 
January being omitted owing to the stormy charac- 
ter of the weather. The contract provided that there 
should be iised " a sufficiently strong-built packet," 
and the allowance granted for the service was 120 
per annum. It may perhaps be worthy of notice 
that the amount of postage upon letters sent to Shet- 
land in the year ended the 5th July 1802 was no 
more than 199, 19s. Id. It was also stipulated, 
by the terms of the agreement, that the con- 
tractors should adopt a proper search of their own 
servants, lest they should privately convey letters to 
the injury of the revenue ; and they were also re- 
quired to take measures against passengers by the 
packet transgressing in the same way. On one occa- 
sion the good people in these northern islands, when 
memorialising for more frequent postal service, sug- 
gested that the packets would be of great use in spy- 
ing out and reporting the presence of French priva- 
teers on the coast ; but the Postmaster-General of the 
period took the sensible view that the less the packets 
saw of French privateers the better it would be for 
the packet service. 

Difficulties are experienced even in the present 


day in communicating with some of the outlying 
islands of the north of Scotland, . weeks and occa- 
sionally months passing without the boats carrying 
the mails being able to make the passage. The fol- 
lowing is from a report made by the postmaster of 
Lerwick on the 27th March 1883, with reference to 
the interruption of the mail-service with Foula, an 
outlying island of the Shetland group : 

"A mail was made up on the 8th January, and 
several attempts made to reach the island, but unsuc- 
cessfully, until the 10th March. Fair Isle was in the 
same predicament as Foula, but the mail-boat was 
more unfortunate. A trip was effected to Fair Isle 
about the end of December, but none again until last 
week. About 9th March the boat left for Fair Isle, 
and nothing being heard of her for a fortnight, fears 
were entertained for her safety. Fortunately the 
crew turned up on 23d March, but their boat had 
been wrecked at Fair Isle. During the twenty years 
I have been in the service, I have never been so put 
about arranging our mails and posts as since the New 
Year ; we have had heavier gales, but I do not think 
any one remembers such a continuation of storms 
as from about the first week of January to end of 
February ; indeed it could hardly be called storms, 
but rather one continued storm, with an occasional 
lull of a few hours. I cannot recall any time dur- 
ing the period having twenty-four hours' calm or even 


moderate weather. If it was a lull at night, it was 
on a gale in the morning ; and if a lull in the morning, 
a gale came on before night. The great difficulty in 
working Foula and Fair Isle is the want of har- 
bours ; and often a passage might be made, but the 
men dare not venture on account of the landing at 
the islands." This statement gives a fair idea of the 
difficulties that have to be overcome in keeping up 
the circulation of letters with the distant fragments 
of our home country. 

In the packet service deeds of devotion have been 
done in the way of duty, as has been the case on occa- 
sions in the land service. At a period probably 
about 1800, a Mr Bamage, an officer attached to the 
Dublin Post-office, being charged with a Government 
despatch, to be placed on board the packet in the 
Bay of Dublin, found, on arriving there, that the cap- 
tain, contrary to orders, had put to sea. Mr Bamage, 
being unable to acquit himself of his duty in one 
way, undertook it in another; and hiring an open 
boat, he proceeded to Holyhead, and there safely 
landed the despatch. Another instance is related 
in connection with the shipwreck of the Violet mail- 
packet sailing between Ostend and Dover ; the par- 
ticulars being given as follows in the Postmaster- 
General's report for 1856 : 

" Mr Mortleman, the officer in immediate charge of 
the mail-bags, acted on the occasion with a presence of 


mind and forethought which reflect honour on his me- 
mory. On seeing that the vessel could not be saved, he 
must have removed the cases containing the mail-bags 
from the hold, and so have placed them that when 
the ship went down they might float ; a proceeding 
which ultimately led to the recovery of all the bags, 
except one containing despatches, of which, from their 
nature, it was possible to obtain copies." 

It has already been mentioned that at the close 
of the seventeenth century a mail-packet was a 
vessel of some 85 tons a proud thing, no doubt, 
in the eyes of him who commanded her. The 
class of ship would seem to have remained very 
much the same during the next hundred years ; for, 
in the last years of the eighteenth century, a mail- 
packet on the Falmouth station, reckoned fit to 
proceed to any part of the world, was of only about 
179 tons burthen. Her crew, from commander to 
cook, comprised only twenty - eight persons when 
she was on a war footing, and twenty - one on 
a peace footing ; and her armament was six 
4-pounder guns. The victualling was at the rate 
of tenpence per man per day; the whole annual 
charge for the packet when on the war establish- 
ment, including interest on cost of ship, wages, wear 
and tear of fittings, medicine, &c., being 2112, 
6s. 8d. ; while on the peace establishment, with 
diminished wear and tear, and reduced crew, the 


charge was estimated at 1681, 11s. 9d. The 
packets on the Harwich station, performing the 
service to and from the Continent, were much less 
in size, being of about 70 tons burthen. 

During the wars with the French at this period 
the mail-packets were not infrequently captured by 
the enemy. From 1793 to 1795 alone four of 
these ships were thus lost namely, the King George, 
the Tankerville, the Prince William Henry, and the 
Queen Charlotte. The King George, a Lisbon packet, 
homeward bound with the mails and a considerable 
quantity of money, was taken and carried into Brest. 
The Tankerville, on her passage from Falmouth to 
Halifax, with the mails of November and December 
1794, was captured by the privateer Lovely Lass, a 
ship fitted out in an American port, and probably 
itself a prize, there having been some diplomatic 
correspondence with the United States shortly before 
on the subject of a captured vessel bearing that 
name. Before the Tankerville fell into the hands 
of the enemy, the mails were thrown overboard, in 
accordance with the standing orders which have 
already been referred to. The officers and crew 
were carried on board the Lovely Lass, and then 
the Tankerville was sunk. Soon afterwards the 
captive crew were released by the commander of 
the privateer, and sent in a Spanish prize to 


But though the mail-packets were intended to 
rely for safety mainly upon their fine lines and 
spread of canvas, and were expected to show fight 
only in the last resort, we may be sure that, when 
the hour of battle came upon them, they were not 
taken without a struggle. Nor, indeed, did they 
always get the worst of the fray, as will be seen by 
the following account of a brilliant affair which took 
place in the West Indies, copied from the ' Annual 
Register' of 1794: 

"The Antelope packet sailed from Port Royal, 
Jamaica, November 27, 1793. On the 1st of 
December, on the coast of Cuba, she fell in with 
two schooners, one of which, the Atalanta, outsailed 
her consort ; and after chasing the Antelope for a 
considerable time, and exchanging many shots, at 
five o'clock in the ensuing morning, it being calm, 
rowed up, grappled with her on the starboard side, 
poured in a broadside, and made an attempt to 
board, which was repulsed with great slaughter. 
By this broadside, Mr Curtis, the master and com- 
mander of the Antelope, the first mate, ship's steward, 
and a French gentleman, a passenger, fell. The 
command then devolved on the boatswain (for the 
second mate had died of the fever on the passage), 
who, with the few brave men left, assisted by the 
passengers, repelled many attempts to board. The 


boatswain, at last observing that the privateer had 
cut her grapplings, and was attempting to sheer off, 
ran aloft, and lashed her squaresail-yard to the 
Antelope's fore-shrouds, and immediately pouring in 
a few vollies of small-arms, which did great execu- 
tion, the enemy called for quarter, which was in- 
stantly granted, although the French had the bloody 
flag hoisted during the whole contest. The prize 
was carried into Annotta Bay about eleven o'clock 
the next morning. The Antelope sailed with 27 
hands, but had lost four before the action by the 
fever, besides two then unfit for duty : so that the 
surgeon, being necessarily in the cockpit, they 
engaged with only 20 men, besides the passengers. 

" The Atalanta was fitted out at Charlestown, 
mounted eight 3 -pounders, and carried 65 men, 
French, Americans, and Irish, of whom 49 were 
killed or wounded in the action ; the Antelope hav- 
ing only two killed and three wounded one mortally. 

" The House of Assembly at Jamaica, as a reward 
for this most gallant action, voted 500 guineas 
200 to be paid to the master's widow, 100 to the 
first mate's, 100 to the boatswain, and 100 among 
the rest of the crew." 

The packet-boats sailing from the ports of Har- 
wich and Dover, being habitually in the " silver 
streak," were subject to frequent interruptions from 


English privateers and men-of-war frequenting these 
waters ; and to lessen the inconvenience thus aris- 
ing, the packets .at one time carried what was called 
a "post-boy jack." An official record of 1792 thus 
describes the flag : " It is the Union-jack with the 
figure of a man riding post with a mail behind him, 
and blowing his horn." These flags were made of 
bunting, and cost 1, 2s. each. 

Happily there has not for a long time been 
any need for using fighting ships to convey 
the mails of this country over the high seas ; 
and this is a danger which it has not been needful 
to provide against in the packet service of the present 


While in the eighteenth century but trifling 
advancement would seem to have been made in 
naval matters, what a contrast is presented by the 
achievements of the last eighty years ! As com- 
pared with the Etruria and the Umbria, recent ac- 
quisitions of the Cunard Company, for the convey- 
ance of the mails between Liverpool and New York, 
each of 8000 tons burthen and 12,500 horse-power, 
the pigmy vessels of the past almost sink into 
nothingness ; and we cannot but acknowledge the 
rapidity with which such stupendous agencies have 
come under the control of man for the furtherance 
of his work in the world. 

We would present a further contrast between the 
past and the present as regards the packet service. 
So late as 1829, and perhaps later still, the voyages 
out to the under-mentioned places and home again 
were estimated to take the following number of 
days viz. : 


To Jamaica,. . 112 
M America, . 105 
ti Leeward Islands, 91 


To Malta, ... 98 
Brazil, . . 140 
ii Lisbon, . . 28 

There were then no regular packets to China, New 
South Wales, Sierra Leone, Cape Coast Castle, Goree, 
Senegal, St Helena, and many parts of South 
America ; opportunity being taken to send ship 



letter-bags to these places as occasion offered by 
trading vessels. 

Nowadays the transit of letters to the places first 
above-mentioned is estimated to occupy the following 
number of days : 


To Jamaica, . 18 
ii America, . 7 

n West Indies, . 16 


To Malta, . . 4& 
M Brazil, . . 21 
n Lisbon, . . 3 

And the return mails would occupy a similar amount 
of time. 

In nothing perhaps will the advantages now 
offered by the Post-office, in connection with the 
packet service, be more appreciated by the public 
than in the reduced rates of postage. The following 
table shows the initial rates for letters to several 
places abroad in 1829 and in 1884: 

1829. 1884. 

France, . 2s. Id. 2d. 

Italy, . 2s. lOd. 2jd. 

Spain, . 3s. Id. 2d. 

Sweden, . 2s. 7d. 2d. 

1829. 1884. 

Gibraltar, . 3s. Id. 2d. 

Malta, . 3s. 5d. 2d. 

United States, 2s. 5d. 2|d. 

Brazil, . 3s. 9d. 4d. 

Portugal, . 2s. 9d. 2|d. 

If we were asked to point out a mail-packet of 
the present day as fulfilling all modern requirements 
in regard to the packet service, and showing a model 
of equipment in the vessels as well as order in their 
management, we would not hesitate to name the 


mail-steamers plying between Holyhead and Kings- 
town. It may not be generally known, but it is the 
case, that these vessels carry a post-office on board, 
wherein sorters perform their ordinary duties, by 
which means much economy of time is effected in 
the arrangement of the correspondence. In stormy 
weather, when the packets are tumbling about amid 
the billows of the Channel, the process of sorting 
cannot be comfortably carried on, and the men have 
to make free use of their sea-legs in steadying them- 
selves, so as to secure fair aim at the pigeon-holes 
into which they sort the letters. But the departure 
of one of these ships from Kingstown is a sight to 
behold. Up to a short time before the hour of 
departure friends may be seen on the hurricane- 
deck chatting with the passengers ; but no sooner is 
the whistle of the mail-train from Dublin heard than 
all strangers are warned off; in a few minutes the 
train comes down the jetty ; the sailors in waiting 
seize the mail-bags and carry them on board ; and 
the moment the last of the bags is thus disposed of, 
the moorings are all promptly cast off, and the signal 
given to go ahead : and with such an absence of bustle 
or excitement is all this done, that before the spec- 
tator can realise what has passed before his eyes, 
the ship is majestically sailing past the end of the 
pier, and is already on her way to England. 




OUTSIDE the Post-office Department it is prob- 
ably not apprehended to what extent care ia 
actually bestowed upon letters and packets when, in 
course of transit through the post, their covers are 
damaged or addresses mutilated in order to secure 
their further safe transmission ; many envelopes and 
wrappers being of such flimsy material that, coming 
into contact with hard bundles of letters in the mail- 
bags, they run great risk of being thus injured. But 
the occasions on which exceptional pains are taken, 
and on a large scale, to carry out this work, are when 
mails from abroad have been saved in the case of 
shipwreck, and the contents are soaked with water. 
Then it is that patient work has to be done to get 
the letters, newspapers, &c., into a state for delivery, 
to preserve the addresses, and to get the articles 
dried. In certain instances the roof of the chief 
office in St Martin's-le-Grand has been used as a 


drying-green for shipwrecked newspapers, there being 
no sufficient space indoors to admit of their being 
spread out. The amount of patching, separating, 
and deciphering in such circumstances cannot well 
be conceived. 

But perhaps the most curious difficulty arising out 
of a shipwrecked mail was that which took place in 
connection with the loss of the Union Steamship 
Company's packet European off Ushant, in December 
1877. After this ship went down the mails were 
recovered, but not without serious damage, through 
saturation with sea -water. One of the registered 
letter-bags from Cape Town, on being opened in the 
chief office in London, was found to contain several 
large packets of diamonds, the addresses on which 
had been destroyed by the action of the water, and 
some 7 Ib. weight of loose diamonds, which had evi- 
dently formed the contents of a lot of covers lying 
as pulp at the bottom of the bag, and from which no 
accurate addresses could be obtained. Every possible 
endeavour was made to trace the persons to whom 
the unbroken packets were consigned, and with such 
success, that after some little delay they reached 
the hands of the rightful owners. To discover 
who were the persons having claims upon the 
loose diamonds, which could not be individually 
identified, was a more serious matter, involving much 


trouble and correspondence. At length this was 
ascertained ; and as the only means of satisfying, 
or attempting to satisfy, the several claims, the 
diamonds were valued by an experienced broker, 
and sold for the general behoof, realising 19,000. 
This means of meeting the several claimants proved 
so satisfactory, that not a single complaint was 





amount of work performed by the Post-office 
J- in the transmission of letters and other articles 
of correspondence within the space of a year, may 
be gathered from the following figures, taken from 
the Postmaster-General's annual report issued in 

The Letters numbered . . 1,280,636,200 

Post-cards,. . . . 144,016,200 

Books and circulars, . -> . 288,206,400 

Newspapers, .... 140,682,600 

Total, . . 1,853,541,400 

These figures are, however, of little service in 
conveying to our minds any due conception of the 
amount of work which they represent. Nor, when 
the scene of the work is spread and distributed over 
the whole country, and the labour involved is shared 


in by a host of public servants, would any arrange- 
ment of figures put the matter intelligibly within 
our grasp. The quantity of paper used in this 
annual interchange of thought through the inter- 
mediary of the British Post - office, may perhaps 
be measured by the following facts : Supposing 
each letter to contain a single sheet of ordinary- 
sized note-paper ; the post-cards taken at the size 
of inland post-cards ; book-packets as containing 
on an average fifty leaves of novel -paper; and 
newspapers as being composed of three single leaves 
18 inches by 24 inches, the total area of paper 
used would be nearly 630 millions of square yards. 
This would be sufficient to pave a way hence to the 
moon, of a yard and a half in breadth ; or it would 
give to that orb a girdle round its body 53 yards in 
width ; or again, it would encircle our own globe 
by a band 14 yards in width. Another way to look 
at the magnitude of the Post - office work is as 
follows : Suppose that letters, book-packets, news- 
papers, and post-cards are taken at their several 
ascertained averages as to weight, the total amount 
of the mails for a year passing through the British 
Post-office, exclusive of the weight of canvas bags 
and small stores of various kinds, would exceed 
42,000 tons, which would be sufficient to provide 
full freight for a fleet of twenty-one ships carrying 


2000 tons of cargo each. What a burthen of 
sorrows, joys, scandals, midnight studies, patient 
labours, business energy, and everything good or bad 
which proceeds from the human heart and brain, 
does not this represent ! Yet, after all, what are 
the figures above given, when put in the balance 
with the facts of nature ? The whole paper, accord- 
ing to the foregoing calculations, although it would 
gird our earth with a band 14 yards wide, could 
only be made to extend hence to the sun by being 
attenuated to the dimensions of a tape of slightly 
over one-eighth of an inch in width ! 

Bearing in mind the great quantity of correspond- 
ence conveyed by the post, as well as the hurry and 
bustle in which letters are often written, it is not 
astonishing that writers should sometimes make 
mistakes in addressing their letters ; but it will 
perhaps create surprise that one year's letters which 
could neither be delivered as addressed, nor returned 
to the senders through the Dead-letter Office, were 
over half a million in number ! It is curious to 
note some remarks written by the Post-office solicitor 
in Edinburgh eighty years ago with respect to mis- 
directed letters. He speaks of " the very gross 
inattention in putting the proper addresses upon 
letters a cause which is more productive of trouble 
and expense to the Post-office than any other what- 


ever. In fact, three out of four complaints respect- 
ing money and other letters may generally be traced 
to that source, and of which, from the proceedings 
of a few weeks past, I have ample evidence in my 
possession at this moment." Letters posted in 
covers altogether innocent of addresses, number 
28,000 in the year; and the value in cash, bank- 
notes, cheques, &c., found in these derelict missives 
is usually about 8000. Letters sent off by post 
without covers, or from which flimsy covers become 
detached in transit, number about 15,000; while 
the loose stamps found in post-offices attain the 
annual total of 68,000. The loose stamps are an 
evidence of the scrambling way in which letters are 
often got ready for the post, and probably more so 
of the earnest intentions of inexperienced persons, 
who, in preparing stamps for their letters, roll 
them on the tongue until every trace of adhesive 
matter is removed, with the result that so soon as 
the stamps become dry again they fall from the 
covers. Letters which cannot be delivered in con- 
sequence of errors in the addresses, or owing to 
persons removing without giving notice of the fact 
to the Post-office, are no less than 5,650,000, such 
being the number that reach the Dead-letter Office. 
But of these it is found possible to return to the 
writers about five millions, while the remainder fail 


to be returned owing to the absence of the writers' 

addresses from the letters. The other articles sent 

to the Dead-letter Office in a year are as follows, 
viz. : 

Post-cards, nearly . . . 600,000 

Book-packets, 5,000,000 

Newspapers, 478,000 

As regards the book-packets, it is well to know that 
a large part of the five millions is represented by 
circulars, which are classed as book-packets, and the 
addresses on which are not infrequently taken by 
advertisers from old directories or other unreliable 

There is one trifling item which it may be well 
to give, showing how the smallest things contribute 
to build up the great, as drops of water constitute 
the sea, and grains of sand the earth. Those tiny 
things called postage - stamps, which are light as 
feathers, and might be blown about by the slightest 
breeze, make up in the aggregate very considerable 
bulk and weight, as will be appreciated when it is 
mentioned that one year's issue for the United 
Kingdom amounts in weight to no less than one 
hundred and fourteen tons. 



" The day's at hand, the young, the gay, 
The lover's and the postman's day, 
The day when, for that only day, 
February turns to May, 
And pens delight in secret play, 
And few may hear what many say. " 


The customs of St Valentine's Day have no direct 
connection with the saint whose name has been 
borrowed to designate the festival of the 14th of 
February. It is only by a side-light that any con- 
nection between the saint and the custom can be 

In ancient Koine certain pagan feasts were held 
every year, commencing about the middle of Feb- 
ruary, in honour of Pan and Juno, on which occa- 
sions, amid other ceremonies, it was the custom for 
the names of young women to be placed in boxes, 
and to be drawn for by the men as chance might 
decide. Long after Christianity had been introduced 
into Rome, these feasts continued to be observed, the 
priests of the early Christian Church failing in their 
attempts to suppress or eradicate them. Adopting 
a policy which has served missionaries in other quar- 
ters of the globe, the priests, while unable at once 
to destroy the pagan superstitions with the obscene 


observances by which they were accompanied, endeav- 
oured to lessen their vicious character, and to bring 
them more into harmony with their religion ; and 
one step in this policy was the substitution of the 
names of the saints for those of young women pre- 
viously used in the lotteries. Now it happened that 
the fourteenth day of February was the day set 
apart for the commemoration of the saint named 
Valentine ; and as the feasts referred to commenced, 
as has been seen, in the middle of February, a con- 
nection would seem to have been set up between the 
lotteries of the pagan customs (carried down to the 
time when Valentines were drawn for) and the saint's 
festival, merely through a coincidence of days. That 
St Valentine should have been selected as the patron 
of the custom known to us nowadays, is too unlikely, 
knowing as we do from history something of his life 
and death. He was a priest who assisted the early 
Christians during the persecutions under Claudius 
II., and who suffered a cruel martyrdom about the 
year 270, being first beaten with clubs, and then 

The customs of St Valentine's Day have passed 
through many phases, each age having its own varia- 
tion, but all having a bearing to one idea. The 
following is an account of the ceremony in our own 
country as observed by " Misson," a learned traveller 


of the early part of last century : " On the eve of 
St Valentine's Day the young folks of England and 
Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate a little 
festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors 
get together, each writes their true or some feigned 
name upon separate billets, which they roll up and 
draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men's 
billets, and the men's the maids' ; so that each of 
the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his 
Valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man 
whom she calls hers. By this means each has two 
Valentines, but the man sticks faster to the Valen- 
tine that has fallen to him than to the Valentine to 
whom he has fallen. Fortune having thus divided 
the company into so many couples, the Valentines 
give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their 
billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, 
and this little sport often ends in love." Pennant 
also, in writing of his tour in Scotland in 1769, 
refers to the observance of this custom in the north 
of Scotland in these words : " The young people in 
February draw Valentines, and from them collect 
their future fortune in the nuptial state." 

In later times the drawing of a lady's name for a 
Valentine was made the means of placing the drawer 
under the obligation to make a present to the lady. 
The celebrated Miss Stuart, who became the Duchess 


of Richmond, received from the Duke of York on 
one occasion a jewel worth 800, in discharge of 
this obligation ; and Lord Mandeville, who was her 
Valentine at another time, presented her with a ring 
worth some 300. 

The term Valentine is no longer used in its more 
general application to denote the lady to whom a 
present is sent on the 14th of February, but the 
thing sent, which is usually a more or less artistic 
print or painting, surmounted by an image of Cupid, 
and to which are annexed some lines of loving 
import. Thirty years ago Valentines were generally 
inexpensive articles, printed upon paper with em- 
bossed margins. Their style gradually improved until 
hand-painted scenes upon satin grounds became com- 
mon ; and Valentines might be bought at any price 
from a halfpenny to five pounds. It should not be 
omitted to be noted that for many years Valentines 
have had their burlesques, in those ridiculous pictures 
which are generally sent anonymously on Valentine's 
Day, and which were often observed to be decked 
out in extraordinary guises, and having affixed to 
them such things as spoons, dolls, toy monkeys, red 
herrings, rats, mice, and the like. On one occasion 
a Valentine was seen in the post having a human 
finger attached to it. 

But as every dog has its day, and each succeeding 


period of life its own interests and allurements, so 
have customs their appointed seasons, and ideas their 
set times of holding sway over the popular mind. 
The wigs and buckled shoes of our forefathers, the 
ringlets of our grandmothers, which in their day 
were things of fashion, have lapsed into the category 
of the curious, and have to us none other than an 
antiquarian interest. The Liberal in politics of to-day 
becomes the Conservative of to-morrow; and the 
custom of sending Valentines, at one time so com- 
mon, that afforded so great pleasure not only to the 
young, but sometimes to those of riper years, has 
already had its death-knell sounded ; and at the 
present rate of decline, it bids fair very soon to be 
relegated to the shades of the past. 

The rage for sending Valentines probably had its 
culmination some ten years ago, since when it has 
steadily gone down ; and now the festival is no 
longer observed by fashionable people, its lingering 
votaries being found only among the poorer classes. 

The following facts show how far the Post-office 
was called upon to do the messenger's part in deliver- 
ing the love -missives of St Valentine when the 
business was in full swing. At the chief office in 
London on Valentine's Eve 1874, some 306 extra 
mail-bags, each 3 feet long by 2 feet wide, were 
required for the additional work thrown on the 


Post-office in connection with Valentines, and at 
every post - office in the kingdom the staff was 
wont to regard St Valentine's Eve as the occasion 
of the year when its utmost energies were laid 
under requisition for the service of the public. 

But the decay of the ancient custom of sending 
Valentines has probably not come about from within 
itself; it may rather be attributed to the progress 
made in what may be called the rival custom of 
sending cards of greeting and good wishes at Christ- 
mas-time. It would almost seem that two such 
customs, having their times of observance only a few 
weeks apart, cannot exist together; and it will 
probably be found that the new has been growing 
precisely as the old has been dying, the former being 
much the stronger, choking the latter. Valentines 
were sent by the young only or for the most part, 
at any rate while Christmas -cards are in favour 
with almost every age and condition of life. It 
follows, then, that a custom such as this, having 
developed great energy, and being patronised by all 
classes, must throw a larger mass of work upon the 
Post-office the channel through which such things 
naturally flow than Valentines did. And so it has 
been found. The pressure on the Post-office in the 
heyday of Valentines was small by comparison with 
that which is now experienced at Christmas. Dur- 



ing the Christmas season of 1877, the number of 
letters, &c., which passed through the Inland Branch 
of the General Post-office in London, in excess of the 
ordinary correspondence, was estimated at 4,500,000, 
a large portion of which reached the chief office on 
Christmas morning ; while in the Christmas week of 
1882 the extra correspondence similarly dealt with 
was estimated at 14,000,000, including registered 
letters (presumably containing presents of value), of 
which there was a weight of no less than three tons. 
Everywhere similar pressure has been felt in the 
post-offices, and it is by no means settled that we 
have yet reached the climax of this social but 
rampant custom. 

In the London Metropolitan district there are 
employed 4030 postmen; and taking their daily 
amount of walking at 12 miles on the average a 
very low estimate this would represent an aggregate 
daily journeying on foot of 48,360 miles, or equal 
to twice the circumference of our globe. 

Articles of many curious kinds have been ob- 
served passing through the post from time to time, 
some of them dangerous or prohibited articles, which, 
according to rule, are sent to the Eeturned-letter 
Office the fact showing that the Post-office is not 
only called upon to perform its first duty of expe- 
ditiously conveying the correspondence intrusted to 


it, but is made the vehicle for the carriage of small 
articles of almost endless variety. Some of these 
are the following, many of them having been in a 
live state when posted viz., beetles, blind-worms, 
bees, caterpillars, crayfish, crabs, dormice, goldfinches, 
frogs, horned frogs, gentles, kingfishers, leeches, moles, 
owls, rabbits, rats, squirrels, stoats, snails, snakes, silk- 
worms, sparrows, stag-beetles, tortoises, white mice ; 
artificial teeth, artificial eyes, cartridges, china orna- 
ments, Devonshire cream, eggs, geranium -cuttings, 
glazier's diamonds, gun-cotton, horse-shoe nails, mince- 
pies, musical instruments, ointments, perfumery, pork- 
pies, revolvers, sausages, tobacco and cigars, &c., &c. 

Occasionally the sending of live reptiles through 
the Post-office gives rise to interruption to the work, 
as has occurred when snakes have escaped from the 
packets in which they had been enclosed. The 
sorters, not knowing whether the creatures are 
venomous or not, are naturally chary in the matter 
of laying hold of them ; and it may readily be con- 
ceived how the work would be interfered with in the 
limited space of a Travelling Post-office carriage con- 
taining half-a-dozen sorters, upon a considerable 
snake showing his activity among the correspond- 
ence, as has in reality happened. 

On another occasion a packet containing a small 
snake and a lizard found its way to the Eeturned- 


letter Office. Upon examining it next day the 
lizard had disappeared, and from the appearance 
of the snake it was feared that it had made a meal 
of its companion. Another live snake which had 
escaped from a postal packet was discovered in the 
Holyhead and Kingstown Marine Post-office, and at 
the expiration of a fortnight, being still unclaimed, 
it was sent to the Dublin Zoological Gardens. In 
the Eeturned - letter Office in Liverpool, a small 
box upon being opened was found to contain eight 
living snakes ; but we are not informed as to the 
manner in which they were got rid of. 

The strike of the stokers employed by the Gas 
Companies of the metropolis in 1872 is remembered 
in the Post-office as an event which gave rise to a 
considerable amount of inconvenience and anxiety at 
the time. That the Post-office should be left in 
darkness was not a thing to be thought possible for 
a moment; for such a circumstance would almost 
have looked like the extinction of civilisation. On 
the afternoon of the 3d December in the year men- 
tioned, intimation reached the chief office that the 
Gas Company could not guarantee a supply of gas 
for more than a few hours, in consequence of their 
workmen having struck work. The occasion was 
one demanding instant action in the way of pro- 
viding other means of lighting, and accordingly an 


order was issued for a ton of candles. These were 
used at St Martin's-le-Grand and at the branch offices 
in the East Central district ; while arrangements were 
made to provide lanterns and torches for the mail- 
cart drivers, and oil-lamps for lighting the Post-office 
yard. In the evening the sorting-offices presented 
the novel spectacle of being lighted up by 2000 
candles ; and this reign of tallow continued during 
the next three days. The total cost of this special 
lighting during the four days' strike was 58; but 
there was a saving of about 160,000 feet of gas, 
reducing the loss to something like 27. 




WHEN the past history of the Post-office is looked 
into, at a period which cannot yet be said to 
be very remote, it is both curious and instructive to 
observe the contrast which presents itself, as between 
the unpretending institution of those other days, and 
the great and ubiquitous machine which is now the 
indispensable medium for the conveyance of news to 
every corner of the empire. To imagine what our 
country would be without the Post-office as it now 
is, would be attempting something quite beyond our 
powers ; and if such an institution did not exist, and an 
endeavour were made to construct one at once by the 
conceits and imaginings of men's minds, failure would 
be the inevitable result, for the British Post-office is 
the child of long experience and never-ending im- 
provement, having a complexity and yet simplicity in 
its fabric, which nothing but many years of growth 


and studied application to its aims could have 

But it is not the purpose here to go into the his- 
tory of its improvements, or of its changes. It is 
merely proposed to show how rapidly it has grown, 
and from what small beginnings. 

The staff of the Edinburgh Post-office in 1708 
was composed of no more than seven persons, de- 
scribed as follows : 


Manager for Scotland, . . . ,200 

Accountant, . . . . 50 

Clerk, . . . . 50 

Clerk's Assistant, . . . 25 

Three Letter-carriers at 5s. a-week each. 

In 1736 the number of persons employed had in- 
creased to eleven, whose several official positions were 
as follows : 

Postmaster-General for- Scotland. 


Secretary to the Postmaster. 

Principal Clerk. 

Second Clerk. 

Clerk's Assistant. 

Apprehender of Private Letter-carriers. 

Clerk to the Irish Correspondents. 

Three Letter-carriers. 


The apprehender of private letter-carriers, as the 
name implies, was an officer whose duty it was to 
take up persons who infringed the Post-office work 
of carrying letters for money. 

The work continued steadily to grow, for in 1781 
we find there were 23 persons employed, of whom 
6 were letter-carriers; and in 1791 the numbers had 
increased to 31. In 1828 there were 82 ; in 1840, 
when the penny post was set on foot, there were 136; 
and in 1860, 244. 

In 1884 the total number of persons employed in 
all branches of the Post-office service in Edinburgh 
is 939. 

The Post-office of Glasgow, which claims to be 
the second city of the kingdom, shows a similar ra- 
pidity of growth, if not a greater ; and this growth 
may be taken as an index of the expansion of the 
city itself, though the former has to be referred to 
three several causes namely, increase of population, 
spread of education, and development of trade. 

In 1799 the staff of the Glasgow Post-office was 
as follows viz. : 


Postmaster, .... 200 
First Clerk, . . . 30 

Second Clerk, . . . 25 

Four Letter-carriers at 10s. 6d. a-week each, 109 4 
A Stamper or Sorter at 10s. 6d. a-week, 27 6 


So that the whole expense for staff was no more than 
391, 10s. per annum, and this had been the recog- 
nised establishment for several years. But it appears 
from official records, that though the postmaster was 
nominally receiving 200 a-year, he had in 1796 
given 10 each to the clerks out of his salary, and 
expended besides, on office-rent, coal, and candles, 
30, 2s. 8d. Somewhat similar deductions were 
made in 1797 and 1798, and thus the postmaster's 
salary was then less than 150 a-year in reality. 
It is worthy of note here that letters were at that 
time delivered in Glasgow only twice a-day. 

Some ten years earlier that is, in 1789 the in- 
door staff consisted of the postmaster and one clerk, 
the former receiving 140 a-year, and the latter 30. 

A penny post, for local letters in Glasgow, was 
started in the year 1800, when, as part and parcel 
of the scheme, three receiving-offices were opened in 
the city. The revenue derived from the letters so 
carried for the first year was under 100, showing 
that there cannot have been so many as eighty letters 
posted per day for local delivery. After a time the 
experiment was considered not to have been quite a 
success, for one of the receiving-offices was closed, 
and a clerk's pay reduced 10 a-year, in order to 
bring the expense down to the level of the revenue 
earned. In 1803 matters improved, however, as in 


the first quarter of that year the revenue from penny 
letters was greater than the expense incurred. 

At the present time, the staff of the Glasgow Post- 
office numbers 1267 persons, and the postmaster's 
salary is over a thousand pounds a-year. 

At the end of last century and beginning of this 
and indeed it may be said throughout the whole 
term of the existence of the Post-office humble 
petitions were always coming up from postmasters 
for increase of pay, and from these we know the 
position in which postmasters then were. 

The postmaster of Aberdeen showed that in 1763, 
when the revenue of his office was 717, 19s. 4d., 
with something for cross post-letters, probably about 
400, his salary had been 93, 15s.; while in 
1793, with a revenue of over 2500, his whole 
salary was only 89, 15s., and out of this he 
had to pay office -rent and to provide assistance, 
fire, wax, candles, books, and cord. 

At Arbroath, now an important town, the revenue 
was, in 1763, 76, 12s. 8d., and the postmaster's 
salary, 20. At this figure the salary remained 
till 1794, though the revenue had increased to 
367, 13s. 5d. ; but now the postmaster appealed 
for higher pay, and brought up his supports of 
office -rent, coal, candles, wax, &c., to strengthen 
his case. 


In Dundee, in the year 1800, the postmaster's 
salary was 50, and the revenue 3165, 9s. 5d. 

At Paisley, the postmaster's salary was fixed at 
33 in 1790, and remained at that figure till 
1800, when a petition was sent forward for what 
was called in official language an augmentation. 
In the memorial it is stated that the revenue for 
1799 was 1997, Is. lid., and that the deductions 
for rent, coal, candles, wax, paper, pens, and ink, 
reduced the postmaster's salary to from 15 to 
20 a-year ! 

To show how these towns have grown up into 
importance within a period of little more than the 
allotted span of man, and as exhibiting perhaps 
the yet more bounding expansion of the Post-office 
system, the following particulars are added, and 
may prove of interest : 

At Aberdeen, at the present time, the annual 
value of postage-stamps sold, which may be taken 
as a rough measure of the revenue from the carriage 
of correspondence alone, is little short of 30,000; 
the staff of all sorts employed numbers 191 ; and 
the postmaster's salary exceeds 600 a - year. 
Arbroath is less pretentious, being a smaller town ; 
but the letter revenue is over 4000 a-year; 
the persons employed, 14 ; and the postmaster's 
salary nearly 200. Dundee shows a postage 


revenue of over 35,000; 193 persons are em- 
ployed there ; and the postmaster's salary is little 
short of 600. While at Paisley the revenue from 
stamps is nearly 10,000; the persons employed, 
43 ; and the postmaster's salary, 300. Not- 
withstanding the vast decrease in the rates of 
postage, these figures show, in three of the cases 
mentioned, that the revenue from letters is now 
about twelve times what it was less than a 
century ago. 

It will probably be found that one of the most 
mushroom-like towns of the country is Barrow-in- 
Furness, now a place of considerable commerce, 
and an extensive shipping -port. The following 
measurements, according to the Post-office standard, 
may repay consideration. Prior to 1847 there 
was nothing but a foot-postman, who served the 
town by walking thither from Ulverston one day, 
and back to Ulverston the next. Later on, he 
made the double journey daily, and delivered the 
letters on his arrival at Barrow. In 1869 the 
town had grown to such dimensions that the office 
was raised to the rank of a head-office, and three 
postmen were required for delivery. Now, in 
1884, thirteen postmen are the necessary delivering 
force for the town. 


About the year 1800 the Post-office had not as 
yet carried its civilising influence into the districts 
of Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Killin, and Tyndrum, 
there being no regular post-offices within twenty, 
thirty, or forty miles of certain places in these dis- 
tricts. The people being desirous of having the 
Post-office in their borders, the following scheme was 
proposed to be carried out about the time men- 
tioned : 

A runner to travel from Callander to Lochearn- 
head fourteen miles at 2s. a journey, three 

times a-week, 15 12 

Salary to postmaster of Lochearnhead, . . . 500 
A runner from Lochearnhead to Killin eight 

miles at Is. a journey, three times a-week, . 7 16 
Salary to postmaster of Killin, . . . . 500 

Receiving-house at Wester Lix, . . . . 200 
Runner thence to Luib four or five miles Is. 6d. 

per week, 3 18 

Office at Luib, 400 

Total, . 43 6 

So that here a whole district of country was to be 
opened up to the beneficent operations of the Post 
at an annual cost of what would now be no more 
than sufficient to pay the wages of a single post- 
runner. It may be proper, however, to remark in 
this connection, that money then was of greater value 


than now ; and since it has been shown that a mes- 
senger had formerly to travel as much as fourteen 
double miles for 2s., it is not surprising that Scotch- 
men, brought up in such a school, should like to 
cling to a sixpence when they can get it. 

It were remiss to pass over London without re- 
mark, whose growth is a marvel, and whose Post- 
office has at least kept up in the running, if it has 
not outstripped, London itself. In 1796 the delivery 
of London extended from about Grosvenor Square and 
Mayfair in the west, to Shadwell, Mile End, and 
Blackwall in the east ; and from Finsbury Square in 
the north, to the Borough and Eotherhithe in the 
south ; and the number of postmen then employed for 
the general post-delivery was 126. London has since 
taken into its maternal embrace many places which 
were formerly quite separate from the metropolis, and 
nowadays the agglomeration is known, postally, as the 
Metropolitan district. In this district the number of 
men required to effect the delivery of letters in 1884 
is no less than 4030. It may be mentioned that 
the general post-delivery above mentioned had refer- 
ence to the delivery of ordinary letters coming from 
the country. Letters of the penny post or local 
letters and letters from foreign parts, were delivered 
by different sets of men, who all went over the same 


ground. In 1782 the number of men employed in 
these different branches of delivery work was as 
follows viz. : 


For Foreign letters, . . . . 12 . 
ii Inland letters, .... 99 
M Penny-post letters, ... 44 

Total, . 155 

It was not till many years later that all kinds of 
letters came to be delivered by one set of postmen, 
and that thus needless repetition of work was got 
rid of. 

At the same period namely, in 1782 the other 
officers of all kinds employed in the London Post- 
office numbered 157. At the present time the 
officers of all kinds (exclusive of postmen who have 
been referred to separately) employed in the Metro- 
politan district are nearly 16,000 in number. 




IN his Autobiography, Mr Anthony Trollope, many 
years a Post-office surveyor, records how he was 
employed in England, for a considerable period about 
the year 1851, revising and extending the rural-post 
service ; and he there mentions the frequency with 
which he found post-runners to be employed upon 
routes where there were but few letters to deliver 
while in other directions, where postal communication 
would have been of the utmost benefit, there were no 
post-runners at all. This state of things had no doubt 
had its origin in the efforts of influential persons, at 
some previous time, to have the services established 
for their own personal benefit ; while persons in other 
districts, having less interest at headquarters, or being 
less imperious in their demands, were left out in the 
cold, and so remained beyond the range of the civilising 
influence. The posts in such cases, once established, 
went on from year to year ; and though the arrange- 


merits were out of harmony with the surroundings, 
very often nothing was done for in all likelihood 
no one complained loud enough, or, at any rate, in a 
way to prove effective. 

But though the Department did wake up to the 
need for a better distribution of its favours in the 
country districts in 1851, there were earlier instances 
of surveyors attempting to lay down the posts for the 
general good, instead of for a select few, and in these 
cases the surveyors had sometimes a hard battle to 
fight. The following report from a surveyor in Scot- 
land, written in the year 1800, will illustrate what 
is here mentioned. It is given at length, and will 
possibly be found worthy of perusal ; for it not only 
shows both spirit and independence on the part of 
the surveyor, who was evidently a man determined 
to do his duty irrespective of persons, but it sheds 
some light on the practices of the post-runners of 
that period, and their relations with their superiors 
on the one hand, and the public on the other. It 
affords us, too, a specimen of official writing remark- 
able for some rather quaint turns and expressions. 
The report proceeds : 

" I am much obliged by the perusal of my Lord 
's card to you of the 29th ultimo, with a copy 
of a fresh memorial from his lordship and other gen- 
tlemen upon the long-argued subject of the alteration 



of the course of the post betwixt Perth and Coupar- 

" It is certainly one of those cases which hath 
become of tenfold more importance by the multi- 
plicity of writing, than from any solid reasoning or 
essential matter of information to be drawn from it. 

" It having fallen to my official duty to execute 
the alteration of this post proposed by my late 

colleague Mr , to whose memory I must bear 

testimony, not only of his abilities, but his im- 
partiality in the duties of his office, and under the 
authority of the late respectable and worthy Post- 
master-General Mr , whose memory is far 

above any eulogium of mine, I considered the meas- 
ure as proper and expedient, equally for the good 
of the country in general, and the revenue under 
the department of the Post-office ; and I can with 
confidence deny that it was ' hastily, inconsider- 
ately, or partially' gone into, as this memorial 
would wish to establish. In this capacity, and 
under these circumstances, it is no wonder I could 
have wished the epithets used against this official 
alteration, of ignorance, arbitrary and oppressive pro- 
ceedings, to have dropped from a person less honour- 
able, respectable, and conspicuous than I hold the 

Honble. at the head of this memorial. Before 

this last memorial was presented, I understood from 


Mr , Secretary, in the presence of Lord , 

that any further opposition upon the part of the 
Blairgowrie gentlemen to a re-alteration was now 
given up ; indeed this cannot be surprising if they 
had learned, as stated in the memorial, page 9, that 
they had protested, did now protest, and would 
never cease to complain loudly of it, until they 
obtain redress. Whether this argument is cool or 
arbitrary I have not time nor inclination to analyse, 
but having been removed from this ancient district 
of road, and given my uniform opinion upon the 
merits of the alteration itself, I have no desire to 
fight the memorialists to all eternity. Before, how- 
ever, taking final leave of this contest, and of a 
memorial said to be unanswerable, I consider myself 
in duty and honour called upon to vindicate the 
late Mr , as well as myself, from the vindic- 
tive terms of ' ignorance, arbitrary, and oppressive ' 
implied in the memorial, and which, if admitted 
sub silentio, might not be confined to the misman- 
agement of the Post - office, but to every other 
department of civil government. In order to this, 
I shall as briefly as I can follow the general track 
of the memorial, as of a long beaten road in which, 
if there is not safety, there is no new difficulty to 
encounter. It is needless to go over the different 
distances, I am ready to admit them they have 


not formed any material part of the question, 
and the supposed ignorance of the surveyor here 
is not to the point. The alteration neither did 
nor should proceed upon such mathematical nicety. 
The idea of posts is to embrace the most extensive 
and most needful accommodation. In establishing 
a post to Blairgowrie it was neither ignorant nor 
arbitrary to take the line by Isla Bridge, which 
was the centre of the country meant to be served 
by it that is, the Coupar and the Stormont and 
Highland district. It is of some consequence to 
observe here, that with all the great and rapid 
improvements mentioned in the memorial, of the 
lower or Coupar district, the upper or Stormont 
district was, upon the first year's trial, above one- 
half of its revenue to the Post-office, the second 
nearly or about three-fourths, and continuing to in- 
crease in proportion. Coupar- Angus revenue for the 
year ending 10th October last was 159, 3s. 7d., 
and Blairgowrie 123, 4s. lOd. Now, if the 
Coupar district of country, which contains in it a 
populous market-town, can produce no more than 
this proportion for the whole district, it is evident 
that the district of Stormont, with only as yet a 
little village for its head town, has more correspon- 
dence in regard to its state of agriculture and im- 
provement as an infant district, than the parent 


district with its antiquity can lay claim to, and 
equally well entitled at least to be protected and 
nourished. Much is said of the memorialists' line 
of road, and of its being one from time immemorial. 
I have said in a former paper that this may be the 
case ; many of the roads in Scotland, God knows, 
are old enough. But unless the feudal system 
should still exist upon any of them, I know of no 
law, no regulation, no compulsion, that can oblige 
the post, more than any other traveller, to take these 
old beaten tracks where they can find any other 
patent or better road. Nay, more, as a traveller, 
I am entitled to take any patent road I choose, 
good or bad ; and the moment this privilege is 
doubted in regard to the post, you resign at once 
the power of all future improvements so far as it 
belongs to your official situation to judge it, and 
let or dispose of in lease the use of your posts to 
particular and local proprietors of lands, who will 
be right to take every advantage of it in their 
power, and include it specifically in the rental of 
their estates, as I have known to be the case with 
inns in which post-offices had formerly been kept. 
" There are three great roads to the north of Scot- 
land from Perth (besides one by Dunkeld) viz., one 
by Dundee, &c., one by Coupar, &c., and one by 
Blairgowrie, which run not at a very great distance 


in general from each other in a parallel line. The 
great post-line or mail-coach road is by Dundee ; 
and there is little chance, I believe, of this being de- 
parted from, as there is no other that can ever be 
equally certain. The next great road to the west- 
ward is by Coupar and Forfar, &c., and is supplied 
by branch-posts from the east or coast line. And 
the third or upper line is by Blairgowrie and Spittal 
of Glenshee, which have no post for 50, 60, or 
70 miles; and if ever that part of the country is to 
have the blessing of a regular post, it surely ought 
not to be by branching from the coast-line through 
all the different centres, but by the more immediate 
and direct line through Blairgowrie. Every one 
will call his own line the great line ; but surely, if 
I am to travel either, I should be allowed to judge 
for myself; and I believe it would be thought very 
arbitrary indeed, if, before I set out, a proprietor or 
advocate for any of these great lines should arrest 
my carriage or my horse, and say, You shall not pro- 
ceed but upon my line. I confess myself so stupid 
that I can see no difference betwixt this and taking 
it out of the power of the Post-office to judge what 
line they shall journey mails. If this is not the 
case, then all the present lines of the post, however 
absurd and ridiculous they now are or may become, 
must, as they were at the beginning and now are, 


remain so for ever. And I would expect next to 
see legal charters and infeftments taken upon them 
as post-roads merely, and travellers thirled to them 
as corn to a mill. But in regard to the voluminous 
writings already had upon this subject, and now 
renewed in this last memorial, it may be necessary 
to be a little more particular. 

" Setting the distances aside, which no persons 
should have a right to complain of except the inhabi- 
tants of Coupar and beyond it, by any delay occa- 
sioned on that account, what is the whole argument 
founded upon ? That, by the alteration, the me- 
morialists, some of them in the near neighbourhood 
of Coupar-Angus, but betwixt Perth and it, have 
had the privilege from time immemorial, as it is 
said, of receiving their letters by the post from 
Perth, and sending them back by the same convey- 
ance to Perth, without benefiting the Eevenue a 
single sixpence, which would accrue to it by such 
letters being either received from or put in at the 
office at Coupar-Angus, as they ought to be. For, 
so far as I understand the regulations of the office, 
they are to this purpose, that if any letters shall 
be directed for intermediate places, at least three- 
fourths from any post-office, they shall be put into 
the bag and conveyed (if conveved at all by post) 
to the post-office nearest them, or at which they 


shall be written, one-fourth of the distance of the 
whole stage, and rated and charged accordingly. 
The Post-office could not be ignorant of this rule not 
being observed, for it was evident that very few 
letters for this populous and thriving district were 
put into the bag, except such as behoved to go 
beyond Coupar or Perth, and bearing the name of 
' short letters.' It was impossible to convict the 
posts of fraud in carrying them without opening 
the letters, a privilege which cannot be exercised 
without much indelicacy as well as danger. But 
it required no penetration to discover that this was 
a very commodious and cheap way of corresponding, 
though it did not augment the revenue. It was 
an ancient privilege, and in that view it might be 
considered arbitrary and oppressive to meddle with 
or interrupt it. It is a little curious that the 
memorialists are principally gentlemen of property 
upon the road short of Coupar, and who require to 
be supplied daily with their small necessary articles 
from Perth. I have seen no remonstrance or com- 
plaint from the town of Coupar itself as to this 
alteration, nor of the consequent lateness of arrival 
and danger it is said to have occasioned, nor from 
a number of gentlemen beyond, whose letters come 
in the bag for the delivery of Coupar. The noise 
has chiefly been made by gentlemen who pay nothing 


for this post to Coupar- Angus, and it puts me in 
mind of an anecdote I met with of a gentleman who 
had influence enough with a postmaster in the coun- 
try to get the post by his house, and deliver and 
receive his letters, proceeding by a line of road in 
which he avoided an intermediate office, and thereby 
saved an additional postage both ways. 

" This line was also a very ancient one, and from 
time immemorial a line too upon which our fore- 
fathers had fought hard and bled ; but their children 
somehow or other had discovered and adopted what 
they thought a much better line. I said the delivery 
of short letters was not all the advantages privately 
had by the old plan of the post to Coupar- Angus. 
This post was in the known and constant habit of 
carrying a great deal more than letters for the inhab- 
itants short of, as well as for Coupar itself; and in the 
delivery of various articles upon the road, and receiv- 
ing reimbursements for his trouble one way or other, 
he lost one-fourth of his time ; and if, as the memo- 
rialists assert, there are fewer places to be served on 
the Isla road, it is a demonstration that the longest 
way is often all the nearest, and upon this head I have 
already ventured to assert, and still do, that by a 
regular management which may be easily accom- 
plished, the post may come sooner by Isla to Coupar 
than ever it did formerly by the ancient road ; and 


if it was possible to watch and hunt after the 
irregularity of the post as established upon the old 
system, the memorialists would find themselves in 
no better situation than they now are. I beg to 
mention here a specimen I met of this old system 
of private accommodation, with the consequence that 
followed, which may illustrate a little upon which 
side the imputation of ignorance, arbitrary, and op- 
pression may lie. Having met this post with a 
light cart full of parcels, and a woman upon it 
along with the mail, I charged him with the impro- 
priety of his conduct as a post, and threatened that 
he should not be longer in the service. ' Oh,' says 
he, ' sir, you may do as you please ; I have served 
the country so long in this way, that if you dismiss 
me, the principal gentlemen on the road have deter- 
mined to support me, and I can make more without 
your mail than I do by it.' He was dismissed. 
He was supported by a number of names which it 
is not now in my power to recollect, but which are 
well known in Coupar- Angus, and he issued in con- 
sequence hand-bills that, being now dismissed as 
a post, he would continue to carry on as before ; 
and it was not till the arbitrary hand of the 
Solicitor of the Post-office fell upon him, that he 
would either have been convicted or discouraged 
from his employ. 


" In this view, therefore, and not from ignorance, 
I know it is better for the Revenue in some instances 
to pay for 19 miles of a post, than 14 or 15, and to 
pay for three short runners than one long one. We 
have no greater faith in Blairgowrie than Coupar posts, 
and they were both put upon the same footing; and 
notwithstanding all the arguments stated against 
the measure, or upon the absurdity, arbitrary, and 
oppression, so much insisted on, I am still humbly 
of the opinion, which was maturely weighed and 
decided, that the system now in practice was best 
for the Eevenue, whatever it might be to particular 
individuals ; and in this decision I only followed the 
coincident opinion of judgments much superior to 
my own. 

" A great deal is said upon the danger of commit- 
ting care of bags or letters to two separate runners 
instead of one. With regard to carrying letters 
privately, or executing commissions, it may be so. 
This is the great inconvenience felt from the change. 
But is there any instance where posts have opened 
any of the bags containing letters, and thereby com- 
mitted felony ? Is there any instance where a 
wilful and felonious delay has happened here more 
than may be natural to any change of bags anywhere 
else in the kingdom ? I have heard of their not 
meeting sometimes so regularly in very bad or 


stormy weather. This will happen to the most 
regular mail-coaches and horse -posts in Britain; 
and before such general objections are to be found- 
ed upon, wilful and corrupt misconduct should be 
proved, such as I am able to do upon the old sys- 
tem of one post only. 

" The poor blacksmith is next brought forward. I 
do not know that a man's character is to be decided 
by his calling. He was engaged by the Office to 
keep a receiving-house for the runners. He is paid 
for his trouble by Government, and is as much under 
the confidence and trust of the Office, till he proves 
himself unworthy of it, as the postmasters of Perth, 
Coupar- Angus, or Blairgowrie. It is not surprising, 
however, that this poor blacksmith should be in gen- 
eral terms decided unfit for such duty, when officers 
who should have been much better acquainted with 
the hammer and nails of office, do not know how to 
drive them ! 

" A very short explanation to the idea mentioned 
by the memorialists that the opposition by the Blair- 
gowrie gentlemen rose from the supposition that they 
were to be cut out of their post altogether. I never 
heard of this before, nor do I know this idea to have 
existed. The Blairgowrie district did not interfere 
with the Post-office, nor the Office with them, more 
than has happened in writing ; nor, so far as consists 


with my knowledge, have I heard or understood that 
the Coupar district wished to deprive Blairgowrie of 
an office. That Coupar wishes to have Blairgowrie 
subservient to and passing through it is clear enough. 
But they do not advert that, as both Coupar and 
Blairgowrie are within one stage of Perth ; had 
Coupar gone through Blairgowrie or Blairgowrie 
through Coupar, the law might say that one of them 
must pay an additional rate from Perth that is, 4d. 
instead of 3d. ; and which both Mr Edwards and I 
were clearly of opinion would rather have injured 
than improved the Eevenue, as has been experienced 
in some similar cases. This legal distinction my 

Lord does not appear to have observed. It is, 

however, stated, that by this plan of going through 
Coupar to Blairgowrie a very easy and direct com- 
munication would be established betwixt the two 
places. This I have no doubt of for private busi- 
ness-parcels, money, &c., &c. ; because it would be 
easier for Blairgowrie to communicate in this way 
by one runner, by one with Coupar and two to 
Perth, than by two to Coupar and two to Perth, and 
for Coupar to communicate with Perth by one than 
two each way. This is harping on the old key. 
But it is a reduction of service, like the shortening 
of the road here, I do not wish to see. I do not 
want a reconciliation of this kind ; and whatever 


obloquy I may endure, with imputation of ignorance 
and other general epithets of a similar kind, I believe 
the memorialists, upon cool reflection, may be more 
inclined to ascribe these observations to proceed from 
honest zeal rather than wanton opposition. If it 
should be otherwise, I shall remain very satisfied 
that I have given my judgment of it according to 
conscience ; and I cannot be afraid, if it is necessary, 
that the whole writings upon the subject should be 
again submitted to the final decision of his Majesty's 
Postmaster-General. In regard to the power of 
altering the course of the posts, I am decidedly of 
opinion the question ought to go to their lordships' 
judgment ; but as to any personal opposition to the 
memorialists, I disclaim it; and as they say they 
are determined to fight till they conquer, I would 
now retire from the contest, with this observation, 
that, though such doctrines and resolutions may 
be very good for the memorialists, they would, in 
my humble opinion, if generally expressed and fol- 
lowed, be very bad for the country." 

It is really surprising how some of the ideas and 
practices of the feudal times still survive, ancient 
arrangements coming up from time to time for revi- 
sion, as those who suffer acquire greater independence 
or a truer conception of their position in the State. 
Quite recently the Postmaster-General was called 


upon to settle a dispute between the Senior Magis- 
trate of Fraserburgh and Lord (the local seig- 
neur) as to who had the right to receive letters 
addressed to " The Provost " or " Chief Magistrate " 
of Fraserburgh, both parties claiming such letters. 
His lordship had hitherto obtained delivery of the 
letters, on the ground of his being " heritable pro- 
vost " or baron-bailie, titles which smell strongly of 
antiquity ; but the modern Provost and Chief Magis- 
trate, being no longer disposed to submit to the 
arrangement, appealed to headquarters, and obtained 
a decision as follows viz., that he being Senior 
Police Magistrate, should receive all communications 
addressed to " The Provost," " The Chief Magistrate," 
or " The Acting Chief Magistrate," and that Lord 

should have a right to claim any addressed 

to the " Baron-Bailie." The surprise is, that the 
ancient method of disposing of the letters should 
have been endured so long, and that a town's Pro- 
vost should have been so slighted. 

Personal interest, unfortunately, often steps in to 
prevent or hinder the carrying out of reforms for the 
general good ; even the selfishness of mere pleasure 
placing itself as an obstacle to the accomplishment 
of things of great consequence in practical life. The 
Post-office being called upon to consider the question 
of affording a daily post to a small place in Ireland 


which until then had had but a tri-weekly post, a 
gentleman called upon the postmaster to urge that 
things might be left as they were, stating as his 
reason that the change of hours, as regards the mail- 
car, rendered necessary in connection with the pro- 
posed improvements, would not suit himself and 
some other gentlemen, who were in the habit of 
using the car when going to fish on a lake near the 
mail-car route ! Is not this a case showing a sad 
lack of public spirit ? 




rpRAVELLEES who are in the habit of journeying 
-L over the principal railway lines, must at some 
time or other have noticed certain carriages in the 
express trains which had an unusually dull and van- 
like appearance, though set off with a gilded crown 
and the well-known letters V.R., and that generally 
these carriages appeared to have no proper doors, 
and were possessed of none but very diminutive 
windows on one side, at any rate. It will have 
been observed, also, that sometimes two, three, or 
more of such carriages are placed end to end in 
certain trains, and that a hooded gangway or pas- 
sage enables those inside one carriage to visit any or 
all of the other carriages. When the small square 
holes or dwarf doorways which communicate with 
the outside are open, a glare of light is seen within, 
which reveals a variety of human legs and much 

canvas the latter in the shape of mail-bags, either 




suspended from the walls of the carriage or lying 
on the floor. These carriages are what are called 
in the Post-office the " Travelling Post-office " ; or, 
when brevity is desirable as is often the case 

Travelling Post-office. 

the " T.P.O." There are several travelling post-offices 
of more or less importance pursuing their rapid flight 
during the night in different quarters of the country ; 
but the most important, no doubt, are the " London 
and North Western and Caledonian," running from 
London to Aberdeen ; the " Midland," running from 
Newcastle diagonally across England to Bristol ; and 
the " London and Holyhead " travelling post-office, 
by which the Irish mails to Dublin are conveyed as 
far as Holyhead. 


If a stranger were allowed to travel in one of these 
carriages, the first thing that would probably take his 
notice would be the brilliant light which fills the 
interior ; and the necessity for a good light to enable 
men, standing on a vibrating and oscillating floor, to 
read quickly all sorts of manuscript addresses, will 
be understood by whoever has attempted to peruse 
writing by the light derived from the ordinary oil- 
lamps of a railway carriage. Yet for years the light 
supplied in the Travelling Post-office has been given 
by improved oil-lamps, though more recently gas has 
been introduced in some of the carriages. The next 
thing he would notice would likely be the long series 
of pigeon-holes occupying the whole of one side of 
the vehicle, divided into groups each box having 
a name upon it or a number, and a narrow table 
running along in front of the boxes, bearing a burden 
of letters which the sorters are busily disposing of 
by putting each one in its proper place that is, in 
the pigeon-hole, from which it will afterwards be 
despatched. Then hanging on the walls or lying un- 
der the table will be seen canvas bags and canvas 
sacks, each having its name stencilled in bold letters 
on its side ; and somewhere about the floor great 
rolls of black leather, with enormously strong straps 
and buckles the expanse of leather in each roll 
being almost sufficient to cover an ox. The use 


of these hides of leather will be described further 

The raison d'etre of the travelling post-office is to 
circumvent time, to enable that to be done on the 
way which, without it, would have to be done before 
the train started or after it arrived at its destination, 
at the expense of time in the doing, and to collect 
and dispose of correspondence at all points along 
the route of the train which correspondence would 
otherwise in many cases have to pass through some 
intermediate town, to be detained for a subsequent 
means of conveyance. The T.P.O. is one of the 
most useful parts of the machinery of the Post-office. 
Among the smaller things that might be observed in 
the carriage would be balls of string for tying bags 
or bundles of letters, cyclopean sticks of sealing-wax, 
a chronometer to indicate sure time, a lamp used for 
melting the wax, and various books, report-forms, 
seals, &c. 

The stranger would be surprised, also, to see with 
what expedition an experienced sorter can pass the 
letters through his hands, seldom hesitating at an 
address, but reading so much of it as is necessary 
for his purpose, and, without raising his eyes, carry- 
ing his hand to the proper pigeon-hole, just as a 
proficient on a musical instrument can strike with 
certainty the proper note without taking his eye off 


his music. In some cases as in dealing with 
registered letters a sorter has much writing to do ; 
but, standing with his feet well apart, and holding a 
light board on his left arm on which to write, and 
further, by accommodating his body to the swinging 
of the carriages, he is able to use his pen or pencil 
with considerable freedom and success. 

As the duties in the T.P.O. are for the most part 
performed during the night, the sorters employed 
have a great deal of night-work, and in some cases 
their terms of duty are very broken and irregular. 
Thus, with the hardships they have to endure in 
periods of severe frost, when no heating apparatus 
is supplied except a few warming-pans, -they live a 
life of duty far removed from ease or soft idleness. 

The large pieces of leather with stout straps at- 
tached, already referred to, called pouches, are used 
as a protection to mail-bags which have to be de- 
livered by what is commonly known as the apparatus. 
The mail-bags to be so disposed of are rolled up in- 
side one of these pouches ; the ends of the leather 
are folded in ; the whole is bound round with the 
strong leather straps ; and, the buckles being fastened, 
the pouch is ready for delivery. But, first, let the 
apparatus itself be described. This consists of two 
parts : an arm or arms of stout iron attached to the 
carriage, which can be extended outwards from the 


side, and to the end of which the pouch containing 
the bag is suspended when ready ; and a receiving 
net, also attached to the side of the carriage, 
which can likewise be extended outwards to catch 
the mails to be taken up this portion acting the 
part of an aerial trawl-net to capture the bags sus- 
pended from brackets on the roadside. The appa- 
ratus on the roadside is the counterpart of that 
on the carriage, the suspending arm in each case 
fitting itself to the nets on the carriage and road- 
side respectively. Now the use of this apparatus 
demands much attention and alacrity on the part of 
the men who are in charge of it ; for arms and net 
must not, for fear of accidents, be extended anywhere 
but at the appointed places, and within 200 or 300 
yards of where the exchange of mails is to take place. 
The operators, in timing the delivery, are guided by 
certain features of the country they are passing 
through a bridge, a tree on a rising ground which 
can be seen against the sky, a cutting along the line 
through which the train passes with much clatter, 
a railway station, and so on as well as by their 
estimate of the speed at which the train is running. 
When the nights are clear, a trained operator can 
easily recognise his marks ; but in a very dark night, 
or during a fog, his skill and experience are put to 
the test. On such occasions he seems to be guided 


by the promptings of his collective senses. He puts 
his face close to the window, shutting off the light 
from the carriage with his hands, and peers into the 
darkness, trying to recognise some wayside object ; 
he listens to the noise made by the train, estimates 
its speed of travelling, and by these means he judges 
of his position, and effects the exchange of the 

It is indeed marvellous that so few failures take 
place ; but this is an instance of how, by constant 
application and experience, things are accomplished 
which might at first sight be considered wellnigh 
impossible. When the exchange takes place, it is 
the work of a moment " thud, thud." The arm 
which bore the bag springs, disengaged, to the side 
of the carriage ; the operator takes the inwards bag 
from the net, draws the net close up to the side of 
the vehicle, and the whole thing is done, and we 
are ready for the next exchange. 

The blow sustained by the pouch containing 
the mail-bag at the moment of delivery, on oc- 
casions when the train is running at a high speed, 
is exceedingly severe, and sometimes causes damage 
to the contents of the bags when of a fragile nature 
and these are not secured in strong covers. A 
bracelet sent by post was once damaged in this 
way, giving rise to the following humorous note : 



" Mr is sorry to return the bracelet to 

be repaired. It came this morning with the box 
smashed, the bracelet bent, and one of the cairngorms 
forced out. Among the modern improvements of 
the Post-office appears to be the introduction of 
sledge-hammers to stamp with. It would be advis- 
able for Mr to remonstrate with the Post- 
master-General," &c. 

Delivering Arm, showing how the Pouch is suspended. 

The Travelling Post-office apparatus is said to have 
been originally suggested by Mr Eamsay of the 
General Post-office ; but his machinery was not very 
satisfactory when brought into practice. The idea 
was, however, improved upon by Mr Dicker, who 
was able to bring it into working condition ; and for 
his services in this matter he was awarded a sum of 
500 by the Lords of the Treasury, and the Post- 
master-General conferred upon him an appointment 
as Supervisor of mail-bag apparatus. Some further 


improvements were carried out by Mr Pearson Hill, 
as, for example, the double arm, so that two pouches 
might be discharged at once from the same carriage- 
door. The apparatus first came to be used about 
thirty years ago, and there are now in the United 
Kingdom some 250 points or stations at which this 
magical game of give and take is carried on daily, 
and in many cases several times a-day. At certain 
places not merely one or two pouches are discharged 
at a time, but a running fire is sometimes kept up 
to the extent of nine discharges of pouches. By the 
limited mail proceeding to the North, nine pouches 
are discharged at Oxenholme from the three Post- 
office carriages, the method followed being this : 
Two pouches are suspended from the arms at each 
carriage-door, and upon these being discharged, three 
of the arms are immediately reloaded, when the 
pouches are caught by a second set of roadside nets, 
distant only about 600 yards from the first. It is 
necessary that great care should be taken in adjusting 
the nets, arms, and roadside standards to their proper 
positions in relation to one another, for any departure 
from such adjustment sometimes leads to accident. 
The pouches occasionally are sent bounding over 
hedges, over the carriages, or under the carriage- 
wheels, where they and their contents get cut to 
pieces. Pouches have been found at the end of a 


journey on the carriage -roof, or hanging on to a 
buffer. In November last, a pouch containing several 
mail-bags was discharged from the Midland Travel- 
ling Post-office at Cudworth, near Barnsley ; but 
something going wrong, the pouch got cut up, and 
the contents were strewn along the line as far as 
Normanton. Some of these were found to be 
cheques, a silver watch, a set of artificial teeth, &c. 

The following is a list of the Travelling Post- 
offices in the United Kingdom, most of which travel 
by night, distributing their freight of intellectual 
produce through all parts of the country : 

North- Western and Caledonian. St Pancras and Derby. 

Birmingham and Stafford. Midland. 

London and Holyhead. Bristol and Newton Abbot. 

Bangor and Crewe, and Nor- South- Western, 

manton and Stalybridge. South-Eastern. 

London and Exeter. Great Northern. 

Bristol and Exeter. London and Bristol. 

York and Newcastle. London and Crewe. 

Dublin and Belfast. Midland (Ireland). 

Belfast and Northern Counties. Gt. Southern and Western. 
Ulster. Dublin to Cork. 

There are, besides, a great many other Travelling 
Post-offices of minor importance throughout the 
country, designated Sorting Tenders. 




POST-OFFICE sorters, unlike men who follow 
other avocations, are a race unsung, and a 
people unknown to fame. The soldier of adventure, 
the mariner on the high seas, the village blacksmith, 
the tiller of the soil, the woodman in the forest 
nay, even the tailor on his bench, all of these have 
formed the theme of song, and have claimed the 
notice of writers of verse. It is otherwise with the 
men who sort our letters. This may possibly be 
due to two causes that sorters are comparatively a 
modern institution, and that their work is carried on 
practically under seal. In times which are little 
beyond the recollection of persons now living, the 
lines of post were so few, and the division and 
distribution of letters so simple, that the clerks who 
examined and taxed the correspondence also sorted 
it : and the time taken over the work would seem 
to show much deliberation in the process ; for we 


find that in 1796, when correspondence was very 
limited, it took above an hour at Edinburgh " to 
tell up, examine, and retax " the letters received by 
the mail from England for places in the north ; and 
that, when foreign mails arrived, two hours were 
required ; and further time was necessary for taxing 
and sorting letters posted in Edinburgh for the same 
district of country the staff employed in the busi- 
ness being two clerks. In those days there were 
really no sorters, unless such as were employed in 
the chief office in London. As to the work being 
carried on under seal, it is not going beyond the 
truth to say that, to the great majority of persons, 
the interior of the Post-office is a terra incognita, 
their sole knowledge of the institution being derived 
from the pillar and the postman. 

Yet the sorters of the present age, forming a very 
large body, are ever engaged in doing an important 
and by no means simple duty. As letters arrive in 
the morning, and are handed in at the breakfast- 
table, speculation arises as to their origin ; a well- 
known hand is recognised, interest is excited by the 
contents, or the well-springs of emotion are opened 
joy is brought with the silvered note, or sorrow with 
the black insignia of death ; and thus, absorbed in 
the matter of the letters themselves, no passing 
thought is spared to the operators whose diligent 


hands have given them wings or directed their line 
of flight. 

When most men are enjoying the refreshment of 
nature's sweet restorer, which it is the privilege of 
the night-hours to give, the sorters in a large num- 
ber of post-offices throughout the country are hard at 
work, and on nearly all the great lines of railway the 
travelling post-offices are speeding their wakeful flight 
in every direction, carrying not only immense quan- 
tities of correspondence, but a large staff of men who 
arrange and sort it in transit. Unconsciously though 
it may be, these men by their work are really a 
most powerful agency in binding society together, 
and promoting the commercial enterprise of the 
country. It lies in the nature of things that sorters' 
duties should largely fall into the night. Like a 
skilful mariner who bends to his use every wind 
that blows, the Post-office avails itself of every op- 
portunity to send forward its letters. To lay aside 
till morning, correspondence arriving at an inter- 
mediate stage at night, would not consort with the 
demands of the age we live in ; despatch is of the 
first consequence, and hence it is that to deal with 
through correspondence, many offices are open during 
the night. Some offices are never closed : at all 
hours the round of duty goes on without intermis- 
sion; but in these, as also in many other cases 


where the periods of duty are long, relays of sorters 
are necessarily employed. Much might be said of 
the broken hours of attendance, the early risings, the 
discomforts and cold of the travelling post-offices in 
winter, and the like, which sorters have to endure ; 
and something might also be said of their loyalty 
to duty, punctuality in attendance, and readiness to 
strain every nerve under the pressure of occasions 
like Christmas. But these things would not, per- 
haps, be of general interest, and our object here is 
rather to show what a sorter's work really is. 

Does it ever occur to an ordinary member of the 
community how letters are sorted ? And if so, what 
has the thinking member made of it ? We fear the 
idea would wear a somewhat hazy complexion. This 
is how it is done in Edinburgh, for example. The 
letters when posted are of course found all mixed 
together, and bearing addresses of every kind. They 
are first arranged with the postage-stamps all in one 
direction, then they are stamped (the labels being 
defaced in the process), and thereafter the letters are 
ready to be sorted. They are conveyed to sorting 
frames, where a first division is carried out, the letters 
being divided into about twenty lots, representing 
roads or despatching divisions, and a few large towns. 
Then at these divisions the final sortation takes place, 
to accord with the bags in which the letters will be 


enclosed when the proper hour of despatch arrives. 
This seems a very simple process, does it not ? 

But before a sorter is competent to do this work, 
he must learn " circulation," which is the technical 
name for the system under which correspondence 
flows to its destination, as the blood courses through 
the body by means of the arteries and veins. By 
way of contrast to what will be stated hereafter, it 
may be convenient to see how letters circulated less 
than a hundred years ago. In 1793 the London 
mail arrived at Glasgow at 6 o'clock in the morn- 
ing, but the letters for Paisley did not reach the 
latter place till 11 A.M. that is, five hours after 
their arrival in Glasgow, though the distance between 
the places is only seven miles. A couple of years 
before that, letters arriving at Edinburgh on Sun- 
day morning for Stirling, Alloa, and other places 
north thereof, which went by way of Falkirk, were 
not despatched till Sunday night ; they reached 
Falkirk the same night or early on Monday morn- 
ing, and there they remained till Tuesday morn- 
ing, when they went on with the North mail so 
that between Edinburgh and Falkirk two whole days 
were consumed. In the year 1794 the London 
mail reached Edinburgh at 6 A.M., unless when de- 
tained by bad weather or breakdowns. The letters 
which it brought for Perth, Aberdeen, and places on 


that line, lay in Edinburgh fourteen hours viz., till 
8 P.M. before being sent on. The people of Aberdeen 
were not satisfied with the arrangement, and as the 
result of agitation, the hour was altered to 1 P.M. 
This placed them, however, in no better position, for 
the arrival at Aberdeen was so late at night, that the 
letters could only be dealt with next day. It was 
not easy to accommodate all parties, and there was a 
good deal of trouble over this matter. The Edin- 
burgh newspapers required an interval, after the 
arrival of the London mail, for the printing of their 
journals and preparing them for the North de- 
spatch. The Aberdeen people thought that an inter- 
val of three hours was sufficient for all purposes, 
and urged that the North mail should start at 9 
A.M. In one of their memorials they write thus : 
" They think that the institution of posts was, in the 
first place, to facilitate commerce by the conveyance 
of letters with the quickest possible despatch from one 
end of the kingdom to the other, and, in the next place, 
to raise a revenue for Government ; and they cannot 
conceive that either of those ends will be promoted 
by the letters of two-thirds of the kingdom of Scot- 
land lying dormant for many hours at Edinburgh." 

In another of the petitions from the people of 
Aberdeen, they strangely introduce their loyalty as 
a lever in pressing their claims : " Were we of this 


city," say they, " to lay claim to auy peculiar 
merit, it might perhaps be that of a sincere attach- 
ment to order and good government, which places us, 
in this respect at least, equal to the most dignified 
city in Britain." 

From a Post-office point of view the memorialists 
appeared to be under some mistake as to the gain to 
be derived from the change desired, for there was 
something connected with the return mails which 
did not fall in with the plan, and the surveyor made 
some opposition to it. In one of his reports he 
makes this curious observation : " I am persuaded 
that some of them, as now appears to be the case, 
may be very well pleased to get free from the obliga- 
tion of answering their letters in course and par- 
ticularly in money matters " ! 

These facts show what a poor circulation the 
Post-office had at the period in question, and what 
splendid intervals there were in which to sort the 
correspondence. Nowadays, in any office pretend- 
ing to importance, the letters pour in all day long 
(and all night too, possibly), and they pour out in a 
constant stream at the same time letters being in 
and out of an office in certain instances within the 
space of a few minutes. A good sorter will sort 
letters at the rate of 25 to 40 a minute. But 
let us look at what a sorter has to learn to do 




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this. A leaf of the circulation book in use at Edin- 
burgh for places in England is here inserted (p. 162), 
which will be of assistance in understanding the 
matter. It will be observed that there are seven 
times in the day at which despatches are made to 
England. Letters for Martock, in Somersetshire, for 
example, in accordance with the hour at which they 
may be posted, would be sent thus : to Birming- 
ham at 10.0 A.M.; to the Midland Travelling Post- 
office Forward, third division, at 2.40 P.M.; no cir- 
culation at 4.15 P.M.; to the Glasgow and Carlisle 
Sorting Tender (a sorting carriage running between 
these towns) at 5.50 P.M.; no circulation at 7.20 P.M.; 
to the Bristol and Exeter Travelling Post-office at 
9.0 P.M.; and to London at 10.0 P.M. Then if we take 
Mitcheldean, at the foot of the sheet, its circulation 
is this: to Birmingham at 10.0 A.M.: to Gloucester 
at 2.40 P.M.; to the Glasgow and Carlisle Sorting 
Tender at 5.50 P.M. ; to Gloucester at 9.0 P.M. ;. and 
to Manchester at 10.0 P.M. And so on throughout 
the book, which contains the names of some 1300 
places in England. Nor, as regards England, is this all. 
The sorters have to divide letters into the several 
London districts by reference to the street addresses 
which the letters bear. Again, these men have to 
know the circulation for Scotch towns and Irish 
towns, and many of them have, besides, such a know- 


ledge of the streets of their own city, Edinburgh, as 
enables them to sort letters for delivery into the 
several postmen's districts. Thus it will be seen 
that the sortation of letters is no mere mechanical 
process, but demands considerable head-work, as well 
as activity of body. 

With some men it is impossible for them ever to 
become good sorters, even with the most earnest 
desire on their part to do so. There are certain 
qualities necessary for the purpose, and if they are 
not united in the person, he will never come to the 
front as a good sorter. These are : self-command 
necessary when working against time ; activity in 
his person so as to meet any sudden strain of work ; 
a methodical habit ; and, the sine qud non of a 
sorter, a quick, prehensile, and retentive memory. 
So much has a sorter to learn, that a man without a 
head can never distinguish himself ; and an educa- 
tional test, except as a measure of acquirements in a 
collateral way, is of very little use. A sorter's success 
rests chiefly upon natural aptitude. 

In the circulation of letters, we may discover the 
paradox that " the longest road is often the shortest ; " 
the explanation of which is, that by a roundabout way 
letters may sometimes arrive sooner than by wait- 
ing the next chance by a more direct route. Post- 
office circulation is not tied down by any strait-laced 


lines of geographical science, nor by any considera- 
tion but that of the economy of time. 

For example, at certain periods letters from 
Edinburgh for places in Norfolk and Suffolk go on 
to London, to return north to those counties by the 
mails out of London ; similarly, letters for places 
north of Manchester are at certain hours sent on to 
that city, to be returned part of the way by next 
opportunity. It will no doubt seem a puzzle that 
letters for Ireland should, at a certain time of day, 
be forwarded from Edinburgh to Leeds in Yorkshire ! 
Yet this is so, and with good results, the fact being 
that, after the more direct despatches for the day, 
Irish letters are sent by the last evening train to 
Leeds, whence early next morning they are sent across 
the country, reaching a travelling post-office proceed- 
ing from London to Holyhead, and then catching the 
day-mail packet for Ireland. Thus they arrive in 
the sister isle by the time they would otherwise be 
only leaving Scotland. In the travelling post-offices 
the plan of carrying letters away from their desti- 
nations in order that time may be gained for their 
sortation, and afterwards sending them back by a 
Post-office carriage proceeding in the reverse direction, 
is largely practised, and with the greatest advantage. 
Again, letters from Newcastle-on-Tyne for Glasgow, 
forwarded by the night-mail, take what might be 


thought to be a very wide circuit namely, by way 
of Normanton in Yorkshire, and Manchester and 
Wigan in Lancashire ; yet that circulation is found 
to be best at the hour at which the night - mail 
despatch is made. In one more case that may be 
cited, letters from Berwick-on-Tweed for Carlisle are, 
at a certain time of the day, forwarded through Edin- 
burgh as the most expeditious route. There is such 
a complexity of arrangement in the matter of circu- 
lation, and so great a dependence of any one part on 
a great many other surrounding parts, that compara- 
tively few persons ever thoroughly understand it, and 
only those who can master it should meddle with it. 
In one aspect the process of sortation bears some 
resemblance to digestion. This is observed in con- 
nection with the strange courses which letters run if, 
by a first misreading of the address, they happen to 
get out of their proper line or direction. A day 
seldom passes but some letter addressed to Eden- 
bridge in Kent reaches the city of Edinburgh, either 
from London or some other English town. There 
is, of course, a strong resemblance between the names 
of the two places as written, yet the missent letters 
must have passed through the hands of two or three 
sorters before reaching Edinburgh. But though this 
might seem to suggest carelessness, there is this to 
be said, that whenever a letter for Edenbridge gets 


out of its own course, and into the stream of letters 
for Edinburgh, the sorters have a predisposition to 
assimilate it as an Edinburgh letter, and so it gets 
forwarded to that city. The same thing applies in 
regard to letters for Leek, Leith, and Keith, and for 
Musselburgh and Middlesborough especially when, 
as is too often the case, the writing is not good ; and 
many other similar instances might be given. Let- 
ters for Fiji frequently reach Edinburgh from Lon- 
don and the South, being missent as for Fife in 
Scotland ; and we have it on the authority of the 
Colonial Postmaster of Fiji, that numbers of letters, 
papers, &c., directed to Fife, reach the Fiji Islands. 
Two letters posted at Hamilton, Bermuda, and ad- 
dressed to Edinburgh, Saratoga Co., N.Y., were re- 
cently observed to perform a curious circuit before 
reaching their destination. Instead of being sent 
direct to the United States from Bermuda, they were 
forwarded to London in England ; and here, getting 
into the current of inland correspondence, they were 
sent to Edinburgh in Scotland. At this stage their 
wild career was stopped, and they were put in 
proper course to recross the Atlantic. It is near 
the truth to say, that similarity of names and bad 
writing are the causes of very many of the irregu- 
larities which befall letters in their transit through 
the post. 




THE intellectual superiority of man has enabled 
him to bend to his purposes the various physi- 
cal powers of the lower animals as, for example, the 
strength of the ox and the fleetness of the horse 
and his observation has taught him also to turn to 
his use some of the instincts of the lower creation, 
though these gifts may lie hidden beyond the reach 
of his understanding. Thus the keen scent of the 
bloodhound, and the sense which enables the "ship 
of the desert " to sniff the distant spring, are equally 
become subservient to the interests of man ; but it 
is with reference to another instinct not less remark- 
able that this chapter is written the homing in- 
stinct of the carrier-pigeon. This gentle bird has 
long been known as a messenger capable of con- 
veying news from one place to another over con- 
siderable distances. It is asserted that " Hirtius 
and Brutus, at the siege of Modena, held a corre- 


spondence by pigeons ; and Ovid tells us that Tau- 
rosthenes, by a pigeon stained with purple, gave 
notice to his father of his victory at the Olympic 
games, sending it to him at -ZEgina." In Persia 
and Turkey pigeons were trained for this service, 
and it is stated that every bashaw had some of 
these birds reared, in order swiftly to convey news 
to the seraglio on occasions of insurrection or other 
emergency. In somewhat modern times the best 
birds were said to be those of Aleppo, which served 
as couriers at Alexandretta and Bagdad ; but many 
years ago their services in this line had to be given 
up, owing to the Kurd robbers killing the pigeons in 
the course of their journey. It does not appear, 
however, that, until quite recent times, any great 
use has been made of these birds by Western nations, 
at any rate under any extended scheme for com- 
mercial or peaceful ends. Yet, by what may seem 
an incongruity, the dove, which is par excellence the 
emblem of love and peace, has of late years been 
trained for purposes of war by the great Continental 
States ; and it is impossible to predict how far the 
fate of nations may be determined hereafter by the 
performances of these naturally harmless creatures. 
The following particulars from one of the annual 
reports on the Post-office will show to what extent 
service was rendered by carrier-pigeons in keeping 


up postal communication with Paris when that city 
was invested during the Franco - German war of 

"As the war proceeded and the hostile forces 
approached Paris, the risk of interruption to our 
Indian mails hecame more and more imminent, and 
caused serious uneasiness to the Post-office. This 
feeling, which was not long in communicating itself 
to the public, the subsequent investment of the 
capital served to enhance. The mails had now to 
branch off at Amiens, and go round by Rouen and 
Tours, at a cost, in point of time, of from thirty to 
forty hours ; but even this circuitous route could not 
long be depended upon, and nothing remained but 
to abandon Marseilles altogether as the line of com- 
munication for our Indian mails. ' There was only 
one alternative to send them through Belgium and 
Germany by the Brenner Pass to Brindisi, and thence 
by Italian packets to Alexandria. 

" But it was in respect to the mails for France 
herself, and especially for Paris, that the greatest per- 
plexity prevailed. As soon as Amiens was threat- 
ened Amiens, the very key-stone of our postal 
communication with the interior and south of France 
it became evident that the route vid Calais would 
not remain much longer. The alternative routes 
that presented themselves were vid Dieppe, and vid 


Cherbourg or St Malo, and no time was lost in 
making the necessary arrangements with the Brigh- 
ton and South-Western Eailway Companies. By 
both Companies trains were kept in constant readi- 
ness at the terminus in London, and vessels re- 
mained under steam at Newhaven and Southampton, 
prepared to start at the shortest notice, according to 
the course events might take. Late in the evening 
of the 26th of November, intelligence was received 
in London that the line of communication through 
Amiens was closed, and the mails were diverted 
from Calais to Cherbourg ; within the next four 
days Cherbourg was exchanged for Dieppe, and 
Dieppe soon afterwards for St Malo. As to the 
means adopted for maintaining communication with 
Paris, the pigeon-post has become matter of history. 
Letters intended for this novel mode of transmission 
had to be sent to the headquarters of the French 
Post-office at Tours, where, it is understood, they 
were all copied in consecutive order, and by a pro- 
cess of photography transferred in a wonderfully 
reduced form to a diminutive piece of very thin 
paper, such as a pigeon could carry, the photo- 
graphic process being repeated on their arrival in 
Paris, for the purpose of obtaining a larger impres- 
sion. They were essential conditions that these 
letters should be posted open without cover or 


envelope, and that they should be registered ; that 
they should be restricted to twenty words ; that they 
should be written in French in clear and intelli- 
gible language, and that they should relate solely to 
private affairs, and contain no allusion either to the 
war or to politics. The charge was fixed at 5d. 
for each word (the name and address counting as 
one word), and 6d. for registration. During tKe 
investment, from November 1870 to January 18*71, 
the number of letters sent from London to Tours, 
for despatch by pigeon-post to Paris, was 1234." 

Profiting by the example furnished during the 
progress of the Franco-German war, the good people 
of the Fiji Islands have quite recently established 
a pigeon-post, to serve them in the peaceful pur- 
suits of trade. The colony of Fiji is a group of 
225 islands, between which the communications by 
sailing-vessels or steamers are not very regular, the 
former being frequently becalmed or retarded by 
head-winds, while the latter are of small power and 
low speed. An important part of the trade of the 
Islands consists in exporting fruit and other produce 
to Australia and New Zealand, the largest portion 
consisting of bananas, of which a single steamer will 
sometimes carry about 12,000 bunches. It is desir- 
able not to cut the bananas till the steamers from 
Australia and New Zealand arrive at Fiji, and conse- 


quently early news of the event is most important 
to planters in the more remote islands ; for if the 
small schooners or cutters which carry the fruit 
between the islands arrive too late for the steamer, 
the poor planters lose their whole produce, which, 
being perishable, has to be thrown overboard. In 
these circumstances a pigeon-post has been called 
into operation ; and should this method of communi- 
cation be extended to all the important islands, as 
it has already been to some, many a cargo will be 
saved to the poor planters which would otherwise 
be wholly lost. 

Subjoined is a copy of news by " Pigeon-post," 
taken from the 'Polynesian Gazette' of the 10th 
June 1884. It was conveyed by pigeon from Suva 
to Levuka, a distance as the crow flies of about 40 
miles, and the time occupied in transit was 42 
minutes, the actual flight to the home of the pigeon 
taking but 3 minutes : 

" Per Pigeon-post. 

"The following despatch, dated Suva, Sunday, 
3 P.M., was received at Nasova at 3.42 same day: 

" Hero arrived midnight, left Melbourne 26th, 
Newcastle 29th. Passengers Mrs Fowler and 


child, Mrs Cusack and family, Mrs Blythe and child, 
Messrs F. Hughes, Fullarton, J. Sims, J. B. Matthews, 
T. Eose, and A. H. Chambers. 

" Agents-General of Queensland and Victoria 
gone to France to interview Ministers in re recidi- 
vistes question. Marylebone won match, one innings 
and 115 runs ; Australians have since defeated Bir- 
mingham eleven. Gunga, Capt. Fleetwood, leaves 
Sydney 24th ult. New Zealand football team beat 
N.S. Wales, 34 points to nil. Cintra at Newcastle, 
loading coal for Melbourne, same time as Hero. 
A.S.N. Co. bought Adelaide Simpsons Birkgate and 

" Wairarapa and Penguin just arrived, further 
news when admitted to pratique. 

" Monday, 5 P.M. 

" Penguin may be expected in Levuka mid-day 
to-morrow, Tuesday. 

" Wairarapa leaves for Levuka at daylight on 
Wednesday. Hero leaves at 10.30 on Tuesday, for 
Deuba, and may be expected to arrive in Levuka on 
Wednesday night." 

It is right to add that the " Pigeon-post " of Fiji 
is not connected with the Postal Department, but is 
carried on as a private enterprise. 




Abuse of the Franking Privilege. 

TTTHEEEVER the use of anything of value is 
given without the check of a money or 
other equivalent, the use is sure to degenerate into 
abuse ; and in the experience of the Post-office this 
has been proved to be the case, both as regards 
letters and telegrams. In regard to the first, the 
franking privilege was long found to be a canker 
eating into the vitals of the Revenue ; and its aboli- 
tion on the introduction of the penny postage in 
1840 came none too soon. Had the privilege been 
longer continued, it is impossible to conceive to what 
extent the abuse of it might have grown ; but what 
might have occurred here has, in some measure, 
taken place in the United States, as is shown by the 
following statement made by the Postmaster-General 


of that country, about twenty years after the aboli- 
tion of the privilege in this : 

"Another potent reason for the abolition of the 
franking privilege, as now exercised, is found in the 
abuses which seem to be inseparable from its exist- 
ence. These abuses, though constantly exposed and 
animadverted upon for a series of years, have as con- 
stantly increased. It has been often stated by my 
predecessors, and is a matter of public notoriety, that 
immense masses of packages are transported under 
the Government frank which neither the letter nor 
the spirit of the statute creating the franking privilege 
would justify ; and a large number of letters, docu- 
ments, and packages are thus conveyed, covered by 
the frank of officials, written in violation of law, not 
by themselves, but by some real or pretended agent ; 
while whole sacks of similar matter, which have 
never been handled nor even seen by Government 
functionaries, are transported under franks which 
have been forged. The extreme difficulty of detect- 
ing such forgeries has greatly multiplied this class 
of offences ; whilst their prevalence has so deadened 
the public sentiment in reference to them, that a 
conviction, however ample the proof, is scarcely pos- 
sible to be obtained. The statute of 1825, denouncing 
the counterfeiting of an official frank under a heavy 
penalty, is practically inoperative. I refer you to 


the case reported at length by the United States 
attorney for the district, as strikingly illustrating 
this vitiated public opinion, reflected from the jury- 
box. The proof was complete, and the case unre- 
deemed by a single palliation ; and yet the offender 
was discharged unrebuked, to resume, if it should 
please him, his guilty task. This verdict of ac- 
quittal is understood to have been rendered on two 
grounds : first, that the accused said he did not 
commit the offence to avoid the payment of the 
postages ; and second, that the offence has become 
so prevalent that it is no longer proper to punish it. 
These are startling propositions, whether regarded in 
their legal, moral, or logical aspects." 

The unblushing way in which the British Post- 
office in its earlier days was called upon to convey 
not only franked letters, but, under franks, articles 
of a totally different class, will be perceived from the 
following cases. It is not to be understood, how- 
ever, that the things consigned actually passed 
through the Post-office, but rather that they were 
admitted for transport on board the special packet- 
ships of Government, sailing for the purposes of the 
Post-office. The cases are taken from the first 
annual report of the Postmaster-General : 

" Fifteen couples of hounds going to the King of 
the Eomans with a free pass." 



"Some parcels of cloth for the clothing colonels 
in my Lord North's and my Lord Grey's regiments." 

"Two servant-maids going as laundresses to my 
Lord Ambassador Methuen." 

" Doctor Crichton, carrying with him a cow and 
divers other necessaries." 

" Three suits of cloaths for some nobleman's lady 
at the Court of Portugal." 

" A box containing three pounds of tea, sent as 
a present by my Lady Arlington to the Queen- 
Dowager of England at Lisbon." 

"Eleven couples of hounds for Major-General 

" A case of knives and forks for Mr Stepney, her 
Majesty's Envoy to the King of Holland." 

" One little parcell of lace, to be made use of in 
clothing Duke Schomberg's regiment." 

" Two bales of stockings for the use of the Ambas- 
sador of the Crown of Portugal." 

"A box of medicines for my Lord Galway in 

" A deal case with four flitches of bacon for Mr 
Pennington of Eotterdam." 

The Post-office always had a great deal of trouble 
in controlling and keeping in check this system of 
franking ; and withal, the privilege was much abused. 
Before the year 1*764, members of Parliament had 


merely to write their names on the covers to ensure 
their correspondence free passage through the post ; 
and packets of such franks were furnished by the 
members to their friends, who laid them past for use 
as occasion required. Nay, more, a trade was carried 
on in franks by the servants of members, whose 
practice it was to ask their masters to sign them in 
great numbers at a time. It was even suspected, 
and probably with sufficient reason, that franks were 
forged to a large extent ; and, had postage been paid 
on all franked correspondence, it is estimated that 
the Eevenue would have been increased by 170,000. 
In the hope of imposing some greater check on the 
evil, it was enacted in 1763 that the whole super- 
scription must be in the handwriting of the member ; 
but even this proved inadequate, and further restric- 
tions were imposed in 1784 and 1795. Some very 
difficult and troublesome questions arose from time 
to time in dealing with members' letters. For 
example, when a member of Parliament had no 
place of residence in London, and was living out 
of the United Kingdom, if he had his letters ad- 
dressed to a public office, or to any solicitor, banker, 
or other agent, he was not entitled to have his letters 
free of postage, but, if so directed and delivered, the 
postage had to be paid. Again, when a member 
kept up a residence in London, but had his letters 


directed to another place, the member ceased to 
enjoy the privilege as regards such letters; as he 
also did when letters were addressed to his residence 
in the country, and he happened to be elsewhere at 
the time of their delivery. Then a Catholic peer 
dying, who had never taken his seat, and being suc- 
ceeded by his brother, who was a Protestant, the 
question is raised whether the latter could claim to 
use the franking privilege before the issue of the 
writ calling him to the House of Peers ; and the 
legal decision is given that he could not so exercise 
the privilege. Keeping the members within proper 
bounds must evidently have been a task for the 
officers of the Post-office requiring both vigilance 
and determination. 

But there was another kind of fraud carried on 
under the privilege granted to soldiers. A surveyor 
in Scotland thus referred to the irregularity as ob- 
served in Scotland in 1797 : 

" As there is so much smuggling of letters already 
in Scotland, and reason to suspect it will increase 
from the additional rates, it is matter of serious con- 
cern to the Eevenue to obtain a clear legal restric- 
tion ; and I wish you to represent it to the Board 
at London, in case it may not be too late to offer 
any hints from the distant situation we are in. 

" I have had occasion formerly to observe to you 


that a very great evasion of the Post Eevenue has 
taken place particularly in the north of Scotland 
from the privilege granted to soldiers, under cover 
of which not only a very general opportunity is 
taken by the common people there to have their 
letters carried by soldiers to be freed by their 
officers, and having them again in return under 
soldiers' addresses ; but even in several instances 
which I observed and detected, persons in higher 
ranks have availed themselves of this circumstance." 

The Post-office has also been exposed to frauds in 
other ways. Thus it was a common device to take 
a newspaper bearing the newspaper frank, prick out 
with a pin certain words in the print making up a 
message to be sent, and the newspaper so prepared 
served all the purposes of a letter as between the 
sender and receiver. Or a message would be written 
on the cover of a newspaper with the first of all 
fluids known to us milk which, when dry, was 
not observed, but developed a legible communication 
subsequently when held to the fire. 

The following anecdotes of the evasions of postage 
are told by the late Sir Eowland Hill : 

"Some years ago, when it was the practice to 
write the name of a member of Parliament for the 
purpose of franking a newspaper, a friend of mine, 
previous to starting on a tour into Scotland, arranged 


with his family a plan of informing them of his pro- 
gress and state of health, without putting them to 
the expense of postage. It was managed thus : He 
carried with him a number of old newspapers, one 
of which he put into the post daily. The postmark, 
with the date, showed his progress ; and the state 
of his health was evinced by the selection of the 
names from a list previously agreed upon, with which 
the newspaper was franked. Sir Francis Burdett, I 
recollect, denoted vigorous health." 

" Once on the poet's [Coleridge's] visit to the Lake 
district, he halted at the door of a wayside inn at 
the moment when the rural postman was delivering 
a letter to the barmaid of the place. Upon receiv- 
ing it she turned it over and over in her hand, and 
then asked the postage of it. The postman demanded 
a shilling. Sighing deeply, however, the girl handed 
the letter back, saying she was too poor to pay the 
required sum. The poet at once offered to pay the 
postage ; and in spite of some resistance on the part 
of the girl, which he deemed quite natural, did so. 
The messenger had scarcely left the place when the 
young barmaid confessed that she had learnt all she 
was likely to learn from the letter ; that she had 
only been practising a preconceived trick she and 
her brother having agreed that a few hieroglyphics 
on the back of the letter should tell her all she 


wanted to know, whilst the letter would contain 
no writing. ' We are so poor,' she added, ' that we 
have invented this manner of corresponding and 
franking our letters.' " 

In asserting its monopoly in the carriage of letters 
in towns, or wherever the Post-office had established 
posts, there was always trouble ; and so much atten- 
tion did the matter require, that special officers for 
the duty were employed, called " Apprehenders of 
Private Letter-carriers." The penalties were some- 
what severe when infringements were discovered, 
and the action taken straight and prompt, as .will 
be seen by the following, which is a copy of a 
letter written in 1817 to a person charging him 
with breaking the law : 

" SIR, His Majesty's Postmasters-General have re- 
ceived an information laid against you, that on the 

1 8th ultimo your clerk, Mr , for whom you are 

answerable, illegally sent three letters in a parcel 
by a stage-coach to you at Broadstairs, Kent, con- 
trary to the statute made to prevent the sending of 
letters otherwise than by the post. 

" I am commanded by their lordships to inform 
you that you have thereby incurred three penalties 
of 5 each, and that they feel it their duty to 
proceed against you to recover the same. 


" Should you have any explanation to give, you 
will please to address the Postmaster-General. I 
am," &c. 

In August 1794, at the Warwick Assizes, a 
carrier between Warwick and Birmingham was con- 
victed of illegally collecting and carrying letters, 
when penalties amounting to 1500 were incurred; 
but the prosecution consented to a verdict being 
taken for two penalties of 5 each, with costs of the 
suit. A report of the period observed that "this 
verdict should be a warning to carriers, coachmen, 
and other persons, against taking up letters tied 
round with a string or covered with brown paper, 
under pretence of being parcels, which, the learned 
judge observed, was a flimsy evasion of the law." 

The very cheap postage which we now enjoy has 
removed the inducement in a large measure to com- 
mit petty frauds of this kind on the Post-office 
Revenue, and the commission of such things may 
now be said to belong to an age that is past. 

Frauds on the Public. 

The Post-office, while it is the willing handmaid 
to commerce, the vehicle of social intercourse, and 
the necessary helper in almost every enterprise and 
occupation, becomes at the same time a ready means 


for the unscrupulous to carry on a wonderful variety 
of frauds on the public, and enables a whole army 
of needy and designing persons to live upon the gen- 
erous impulses of society. While these things go on, 
and Post-office officials know they go on, the 
Department is helpless to prevent them; for the work 
of the Post-office is carried on as a secret business, 
in so far as the communications intrusted to it are 
concerned, and the contents of the letters conveyed 
are not its property or interest. There are men and 
women who go about from town to town writing 
begging -letters to well-to-do persons, appealing for 
help under all sorts of pretences ; and these persons 
are as well known, in the sense of being customers 
to the Department, as a housekeeper is known at her 
grocer's shop. There are other persons, again, who 
carry on long-firm swindles through the post, obtain- 
ing goods which are never to be paid for ; and as 
soon as the goods are received at one place, the 
swindlers move on to another place, assume new 
names, and repeat the operation. The schemes 
adopted are often very deeply laid ; and the police, 
when once set upon the track, have hard work to 
unravel the wily plans. But tradespeople are not 
infrequently themselves very much to blame, as they 
show themselves too confiding, and too ready to do 
business with unknown persons. 


The following is an instance of a fraud upon well- 
to-do persons in this country, attempted by an Amer- 
ican in the year 1869 : 

The Rev. Mr Champneys, of St Pancras, London, 
received a letter posted at Florence, Burlington 
County, New Jersey, U.S., which upon being opened 
seemed to be not intended for him, but was a com- 
munication purporting to be written from one sister 
to another. The letter made it appear that the 
writer was highly connected, had fallen into the 
greatest distress owing to the death of her husband, 
that her feelings of self-respect had restrained her 
from telling her griefs till she could no longer with- 
hold them, and making free use of the deepest 
pathos and high-sounding sentiments, and finally 
appealing for an immediate remittance. Mr Champ- 
neys, not suspecting a fraud, and desiring to help 
forward the letter to the person who, as he supposed, 
should have received it, inserted the following adver- 
tisement in the ' Times ' newspaper : 

"A letter, dated Florence, Burlington County, 
New Jersey, U.S., intended for Mrs Lucy Campbell, 
Scotland, has been misdirected to Eev. W. Champ- 
neys, 3 1 Gordon Square. Will Mrs Campbell kindly 
communicate her address immediately ? " 

In response to this inquiry, what was Mr Champ- 
ney's surprise but to find that a large number of 


persons had received letters in identical terms and 
in precisely the same circumstances ! This of course 
caused him to reflect, and then the facts became 
clear to him which were, that under the guise of a 
trifling mistake, that of placing a letter in the wrong 
envelope, a set of dire circumstances were placed 
before persons who were likely to be kind-hearted 
and generous, in the hope that, though the writer 
was unknown to them, they might send some money 
to cheer a poor but respectable family steeped in 
calamity ! 

How far the attempt succeeded does not appear, 
but Mr Champneys very properly at once wrote a 
letter to the ' Times ' exposing the fraud, and it is to 
be hoped that some generous souls were in conse- 
quence saved from folly. 

One more instance but one coming within the 
class of the " confidence trick." In several country 
newspapers the following advertisement made its 
appearance : 

"An elderly bachelor of fortune, wishing to test 
the credulity of the public, and to benefit and assist 
others, will send a suitable present of genuine worth, 
according to the circumstances of the applicant, to 
all who will send him 1 7 stamps demanded merely 
as a token of confidence. Stamps will be returned 
with the present." And then the address followed, 


which was not always the same in all the adver- 

The advertiser alone would be able to say how far 
he profited by this little arrangement, but some idea 
of the simplicity of mankind may be derived from 
the fact that between 300 and 400 letters for this 
person, each containing 1 7 stamps, reached the Dead- 
letter Office owing doubtless to his having " moved 
on " from the places where he had lived, in conse- 
quence of their becoming too warm to hold him. 
Specimens of the letters written by the dupes are as 
follows : 

1. "The Eev. encloses 17 stamps. He is 

a clergyman with very limited means, and the most 
useful present to him would be five pounds. If his 
application be not agreeable, he requests that the 
stamps be returned." 

2. "I have enclosed the 17 stamps, and shall be 
very pleased to receive any present you will send me. 
As I am not very well off, what I would like very 
much would be a nice black silk dress, which I should 
consider a rich reward for my credulity." 

3. "Mrs presents her compliments to the 

' elderly bachelor,' and in order to amuse him 
by her credulity encloses 17 stamps, and thus 
claims the promised present. Her position and 
circumstances are good, she mixes in gay society, 


and is quite an adept at dancing the polka ma- 
zourka. These details may determine the suit- 
ability of the present." 

4. "Having read your advertisement testing the 
' credulity of the public/ I feel disposed on my part 
to test the upright and honourable intentions of a 
stranger, contrary to the opinion of some, who tell 
me it is only a hoax, or, worse, a mere take-in. I 
therefore, with the honesty of an Irishman, beg to 
say I am a clergyman's wife, mother of nine chil- 
dren, the six eldest fine enterprising sons ; the three 
youngest, engaging, intelligent girls. We Irish gen- 
erally have larger hearts than purses. I therefore lay 
these facts before you, an Englishman, knowing that 
a Briton's generosity and capabilities are proverbi- 
ally equal. Hoping I may be able to prove I have 
formed a correct opinion of advertiser's truthfulness, 
I am," &c. 

After this we may afford to smile, and use the 
words of a very old author with every confidence 
of their freshness : " Oh where shall wisdom be 
found ? where is the place of understanding ? " 




FT1HE addresses of letters passing through the post 
J- have often very curious features, arising from 
various causes : sometimes the whole writing is so 
bad as to be all but illegible ; sometimes the orthog- 
raphy is extremely at fault ; sometimes the writer, 
having forgotten the precise address, makes use of a 
periphrase ; sometimes the addresses are insufficient ; 
and sometimes the addresses are conjoined with 
sketches on the envelopes showing both artistic taste 
and comic spirit. Post-office sorters, who constantly 
have passing through their hands writing of every 
style and every degree of badness, acquire an apti- 
tude for deciphering manuscript ; and writing must be 
bad indeed, if to be read at all, when it fails to be de- 
ciphered in the Post-office. A very large collection 
might be made of the vagaries of writers in the ad- 
dresses placed by them on letters ; but the following 
will give some idea, though not a complete idea, of one 
of the troubles met with in dealing with post-letters. 


Some time ago the Danish and Norwegian Consul 
at Ipswich, being struck by the ever-varying way in 
which the word " Ipswich" was spelt in the addresses 
of letters reaching him from abroad, took the pains 
to make a record of each new style of spelling, and 
after a time he was able to collect together fifty- 
seven incorrect methods of spelling the word 
" Ipswich," which had been used upon letters ad- 
dressed to him. They are given as follows, viz. : 

Elsfleth, Epshvics, Epshvidts, Epsids, Epsig, Epsvet, Eps- 
vidts, Epwich, Evswig, Exwig, Hoispis, Hvisspys, Ibsvi, Ibsvig, 
Ibsvithse,Ibwich,Ibwigth,Ispsich, le yis wich, Igswield, Igswig, 
Igswjigh, Ipesviok, Ipiswug, Ipswitis, Ipsiwisch, Ipsovich, Ips- 
veten, Ipsvick, Ipsvics, Ipsvids, Ipsvidts, Ipsvig, Ipsvikh, 
Ipsyits, Ipsvitx, Ipsvoigh, Ipsweh, Ipsweich, Ipswgs, Ipswiche, 
Ipswick, Ipswict, Ipswiceh, Ipswig, Ipswigh, Ipswight, Ipswish, 
Ipswith, Ipswitz, Ispich, Ispovich, Ispwich, Ixvig, lysuich, 
Uibsvich, Vittspits. 

Letters so addressed generally reached the Consul 
in direct course of post, though some of them were 
occasionally delayed by being first sent to Wisbeach. 
In other cases assistance was given in reading the 
addresses by the northern version of the county 
" Suffolg " following the word intended for Ipswich. 

The address, 

23 Adne Edle Street, London, 

proved to be intended for 

2 Threadneedle Street, London. 


In another case, 

No. 52 Oldham & Bury, London, 
was written for 

No. 52 Aldermanbury, London. 

On another occasion the following address appeared 
on a letter : 

too dad Thomas 

hat the ole oke 


10 Bary. Fade. 
Sur plees to let ole feather have this sefe ; 

the address being intended for 

The Old Oak Orchard, 


A further odd address was as follows, written, it is 
presumed, by a German : 

Tis is fur old Mr Willy wot brinds de Baber in Lang Raster 
ware ti gal is. gist rede him assume as it cums to ti Pushtufous ; 

the English of the address being 

This is for old Mr Willy what prints the paper in Lancaster 
where the jail is. Just read him as soon as it comes to the 

The next address is one made use of, apparently, 
owing to the true and particular addresses being lost, 
but the directions given served their purpose, and the 
letter was duly delivered : 


For a gentleman residing in a street out of the Road, 


He is a shopkeeper, sells newspapers and periodicals to the 
trade, and supplies Hawkers, and others with cheap prints, some 
of which are sold by men in the street, he has for years bought 

the waste of the Illustrated their prints printed in colours 

particularl}'. he is well known in the locality, being wholesale. 
Postman will oblige if he can find this. 

Similar cases are as follows, but we are unable 
to say whether the addresses given served their 
intended purpose : 

Mr . Travelling Band, one of the four playing in the 


Persha [Pershore], 

Please to find him if possible. 

To E , a cook as lived tempery with a Mrs L , or 

some such a name, a shoemaker in Castle St. about No. 

Hoburn in 1851 ; try to make this out. She is a Welsh per- 
son about 5 feet 1 stoutish. Lives in service some ware in 
London or naboured. London. 

This is for her that maks dresses for ladies, that livs at 
tother side of road to James Brocklip. 


This is for the young girl that wears spectacles, who minds 
two babies. 

30 Sherriff St., 

Off Prince Edwin St., 



In two further instances the indications sufficed, 
and the letters were duly delivered. Thus 

To my sister Jean, 

Up the Canongate, 

Down a Close, 

She has a wooden leg. 


My dear Ant Sue as lives in the Cottage by the Wood near 
the New Forest. 

In this case the letter had to feel its way about for 
a day or two, but Ant Sue was found living in a 
cottage near Lyndhurst. 

Another letter was addressed thus : 

This letter is for Mrs . She lives in some part of Liver- 
pool. From her father John , a tailor from ; he 

would be thankful to some Postmaster in Liverpool if he would 
find her out. 

Unfortunately, in this instance the directions 
given failed to trace the person to whom it was 
sent, and it had to go to that abyss of "rejected 
addresses," the Dead-letter Office. 

It occasionally happens that when the eye is un- 
able to make out an address, the ear comes to the 
rescue. In London a letter came to hand directed 


Mr Owl O'Neil, 

General Post Office. 


But no one was known there of that name. A 
clerk, looking at the letter, commenced to repeat aloud, 
"Mr Owl O'Neil, Mr Owl O'Neil," when another 
clerk, hearing him, exclaimed, " Why ! that must be 
intended for Mr Eowland Hill," which indeed 
proved to be the case. A similar circumstance 
happened in Edinburgh with a letter from Australia, 

addressed to 


Johns. 7. 


It proved to be intended for Johnshaven, a village 
in the north of Scotland. 

Two odd addresses are as follows, one being from 
America, the other from Ireland : 

Little Alice, 

Serio-Comic Singer, 

London, England. 

to Edinburgh City, Scotland, 

For Pat Feeley, Katie Kinnigan's Son, 
Ould fishmarket close, 

Number 42, send this with speed. 

An American gentleman having arrived in Eng- 
land, and not knowing where a sister was residing at 
the time, addressed a letter to her previous residence 

Upper Norwood, 
or Elsewhere. 


The letter having been delivered to the lady, the 
writer intimated to the Post-office that he had 
received a reply in ordinary course, and explaining 
that the letter had been delivered to her on the top 
of a stage-coach in Wales. In admiration of the 
means taken to follow up his sister, the writer 
ventured to add, " that no other country can show 
the parallel, or would take the trouble at any cost." 
It would be impossible to explain in words the 
difficulties that are met with, and the successes 
which are obtained, in deciphering badly written 
addresses ; and facsimiles of the directions upon 
some such letters are therefore appended to enable 
the reader to appreciate the facts. In the London 
Post-office indistinctly addressed letters are at once 
set aside, so as not to delay the work of sortation, 
and are carried forthwith to a set of special officers 
who have an aptitude for deciphering indistinct 
writing. These officers, by a strange contradiction in 
the sense of things, are called the " blind officers " ; 
and here the letters are rapidly disposed of, either 
by having the addresses read and amended, or marked 
with the name of a post-town for which the letters 
may be supposed to be intended. To facilitate this 
special work, the blind officers are furnished with a 
series of gazetteers and other books containing the 
names of gentlemen's seats, farms, and the like, 
throughout the country, and many a letter reaches 


the hands of the person addressed through a refer- 
ence to these books. 

In addition to instances of indistinctly addressed 
letters, a few specimens of addresses of an artistic 
and humorous character are furnished in this chapter. 



Srerrj Le&ne. 

Cape Coast Castle 


t^ Road 




Ashby de la 2auch 


7 Cnar/jtte F/ace 
Gooaye Street *V 




Light Infantry 
Convalescent Depvt 
/Wa<//ias. /ast Indies 


/O3 Mtnone* 

//" J/ctyate ChurtJi 
Lc 'tit Jon 



Harrow Weald 

"6~ 'Battery, *B 'Brigade 
fioyjl Horse Artillery 



37 Ouee/r Street 

Stratford New Town 


/rfidcf . 

i /crest Gale) 










. -U 





__ gteC5= JJ 




The letter, of which the above represents the 
address, was posted in a town in the north of Eng- 
land, and delivered to the editor of the ' Courant ' in 
Edinburgh. A facsimile of a portion of the com- 
munication enclosed is given on the following page, 
which will give an idea of the interest attaching to 
editorial work, and afford some valuable information 
to the reader ! 








IF records are not now forthcoming of all the 
robberies which have been committed upon the 
Post-office from the earliest times, we may be assured 
that an institution such as it is, maintaining agencies 
all over the country, and having to keep up commu- 
nications between those agencies, would be exposed 
at all times and at all points to the risk of robbery, 
whether by the dashing boldness of the highwayman, 
or the less pretentious doings of the town house- 
breaker. To us who live in an age when the public 
roads are generally safe to travellers, it is difficult to 
realise the dangers that lurked in the highways at 
no more remote a period than last century ; nor can 
we well realise a state of things under which mail- 
coaches in this our quiet England had to be protected 
by guards armed to the teeth. We have it handed 
down, however, as a historical fact, that when, in 
1720, Belsize House, Hampstead, was opened as a 


place of public resort, the programme announcing its 
attractions contained the following item : " And for 
the security of its guests, there are twelve stout 
fellows completely armed, to patrol betwixt London 
and Belsize, to prevent the insults of highwaymen or 
footpads which may infest the road." Yet that 
statement does not give the whole truth, for the 
road between these two places became so much more 
dangerous, that after a time " the patrol had to be 
increased from twelve to thirty stout fellows com- 
pletely armed, independently of two tall grenadiers 
who mounted guard over the gate of the mansion." 

Again, it is recorded that " even the toll-house 
keepers in London were so liable to be robbed, that 
they had to be furnished with arms, and enjoined to 
keep no money in their houses after eight o'clock 
at night. The boldness with which street robberies 
still continued to be committed was evinced so late 
as 177 7, when the Neapolitan ambassador was robbed 
in his coach in Grosvenor Square by four footpads 
armed with pistols." 

Thus it will be seen that the roads leading out of 
London were infested by disorderly characters ; and 
robberies of the mails proceeding to and from London 
were of frequent occurrence, as appears from official 
records referring to the close of last century and the 
commencement of this. 


In the coaching days very frequent robberies of 
the mails took place, though they were protected by 
armed guards, and some of these robberies have been 
described in the chapter relating to mail-coaches. 

The passengers who travelled in the mail-coaches, 
with the knowledge of these molestations going on 
around them, must have been kept in a constant 
state of alarm ; and the circumstance could not fail 
materially to discourage travelling in days when the 
facilities for exchanging visits were few compared 
with what we now enjoy. 

The state of things already described as regards 
the mail-coaches, extended also to the horse-posts, the 
riders being attacked probably more freely than the 
coaches ; for while the plunder to be had would be 
less, the postboys were not in a position to make so 
great a show of defence. Nor did the severity of 
the laws restrain evil-doers, either in England or 
Scotland, where sentences of execution were from 
time to time carried out upon the delinquents. 

On the 7th of July 1685, the post-rider who was 
proceeding through the extreme north of England, 
on his way from London to the Scottish metropolis, 
was known to have been twice stopped, and to have 
been robbed of his mail, the scene of the occurrence 
being near Alnwick, in Northumberland. In con- 
nection with this event, of which an account has 


been handed down by Lauder of Fountainhall, a curi- 
ous and romantic anecdote has been told by Wilson 
in his ' Tales of the Borders,' and by Chambers as one 
of his Scottish traditional stories. 

Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, in Ayrshire, was 
one of Argyle's chief associates in that unfortunate 
and abortive attempt, made by the exiles in the year 
above named, to compass the overthrow of the reign- 
ing monarch, James II., so far as Scotland was con- 
cerned, which attempt was only part of the more 
general scheme of the exiles abroad both English 
and Scotch and the disaffected at home, to drive 
the king from his throne, and to place the Duke of 
Monmouth thereon in his stead. After a variety of 
disasters experienced by the limited following which 
Argyle and his party had been able to bring together, 
and when hope of a successful issue could no longer 
secure cohesion, there ensued a general break-up of 
the party, accompanied by what is to be looked for 
in similar situations a general flight and sauve gui 
pent. Sir John Cochrane sought refuge in the house 
of a relative in Eenfrewshire, where, however, he 
was discovered by his pursuers at the end of June ; 
and on the 3d of July, Sir John, his son, and another 
traitor were brought into Edinburgh, " bound and 
barefooted, by the hangman," and cast into the Tol- 
booth to await their doom. 


What daring enterprises may not flow from a 
woman's love and devotion, when a parent's liberty 
is imperilled or his life is at stake ! Sir John had a 
daughter called Grizel, who fondly loved him, and 
who, on visiting him in prison, had not failed to 
show the intensity of her filial regard ; nor was Sir 
John slow to reciprocate these feelings on his part. 
Being then but eighteen years of age, she neverthe- 
less conceived the daring thought of intercepting the 
mail-packet coming from the South, which was sup- 
posed to contain a warrant for the execution of her 
father ; and with this object in view, she proceeded to 
Berwick-on-Tweed alone. Here she habited herself 
in male attire ; and being armed, and mounted on a 
fleet horse, she set out upon her extraordinary and 
perilous adventure. 

On Tweedmouth Moor, it is narrated, she fell in 
with the postboy, who, under threats of immediate 
death, gave up his charge, Grizel riding off with the 
mail-packet and the postboy's horse, from which he 
had been unseated. 

Under these circumstances, the warrant not reach- 
ing its destination, it could not be put into execution, 
and the delay which took place before another could 
be procured was turned to account by Sir John's 
friends, who exerted themselves on his behalf. Sir 
John was the younger son of a rich family, from 


whom a ransom was to be had ; and it is stated that 
a bribe of 5000 by Lord Dundonald, Cochrane's 
father, to the priests of the Eoyal household, was the 
means of securing a pardon. Sir John lived to be- 
come Earl of Dundonald, while Grizel became the 
wife of John Kerr of Morriston, in Berwickshire ; 
and there can be little doubt that she afterwards 
exhibited as a wife all the amiable and affectionate 
qualities of which she proved herself possessed as a 

Unfortunately for the authenticity of the story, so 
far as Grizel Cochrane's connection with it is con- 
cerned, the dates hardly bear the matter out ; for if 
Sir John was lodged in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh 
on the 3d July, a warrant for his execution could 
barely have reached Northumberland from London 
by the 7th : and again, while the story relates that 
Sir John Cochrane was confined in the Tolbooth, 
Macaulay states that he " was taken, and sent up to 

The following story of the robbery of a mail 
carried by a postboy, is taken from Chambers's 
'Domestic Annals of Scotland,' under the date 16th 
August 1690: 

" Andrew Cockburn, the postboy who carried the 
packet or letter-bag on that part of the great line of 
communication which lies between Cockburnspath 


and Haddington, had this day reached a point in his 
journey between the Alms-house and Hedderwick 
Muir, when he was assailed by two gentlemen in 
masks ; one of them mounted on a blue-grey horse, 
wearing a stone-grey coat with brown-silk buttons 
the other riding on a white horse, having a white 
English grey cloak-coat with wrought silver-thread 
buttons. Holding pistols to his breast, they threat- 
ened to kill him if he did not instantly deliver up 
the packet, black box, and bag which he carried ; 
and he had no choice but to yield. They then 
bound him, and leaving him tied by the foot to his 
horse, rode off with their spoil to Garlton House, 
near Haddington. As the packet contained Govern- 
ment communications, besides the correspondence of 
private individuals, this was a crime of a very high 
nature, albeit we may well believe it was committed 
on political impulse only. Suspicion seems imme- 
diately to have alighted on James Seton, youngest 
son of the Viscount Kingston, and John Seton, 
brother of Sir George Seton of Garlton ; and Sir 
Eobert Sinclair, the sheriff of the county, immedi- 
ately sought for these young gentlemen at their 
father's and brother's houses, but found them not. 
With great hardihood, they came to Sir Eobert's 
house next morning to inquire, as innocent men, 
why they were searched for ; when Sir Robert, after 


a short examination in presence of the postboy, saw 
fit to have them disarmed and sent off to Hadding- 
ton. It was Sunday, and Bailie Lauder, to whose 
house they came with their escort, was about to go 
to church. If the worthy bailie is to be believed, 
he thought their going to the sheriff's a great pre- 
sumption of their innocence. He admitted, too, that 
Lord Kingston had come and spoken to him that 
morning. Anyhow, he concluded that it might be 
enough in the meantime if he afforded them a room 
in his house, secured their horses in his stable, and 
left them under charge of two of the town- officers. 
Unluckily, however, he required the town-officers, as 
usual, to walk before him and his brother magistrates 
to church which, it is obvious, interfered very con- 
siderably with their efficiency as a guard over the 
two gentlemen. While things were in this posture, 
Messrs Seton took the prudent course of making 
their escape. As soon as the bailie heard of it he 
left church, and took after them with some neigh- 
bours, but he did not succeed in overtaking them. 
The Privy Council had an extraordinary meeting to 
take measures regarding this affair, and their first 
step was to order Bailie Lauder and the two town- 
officers into the Tolbooth of Edinburgh as close 
prisoners. A few days afterwards the magistrate 
was condemned by the Council as guilty of plain 


fraud and connivance, and declared incapable of any 
public employment. William Kaim, the smith at 
Lord Kingston's house of Whittinghame, was also 
in custody on some suspicion of a concern in this 
business ; but he and the town-officers were quickly 

" John Seton was soon after seized by Captain 
James Denholm on board a merchant vessel bound 
for Holland, and imprisoned in the castle of Edin- 
burgh. He underwent trial in July 1691, and by 
some means escaped condemnation. A favourable 
verdict did not procure his immediate liberation ; but, 
after three days, he was dismissed on caution, to 
return into custody if called upon. This finaj result 
was the more remarkable, as his father was by that 
time under charge of having aided in the betrayal 
of the Bass." 

Other instances of such gentlemanlike perform- 
ances in waylaying the post were not unknown in 
the primitive days of the Post-office, for about the 
year 1658 the following notice was issued for the 
discovery of a gentleman of the law who had taken 
to evil ways by intercepting the mail: " Whereas Mi- 
Herbert Jones, attorney-at-law in the town of Mon- 
mouth, well known by being several years together 
under-sheriff of the same county, hath of late divers 
times robbed the mail coming from that town to Lon- 



don, and taken out divers letters and writs, and is 
now fled from justice," &c. 

In August 1692, the postboy riding the last stage 
towards Edinburgh with the mail from England, was 
robbed on the 13th of that month, at a short distance 
from Edinburgh. A record of the period relates that 
the robbery was committed by " a person mounted on 
horseback with a sword about him, and another person 
on foot with a pistol in his hand, upon the highway 
from Haddington to Edinburgh, near that place 
thereof called Jock's Lodge (a mile from town) about 
ten hours of the night." The robbers took " the 
packet or common mail, with the horse whereon- 
the boy rode." A proclamation was issued by the 
Scottish Privy Council, offering a reward of a hun- 
dred pounds for the apprehension of the offenders, 
with a free pardon to any one of them who should 
inform upon the rest ; but with what result is not 

On the 13th September 1786, the mail-rider from 
the North charged with the conveyance of mails for 
Edinburgh, having reached Kinross about midnight, 
proceeded to change horses as usual in a stable-yard 
at that place. The mail-bags he deposited on the 
back of a chaise in the yard until he should be ready 
to resume his journey. As was his custom, he then 
went into the stable to give a feed of corn to his 



horse; but while so engaged, the bags were ab- 
stracted and the contents stolen. Two brothers, 
who were proved to have been in the neighbourhood 
at the time, and to whom some of the stolen pro- 
perty was traced, were arraigned for the crime before 
the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, and being 
found guilty, were sentenced to be executed. 

The following is a somewhat fuller account of a 
post robbery on the public road, which occurred a 
few years later : 

In 1802, the mails between Edinburgh and Glas- 
gow were still conveyed by men travelling on horse- 
back the route taken being by way of Falkirk 
the hour of despatch from Glasgow being 9 P.M., and 
the hour of arrival in Edinburgh about 6 A.M. or 7 
A.M. The riders of this mail seem to have had 
sections of the road apportioned to them one 
rider covering the road from Glasgow to Falkirk, 
the other taking the stage from Falkirk to Edin- 
burgh. On the morning of the 1st of August in 
that year, the rider for the east stage named 
William Wilson received the Glasgow mail-bag 
entire and duly sealed at Falkirk, and thereafter 
set out towards Edinburgh. When he approached 
a rising ground called Sigh thill probably a wooded 
knoll bearing that name, about three miles from 
Linlithgow, on the road to Polmont he observed 


two men coming down towards him, and who, so 
soon as they got near him, placed themselves one 
on each side of his horse, and immediately seized 
him. One of the two men held something in his 
hand, and threatened Wilson that if he offered to 
speak his brains would be blown out. Then he 
was led away into a field of corn, where he was 
blindfolded by one of the men with his own hand- 
kerchief, and his hands tied behind his back ; there- 
upon he was thrown down, and his legs bound 
together to prevent his getting away. Meanwhile 
the other man led away his horse and rifled the 
mail. The post -rider remained in his unhappy 
position for about an hour, when he managed to 
extricate himself, and proceeding to the first house 
he could reach, implored the inmates " for God's 
sake " to let him in, as he had been robbed. Having 
been admitted and obtained assistance, he returned 
to the scene of his adventure, and found the empty 
mail-bag at the foot of a haystack, while the horse 
was recovered a little distance away. The mail con- 
tained bills, &c., for something like 1300 or 1400. 
The robbery of the mail caused great excitement 
in Edinburgh so soon as it became known, and no 
long time elapsed before the perpetrators were in the 
hands of the authorities. The two men concerned 
in it proved to be James Clark, alias Alex. Stewart, 


and Kobert Brown, formerly privates in the Foot 
Guards. No sooner had they got back to Edin- 
burgh where they had previously lodged than 
they commenced to change some of the bank-notes 
taken from the mail - bag, and got the worse of 
drink ; and being once suspected, the evidence soon 
accumulated and became strong against them. They 
were tried for the offence before the High Court of 
Justiciary in Edinburgh in November following, and 
being found guilty, were sentenced to be executed. 

This robbery would appear to have had the effect 
of stirring up tHe public mind to demand a means 
of conveying the mails between the two cities afford- 
ing greater security ; for an agitation immediately 
followed for the setting up of coaches or diligences 
to carry the mails between those cities. Owing, 
however, to difficulties and disagreements between 
the merchants and traders as to the hours of de- 
parture and arrival, and to wranglings over the par- 
ticular route to be journeyed, the idea was aban- 
doned, and the horse-post as of old was meanwhile 
continued. The robbery seems not to have been 
soon forgotten, however ; for we find that towards 
the close of 1802 a proposal was made to enter 
into an agreement for the service with " an officer 
of the Mid-Lothian Cavalry, and master of the 
Biding Academy in Edinburgh," who offered to con- 


duct and carry on the service in a masterly and 
military manner for an allowance of 450 per 
annum the riders to be employed being none 
other than able and active dragoons. But in the 
nature of things such a mail - service could not 
continue, and negotiations still proceeded for the 
employment of diligences not resulting in success, 
however, until the year 1805, when the first mail- 
coach between Edinburgh and Glasgow was put 
upon the road. 

A somewhat similar attack upon a postboy was 
made in Yorkshire in the year 1798, when the 
rider's life was threatened by a highwayman single- 
handed, and the mails stolen from him. The case is 
interesting owing to the fact that traces of the rob- 
bery were obtained so recently as 1876, though at 
the period of its occurrence no trace of the highway- 
man or of his plunder could be discovered. 

The official account of the robbery, when it hap- 
pened, was as follows : 

" The postboy coming from Selby to York was 
robbed of his mail between six and seven o'clock 
this evening. About three miles on this side of 
Selby he was accosted by a man on foot, with a gun 
in his hand, who asked him if he was the postboy, 
and at the same time seized hold of the bridle. 
Without waiting for any answer, he told the boy he 


must immediately unstrap the mail and give it him, 
pointing the muzzle of the gun at him whilst he did 
it. When he had given up the mail, the boy begged 
he would not hurt him ; to which the man replied he 
need not be afraid, and at the same time pulled the 
bridle from the horse's head. The horse immediately 
galloped off with the boy, who had never dismounted. 

" He was a stout man, dressed in a drab jacket, 
and had the appearance of being a heckler. The 
boy was too much frightened to make any other 
remark on his person, and says he was totally 
unknown to him. The mail contained the bags 
for Howden and London, Howden and York, and 
Selby and York." 

Although a reward of 200 was offered for the 
discovery of the robber, and a free pardon to any 
accessory who might turn accuser, nothing was 
heard of the matter at the time, though suspicion, it 
is said, pointed to some of the inhabitants of Selby. 
The robbery might perhaps have remained forgotten, 
but that, upon a public-house situated on the Church- 
hill, Selby, being pulled down in 1876, a suit of 
clothes, a sou'-wester hat, and an old mail-bag marked 
" Selby " were found in the roof. There is little 
doubt that these were the clothes worn by the 
robber on the occasion under notice, and that the 
bag (which is a sort of waterproof-pouch, furnished 


with two straps to pass over the shoulders) is the 
identical bag which contained the mails stolen in 
1798. When the foundations of this old public- 
house were turned up, the discovery was made of 
several coffins containing bodies in a good state of 
preservation a circumstance, when taken in con- 
nection with the traces of the mail-robbery and the 
public character of the house, ominous in the ex- 
treme. The case is one which might be taken as 
somewhat proving the suggestion put forward by 
Smollett in ' Eoderick Eandom ' as to the intimate 
relations which existed between the personnel of the 
innkeepers and the common highwaymen the former 
being well aware of the profession followed by the 
latter, if not actually sharers in their plunder. 

On Wednesday the 23d October 1816, at half- 
past nine in the evening, the postboy carrying the 
mail-bags from Teignmouth and neighbouring places 
to Exeter, was assaulted "in a most desperate and 
inhuman manner" near the village of Alphington, 
and plundered of the Teignmouth and Exminster 
bags. The poor man was attacked with such fury 
that he was felled from his horse, came to the 
ground on his head, which was fractured in two 
places, and in consequence of his injuries, he re- 
mained insensible for some time. When he regained 
consciousness in the Exeter Hospital, whither he had 



been conveyed, he was able to explain that, at the 
time of the attack, he was walking his horse up a 
hill, that the assailant was a young man, and that 
he was mounted on a grey horse. This horse was 
supposed afterwards to be traced, though the robber 
failed to be discovered, notwithstanding that a reward 
of 50 was offered for his discovery and conviction. 
" A horse exactly answering the description," says an 
official record, " was taken from a field near Dawlish 
on the Wednesday night, and turned back to the 
same place before daybreak on Thursday, having 
evidently been rode very fast, and gored very much 
in the sides." The owner of the horse could give no 
assistance in the matter, nor had he suspicions against 
any one ; so that it would appear the robber had 
taken the horse surreptitiously for his purpose. The 
mail-bags were afterwards recovered, with some few 
of the letters opened ; but it did not appear that any 
property was missing. The unfortunate rider, whose 
name was " Caddy," remained in hospital till the 
January following, when he was discharged ; but in 
the month of May his wounds broke out afresh, and 
he had to return to hospital, being now become sub- 
ject to epileptic fits owing to his injuries. As he 
was no longer able for service, he was granted a 
gratuity by the Post-office ; and it is not probable 
that he survived very long thereafter. With the 


mere expectation of getting some little gain from the 
robbery, the marauder had all but killed the poor 
postboy, who had a wife and two children dependent 
on him ; and he has in his evil-doing given a good 
example of what Burns calls " man's inhumanity to 
man," that " makes countless thousands mourn." 

In the year 1797 the deputy-postmaster of the 
Orkneys and his son, a lad of about sixteen years of 
age, were tried at the High Court of Justiciary, 
Edinburgh, on a charge of breaking open certain 
post-letters while in their custody in course of 
transit, and therefrom abstracting money. The in- 
dictment contained a further charge of forgery 
against the elder prisoner, the deputy having en- 
dorsed another person's name upon a money-order 
contained in one of the stolen letters. The thefts 
were committed at different times in 1794 and 
1796, and the specific cases upon which evidence 
was led were in respect of the following letters viz., 
two letters sent at different times to Orkney by a 
seaman in the Eoyal Navy, one containing a guinea- 
note and half a guinea in gold, the other containing 
either a guinea in gold or a note for that amount ; a 
letter from London for Orkney, containing a money- 
order for 5, 5s. ; and a letter from Perth for 
Orkney, enclosing a note for a guinea : the whole 
amount involved being under 9. 


In the course of the trial it was proved that the 
deputy was guilty, certain of the missing letters 
having been found in his house, and the son had 
already confessed to what was charged against him. 
The whole cases were clearly made out to the satis- 
faction of the jury, who returned a verdict accord- 
ingly against both prisoners, but with a recommen- 
dation of mercy towards the son of the deputy, on 
the score of his tender years. Sentence was pro- 
nounced on the 5th September, and the date of exe- 
cution fixed for the 18th October. By the exercise 
of the Eoyal prerogative, George III. granted a free 
pardon to the deputy's son, who was forthwith set at 
liberty ; but it is a melancholy reflection, that for 
delinquencies involving the loss of so small a sum 
as 9, the deputy-postmaster should, on the date 
fixed for his execution, have actually been led forth 
to his doom. In a report of the circumstance 
written at the time, it is stated " that he was at- 
tended by the Eev. Mr Black of Lady Tester's, and 
Mr Struthers of the Eelief congregation, and be- 
haved in a manner suitable to his unhappy situa- 
tion " ! God forbid that there should be a standard 
of deportment for occasions like this, where, to our 
more humane notions, the punishment so fearfully 
outweighs the offence. 

Early in the year 1849 a sad blow fell upon the 


postmaster of a certain town in Wales, on its being 
discovered that an assistant in his office, a daughter 
of his own, had been stealing post-letters. In the 
course of investigations made into her misdoings, it 
was discovered that the thefts had been going on for 
a period of seven years, during which time she had 
accumulated as much jewellery and haberdashery as 
would have stocked a small shop and besides, 
money to the amount of 95. The letters from 
which the property had been taken were between 
two and three hundred, and these she had kept, 
so that it was possible to restore to the owners, 
in many cases, the stolen articles. On the 20th 
March the unfortunate and misguided creature was 
tried, on the charge of stealing a particular letter, 
and was convicted the sentence passed upon her 
being transportation for ten years. 

It was afterwards ascertained that the motive 
underlying this long career of thieving was a de- 
sire to amass such a dowry as would improve her 
prospects in the matter of obtaining a husband. 

Hatton Garden Robbery. 

On Thursday the 16th November 1881, the 
whole country was made aware, through the daily 
papers, that a most daring Post-office robbery 


had been committed in London the previous after- 
noon, the scene of the event being the Hatton 
Garden Branch Office, situated in the busy district 
of Holborn. The time and plan of carrying out 
the undertaking were not such as are usually chosen 
for attempts of this kind, the hour at which the 
robbery was effected being 5 P.M., when the office 
was thronged with the public purchasing stamps, 
or doing other business in view of the night-mail 
despatch. Nor was there any furtive mode of pro- 
ceeding in the ordinary sense, but a bold and dash- 
ing stroke for the chances of success or failure. 

On the afternoon of the day of the robbery, a 
murky fog, such as Londoners know so well and 
heartily dislike, hung over the metropolis. The 
street lamps afforded but a dull light in the thorough- 
fares ; shops and offices were lighted up for the 
evening's business ; and the afternoon's work in the 
Hatton Garden Post-office was at its height (the 
registered-letter bag, containing some forty regis- 
tered letters, having just been deposited in an 
ordinary bag hanging from a peg in the office), when 
suddenly, and without apparent cause, the whole 
of the lights in the office went out, and the place 
was plunged in almost total darkness. Consterna- 
tion took possession of the female clerks behind the 
counter, while young clerks and boys from ware- 


houses and offices, conceiving the occasion to be one 
for noise and merriment, helped to increase the con- 
fusion by clamour and hubbub outside the counter. 
No long time elapsed before matches were obtained 
and tapers lit, when it was immediately discovered 
that the tap of the gas-meter in the basement had 
been turned off; but on the tap being turned on 
again, the jets in the office were relit, and the place 
resumed its wonted appearance. The young ladies 
in the office being now able to see around them, 
soon detected the absence of the bag, which had 
been left hanging on the peg, and which they knew 
had not yet been despatched by them. It did not take 
long to realise that the bag had vanished in fact, 
had been stolen ; and to this day the property con- 
tained in the lost registered letters has not been 
recovered, nor have the persons concerned in the 
theft been traced. 

It is believed that two or more individuals were 
engaged in the robbery, the supposition being that 
one person got down into the basement without 
attracting attention, and turned off the gas, while 
another, so soon as darkness supervened, got by some 
means within the counter, and, unobserved, took the 
bag from the peg all concerned making good their 
escape in the midst of the stir and noise by which 
they were surrounded. The whole adventure bears 


the impress of having been carefully planned and 
cleverly executed, and there is little doubt that the 
robbery was carried out by men who were experts in 
their nefarious calling. 

The value of the articles contained in the forty 
registered letters was about 15,000 ; and as the 
scene of the robbery lay in the midst of diamond 
merchants and jewellers, it is not surprising that 
precious stones and jewellery were the principal con- 
tents of these letters. Besides watches, bracelets 
set with pearls and diamonds, ear-rings, rings, &c., the 
following articles were among the property stolen 
viz., eight parcels of rough diamonds, 147 turquoises, 
a quantity of small emeralds, 6000 drilled sapphires, 
2000 pairs of garnet bores, 240 pairs of sapphire 
bores, a quantity of sapphires weighing 695 carats, 
several rubies and sapphires weighing 546 carats, 
&c., &c. 

A reward of 200 was offered by the Postmaster- 
General, and a further reward of 1000 by certain 
insurance companies who had insured the valuable 
letters, for the conviction of the delinquents and the 
recovery of the stolen property ; but the robbery 
remains to this day one of those which have baffled 
the skill of the Metropolitan police and the officers 
of the Post-office to unravel or to bring home to the 


Cape Diamond Robbery. 

The greater portion of the diamonds found in 
Griqualand West, in South Africa, are sent weekly 
to England through the Post - office, made up in 
packets, which are forwarded as registered letters 
the value of these remittances being collectively from 
60,000 to 100,000. In April 1880, the sailing 
of the mail-steamer from Cape Town having been de- 
layed until the day after the arrival of the up-country 
mails, the bag containing the registered correspon- 
dence was left in the registered-letter office of the 
Cape Town Post-office ; not, however, locked up in 
the safe, where it ought to have been, but carelessly 
left underneath one of the tables. During the night 
the office was broken into, and the whole of the 
diamonds stolen, valued at 60,000. Who the 
robbers were appears never to have been discovered, 
and they have doubtless since been in the enjoyment 
of the fruits of their villanous enterprise. As it is 
the practice of people in the diamond trade to insure 
packets of diamonds sent by them, the senders did not 
suffer anything beyond inconvenience by this robbery; 
but the insurance companies were involved in the 
loss, and had to pay claims amounting to 60,000. 

The following is an account of a robbery at- 


tempted upon a postman in London in July 1847, 
as officially reported at the time : 

" An attempt was this morning made to murder 
or seriously to maim Bradley, the Lombard Street 
letter-carrier, with a view of obtaining possession of 
the letters for his district. He was passing through 
Mitre Court, a narrow passage between Wood Street 
and Milk Street, when the gate of the Court was 
closed and locked behind him with a skeleton key 
by, it is believed, three men, who followed him a 
few yards farther on in the passage. On Bradley 
getting to a wider part of the Court, one of them 
felled him to the ground by a heavy blow from a 
life-preserver ; he attempted to rise, but was again 
knocked down in a similar manner. He then felt 
that they tried to force from him his letter-bags, but 
fortunately the mouths of them were-, for security, 
twisted round his arm. They continued their blows ; 
but Bradley retained sufficient consciousness to call 
out ' Murder ! ' so as to be heard by some of the 
porters in the adjoining warehouses, who ran to 
see what was the matter, but unluckily the villains 
escaped. Poor Bradley is most seriously injured so 
much so that he may be considered in some danger." 

An idea of the amount of property the thieves 
would have obtained had Bradley not held the bags 
tightly (even under such circumstances), may be 


formed from the fact that he had in his possession 
thirty -seven registered letters containing property, 
besides all the other letters for Messrs Overend, 
Gurney, & Co., Eobarts, Curtis, & Co., Glynn & Co., 
the London and County Bank, as well as those for 
thirty -four other houses in Lombard Street. It 
was believed at the time that the value of the 
property in Bradley's possession amounted to hun- 
dreds of thousands of pounds. 

A daring robbery of a Berlin postman occurred 
not very long ago, when the outrage was accom- 
panied by a still more atrocious crime the murder 
of the postman. The man was one of a class who 
deliver money remittances at the addresses of the 
persons to whom they are sent, under a system 
which prevails in some countries of the Continent, 
and he had with him cash and notes to the amount 
of some 1500. The robber and murderer, a man 
of great bodily strength, had so arranged that a small 
remittance would fall to be delivered at his address 
on Monday morning an occasion when a large 
number of remittances are received ; and on the 
postman reaching the place, and proceeding to pay 
the requisite sum, the occupier of the premises felled 
him with a hammer, and with repeated blows killed 
him outright. It was evident from the circumstances 
that the murderer had duly planned the outrage, for 


the room rented was near to the starting-point of the 
postman, so that he should not have paid away any 
portion of his charge when he reached the room. The 
body of the poor postman was found afterwards cold 
and stiff, lying in a pool of blood, with his empty 
and rifled bag beside him ; and the weapon with 
which the perpetrator had achieved the murder, re- 
mained there as a witness of the crime. The mur- 
derer was said to have previously served in a cuiras- 
sier regiment. Before decamping, he had turned the 
key in the door of his room ; and the discovery was 
only made after a search by the Post-office authori- 
ties at the addresses at which the postman had to 
call, on his failing to return later in the day. 

Some years ago the following extensive robbery 
of letters occurred in London. An unusually large 
number of complaints were found to be reaching the 
General Post-office, of the non-receipt by merchants, 
bankers, and others carrying on business in Lombard 
Street and its neighbourhood, of letters containing 
bank-notes, cheques, advices, and important corre- 
spondence, sent to them from all parts of the king- 
dom. The circumstance naturally gave rise to 
careful inquiry on the part of the Post-office author- 
ities, with the result that suspicion fell upon a 
young postman of nineteen years of age, through 
whose hands many of the missing letters would in 


ordinary course have to pass. Certain Bank of Eng- 
land notes, which had been contained in some of the 
letters, were found to have been cashed; and the 
names endorsed upon them, though fictitious, were in 
a handwriting resembling that of the young man 
suspected. Thereupon he was arrested and searched, 
when in a pocket-book on his person were found two 
5 notes, which had been forwarded from Norfolk to 
a banking-house in London, but had failed to reach 
their destination. In a pocket in his official coat were 
found also some thirty-five letters of various dates, 
which he had neglected to deliver, to the inconveni- 
ence or loss no doubt of the persons addressed ; but 
the most astonishing part of the business is, that 
when his locker or cupboard at the General Post- 
office was examined, about 1500 letters were found 
there which he had stopped, the dates upon the 
envelopes showing that his delinquencies had ex- 
tended over several months. This young man, upon 
being tried for the offences named, was convicted, and 
with the usual severity observed in similar circum- 
stances, the judge passed upon the prisoner a sentence 
of six years' penal servitude. 

The following curious instance of the wholesale 
misappropriation of post-letters also came under the 
notice of the Post-office authorities in London a few 
years ago : 


A man was observed one day carrying off some 
boards from a building in course of erection in the 
Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, and being pur- 
sued by a constable, he dropped the timber and made 
off. The man was, however, captured and taken 
to the police-station, whereupon the place where 
he lived was searched for other stolen property. 
His habitation was situated upon a waste piece 
of ground on the banks of the Thames, the erec- 
tion being of wood built upon piles, and so placed 
as to be almost entirely surrounded by water. 
Here this man, who was a barge -owner, and who 
was passing under an assumed name, had lived in 
isolation for about a year ; the position selected for 
his home being one calculated to afford him that 
complete seclusion from social intercourse which 
would seem to have been his aim. In the course 
of their examination of the contents of the hut, the 
police found not only more stolen timber, but various 
other articles, the chief of which, in the present con- 
nection, were a large lot of post-letters, mail-bags, 
and articles of postmen's clothing, besides milk- cans 
and a case of forty rifles. As the inquiry proceeded, 
it became known that the prisoner was a Post-office 
pensioner, having been superannuated from his office 
of postman some three years previously, after having 
served in that capacity a period of fifteen years. It 


would seem that his official delinquencies had ex- 
tended over some six or eight -years; but so far as 
the letters showed, theft in the ordinary sense could 
hardly have been the man's purpose, inasmuch as the 
letters had not been opened, with one exception, and 
in this instance the person for whom the letter was 
intended could not be found. The motive under- 
lying this free departure from the ways of honesty 
seems to have had its root in simple acquisitiveness ; 
the hundredweight of letters, book-packets, &c., the 
old mail-bags, discarded uniforms, and waste official 
papers (not to mention the thirty milk-cans, sup- 
posed to have been picked up when going his rounds 
as a postman, and the case of rifles), having been 
turned to no profitable account. Had the super- 
annuated postman opened the letters found in his 
premises, the punishment which would have followed 
would necessarily have been severe. As the case 
stood, however, he was merely charged under the 
Post-office Acts with their unlawful detention, and 
sentence was passed upon him of eighteen months' 
imprisonment with hard labour. It seems astonish- 
ing that this postman should have had the folly 
to retain about him so long the evidences of his 
errors, which might at any time have been brought 
up against him ; but perhaps the feeling prompting 
this may be akin to that which leads criminals to 


visit the scenes of former iniquities, even when in- 
curring the risk of discovery, and if discovered, of 
certain punishment. 

The following is a case of robbery which occurred 
in 1883, as reported by the newspapers of the day, 
the culprit being quite a young person : 

"The most destructive and important case of 
robbery in connection with Mr Fawcett's plan, intro- 
duced some two or three years ago, for facilitating 
the placing of small sums, by means of postage- 
stamps, in the Post-office Savings Bank, came before 
the Bristol magistrates to-day, when Ellen Hunt, a 
domestic servant, about sixteen years of age, was 
charged with stealing a large number of letters, some 
of them containing cheques, the property of the 
Postmaster - General. Mr Clifton, who prosecuted, 
said the robberies were of a very extensive character, 
and might have been fraught with the direst con- 
sequences. They had been discovered in a singular 
manner, no money having been missed ; but a large 
number of circular letters, addressed by the Bristol 
clerk to officials requiring to be sworn in connection 
with the School Board election this week, miscarried. 
Inquiries were made by the Postal authorities, when 
it was found that all these circulars had been posted 
at the Eedcliffe district office, where the prisoner was 
the servant of the postmaster, Mr Devine. It was 


the custom of Mr Devine to place the key of the 
letter-box in a secret place for the use of himself 
and his assistants ; but the prisoner discovered it, and 
the circular letters were found in her possession with 
the postage - stamps off them. They had been re- 
moved for payment into the Post-office Savings Bank 
on the forms by which a shilling's worth of postage- 
stamps saved up by school - children and others is 
now accepted by the Savings Bank department of 
the Post-office ; but the most serious part of the case 
was the fact that in the prisoner's box were dis- 
covered the bundles of opened letters now produced 
by Detective Short, and containing cheques already 
discovered to the amount of 74, 16s., all of which 
had been sent through the same post-office. The 
charge was laid under the 27th section of the Act, 
but formerly a prisoner would have been liable for 
such an offence to transportation for life. Some 
evidence having been given, the girl, who was hys- 
terical throughout the hearing, was remanded. Ap- 
parently no effort had been made to deal with the 
cheques, but the detective stated that the numerous 
letters had been opened." 

242 THE 110YAL MAIL. 

Tale of a Banker's Letter. 

Towards the close of last century, or early in the 
present century, a tradesman of the better class 
carrying on business in a certain town of the west 

of England, which we shall here call X , and 

who also added to his ordinary business that of the 
agency of a bank, posted a bulky letter containing 
heavy remittances in notes, addressed to the Bank 
of England. This letter never reached its destina- 
tion, and the loss, being of a most serious kind, was 
soon bruited about, and became the theme, locally, 
of general conversation. As it happened, the sender 
was a man of strong political opinions, and having 
courage to express them, there were many persons 
holding opposite views who not only regarded him 
with feelings akin to dislike, but were ready to take 
up any missile which chance might place in their 
way to damage their adversary's fair name. While, 
therefore, the bank agent maintained that he had 
posted the letter in question, insinuations were set 
afloat to the effect that he had not done so, and 
that the object of his allegations was to fend off 
pressing calls in matters of account. He suffered 
greatly in reputation from these unsupported stories, 
though there was nothing else in his circumstances 
to create suspicion. Time, the great anodyne of 


scandal, had somewhat assuaged the sufferings of 
the unfortunate banker, and probably softened the 
unkind feelings of those who had been disposed to 
think hardly of him; the loss of the letter itself 
had ceased to attract attention ; and as yet nothing 
was heard of the letter, or the valuable enclosures 
which it had contained. 

At length, however, the agent received intima- 
tion that one of the missing notes a Bank of 
England note for 50 which was stopped at that 
establishment, had been presented in London. As 
the result of inquiries which were made, it was 
now traced to an old-established silversmith some- 
where in the city of London ; but beyond this point 
the search failed, for all the account the silversmith 
could give was, that he had received the note some 
time previously from a man of respectable appear- 
ance, who had the exterior and conversation of what 
might be a well-to-do west-country farmer. This 
man was accompanied to his shop by a young woman 
of the flash type, to whom the stranger presented two 
or three rings ; purchasing for himself some heavy 
gold seals, such as were in vogue at the period, a 
silver tankard or two, and several punch-ladles. In 
payment of these articles the 50 note was passed, 
but the silversmith could give no further help ; 


though hope was not yet extinct, for he added that 
he should certainly recognise his customers, were 
they ever to come under his observation again. 

The man of X was a man of determination, 

and, still smarting under the loss of means and 
honour, he resolved that sooner or later he should 
discover by whom his letter had been stolen. The 
silversmith, readily entering into these views, cor- 
dially offered his personal services, and it was 
arranged between the banker and himself that they 
should ransack London, visiting the Eanelahs, the 
Vauxhalls, the Parks, the theatres indeed every 
place where gay women and men of pleasure might 
be found together. This was an arduous task ; but 
in the end their perseverance was rewarded by the 
discovery of the young woman to whom the farmer 
had presented the rings. On being questioned, this 
young person, while frankly stating what she knew, 
had little to tell. She had, she said, been in Snow 
Hill or Holborn one morning at the hour of the 
arrival of the west of England mail-coach. Among 
the passengers who got down was a youngish, fresh- 
looking farmer, whose acquaintance she then made, 
and whose constant companion she was for several 
days thereafter. She still wore the articles of 
jewellery which had been presented to her; but 
she declared that she had never seen the man since, 


nor did she know his name. And here the inquiry 
again seemed to exhaust itself, in the vague dis- 
covery of a west-country farmer. 

The acquaintance between the banker and the 
silversmith, which had come about in the way 
already stated, soon ripened into friendship. They 
had, in a greater or less degree, a common interest 
in the matter of the stolen note, but they soon 
found out that there was other common ground for 
the growth of amity between them they were both 
disciples of Izaak Walton. It became the custom 
of the silversmith to visit at the house of his friend 
in the west every season, when the two men would 
go out fishing together in the neighbouring streams, 
enjoying each other's society, and frequently, no 
doubt, going over again the old story of the lost 
letter. One day, during such a visit, the silver- 
smith went out alone to try a stream not many 
miles distant from his friend's residence, and while 
so engaged a heavy shower swept across the scene. 
The angler sought shelter in a roadside inn, from 
which, as it happened, he was not far distant. The 
house was well known, and the proprietor was of the 
half-farmer, half-publican type, the business of inn- 
keeper in such a situation not affording a sufficient 
living by itself. Feeling somewhat peckish, the 


visitor called for lunch. He was waited upon 
by the landlord in person. While the bread and 
cheese and cider were being carried in, the landlord 
apologised for the absence of the female folks, who 
were for the moment engaged elsewhere ; and during 
this brief conversation, the silversmith (still instinct 
with professional taste) studied a bunch of heavy 
seals hanging from a watch in the landlord's fob. 
The landlord perceived that these articles had at- 
tracted the stranger's notice, and when he again 
came into the room the fact was observed by the 
other that they had been left aside or placed out of 

This incident set the stranger .thinking ; and while 
so engaged, his eye fell upon an old-fashioned glass- 
fronted cupboard occupying a corner of the room, 
in which were exhibited the inn treasures old 
crystal vessels, china bowls, and the like together 
with the plate of the establishment. A sudden 
thought struck him. He proceeded to examine the 
contents of the repository; and, standing upon a 
chair to explore the upper shelves, what was his 
amazement when he there recognised the silver 
tankards and the silver punch - ladles which he 
had sold to the west-country farmer many years 
before ! Then, eagerly turning over the whole 
matter in his mind, the features of the landlord 


came back upon him, and in this man he recognised 
the person who in London had purchased these 
articles and paid to him the stolen 50 Bank of 
England note. The silversmith lost no time in 
communicating the facts to the banker, who at once 
obtained a warrant, and, with two constables, pro- 
ceeded the same evening to the inn to put it into 
execution. The landlord was called into a room, 
there and then he was charged with having stolen 

the note, and was forthwith conveyed into X 

a prisoner. 

It transpired in the course of inquiries that in his 
early days before the period of the robbery this 
man had been employed as a servant or assistant by 

the postmaster at X . He left that situation, 

however, and became coachman to one of the neigh- 
bouring gentry. While in this service it was very 
frequently his duty to drive the family into town, 
where they would rest some portion of the day in 
their town house, and return to the country seat 
in the evening. In these intervals it sometimes 
happened that the coachman would go to the post- 
office, and there chat and gossip with his old fellow- 
servants. He visited the post-office on the day when 
the stolen letter was posted ; he and his former com- 
rades smoked and drank together ; and in the end he 


volunteered to assist with the letters. He did so ; 
and while thus engaged he managed to abstract the 
banker's letter, which, owing to its bulky nature and 
the address which it bore, he suspected to contain 
value. His visit on that particular day was verified 
by circumstances in the recollection of the persons at 
the post-office, and other evidence of his guilt ac- 
cumulated against him ; but this testimony was not 
really necessary, for the farmer-publican himself con- 
fessed to the theft of the letter, and explained how 
he had obtained possession of it. 

The course usual in such circumstances followed. 
The offence was visited with the severity which 
characterised the period the man suffered the 
extreme penalty of the law. 




A LTHOUGH the work of sending and receiving 
-*- telegraphic messages may be regarded in a 
general way as partaking largely of a merely me- 
chanical nature, yet it is work to which the operator 
who is to achieve credit in his sphere must bring 
much tact, good sense, intelligence, a knowledge of 
the world, and a considerable amount of patience. 
Not only are the terms in which telegrams are fre- 
quently written so far devoid of context in them- 
selves, owing to the curt way in which they are 
worded, as to render the sense of little assistance in 
estimating the correctness of a message received, but 
the letters of the telegraphic alphabet, being nothing 
more than little groups of dots and dashes variously 
arranged, are extremely susceptible of mutilation, 
owing to any lack of exact spacing on the part of 
the sending operator. Nor does the liability to error 


lie only in these directions. The dots and dashes 
frequently fail or run together, owing either to feeble 
signals, contact of the wires with one another, with 
trees, or other objects, or to the instruments not 
being in perfect adjustment. A grain of grit or of 
dust getting between the points of contact in a deli- 
cate instrument will sometimes do much mischief in 
the way indicated. There is liability to mistakes, 
too, in consequence of the handwriting of the senders, 
or of the operators at a transmitting point where 
messages have to be again taken down, not being 
very plain. Yet over and above these tendencies to 
error, there is the fallibility of human nature, which 
will sometimes lead a person to write " no " where 
" yes " is intended, or " black " where " white " is 
meant ; and of such mistakes probably no explana- 
tion can be given. So that the work of a telegraph- 
ist is beset with pitfalls, and he requires all his wits 
and a fair share of intelligence to keep him right in 
his work. It may further be remarked that many 
errors in telegrams, which might be supposed by the 
public to be gross or inexcusable, have occurred in 
the most simple way, or have been shown to be due 
to failures of the most trifling kind. 

The following are illustrations of such mis- 
takes : 

A pleasure -party, telegraphing to some friends, 


stated that they had "arrived all right," but the 
message was rendered, " We have arrived all tight." 
The words " right " and " tight " in the Morse code 
are as follows : 

In another case, a poor person, desiring to state 
that her daughter was ill, wrote in her message 
" Mary is bad." This was rendered, " Mary is dead," 
the sense being changed by a slight imperfection of 
spacing, thus 

d e a d 

instead of 

In a third case, owing to failing signals, possibly 
from so simple a cause as the intermittent contact 
of the wire with a wet branch of a tree, or a par- 
ticle of grit or dust finding its way between the 
points of the instrument, the import of the message 
was altogether changed. Thus, " Alfred doing well, 
enjoyed .egg to-day," was received, "Alfred dying, 
enjoyed GG to-day." 

A gentleman telegraphed from London to his bro- 


tlier in the country to send a hack to meet him at 
the station ; but when the gentleman arrived at the 
station he found a sack waiting for him. A firm in 
London telegraphed, " Send rails ten foot lengths ; " 
but the message was delivered, " Send rails in foot 

A person telegraphed to a friend to " take two 
stalls at the Haymarket," but the message conveyed 
directions to secure " two stables at the Haymarket." 
In another telegram, the intimation, " mother is no 
worse," was changed to " mother is no more." Again, 
" You will be glad to hear that your sister has ac- 
cepted an engagement with your father's approval," 
was rendered, " that your sister has accepted an en- 
gagement with your father's apostle." In another 
case a plain business message, thus " Come to me 
as early as you can, that we may arrange Wednes- 
day," was given a matrimonial turn by being deliv- 
ered as, " that we may arrange wedding." The next 
case is one in which a hungry man would doubtless 
be- made an angry man in consequence of the mis- 
take which occurred. His message, which was writ- 
ten thus, " Shall arrive by train to-morrow morning; 
provide a good supply of bread, butter, eggs, milk, 
and potatoes," was delivered as "provide a good 
supper of bread," &c. In another instance the no- 


tice that " Mr will come to-night with me at 

V to tea," was rendered, " Mr will come to- 
night with me, get 7 to tea ; " the only argument in 
favour of the mistake being " the more the merrier." 
Then, on another occasion, a telegram sent by a per- 
son in the country to " Madame , Costumier," 

at an address in London, conveying an order for a 
fancy dress, was presented to the maker of costumes 

as " Madame , Costermonger." In a telegram 

directed to " , M.P., House of Commons," 

the address somehow got changed to " - , M.P., 
House of Correction ; " but the member not being 
found there, the clerks at the delivering office sug- 
gested that it should be tried at the "House of 
Detention," a not unlikely place for successful 
delivery of such a message as things were at the 

It has been left to America to produce a mistake 
in telegraphing which, while it is very amusing, 
could not result in hurt or disappointment to any 
one. Here it is, just as received from the other side 
of the "ferry": 

A St Louis merchant, while in New York, re- 
ceived a telegram notifying that his wife was ill. 
He sent a message to his family doctor asking the 
nature of the sickness, and if there was any danger, 


and promptly received the answer "No danger; 
your wife has had a child ; if ive can keep her from 
having another to-night she will do well" The mys- 
tification of the agitated husband was not removed 
until a second inquiry revealed the fact that his 
indisposed lady had had a chill. 




IN dealing with the vast numbers of letters and 
other post articles which daily flow through the 
capacious veins of the British Post-office, the officials 
of the department come to learn many strange things 
connected with the wanderings of letters from their 
proper courses ; they learn much in regard to the 
blunders made by the senders of letters in writing 
their addresses, and of the supreme folly frequently 
shown by individuals in transmitting valuables in 
carelessly-made-up packets : and this experience not 
only has the effect of causing complaints made by 
the public to be sometimes met by doubts and mis- 
givings on the part of the Post-office, but is of great 
use in tracing home the blame to the right quarter, 
which is found to be, not infrequently, where the 
complainer had least reason to suspect it. The fol- 
lowing facts will probably establish what is here 
advanced, besides proving of interest to the reader. 


It is quite a common occurrence for letters 
especially letters of a small size which are dropped 
into a letter-box, to slip inside newspapers or book- 
packets, and to be carried, not only out of their 
proper course, but to places abroad, thus getting 
into the hands of the wrong persons. Such letters 
are returned from time to time from every quarter 
of the globe, but what proportion of those which go 
astray are duly returned it is impossible to say ; 
for there are persons who, on receiving letters in 
this way not intended for them, proceed to open the 
envelopes through sheer curiosity, and having thus 
violated the letters, do not hesitate to destroy them. 
Others again, through dishonest motives, open letters 
of this class in the hope of gain. But there are 
others who, through no such interest, but merely 
from the want of a neighbourly spirit, refuse to take 
any trouble to put an errant letter in its proper 
course. This spirit was displayed in the case of a 
letter which had been misdelivered by the postman 
at a given address on the first floor of a tenement (it 
being intended for a person occupying the ground 
floor), the person who had received it stating, when 
questioned, that he had torn up the letter because he 
would not be troubled to send it down-stairs ! Letters 
are sometimes, too, carried away to wrong addresses 
by sticking to the backs of other letters. 


Again, through a great want of sense, or perhaps 
a redundancy of stupidity, letters are deposited occa- 
sionally in the most extraordinary places, in the idea 
that they are being posted. A servant -girl being 
sent out to post a letter, drops it into the letter-box 
of an empty shop, where it is found when an in- 
tending tenant goes to look at the premises. In a 
town in the north of Scotland a person was observed 
to deposit a letter in a disused street hydrant, and 
on the cover of the box being removed, three other 
letters were found, the senders of which had similarly 
mistaken the water - pillar for a letter - box. The 
letters had been passed into the box through the 
space formerly occupied by the tap-lever. A some- 
what similarly absurd thing happened some time 
ago in Liverpool, where two letters were observed to 
have been forced behind the plate indicating the 
hours of collection on a pillar letter-box the per- 
son who had placed them there no doubt thinking 
he was doing the correct thing. 

It must be that many individuals entertain the 
greatest confidence in the servants of the Post-office, 
or they would not send money and valuables as they 
do. They also perhaps regard the Department as 
a fit subject on which to perpetrate petty frauds, by 
sending things of intrinsic value enclosed in books and 
newspapers. Instances of this kind are frequent. 



Within the folds of a newspaper addressed to a 
person in Ireland were found two sovereigns, yet 
there was no writing to show who the sender was. 

A brown-paper parcel, merely tied with string, 
unsealed, and not even registered, was found to con- 
tain six sovereigns, one half-crown, two sixpences, 
and three halfpenny - pieces, wrapped up in small 
articles of ladies' dress. 

In the chief office in London, two gold watches 
were found inside an unregistered book-packet ad- 
dressed to New Zealand, the middle portions of the 
leaves having been cut out so as to admit of the 
watches being concealed within. On another occa- 
sion, but in a Scotch post-office, a packet containing 
a book bound in morocco, was on examination dis- 
covered to have the inner portion of the leaves 
hollowed out, while still retaining the appearance 
of an ordinary book, and inside this hollow were 
found secreted a gold watch and a silver locket. 
At another time, a 20 Bank of England note was 
observed pinned to one of the pages of a book 
addressed to the initials of a lady at a receiving- 
house in the London Metropolitan District. 

A packet done up in a piece of brown paper, un- 
sealed but tied with string, was found to contain a 
small quantity of trimming, a collar-box with a few 
paper-collars, and inside the box were two 1 notes 


and 10s. in silver. A halfpenny wrapper was used 
to serve as a covering for the transmission of a letter, 
a bill of sale, and four 5 Bank of England notes. 
In a newspaper which reached the Dead - letter 
Office were found four sovereigns, and in another a 
gold locket. A packet carelessly rolled up was seen 
to contain a sovereign, two half-sovereigns, and a 
savings-bank book. In several instances coins have 
been found imbedded in cake and pieces of toast ; and 
on one occasion gold coins of the value of 1, 10s. 
were discovered in a large seal at the back of a 
letter, the gold pieces having come to light through 
the wax getting slightly chipped. But the most 
flattering act of confidence in the probity of the 
Post-office fell to be performed by a person at Leeds, 
who, desiring to send a remittance to a friend, 
folded a five-pound note in two, wrote the address 
on the back of it, and, without cover or registration, 
consigned it to the letter-box. Petty frauds are com- 
mitted on the Post-office to a large extent by the send- 
ers of newspapers, who infringe the rules by enclos- 
ing all sorts of things between the leaves such as 
cigars and tobacco, collars, sea- weed, ferns and flowers, 
gloves, handkerchiefs, music, patterns, sermons, stock- 
ings, postage - stamps, and so on. People in the 
United States and Canada are much given to these 
practices, as shown by the fact that in one-half of 


the year 1874, more than 14,000 newspapers were 
detected with such articles secreted in them. 

Occasionally letters of great value are very care- 
lessly treated after delivery, through misconception 
as to what they really are. A person alleging that 
a registered letter containing a number of Suez Canal 
coupons had not reached him, the Post-office was 
able to prove its delivery ; and on search being then 
made in the premises of the addressee, the coupons 
were found in the waste-paper basket, where they 
had been thrown under the idea that they were 
circulars. In another instance a registered letter, 
containing Turkish bonds with coupons payable to 
bearer, was misdirected to and delivered at an ad- 
dress in the west end of London, though it was 
really intended for a firm in the city. The value 
of the enclosures was more than 4000. When 
inquiry came to be made at the place of delivery, 
it was found that the bonds had been mistaken for 
foreign lottery-tickets of no value, and were put 
aside for the children of the family to play with. 

Cases come to light, too, involving a history or 
at least suggesting a history without affording par- 
ticulars or leaving us entirely in the dark as to 
the circumstances of the matter. Thus, two packets 
which had been addressed to Australia, and had been 
forwarded thither, were returned to England with the 


mark upon them, " unclaimed." On being opened, 
one of them was found to contain 100 sovereigns, 
and the other 5 sovereigns ; yet there was no com- 
munication whatever in either to show who had 
sent them. It was supposed, by way of explana- 
tion, that a person proceeding to Australia had direc- 
ted the packets to himself, intending to reach the 
colony by means of another ship ; and that, having 
died upon the passage, or his ship having been 
lost, no application was ever made for them at the 
office to which they had been directed. 

On one occasion a cheque for 9, 15s. was found 
loose in a pillar letter-box in Birmingham. The 
owner was traced through the bank upon which the 
cheque was drawn, but he was unable to give any 
explanation of the circumstances under which it had 
passed from his possession. 

The following are a series of instances in which 
letters have got out of their proper bearings, 
chiefly in the hands of the senders or the persons 
addressed, or through the carelessness of the servants 
of those persons ; and the cases show how prone 
the public are to lay blame upon the Post-office 
when anything goes wrong with their letters, before 
making proper search in their own premises. A 
number of cases are added, in which the servants 
of the senders or of the persons addressed have been 


proved dishonest, when the blame had first been laid 
upon post-office servants ; and one or two cases are 
given where the Department has been held up as 
the delinquent, merely to afford certain individuals 
an excuse for not paying money due by them, or 
otherwise to shirk their obligations. 

" A person applied at the Leeds post-office and 
stated that two letters (one of which contained the 
half of a bank-note) which he had himself posted at 
that office had not reached their destination men- 
tioning at the same time some circumstances asso- 
ciated with the alleged posting of the letters. After 
some conversation, he was requested to produce the 
letter which had informed him of the non-receipt of 
the letters in question ; but instead of producing it, 
he, to his own great astonishment, took from his pocket 
the very letters which he believed he had himself 

" Inquiry having been made respecting a letter 
sent to a person residing at Kirkcudbright, it ap- 
peared that it had been duly delivered, but that the 
addressee having left the letter on a table during 
the night, it had been devoured by rats." Another 
case of the depredations of rats upon letters is as 
follows : 

Certain letters which ought to have reached a 
bookseller in a country town not having been re- 


ceived, it was concluded, after inquiry, that they 
had been duly delivered, but had subsequently been 
withdrawn from under the street door, which was 
furnished with a slit to receive letters, but without 
a box to retain them. During subsequent alter- 
ations in the shop, however, when it was necessary 
to remove the flooring under the window, the dis- 
covery was made of thirty-one letters, six post-cards, 
and three newspapers, which had been carried thither 
by rats ! The corners of the letters, &c., bearing the 
stamps, were nibbled away, leaving no doubt that 
the gum upon the labels was the inducement to the 
theft. Several of the letters contained cheques and 

But rats are old enemies to letters, as is known 
in the Post-office ; for in the olden times, when 
sailing-ships were in use as mail-packets, sad com- 
plaints were made of the havoc caused by " ratts " 
to the mails conveyed in these ships. 

Nor are rats the only dumb creatures which have 
shown a " literary " turn, in getting possession of 
post-letters. Some years ago a postman was going 
his rounds delivering letters in Kelvedon, in Essex, 
carrying a registered letter in his hand ready to 
deliver it at the next house, when a tame raven a 
worthy compeer, if not a contemporary, of the Jack- 
daw of Eheims suddenly darted down, snatched it 


from his grasp, and flew off with it. The bewildered 
postman could only watch the bird w r hile it made 
a circuit over the town, which it did before alight- 
ing ; and so soon as it got to a suitable place, it 
set to work to analyse the composition of the mis- 
sive by tearing the letter to pieces. The fragments 
were shortly afterwards collected and put together, 
when it was found that part of them were the 
remains of a cheque for 30, which was afterwards 
renewed when the singular affair was made 

Another curious incident in which birds are con- 
cerned occurred in the spring of 1884 at Shew- 
bridge Hall, near Nantwich, in Cheshire. For the 
convenience of the people at the Hall, a letter-box 
is placed by the gate at the roadside, into which 
the post-runner drops the correspondence addressed 
to Shewbridge Hall. Mr Lockett, the occupier of 
the house, expecting a letter from Liverpool con- 
taining a cheque for 10, went to the box, where, 
as it happened, he found the letter, but in a muti- 
lated state, and the cheque gone. Believing that 
a robbery of his box had been committed, or that 
the letter had been violated before being deposited 
therein, he forthwith rode into Nantwich to report 
the matter at the post-office and to the police. Re- 
turning later on, he examined the box more closely, 



and discovered tomtits inside ; and further investi- 
gation led to the discovery of the cheque lying 
twenty yards away on the turnpike road, whither 
it had evidently been carried for examination. The 

cheque was folded small, and 
could therefore be easily car- 
ried by these small birds. 
The tomtits had taken pos- 
session of the box for nest- 
ing purposes, and perhaps 
they found the letter to be in the way, and ac- 
cordingly made an effort to remove it. In the 
spring of the previous year a pair of tomtits built 

Letler-box taken possession of 
by Tomtits. 


their nest in this letter-box (possibly the same pair), 
and reared a brood of young, though letters were 
being dropped into the box every day. 

A very similar circumstance occurred in the same 
season at a place near Lockerbie, where a letter-box 
is affixed to the trunk of a tree bordering on the 
main road, for the convenience of the people living 
at Daltonhook farm, which occupies a site some 
distance from the highway. The letter-box is 
about fifteen inches square, with the usual slit to 
admit of letters being dropped in, and a door to the 
front the full size of the box, to allow the postman 
to clear it or to place larger packets within. A pair 
of tomtits, considering the box an eligible place for 
bringing up a family, built their nest in it, obtaining 
ingress and egress by the letter-slit, and choosing 
that portion of the interior farthest from the door 
for their purpose. In contrast to the ruthlessness 
and cruelty of many who show no love to God's 
creatures unless they contribute in some way to their 
comfort or profit, the post-runner and the family 
who use the box, in a kind-hearted way took every 
care to disturb these objects of interest as little as 
possible, and in due time the nest was complete, and 
eight tiny eggs were deposited therein. While the 
female was sitting on the eggs during the term of 
incubation, she did not rise from the nest when the 


post-runner opened the door, but would make a 
peculiar noise and peck at his hand as he put it 
forward to take out or deposit letters. But after a 
time the two became more friendly, and kindness on 
the one side begetting confidence on the other, the 
bird at length became so familiar, that while it con- 
tinued to sit on the nest it would peck crumbs from 
the man's hand, instead of showing displeasure, as it 
formerly had done. At length seven young birds 
became the joy of the parents. These, however, did 
not find the box altogether free from drawbacks ; for 
letters, in being deposited through the slit, some- 
times fell on the top of the youngsters, and so ex- 
cited the wrath of the old birds. This was proved 
on one occasion when a servant dropped a letter 
into the box, for when the post-runner next visited 
the receptacle, he found the letter so mutilated, either 
through sheer rage on the part of the tomtits, or in 
their endeavours to eject it by the slit, that he took 
it back to the farmhouse rather than send it for- 
ward in its badly damaged state. However, the 
brood at length got through the troubles of their 
infantile days ; and we may indulge the hope that 
they have since lived to join in the antiphonies of 
the grove, or to adorn the roadside spray with their 
neat figures and glowing colours. 

It may be added that these little birds are very 


eccentric in the choice of their nesting-places. In 
one case they selected the inside of a weathercock 
on the top of a steeple for their breeding-place, and 
in another the interior of a beehive in full work. 
Here they set up house and reared their young, 
neither injuring the bees, nor being molested by them 
in return. 

" A gentleman at Archerstown, county Westmeath, 
complained of a letter, containing half bank-notes 
and post-bills amounting to 400, addressed to 
Dublin, not having come to hand; but when the 
matter came to be fully examined, it was ascertained 
that the letter was in a drawer in the house of the 
very person to whom it had been directed, but by 
whom it had been entirely overlooked." 

A banker residing in a country town in Scotland 
reported that a letter containing two 20 notes and 
two 1 notes, addressed to him by another banker, and 
posted at a town ten miles distant, had not come to 
hand. On inquiry, the sender could not state either 
the numbers or the dates of the notes. He had, 
moreover, allowed upwards of two months to elapse 
before taking any steps to ascertain whether his 
letter had reached its destination. "As this valuable 
letter had been posted without the precaution of 
registration, and had the words ' county rates ' on 


the envelope, it was supposed to have excited the 
cupidity of some one connected with one or other 
of the two post - offices concerned, and an officer 
was immediately despatched to investigate the case. 
The complainant reiterated the statement that the 
letter had not reached him ; but within half an hour 
of the officer's departure, an inmate of the house 
having made a fresh search, found the letter among 
some papers in a press, where it had apparently been 
placed unopened when received." 

" A bank agent sent a letter containing valuable 
enclosures to another bank agent. The letter was 
presumed to have been lost by the Post-office; but 
no trace of it could be obtained there, and the ap- 
plicant was informed accordingly. It subsequently 
appeared that the son of the person to whom the 
letter had been addressed had called at the Post- 
office and received the letter, and that he had after- 
wards left the town for the holidays, carrying the 
letter away with him in his pocket, where it had 

"A letter supposed to contain a 10 note was 
registered at Moffat, and in due course delivered 
to the addressee, who, however, declined to sign a 
receipt for it, as the 10 note was missing. The 
sender was written to, but he asserted that the note 


had been enclosed. The postmaster chiefly con- 
cerned (who had been more than fifty years in the 
service) was greatly distressed at the doubt thus cast 
upon his honesty ; but on further inquiry, the sender 
admitted that he had obtained a trace of the 10 
note, and stated that the fault had not been with 
the Post-office. On being pressed for fuller informa- 
tion, he stated that when writing his letter he had 
placed the 10 note in an envelope and affixed a post- 
age-stamp thereon, when a lady came hurriedly into 
his shop, also to write a letter, and he had assisted 
her by getting an envelope and placing a postage- 
stamp on it ; that he had placed this envelope be- 
side that which contained the bank-note ; and that 
when the lady had finished her letter, he gave her 
by mistake the envelope with the 10 note in it, 
and put his own letter into the empty envelope. 
He had carried the two letters to the Post-office ; 
and his own, which he supposed contained the 10, 
he had registered. Both letters were safely de- 
livered; and the 10 having been returned as 
evidently sent in error, the lady who had forwarded 
it brought it to the complainant, and thus the mystery 
was cleared up." 

During a snowstorm which occurred a year or 
two ago, a London firm put up for posting, among 
others, a letter to a Glasgow firm containing a 


cheque for a sum little short of 1000. The 
cheque not reaching its destination in due course, 
payment was stopped at the bank, and notwithstand- 
ing that every inquiry was made, nothing was heard 
of the letter at the time. Eventually, however, 
the cheque was brought to the firm who had drawn 
it, together with the letter, by a police inspector, 
who had found the letter adhering to a block of ice 
floating in the Thames off Deptford. The supposition 
is, that when the letters of the day were being car- 
ried to the Lombard Street Post-office, this letter 
was dropped in the street, that it was carted off in 
the snow to the Thames, and there, after a week's 
immersion in the river, got affixed to the block of 
ice, as already stated. 

On the 27th February 1885, a medical gentleman 
residing at Eichmond, Surrey, when going his usual 
round of visits, found on the carriage floor two 
letters, one addressed to a person in Edinburgh, the 
other to a lady residing near Castle Douglas. The 
letters had been duly prepared for the post, each 
bearing an undefaced postage-stamp, but nothing in 
their appearance indicated that they had ever been 
posted. The finder was at first puzzled at the 
discovery, but on reflection, he remembered hav- 
ing a few minutes previously opened a large news- 
paper, the ' Queen,' which had reached him from 


Edinburgh two or three days before, but had till 
then remained unopened in his carriage. It occurred 
to him that the letters might have come concealed 
within the folds of the newspaper, and he was good 
enough to forward a note with each to the persons 
addressed, explaining the circumstances under which 
he had found them. Subsequent investigation by the 
Post-office brought to light the fact that one of the 
two letters, and the copy of the ' Queen ' from which 
they were supposed to have dropped, had been deposit- 
ed in different pillar-boxes in Edinburgh, but in the 
same collector's district ; and there can be no doubt 
that this letter, and probably also the other letter, were 
shaken inside the folds of the newspaper during their 
conveyance to the head-office in the collector's bag. 
In one of the notes which the doctor sent with the 
letters, he made this remark : " I cannot help feeling 
that the postal authorities and the public should both 
have their eyes opened to what a serious danger such 
a letter-trap as a large newspaper might prove." He 
omitted to add, however, that the sender of the 
' Queen ' had tied it up very carelessly without a 
wrapper, and in a way that could hardly fail to 
render it a dangerous travelling companion for letters. 
Had the letters fallen into dishonest hands, their 
loss would certainly have been attributed to the 
Post-office, and the case is one which aptly illus- 


trates a means by which letters sometimes get out 
of their proper course, or are lost altogether. 

A firm of solicitors in Leith wrote a letter to a 
client in the same town, enclosing a cheque for 102 ; 
and this letter, although it was alleged to have been 
duly posted, failed to reach the person for whom it 
was intended. The usual inquiries were made, but 
unsuccessfully, no trace being discovered of the letter. 
Some days afterwards the firm received the letter 
and cheque, minus the envelope, from a farmer near 
Tranent, in one of whose fields a ploughman had 
picked them up. This man was engaged spread- 
ing town-refuse upon the field when he found the 
letter, which he opened, and thereupon threw away 
the cover. For the purposes of investigation, it 
was very essential that this should be produced ; 
but it happened that meanwhile the field had been 
gone over with a grubbing machine, and the chances 
of the recovery of the discarded envelope were thereby 
greatly lessened. The ploughman's son was set to 
work, however, to make a search, and after toiling a 
whole day, he found the envelope. On examination, 
it was seen that the postage-stamp affixed was still 
undefaced, and the envelope bore nothing to show 
that it had ever been in the Post-office. The whole 
circumstances left no doubt that the letter had either 
got into the waste-paper basket of the senders, or had 



been dropped on the way to the Post-office, and that 
it had been carried ten miles into the country amongst 
street rubbish, with which, as manure, the farm in 
question was supplied from the town of Leith. 

A registered letter posted at Newcastle, and ad- 
dressed to a banker in Edinburgh, not having reached 
the addressee's hands, a telegram was forwarded to 
the sender intimating the fact, and requesting ex- 
planation of the failure. The banker supposed that 
the letter had been lost or purloined in the Post- 
office ; but it was afterwards proved to have been 
duly delivered to the bank porter, who, having locked 
it up in his desk, had quite forgotten it. 

A lady residing in Jersey applied to the Post- 
office respecting a letter which had been sent by her 
to a clergyman at Oxford. Inquiry was made for 
it at all the offices through which it would pass, but 
unsuccessfully, no trace whatever of it being found. 
Subsequently the clergyman informed the secretary 
of the Post-office that he had found the letter be- 
tween the cushions of his own arm-chair, where it 
had been placed, no doubt, at the time of delivery. 

" A person complained of delay in the receipt of 
a letter which appeared to have passed through the 
Post-office twice. It transpired that the letter had, 
in the first instance, been duly delivered at a shop, 
where it was to remain till called for, but that it 


had accidentally been taken away with some music 
by a customer, who had afterwards dropped it in the 
street. Subsequently the letter must have been 
picked up and again posted, and hence its double 
passage through the Post-office." 

"A barrister complained of the non-delivery of a 
letter containing the halves of two 10 Bank of 
England notes, stating that he had posted the letter 
himself; but he shortly afterwards wrote to say 
that the letter had reached its destination. It ap- 
peared that instead of putting it into the letter-box, 
he had dropped the letter in the street, where, for- 
tunately, it was picked up by some honest person, 
who posted it." 

A business firm having frequently failed to receive 
letters which had been addressed to them, made 
complaint on the subject from time to time ; but 
the inquiries which were instituted resulted in 
nothing. After much trouble, however, it was at 
length discovered that a defect existed in the letter- 
box in the firm's office-door, and fifteen letters were 
found lodged between the box and the door, some of 
which had been in that situation more than nine 

A letter said to contain a cheque for 12, 4s., 
addressed to a London firm, not having reached its 
destination, inquiries were made with respect to it. 


At the end of three months it turned up at a papier- 
mdchd factory, whither it had, no doubt, been carried 
among waste-paper from the office at which it had 
been delivered. 

In 1883, a registered letter sent from Dunkeld 
on a given date was duly received in Edinburgh, 
and delivered at its address, which was a bank, the 
postman obtaining a signature to the receipt-form in 
the usual way. Some little time afterwards com- 
plaint was made by the manager of the bank that the 
letter had not been received ; but the Post-office was 
able to prove the contrary by the receipt, the signa- 
ture to which, on being submitted to the manager, 
was acknowledged to be that of the wife of the house- 
keeper of the establishment. Yet this person could 
give no account of the letter, nor had any one else 
seen it; and as the letter was stated to have con- 
tained four 1 notes and a bank deposit-book, the fact 
of its disappearance gave rise to a state of things which 
can be better imagined than described. The Post- 
office, in the circumstances, offered the suggestion 
that the bank's waste - paper should be carefully 
examined. As it happened, however, a quantity 
of this material had just been cleared out, having 
been purchased by a waste-paper dealer ; and the 
fact made the chances of recovery in that direction 
all the more remote. Yet the housekeeper was set 


to work : he traced the bags first to the store of 
the dealer, then to the premises of a waste-paper 
merchant in another part of the city. With assist- 
ance he carefully examined the contents of the 
bags filled at the bank, and his efforts were re- 
warded by the discovery of the registered letter, 
which was in precisely the same state as when 
delivered, never having been opened. It had very 
likely fallen from a desk in the bank on to the 
floor, and by a careless person been brushed aside 
with used envelopes and scraps of paper, thus 
finding its way into the waste-paper basket. 

In April 1873, a letter was posted in a certain 
village in Ayrshire, addressed by a wife to her 
husband, who was in command of a vessel bound 
for New York. The letter was properly directed 
to the captain by name, it bore the name of his 
ship, and was addressed to the care of the British 
Consul, New York. The captain never received 
the letter, and this circumstance gave rise, upon 
his return from sea, to what is described as a 
" feud " between him and his wife, he, reposing 
perhaps greater faith in the Post-office than in 
the dutiful attentions of his wife, believing that 
his better-half had not written to him, since he 
failed to receive the letter on application at its 
place of address in New York. Time, with its 


incessant changes, hopes, fears, joys, and disap- 
pointments, winged its hurried flight for a period 
of eleven years ere the matter which had caused 
the feud came to be fully understood. At the end 
of that time the same letter was returned to the 
writer through the Dead - letter Office, having (ac- 
cording to the stamp upon it) been unclaimed at 
New York. It was stated that the return of the 
letter had " put all to rights " between the couple 
concerned, though it is to be hoped that the healing 
hand of Time had already done much in this direc- 
tion, and that the return of the long-lost letter did 
nothing more than put the finishing touch to re- 
stored confidence. In connection with this matter, 
it was afterwards ascertained that the letter was 
one of over 4000 similar letters returned to the 
New York Post-office from the offices of the British 
Consul in that city, upon a new appointment being 
made to the Consulate, the " new broom," as one of 
his first acts, having made a clean sweep of this 
accumulation of letters, some of which had been 
lying there no less than seventeen years. How 
far the failure of these letters to reach the persons 
addressed was due to their not having been called 
for, or to the negligence of clerks at the Consulate, 
is not known, nor will it ever be ascertained 
what heart-burnings and misery may have been 


occasioned by this wholesale miscarriage of cor- 

In March 1880, a letter plainly addressed to an 
individual by name, and bearing the name and 
number of a street in a certain district of London, 
reached the Dead-letter Office, whither it had been 
sent by the postman of the district, owing to the 
person to whom it was directed not being known 
at the address given. When opened, with a view 
to its return to the writer, the letter was discovered 
to contain a Bank of England note for 100, to- 
gether with a short memorandum suggesting the 
return of the note to some person, but in such 
vague and general terms that no one who had not 
had previous information on the subject could have 
fully understood the purport of the message. 

The memorandum was, moreover, without head 
or tail it had no superscription to indicate whence 
it had come, nor had it a signature to show by 
whom it had been written. The circumstance being 
one of an exceptional character, special steps were 
taken with a view to trace the owner, and an adver- 
tisement was inserted in several of the metropolitan 
newspapers bringing up, it is true, a responsive 
crop of claimants for lost notes, but without elicit- 
ing any such claims as would warrant the surrender 
of the note in question. From the terms of the 


memorandum in the letter, and the fact that it 
was anonymous, the suggestion readily arose that 
whoever had had the note last had not come by 
it in the regular way of business ; and this idea was 
strengthened by the discovery that the note had 
been paid over by a bank about eight years pre- 
viously to a person whose name and address were 
endorsed upon it ; and from that period the note 
had evidently not been in circulation. It was 
thought probable that the endorser had lost the 
note in some way shortly after receiving it, and 
that coming into the hands of some individual who 
feared to put it in circulation, it had been kept up 
during these eight years. Meanwhile the right to 
receive the note not having been established by any 
one, the amount was paid in to the Eevenue. 

In the Postmaster - General's report for 1881, 
further mention was made of the finding of the note 
in the Dead-letter Office, and several claims again 
reached headquarters, one of which proved to be 
so far good, that, when the facts had been fully 
investigated, the amount was paid over to the 

It appeared that the person whose name was 
endorsed on the note received it in part payment of 
a cheque cashed^ by him in 18*72, when he was 
bought out of the business in which he had till 


then been a partner. Two years afterwards viz., 
in 1874 he died, and his widow was unaware at 
the time that the note had been lost. From cir- 
cumstances which this lady was able to prove, how- 
ever, there seemed to be every reason to believe 
that her husband (whose practice it was to endorse 
notes when he received them) had by some means 
lost the note, or that it had been carelessly left by 
him in some old book or other papers which were 
sold as waste-paper after her husband's death ; and 
thus the Post-office was made the means of restor- 
ing a considerable sum of money to the rightful 
owner, while the person who had without title pos- 
sessed it in the interval dared not claim it. 

" A letter said to have been posted by a person 
at Fochabers, enclosing a letter of credit for 50, 
was supposed to have been appropriated by an 
officer of the Post-office ; but on inquiry, it was 
ascertained that, instead of posting the letter him- 
self, as he asserted, the writer had intrusted it to a 
servant, who had destroyed the letter, and had at- 
tempted to negotiate the order." 

" A person complained repeatedly of letters ad- 
dressed to him having been intercepted and tampered 
with, and of drafts having been stolen from them 
and negotiated. There being ground to suspect that 
the thief was in the complainant's own office, he 


reluctantly consented to test the honesty of his 
clerks ; and the result showed that one of them was 
the guilty party, the man being subsequently tried 
and convicted. The thefts had been committed by 
means of a duplicate key, which gave the clerk 
access to the letter-box." 

" Several complaints were made of the non-delivery 
of letters addressed to the editor of a newspaper ; 
but this gentleman afterwards intimated that he 
had discovered that the delinquent was his own 
errand-boy, who confessed to having pilfered his 

" A similar case occurred at Komsey, where, on an 
investigation by the surveyor, it was discovered that 
the applicant's errand-boy had abstracted the letters 
from his private bag, which it was found could be 
done even when the bag was locked." 

" Application was made respecting a letter contain- 
ing a cheque for 79, 12s. lid., which had been 
presented and cashed. The letter had not been 
registered, and no trace of it could be discovered. 
The applicants, however, ultimately withdrew their 
complaint against the Post-office, stating their belief 
that the missing letter had not been posted, but 
had been stolen by one of their clerks, who had 

"A merchant sent his errand-boy to post a letter, 


and to purchase a stamp to put upon it. The letter 
contained negotiable bills amounting to 1200 ; 
and as the merchant did not receive an acknowledg- 
ment from his correspondent, he cast the blame on 
the Post-office. An inquiry followed, which resulted 
in showing that the errand-boy had met another boy 
on a similar mission, who undertook to post the 
letter in question. On further reflection, however, 
the latter resolved to convert the penny intended for 
a postage-stamp into sweetmeats, which he did, and 
then destroyed the letter with its contents, carrying 
the fragments into a field near the Post-office, where 
they were found hidden." 

A sailor applied for a missing letter containing a 
money-order for 30s., which he said had been sent, 
but had not reached him ; but when he found that 
the matter was under strict investigation, he con- 
fessed that the money had been paid to him, and 
that he had denied having received it, in order to 
excuse himself from not paying a debt to the person 
with whom he lodged. 

" A person having applied for a missing letter, said 
to contain two 10 and one 5 Bank of England 
notes, and which he stated had been sent to him by 
his father, it appeared on inquiry that no such let- 
ter had been written; and he afterwards confessed 
that his object in asking for the letter was a device 


to keep in abeyance a pecuniary demand upon him 
by his landlady." 

Some years ago a person complained that twelve 
sovereigns had been abstracted from a letter received 
by him while it was in transit through the post, but 
he was told in reply that the envelope bore evidence 
that it had not contained coin to that amount. 
This person then communicated with the sender of 
the letter, who persisted in declaring that she had 
put therein the amount stated. At this stage of the 
inquiry an officer was despatched to investigate the 
matter ; and upon his requiring the woman who had 
sent the envelope to accompany him before a magis- 
trate to attest the truth of her statement upon oath, 
she confessed that the statement was false, and ex- 
plained her conduct by saying that she had promised 
to lend the person to whom the envelope had been 
addressed 12, but that she had been unwilling to 
do so, as she felt sure that she should never get 
her money back again ; and that she determined, 
therefore, to keep her money, and throw the blame 
on the Post-office. 

"A bank in Glasgow some years ago complained 
that a letter had been delivered there without its 
contents halves of bank-notes for 75 ; and on a 
strict investigation, it appeared that the letter had 
been intrusted to a boy to post, who confessed that, 


being aware the letter contained money, and finding 
that the wafer with which it was fastened was wet, 
he had been tempted to steal the contents, which at 
the time he believed to be whole notes ; but who 
added that when, on afterwards examining them, he 
found them to be halves only, he enclosed them in 
an unfastened sheet of paper, which he directed ac- 
cording, as he believed, to the address of the letter 
from which he had taken them. The halves of the 
notes and sheet of paper were subsequently dis- 
covered in the Glasgow Post-office, the address on 
the paper being, however, very different from that of 
the letter in which the notes had been enclosed." 

" Complaint was made that a letter containing the 
halves of Bank of England notes for 65, sent to a 
firm in Liverpool, had failed to reach its destination. 
On inquiry, it appeared that the letter had been duly 
delivered, and subsequently stolen by a well-known 
thief, who had the audacity to go and claim the cor- 
responding half -notes from another firm in Liverpool, 
to whose care the stolen letter showed they had been 
sent by the same post ; and in this object the 
scoundrel succeeded." 

An unregistered letter containing a 10 Bank of 
England note, posted at Macclesfield and addressed 
to Manchester, was stated not to have reached its 
destination. Full inquiry was made, but the letter 


could not be found. Subsequently, however, the 
note was presented at the Bank of England, and on 
being traced, it was discovered that the letter had 
been stolen after its delivery. 

" A letter containing two 5 Bank of England notes 
was stated to have been posted at Leeds, addressed to 
a lady at Leamington, without reaching its destina- 
tion ; but the inquiry that was instituted by the 
Post-office caused the sender to withdraw his com- 
plaint, and to prefer against the clerk whom he had 
intrusted with the letter, a charge of having purloined 
it before it reached the Post-office." 

" The secretary of a charitable institution in London 
gave directions for posting a large number of ' elec- 
tion papers,' and supposed that these directions had 
been duly acted upon. Shortly, however, he re- 
ceived complaints of the non-receipt of many of the 
papers, and in other cases of delay. He at once 
made a complaint at the Post-office; but, on examin- 
ation, circumstances soon came to light which cast 
suspicion on the person employed to post the notices, 
although this man had been many years in the service 
of the society, and was supposed to be of strict integ- 
rity. Ultimately, the man confessed that lie had em- 
bezzled the postage, amounting to 3, 1 5s. 6d., and had 
endeavoured to deliver the election papers himself." 

" Complaint having been made by a dealer in for- 


eign postage -stamps that several letters containing 
such stamps had not reached him, a careful investi- 
gation was made, but for some time without any re- 
sult. The letters should have been dropped by the 
letter-carrier into the addressee's letter-box ; but to 
this box no one, the dealer asserted, had access but 
himself. Some time afterwards, however, a cover 
addressed to the complainant was picked up in the 
street, and on inquiry being made whether the letter 
to which it belonged had been delivered, the com- 
plainant stated that it had not. But it so happened 
that the letter - carrier had a clear recollection of 
dropping this letter into the letter-box, and, moreover, 
remembered to have observed a young girl who was 
at the window move, as he thought, towards the box. 
This led to the girl being closely questioned, when 
she admitted the theft, confessing also that she had 
committed other similar thefts previously. Thus, by 
a mere chance, a suspicion which had been cast on 
the Post-office was dispelled." 

" The publisher of one of the London papers com- 
plained of the repeated loss in the Post-office of 
copies of his journal addressed to persons abroad. 
An investigation showed that the abstraction was 
made by the publisher's clerk, his object apparently 
being to appropriate the stamps required to defray 
the foreign postage. In another case a general com- 


plaint having arisen as to the loss of newspapers sent 
to the chief office in St Martin's-le-Grand, inquiry 
led to the discovery of a regular mart held near the 
office, and supplied with newspapers by the private 
messengers employed to convey them to the post. 
On another occasion a man was detected in the act 
of robbing a news-vendor's cart, by volunteering on 
its arrival at the General Post-office to assist the 
driver in posting the newspapers : instead of doing 
so, he walked through the hall with those intrusted 
to him, and, upon his being stopped, three quires of 
a weekly paper were found in his possession." 

In the spring of 1855, a young lady, fifteen years 
of age, whose parents resided in a small English 
town, which shall be nameless, was sent to a board- 
ing-school at some distance therefrom to pursue her 
education. The mother of the young lady was in a 
delicate state of health, and, as was most proper in 
the circumstances, letters were written from time to 
time and forwarded to the daughter at school, giving 
particulars of her mother's progress. So far this is 
all plain and straightforward. The young lady, how- 
ever, one day declared that though on a particular 
date mentioned by her she had written home to 
inquire how her mother was, that letter had not been 
delivered ; and, that on the second day thereafter a 
brown-paper parcel was placed in a very mysterious 


manner in the hall of the house where she was at 
school. In this parcel was found a letter for the 
young lady intimating her mother's death, and ex- 
plaining that the parcel had been brought by a 
friend thus accounting for the absence from it of 
all post-marks. Other circumstances were related 
by the girl that she had seen a man galloping along 
the road, and that he had left the parcel in question. 
Two days after this event, a letter was posted from 
her parents' residence to inform the young lady that 
her mother was much better ; but when the letter 
arrived and was opened, she produced another letter 
requiring her immediate return, in order to attend 
her mother's funeral. The case was very puzzling, 
and naturally excited great interest, the more so, as 
some suspicion arose that a conspiracy existed to 
carry off the young lady, in which some person in 
the Post-office was aiding and abetting. The matter 
formed the subject of two separate investigations, 
ending in failure, and the mystery still remained. It 
was only after a third attempt at elucidation when 
an officer specially skilled in prosecuting inquiries of a 
difficult kind had visited the school that the truth 
began to appear. This officer reported that, in his 
opinion, the whole proceedings were but a plot of a 
schoolgirl to get home ; and the young lady after~ 
wards confessed this to be the case. 



It is not probable that the petty fraud of again 
using stamps which have already passed through the 
post is perpetrated with any great frequency upon 
the Post-office. Still, cases no doubt do occur, and 
may at any time lead to criminal proceedings, like 
those which took place at Hull some years ago. A 
person in that town having posted a letter with an 
old stamp affixed, the stamper who had to deface 
the stamp in the usual way, detected the irregu- 
larity, and brought the matter under notice. Pro- 
ceedings were taken against the offender, and the 
case being established against him, and the fact 
being stated that this person had previously been 
warned by the Post-office against committing like 
frauds, he was mulcted in a fine of 5 and costs, 
with the alternative punishment of three months' 

The accidents and misfortunes which are the lot 
of letters in this country, seem also to attend post- 
letters in their progress through the Post-offices of 
other countries. A curious case was noticed some 
years ago in the French capital. Some alterations 
were being carried out in the General Post-office in 
Paris, when there wa& found, in a panel situated 
near a letter-box, a letter which had been posted 
just fifty years before. There it had remained con- 
cealed half a century. The letter was forwarded to 


the person whose address it bore, and who, strange 
to say, was still alive ; but the writer, it transpired, 
had been dead many years. 

On one occasion notice was given to the Post- 
office by a clergyman residing in a country town in 
the south of England, that a packet sent by him 
containing a watch had been tampered with in the 
post, the packet having reached the person ad- 
dressed, not with the watch that had been de- 
spatched, but containing a stone, which, it was 
alleged, must have been substituted in course of 
transit. As is usual in cases of this kind, very 
particular inquiries were necessary to establish 
whether the Post-office was really in fault, because 
experience has shown that very often obloquy is 
laid upon the Department which ought to rest else- 
where; and accordingly, a shrewd and practised officer 
in such matters was sent to the town in question to 
make investigations. Arrived at the clergyman's 
residence, the officer found that that gentleman was 
from home ; but introducing himself to the sender's 
wife, he explained his mission, and in a general way 
learned from her what she was able to communicate 
with regard to the violated packet. While the in- 
terview was thus proceeding, the officer, with profes- 
sional habit, made the best use of his eyes, which, 
lighting upon a rough causeway of small stones 


somewhere on the premises, afforded him a hint, 
if not as yet a suspicion, as to the locality of the 
fraud. In fact, he remarked a striking resemblance 
between the stone which had been received in the 
packet and the stones forming the causeway. In 
the most delicate way he insinuated the inquiry 
whether the lady might not possibly entertain some 
shadow, of a suspicion of her own servants. 

" Oh dear, no," was the reply ; " they are all most 
respectable, and have the highest characters." 

The lady had the utmost confidence in them, and 
to admit such a thought was to do them grave in- 
justice. The officer was not to be satisfied with 
such an assurance, however, and by using tact and 
patience he brought the lady to see that, if there 
was no dishonesty with her own servants, they 
would come safely out of the inquiry, and it might 
be well to allow him to question them. It was 
further permitted, after some objection on the 
lady's part and persuasion on that of the officer, 
that the latter should ask each of the servants 
separately whether they would allow their boxes to 
be examined. If they had nothing to conceal, the 
ordeal could not, of course, hurt them. The female 
servants were called up one by one and closely 
questioned, and on the proposed examination of the 
boxes being suggested, the girls at once assented. 


This was so far satisfactory, but there was still the 
butler to deal with. In due turn the presence of 
this household ornament was summoned to the 
room, when, up to a certain point, everything went 
well ; but it being put to him to have his boxes 
searched, injured virtue cried out, and indignation 
and scorn were vented upon the obtrusive inquirer. 
The officer had, however, gained a point, for he was 
now in a position to say that if the butler con- 
tinued to object, the suspicion would arise that he 
might possibly be the culprit, and it might even be 
concluded that he and not the Post-office ought to 
account for the watch. At length the man-servant 
gave way, and he and the officer proceeded to the 
butler's quarters. Upon the trunk being opened, the 
first thing to attract notice was three bottles of wine. 

" Holloa ! " says the officer, " what have we here ? 
A strange wine-cellar this ! " 

" Oh," observed the butler, " these are three bottles 
of ginger- wine which were given me by my father, a 
grocer in the town." 

" Indeed ! " says the officer, who had meanwhile 
been noting the colour as he held a bottle between 
himself and the light ; " it looks a queer colour for 
ginger - wine. You won't mind letting me taste 
your wine, will you ? " 

Overborne by the assurance of the officer perhaps, 


or thinking him quite chatty and chummy, a cork 
was withdrawn, and the officer was sipping capital 
old crusted port. The wine was pronounced very 
good, but the missing watch was not forthcoming. 

The scene of inquiry was now changed. The 
officer proceeded to the shop of the grocer, made 
some trifling purchase, put on his most affable 
ways, and he soon had the grocer talking, first on 
general topics, then on personal matters, and at 
last on the theme of his own family. 

" How many have you ? " says the officer. 

" So-and-so," responds the grocer. 

"All doing for themselves by this time, I sup- 
pose ? " continues the officer. 

This flung the door open for a full statement of 
the position of the family, which was given without 
reserve, as if to an old friend, until the butler with 
the clergyman was mentioned, when the officer inter- 
rupted him with the remark 

"Ah, to be sure ; I know something of him. That 
was capital ginger-wine you gave him lately." 

" Ginger- wine ! " quoth the grocer ; " I never had 
wine in my house in my life, and I certainly never 
gave my son any." 

This was enough for the officer, who remarked 
that there might be a mistake ; and soon thereafter 
he found means to bring the conversation to a close. 


Eeturning immediately to the clergyman's house, 
he again saw the lady, and told her what had occur- 
red. He made bold to say, moreover, that her butler 
was a thief, that he was stealing her husband's 
wine, that he in all probability had made away with 
the watch, and that she ought to give him into 
custody, and to prosecute him. At this point the 
butler was called in, and in presence of his mistress 
plainly taxed with the theft of the wine. Finding it 
useless to stand out, he confessed that he had taken 
it, but protested that he had not stolen the watch. 

The lady, however, had no longer any doubt in 
the matter ; and deeply distressed at finding how 
greatly she had been deceived in her estimate of 
his character for integrity, exclaimed " Oh John ! 
to think that after all the pains your master and I 
have taken to make you a good man, you should 
have done this wicked thing ! Oh John, John ! " 

The officer saw that in the lady's view all sus- 
picion was removed from the Post-office, and pre- 
pared to leave ; but feeling anxious about the lady 
in the absence of her husband, said he should go 
to the police station and fetch a couple of constables 
to attend to the matter. On this hint the butler 
became greatly excited and alarmed, and earnestly 
begged that only one policeman might be sent. 

" Oh no," said the officer, " you are a big man, 


and we must have two ; " and beckoning Mrs 

to leave the room, he turned the key in the door, 
and went for the police. 

During his absence, the household was in a state 
of wild excitement, the lady of the house being in 
a high state of nervousness, while below-stairs the 
servants were in no better condition. Meanwhile 
one of the females, either through sympathy for 
the idol of the kitchen, or in pursuance of womanly 
curiosity, which is not less likely, sought the vantage- 
ground of a water-butt at the rear of the premises, in 
order to make a reconnaissance through the window, 
and ascertain how the butler was comporting himself 
in the new and extraordinary situation where he was. 
But one glance into the room was enough ; she sprang 
to the ground, and ran to her mistress screaming 
that John was cutting his throat. Sure enough he 
had been engaged in this operation, using a pocket- 
knife for the purpose ; and the officers of justice, on 
opening the door, found him streaming with blood 
from the self-inflicted wound. 

At this juncture the Post-office official left the 
matter to be dealt with by the clergyman as he 
might see fit. He felt sufficient interest in the case, 
however, to make inquiry subsequently as to the fate 
of the culprit, and learnt that he had recovered from 
his injury ; that his kind master and mistress had 


forgiven him ; and although they did not receive 
him back into their service, they helped him in 
other ways, and were assiduous in their endeavours 
to keep him in the paths of rectitude and honesty. 

The following anecdote, borrowed from a French 
source, 1 will illustrate how serious the consequences 
may be when letters are not clearly and intelligibly 
addressed, and by what slight accidents such missives 
sometimes go far from their right course. 

About the year 1837 there was garrisoned at a 
small town in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais 
an honest soldier named Goraud, who had served 
with the colours a term of seven years. Though he 
had conducted himself well, and was favourably 
thought of by his superiors, he had never been able 
to rise above the grade of full private. He liked 
his profession, but being unable either to read or 
write, the avenues to promotion remained closed 
against him. 

Goraud came from an obscure village in Prov- 
ence, where his poor old mother, a woman of over 
sixty, lived, and where also resided a married 
brother, younger than himself, who was surrounded 
by a rising family of children. The soldier re- 
ceived from time to time letters from his mother, 
which, on being read to him, affected him deeply, 

1 La Poste Anecdotique et Pittoresque. Par Pierre Zaccone. 


sometimes even to tears. There were, besides, other 
friends in his native place of whom he entertained 
kindly recollections, and with whom he kept up inter- 
course through his family ; especially a young woman 
towards whom he had formerly had very tender feel- 
ings, which, though not now so strong, time and 
distance had not as yet effaced. 

Becoming home-sick, and having no bright pros- 
pect before him in the army, Goraud yearned to 
be set free, so that he might spend the rest of his 
days " in the midst of those he so much loved," as 
is expressed on the tomb of the great Napoleon. 
He had already, as has been before stated, served 
seven years ; he had been of good conduct ; and now 
he had but to demand his discharge in order to 
accomplish his fondest wish. 

But just as he was about to make the necessary 
request, and to realise the dream which he had been 
cherishing, a letter from his brother changed all his 
plans. His joy was turned to sorrow. This letter 
informed him that his mother was seriously ill, and, 
moreover, that some distemper had assailed his 
brother's stock, carrying many of them off; in 
fact, misery stared in the face those among whom 
he had hoped to live happily, and to eke out 
the remainder of his days in comfort. The 
poor fellow was sadly cast down; the phantom of 


pleasure had passed from his view ; he shed bitter 
tears of disappointment, and was at his wits' end. 
Dejection and irresolution did not, however, last. 
He soon regained command of himself, and filial 
affection suggested to him the course which he 
should pursue. 

Next day he proceeded to the office of an agent 
whose business it was to procure substitutes for 
individuals desirous of avoiding service in the army ; 
and in a few days thereafter he engaged to serve his 
country for seven years more, receiving in return a 
payment down of 1500 francs. It may be guessed 
what was the next step taken by the worthy soldier. 
He remitted the 1500 francs to his mother, in a 
letter directed to the care of his brother ; and at the 
same time he intimated that he was to start at once 
for Algeria, there to join the new regiment to which 
he had been posted. 

Three months passed, and as yet no acknowledg- 
ment for the money came to hand. This to Goraud, 
after the sacrifice he had made, was sadly disap- 
pointing ; but he did not at first feel alarmed. 
The idea occurred to him that his mother might be 
a trifle worse, or that something might have delayed 
the reply. He decided to write again. He re- 
lated what he had done, explained the cause he had 
for uneasiness, and begged that an early answer 


might be sent to him. This was not long in com- 
ing. It stated that the old mother was again well, 
that the brother had had a hard struggle, and 
that though he hoped to pull through, it might 
prove necessary for him to quit the place. In re- 
gard to the alleged remittance, it was briefly added 
that no money had been received. 

This latter statement created a most painful im- 
pression upon the soldier. His brother's letter ap- 
peared to breathe a tone which was not usual ; he 
imagined that, under the guise of calculated frigidity, 
was to be perceived an insinuation that no money had 
been sent : and, smarting under the sting of such re- 
flections, the blush of offended virtue rose to his cheek. 
His feelings ran over the whole gamut of wounded 
sentiment. He saw himself an injured man, and 
felt deeply hurt; his money had gone unacknow- 
ledged, and he became roused to anger ; and then, 
revolving the whole circumstances in his mind, 
suspicion took possession of him. Eecollecting that 
the money-letter had been sent as an ordinary letter 
by post, and that the reply had not seemed quite 
right, he now suspected that his brother had re- 
ceived the remittance, appropriated it to his own use, 
and denied the receipt of his letter. In this frame of 
mind, he had a communication permed to his brother 
full of denunciations and reproaches, and couched in 


such terms of violence, that he would not allow the 
epistle when written to be read over to him. Next 
day he started with a distant expedition on active 

Gloomy, cast down, and above all irate, he was 
ready to fight with the wind or his own shadow. 
In the first brush with the enemy he threw himself 
into their midst with fury, and fought desperately for 
several hours, as if to provoke the end which he 
now longed for. Instead of meeting his death, how- 
ever, he gained the hero's prize the cross of honour. 
One month previously he would have hailed this dis- 
tinction with delight ; now everything was dull and 
indifferent to him even glory ! 

About a year after this event Goraud accompanied 
his regiment to Paris. As he was leaving the bar- 
racks one day a voice hailed him with the question, 
" Is not your name Goraud ? " " Yes, major," was 
the soldier's reply. " Very good," says the other, 
"here is a letter for you. There are several Gor- 
auds in the regiment, and the letter has already 
been opened. I see you are wanted at the Dead- 
letter Office of the Post-office about some business 
which concerns you." 

He took the letter, and at once hastened to the 
Post-office. There an explanation awaited him of 
the miscarriage of his remittance, and the mystery 


which had clouded his spirits and embittered his 
life for a whole year. The same letter that he had 
despatched lay before him with its contents intact. 
It had been written and addressed for him by a 
comrade in the regiment, the superscription, turned 
into English, being something in this form 

" To M. Jacques Goraud, 
for Widow Goraud, 
at La Bastide, 

of Marseilles." 

As it happened, the obliging comrade was a poor 
scribe, and was without any great experience in 
letter-writing, or in the art of addressing letters. 
The only word in the direction which had been 
plainly written, and stood out in a way to catch the 
eye, was the word " Canton." This was the key to 
the mystery ; the letter had been sent to China ! 

At the period in question the sailing-ships con- 
veying the mails took about six months to reach that 
distant country, and the same time for the return 
voyage. The soldier's letter had made the double 
journey ; and the blunder being discovered when the 
letter came back to France, it was sent to the village 
in Provence to which it was really addressed. But 
alas ! adversity had overtaken the family in the 
old home. They had left the place, and gone no 


one knew whither ; and, so far as the Post-office 
was concerned, it only remained to return the letter 
to the writer through the Dead-letter Office. 

The moral of this anecdote is, that letters ought 
to be plainly addressed. Some examples of the 
rambling style in which addresses are often written 
are given in another chapter. It would be a useful 
work were the school boards to give some instruc- 
tion in this matter to the children under their care. 
The copy-books might be headed with specimen 
addresses for the purpose, and the teachers could 
point out how desirable it is, in addition to plain 
writing, that the addresses should be well arranged 
the name of the person occupying one line, the 
street and number another, and the name of the town 
a conspicuous place to the right, in a line by itself. 
In this particular "they do things better in France," 
for in that country instruction of the kind in ques- 
tion was introduced into the primary schools more 
than twenty years ago. 




Post-office, in its extensive correspondence 
with the public, has often great difficulty in 
satisfying what are deemed to be the reasonable 
claims and representations of reasonable people ; but 
it has also to endeavour to satisfy and persuade 
persons who, as shown by the demands made by 
them, are not altogether within the category above 
mentioned. What would be thought of the follow- 
ing appeals made to the Secretary on the subject of 
the injury supposed to be done by electricity thrown 
off from telegraph wires ? 

" SIR, I have been rejoicing in the hope that 
when the last telegraph wire was removed I should 
be at peace ; but alas for human hopes ! Last 
Sunday and Saturday nights, I suppose all the 
wires must have been working simultaneously, for 


about 2.0 A.M. I was awakened by the most intense 
pains in my eyes, and for the two nights I do not 
think I had more than six hours sleep that is, 
none after 2.0 in the morning. Since then I have 
slept from home, and must continue to do so until 
either the wires are removed or I leave the house, 
which I shall be obliged to do, even though it 
remain unoccupied. The wires are carried in a tube 
to a pole about 30 yards from my house on the 
angle, and I imagine that when they are all working, 
and emerge from the* tube, that the electrical matter 
thrown off must be very great. Pipes have now 

been run up Eoad, where a pillar or pole 

might very easily be fixed, and the present one 
might be removed 100 yards further off, where it 
would electrify nothing but fields. With many 
apologies for troubling you again, for, I hope, the 
last time, and with many thanks for your kindness 
hitherto, I am," &c. 

" SIR, I am sorry to be obliged to trouble you 
again respecting the wires opposite my house at 

. You promised in your favour of that 

the wires should be removed within a month from 
that date, a great amount of labour having to be 
gone through. I was not surprised that six months 
were required for their removal instead of one, and 



therefore bore patiently with the delay, although 
my eyesight, and indeed every one's in the house, 
suffered most severely ; but why, when at last eight 
were removed, should one be allowed to remain ? 
Since the eight have gone, I have been able to sit in 
my own house without being in as excruciating pain 
as formerly ; but still I am pained, and particularly 
between the hours of four and seven in the morning. 
If one wire affects me so much, imagine my suffer- 
ings when nine were working ! Such being the case, 
will you kindly cause the remaining wire either to 
be removed or encased in the vulcanised tube, so as 
to contract the current. Thanking you for your 
kindness hitherto, and hoping you will add this 
favour to the rest, I am," &c. 

There are some persons who suffer from the delu- 
sion that their landladies and the sorters in the Post- 
office habitually conspire to keep up, or rob them of, 
their letters letters generally which they look for 
to bring them money or the right to property. These 
people are always giving trouble, and are difficult to 
shake off. On one occasion a lady, who was pos- 
sessed of a set idea of this kind, called at the General 
Post-office in London to state her grievance, which 
she did in most fluent terms. Her complaint was 
noted for inquiry, and then she went away. An 


hour or two after, she returned to ascertain whether 
she had left a packet of papers which she had mean- 
while missed ; but they could not be found. This 
circumstance, she stated, convinced her that she had 
been robbed ; and an incident that happened when 
she quitted the building in the morning confirmed 
her, she stated, in her idea. A man came up to her 
and asked if he could show her the way to the Dead- 
letter Office. " No, thank you," was the reply ; " I 
can find the way myself." She said she knew him 
to be a magistrate or a judge : " He had a thick 
neck and flat nose, and the bull-dog type of coun- 
tenance, and was altogether repulsive-looking." She 
felt assured he was watching her, &c. 

An aged couple in the south of England moved 
about from place to place in order to escape from 
persons who were supposed by them to open their 
letters. Persecuted, as they imagined, in one town, 
they would take lodgings in another town, and very 
soon they would suspect the servants of the house 
and the officers of the Post-office of obtaining a 
knowledge of the nature of their correspondence. 
Then they would wait on the postmaster, and 
generally go through their chronic grievance. The 
postmaster, in turn, would assure them that their 
letters were fairly dealt with ; but this did not 
satisfy them, and very soon they were off to an- 


other town, in the hope of evading their torment- 
ors, but in reality to go through the same course 
as before. 

Mr Anthony Trollope has left us, in the account 
of his life, a capital specimen of the frivolous and 
groundless complaints with which the Post - office 
has frequently to deal. His account is as follows : 
" A gentleman in county Cavan had complained most 
bitterly of the injury done to him by some arrange- 
ment of the Post-office. The nature of his grievance 
has no present significance ; but it was so unendur- 
able that he had written many letters, couched in 
the strongest language. He was most irate, and 
indulged himself in that scorn which is so easy to 
an angry mind. The place was not in my district ; 
but I was borrowed, being young and strong, that I 
might remember the edge of his personal wrath. It 
was mid-winter, and I drove up to his house, a 
squire's country seat, in the middle of a snowstorm, 
just as it was becoming dark. I was on an open 
jaunting-car, and was on my way from one little 
town to another, the cause of his complaint having 
reference to some mail-conveyance between the two. 
I was certainly very cold, and very wet, and very 
uncomfortable when I entered his house. I was 
admitted by a butler, but the gentleman himself 
hurried into the hall. I at once began to explain 


my business. ' God bless me ! ' he said, ' you are 
wet through. John, get Mr Trollope some brandy- 
and-water, very hot.' I was beginning my story 
about the post again, when he himself took off my 
greatcoat, and suggested that I should go up to my 
bedroom before I troubled myself with business. 
' Bedroom ! ' I exclaimed. Then he assured me 
that he would not turn a dog out on such a night 
as that, and into a bedroom I was shown, having 
first drank the brandy-and-water standing at the 
drawing-room fire. When I came down I was in- 
troduced to his daughter, and the three of us went 
in to dinner. I shall never forget his righteous 
indignation when I again brought up the postal 
question, on the departure of the young lady. Was 
I such a Goth as to contaminate wine with busi- 
ness ? So I drank my wine, and then heard the 
young lady sing, while her father slept in his arm- 
chair. I spent a very pleasant evening, but my host 
was too sleepy to hear anything about the Post- 
office that night. It was absolutely necessary that 
I should go away the next morning after breakfast, 
and I explained that the matter must be discussed 
then. He shook his head and wrung his hands in 
unmistakable disgust, almost in despair. ' But 
what am I to say in my report ? ' I asked. 'Any- 
thing you please,' he said. ' Don't spare me, if you 


want an excuse for yourself. Here I sit all the day, 
with nothing to do ; and I like writing letters.' I 

did report that Mr was now quite satisfied 

with the postal arrangement of his district ; and I 
felt a soft regret that I should have robbed my 
friend of his occupation. Perhaps he was able to 
take up the Poor - law Board, or to attack the 
Excise. At the Post-office nothing more was heard 
from him." 

The Department not only takes much trouble to 
investigate cases of irregularity of which definite 
particulars can be given, but it has frequently to 
enter into correspondence with persons who seem to 
have no clear idea of the grounds upon which they 
make their complaints. A person having stated 
that his newspapers were not delivered regularly, 
was requested to answer certain questions on the 
subject, and the following is the result : 

Questions. Answers. 

Title and date of newspaper 1 . . Don't know. 

Whether posted within eight days from date 

of publication ? . . . . Don't know. 

How many papers were there in the packet ? One. 

Was each newspaper under 4 oz. in weight ] Don't know. 

Where posted, when, and at what hour ? . Don't know. 

By whom posted ? . . . . Don't know. 

Amount of postage paid, and in what man- 
ner paid ? . . . . . Don't know. 


The want of information on the part of the 
public in regard to postal matters of the most 
ordinary kind cannot at times but give rise to 
wonder. A person in a fair position of life, re- 
siding in one of the eastern counties of England, 
having obtained a money-order from his postmaster, 
payable at a neighbouring town, called again a few 
days afterwards and complained that his correspon- 
dent could not obtain payment in consequence of 
some irregularity in the advice. Thereupon a second 
advice was sent ; but a few days later the sender 
called again, stating that the payee was still unable 
to obtain payment. The sender added that he was 
quite sure that he had sent the money, as he had 
the receipt in his pocket. On being asked to 
show it, he produced the original order, which 
should, of course, have been forwarded to the payee, 
and without which the money could not be obtained. 

A similar instance of ignorance of the method 
of business as earned on by the Post-office was 
exhibited by a poor Irishman in London, and is 
thus described in the ' Life of Sir Eowland Hill ' : 

" The belief has more than once been manifested 
at a money-order-office window that the mere pay- 
ment of the commission would be sufficient to 
procure an order for 5, the form of paying in 
the 5 being deemed purely optional. An Irish 


gentleman (who had left his hod at the door) 
recently applied in Aldersgate Street for an order 
for 5 on a Tipperary post-office, for which he 
tendered (probably congratulating himself on having 
hit upon so good an investment) sixpence. It re 
quired a lengthened argument to prove to him that 
he would have to pay the 5 into the office before 
his friend could receive that small amount in Tip- 
perary ; and he went away, after all, evidently con- 
vinced that his not having this order was one of 
the personal wrongs of Ireland, and one of the 
particular injustices done to hereditary bondsmen 




THE fountain-head of the Post-office establishment 
of this country, whose personal embodiment is 
the Postmaster-General, possesses very ample means 
for the collection of information of various kinds 
through its willing and trusty agents, to be found 
in every corner of the empire ; and this idea seems 
to be entertained as well by individuals abroad as 
by our neighbours at home, who, when they fail to 
ascertain what they want by other means, frequently 
fall back upon the Postmaster-General for assistance 
and guidance the Post-office being pre-eminently 
a people's institution, whose head even no poor 
man need fear to approach at any rate by letter. 
It is a common expression to say that a thing can- 
not be done for love or money ; but while the 
Postmaster -General is addressed by inquirers on 
every variety of subject, it will be found that love 
and money are at the bottom of many of the com- 


munications addressed to him not strictly upon the 
business of his Department. In the following para- 
graphs will be found specimens of such letters 
some entreating him to render assistance in tracing 
missing relatives, some asking help in the recovery 
of fortunes supposed to have been left to the writers, 
others begging him to obtain situations for them, and 
the like ; but the letters generally explain themselves. 

The Dead-letter Office must occasionally be sup- 
posed to be a repository for the human dead, as 
inquiries for deceased persons are sometimes ad- 
dressed to the " Dead Office." Thus : 

"We heard in the paper about 12 or 14 months 

back Mary Ann the servant girl at London 

was dead. Please send it to the Printer's office by 
return of post whether their was a small fortune 
left for ." 

" i Beg of you to let me if you do no something 

about a young sailor, his name Hugh . he is 

away now since 4 or 5 years, i hope gentlemen 
you will let me no if he is dead or alive as i am 
anxious to no as it is a deal of trouble on my mind 
as he is a Boy that i have reared up without father 
an mother an he a deal of trouble on my mind, he 
has a dark eyes an Brown hair, looking pael. please 
gentlemen to let me no if you can by return." 


" i rite a Line two see if you hard Enny thing 

of my husband that was left at ill. 

pleese will you rite back by return of post as we 
are in great trobble." 

" I have just been hearing of 3 men that was 
drowned about 9 months ago. i hear there was one 

of the men went under the name of John . 

Could the manager of the office give any particulars 
about that man, what he was like, or if there was 
such a name, or if he had any friend. He just went 
amissing about that time. I here enclose a stamp, 
and address to " &c. 

Again, the Post-office is asked to hunt up missing 
relatives : 

" I write to ask you for some information about 
finding out persons who are missing. I want to 
find out my mother and sisters who are in Melbourne 
in Australia i believe if you would find them out 
for me please let me know by return of post and 
also your charge at the lowest." 

" i right to you and request of you sinsearly for 
to help me to find out my husband, i ham quite a 
stranger in London, only two months left Ireland, 
i can find know trace of my husband. Your the 


only gentleman that I know that can help me to 

find him. thears is letters goes to him to in 

his name and thears is letters comes to him to 

the Post-office for him. Sir you may be sure 

that i ham low in spirit in a strange contry without 
a friend. I hope you will be so kind as not to forget 

me. Sir, I would never find for i would go 

as,tray, besides I have no money." 

" I right these fue lines to you to ask you if you 
would be so kind as to teel me if there his such a 
person living in england. She was living at Bir- 
mingham last Etimmas this his mi sister and 
brother-in-law they hant in Birmingham now let 
this letter go to every general post office there is." 

Then come requests for information about pro- 
perty that may be supposed to have been left by 
relatives in this country to persons abroad generally 
in America in which the Postmaster-General is usu- 
ally treated to an insight, more or less deep, into the 
family affairs or history of the writers, the rich relatives 
being as a rule faithfully remembered by the poor, 
while the recollections in the opposite direction 
would seem to exhibit features of a less enduring 
nature. Here are a few specimens : 


" My grandfather Mr John made a will on 


or about 22 Oct. 18 dated at leaving to his 

son, my father, 1000, the interest to be paid to 
him half yearly, the prinsaple to be divided among 
his children at his death. My father died on the 

last leaving myself and one brother who wishes 

you to look up and collect the money for us." 


" I take the plesure in writing a few lines to you 
wishing you to ask some old friend of yours to find my 
father wether he is ded or gone to some other place, 
his trade was when I left a artist and a panter. I 
left London when I was four years old. I came to 
California, my mother and him had some fuss, the 
street where we lived is on oxford street. You will 
find my name on the regester in the blumsbery 
church. My father is german and my mother she 
is french. I wish you would try and find him for 
me i woud be so glad if you find him. I will pay 
you for your truble. 

" I was born in 18 . if you go to that 

church you will find my age if the church is there 
or the book, pleas let me know as soon as you 


" You must excuse me for writing to you for I 
dont know any one in England. I know the names 


of no lawyers, and thought I would write to you. 
We have seen it in our paper several times of money 

being left to the heirs, and heard that a 

Lawyer of London made a flying visit to St Louis to 
find the heirs, but failed. My father was born and 

raised in England. His name was the 

oldest son of three. My parents died shortly after 
we came to America, and I was quite small. I 
know but little about any of them. I remember 
hearing my Father say that he had rich relatives 
who intended to make him their heir. I am very 
poor ; lost everything during the war. If you know 
of some lawyer who will see to it without money as 
I have none to invest. Please answer to ell me 
what you think you can do for me." 

" As I have no correspondent in London at pres- 
ent I adopt this plan of procuring one that I can 
transact business through the matter I wish to call 

your attention to is this To the estate of and 

the heirs. The papers were sent here once but have 

been lost. died in London about 45 years 

ago and left a large estate of which my client's 
interest would be about seventy-five thousand dollars 
at the time of his death Will you please inform 
me what it is necessary for us to do in the matter 
in full." 



" Will you do me the kind favour, as you are the 
Postmaster and able to know, as I judge of. It is 
this, give to me the full name and address of any 

'Mac ' that you know of in England, or in 

Scotland, or Ireland, or Wales, or in India, or at or 
in any other country that you may know of, with 
their full names and correct address, so that I can 
write to them myself. 

" If you have any list, or book, or pamphlet, with 
the names of parties who have died, and left money 
or land to their heirs at law, as I want such in- 
formation," &c. 

A farmer in the country wants a postmaster to 
act as go-between in a little business matter, and 
pens him a few lines to the following effect : 

" John acting as Farmer here would be 

very much obliged to the postmaster if he would be 

so good as to name a suitable party at to 

whom he might sell a 30 stone pig of good quality 
well for he understands it is the best place to sell. 
The pig is now quite ready for killing." 

A sharp fellow in Tennessee, anxious to become 
rich by a short cut, wants an instrument to hunt gold 
and silver, and forthwith applies to the Post-office : 


" I want you to do me a kines, to hand this 
(letter) to some good watch maker and tell him to 
see if I can by a instrument, to tell where gold or 
silver is in the ground or if there is a instrument 
maid to find mettel gold or silver that are in the 
ground. If it will attrack it. A instrument for 
that perpos. I understand there are sutch a thing 
made. If so, be pleas tell me where I can by one 
and what it will cost me. It can be sent to New 

York to where I can get it. I want to get a 

instrument to hunt gold & silver. You will pleas 
write to me as I think if there are sutch a thing 
maid I could get one in your country. I send you 
a stamp." 

A stranger in the country expresses his readiness 
to reward the Postmaster-General with some par- 
tridges if he will get some one to send him a parcel 
of mithridate mustard : 

" Will you do me the favour of dropping me a 
line to say if you know of an herbalist or greengrocer 
that could send me a parcel of Mithridate Mustard. 
It grows at Hatfield by the river side, and in the 
streets of Peckham on the Surrey side. As I am a 
stranger, if you will kindly see if you can get any 
one to send it me I will send a Post-office order or 
stamps for what it will cost before they start it by 


train ; or if you will get it I will send it to you. I 
will send you some partridges for your trouble if 
you will kindly let me know. It dont grow in any 

part of shire that I am aware of. We have 

the common hedge mustard growing here, but that 
wont do what the gentleman wants it for." 

A Massachusetts owner of an old clock begs for 
antiquarian search into the history of an ancient 
timepiece which has come into his possession : 

" I have tuke the liberty to address you, wishing 
to know if I could ask the favour by paying you for 
the trouble I ask to know. 

" I have an old clock in my collection made by 
Henton Brown, London, in the first part of 1700. 
I would like to know where he was in business and 
when he died, if it could be ascertained. Please 
inform me if you could find out by any record in 
London. I would pay you for all trouble. 

" This darling is one of the loveliest places 

in Massachusetts." 

Now a brother, being doubtful of a love business 
in which his sister is concerned, claims the help of 
the Post-office in clearing matters up : 

" Will you, if you please, let me know if there is 
such a gentleman as Mr in . i beleave 


he is a Chirch Clurdgman. There is a young man 

in who has been engaged to my sister, and he 

says Mrs at is his sister, i should very 

much like to know, if you will oblige me by send- 
ing, i thought if Mrs was his sister i would 

rite and ask for his charetar, because he is a stranger 
to us all." 

A Frenchman, with hat in hand, and all ready to 
propose, merely wants to know, as a preliminary, 
whether the lady he has in view is still alive ! 

" A Monsieur le 

" Directeur de la Poste de Londres. 

" J'ai cinquinte trois ans. Veuillez etre assez bon 
de me faire re*ponse pour me donner des re"sultats sur 

1'existence de Madame ? Si parfois elle e"tait 

tou jours veuve je voudrais lui faire la proposition de 
lui demander sa main d'apres que j'en aurais des 
nouvelles. En attendant, Monsieur, votre reponse." 

A couple, having got over the proposal and accept- 
ance stage, write for a special licence to get married 
forthwith : 

"Will you please oblige Susannah and 

Walter with the particulars of an aspecial 

licence to get married is it possible for you to 
forward one to us without either of us coming to 


you if you enclose the charge and have it re- 
turned, would we get one before next Monday week 

to get married at If you will kindly send 

by return to the address enclosed the particulars, we 
should feel greatly obliged." 

And matters being advanced one stage further in 
another case, the following inquiry is sent to the 
Postal headquarters : 

" Will you please inform me if there is to be a 
baby show this year at Woolwich ; if so, where it 
is to be holden, and what day." 

Nor is the purely social element lost sight of in 
the letters reaching St Martin's-le-Grand, uncon- 
nected with Post-office business, as the two speci- 
mens hereafter show : 


" I have always had a great desire to visit your 
country, but as I probly never shall, I thought I 
would write. 

" I am a young lady attending the High School 

at , a pictorest town bordering on the 

river. Our country seat is four miles and a half west 
of . My father is a rich gentleman farmer. 

" We have four horses, 3 or 35 head of cattle, 
15 or 20 pigs, and a large henery. We have about 


250 acres of land, so of course we have to keep a 
house full of servants. 

" "We are quite well off in worldly goods, but 
should be better off if you could inform me about that 
fortune I expect from a great-uncle, great-aunt, or 
somebody. It is about half a million either on my 
father's or mother's side. If you would be so kind 
as to write and inform me, I would be a thousand 
times obliged. If you would assist me in getting it 

I will reward you handsomely. Their name is . 

They used to be very fond of me when I was a 
crowing infant in my mother's arms. It is a very 
pretty country out hear, wide rolling prairies enter 
spersed with fine forests. There is a stream of 
water running through our land, a stream so softly 
and peasfully wild that it looks as if nature had 
onely just made it and laid down her pencil and 

" The schoolroom is just a little ways from , 

the name of our farm. It is the schoolroom where 
I learnt my A B, abs, but I probly never shall go 
there to school again. It is vacation now and I 
have come out on to the farm to stay till school 
commences again. It seems so nice to be where I 
can have new milk to drink and nice fresh eggs 
again. I intend to enjoy myself till school com- 
mences again. Father has sold off most all of our 


horses, but he saved my riding horse, so I intend to 
have rides and drives without number. 

" Well, as I have said as much as you will care 
to read, I will stop. I hope you will excuse all 
mistakes as I am not a very old young lady only 
13 years old." 


" Enclosed you will please find a letter which I 
would like for you to give some young lady or gent 
lady preferred who you think would like a 
correspondent in this country. Will correspond on 
topics of general interest. For further particulars 
glance at enclosed letter as it is not sealed. 

" To the person in whose hands this message may 
fall, I would like a correspondent in your city which 
I think would be of interest to each of us in the 
way of information. 

" My house is in the central part of the United 
States, my age is 18. I am a partner in the manu- 
facturing of . We are also dealers in 

work. I have travelled all over the United States 
and Canada. I can give you any information you 
may desire in reference to this country this must 
necessarily be brief. Would like to discuss the 
habits and nature of our people. To-day is Thanks- 
giving Day set apart by our president as a day of 
thanksgiving for our prosperity, &c. ; it is observed 


annually all over the U.S. It is principally ob- 
served by giving receptions, dinners, &c. It is 
snowing to-day ; it is the first day of winter we 
have had. The thermometer is ten above zero. 
All business is suspended to-day. Please state 
what day you receive this, as I would like to know 
how long a letter is on the road if you do not 
wish to answer this, please give to some of your 
friends who will my address you will find on the 
enclosed card." 

An individual who had apparently, like Eip Van 
Winkle, been asleep for a number of years, suddenly 
starts up, and imagines that he has committed a 
petty fraud upon the Post-office, and so, to ease his 
conscience, pens the following confession : 

" I enclose you 7 sixpenny stamps, and ask you 
to credit 2 shillings to revenue as conscience money, 
as I consider that I owe your Department that 
amount, having enclosed some weeks ago 3 letters 
to India within a cover to a friend. At the time 
of my doing so I thought I was doing no wrong, as 
the three letters enclosed were merely messages 
which I did not like to trouble my friend with ; but 
lately I have thought differently, and to quiet my 
conscience I send you the enclosed stamps, and beg 
of you to be good enough to acknowledge the re- 


ceipt of 2s. in the columns of the ' Daily Telegraph ' 

as conscience money from . I send Is. 6d. 

extra as cost of insertion of the acknowledgment." 

The question even of " who shall be the hang- 
man" is thought to be a fit subject for elucida- 
tion at the Post-office. 

" I hope you will pardon me for asking of you 
the favour of satisfying a curiosity which cannot, 
without distortion, be called a morbid one. The 
question I am about to put is prompted by the 
statement in the London papers that Marwood is 
to be the executioner of Peace. 

" Now, being fully cognizant, from my readings of 
journals more than 50 years back, that York has 
always retained its own executioners (Askern hav- 
ing succeeded Howard), I am sceptical as to the 
correctness of the above statement. But, assuming 
it to be correct, I should like to be informed why 
Peace's particular case should cause a deviation from 
the old bylaws of your county (York), which gives 
name to an archiepiscopal province. Hoping to be 
pardoned for thus troubling you, I am," &c. 

And again, the Postmaster-General is begged to 
step in and prevent people being called hard names. 
" I humbly beg your consideration if there is no 


law to stop persons from calling all manner of bad 
names day after day as it is annoying me very 
much in my calling as a Gardener and Seedsman ; 
as I have applyed to the office at for a sum- 
mons for a little protection and they tell not, so i 
think it rather too hard for me as i have done all 
the good I have had the means to do with to the 
Hospitals and Institutions and all charityable pur- 
poses both in and elsewhere if needed ; but i 

suffer from lameness with a ulcerated leg not being 
able for laborious hard work, although i wish to do 
as i would be done by. Please to answer this at 
your leisure." 

The next specimens are from persons out of 
employment : 

" I am taking the liberty of writeing you those 
few lines, as I am given to understand that you do 
want men in New South Wales, and I am a Smith 
by Trade, a single man. My age is 24 next birth- 
day. I shood be verry thankfull if you wood be so 
kind and send all the particulars by return." 

" Having lost my parents, I am desirous of taking 
a housekeeper's situation where a domestic is kept. 
Must be a dissenting family, Baptist preferred. 'Think- 
ing that such a case might come under your notice, 
I have therefore taken the liberty of sending to you." 



" Mr Postmaster if you would be so kind as to 
seek for us work as we are two colored young men 

of Illinois, and would like to come to England 

and get work as Coachmen or race horse trainers, 
as we have been experance for twelve years prac- 
ticesing training if any further information about 
it we can be reckemend to any one that wish to hire 
us, pleas to advertise it in the papers for us." 

The two letters of inquiry for situations which 
follow, are rather amusing owing to their mode of 
expression, being written by foreigners not having a 
command of the English idiom ; and they will mirror 
to our own countrymen what sort of figures they 
must sometimes cut in the eyes of our neighbours 
across the Channel, when airing their '' dictionary 
Erench " in the metropolis of fashion : 

" SIR, I have the honour of coming to solicit of 
your goodwill of telling me if I could not to pass 
into the English Telegraphic Administration, and, in 
the affirmative, what I would must make for that. 
I have undergone here all the examens demanded by 
the Erench Administration ; I am now surnumerary, 
and in a few months I shall be named clerck. I 
know completely the two Breguet's and Morse ma- 
chines, and I have begun the ' Hughes.' But, as I 


am now in a little office where that last is not em- 
ployed, I cannot improve me actually. I have also 
some knowledge of the English language. I have 

kept the last year the post of during several 


" As for my family, my father died from two years, 

was advocate and sus-prefect during thirty 

years. Myself, at Paris, I have had for scholl-fellow, 

several young gentlemen, among others, Master , 

the son of the great English perfumery, and others 
notable manufacturers of London, where I should 
desire ardently to be clerck, if, by effect of your 
good-will, you give satisfaction to my claim. I am 
old of twenty five years, and I have satisfied to the 
military law. 

" I dare to hope, Master the Director, that, be it as 
it may, you will make to me the honour of answer- 
ing what I must expect of your resolution, and in 
the same time yours conditions. 

" I am, Master, in expecting, with the most pro- 
found respect, your very humble servant." 


" You will excuse me of the liberty which I take 
to write to you, but as I know nobody in your town, 
I have not found an other way for find relations with 
some body honourable. I will ask you if you can 


procure me a place in the English Colonies or planta- 
tions as teacher in an institution or tutor in a good 
family. I am old of 22 years. I have gone a good 

course of study in the college and gymnasium in , 

and I have held during a 1| year in the pensionnat 

an place as teacher of French language and 

Mathematics. I can give you some good Certifi- 
cates ; I speak French, German, and a little English. 
I should wish for be entirely defrayed of the charges 
of lodging, nourishment, &c., to have a good salary 
and the voyage paid. These are my conditions ; 
perhaps will you found something for satisfy them. 
I will give you a commission proportionably to the 
importance of the place. I hope Sir a favorible 
answer, and it is in this expectation that I am," &c. 

The next letter is of another kind, and is not 
a bad effort for a schoolboy : 

"Not having received the live bullfinch men- 
tioned by you as having arrived at the Eeturned- 
letter Office two days ago, having been posted as a 
letter contrary to the regulations of the postal sys- 
tem, I now write to ask you to have the bird fed 

and forwarded at once to ; and to apply for 

all fines and expenses to . If this is not done 

and I do not receive the bird before the end of the 
week, I shall write to the Postmaster-General, who 


is a very intimate friend of my father's, and ask 
him to see that measures are taken against you for 
neglect. This is not an idle threat, so you will 
oblige by following the above instructions." 

In the rules laid down by the Post-office for the 
guidance of its officers and the information of the 
public, an endeavour is made to use plain language ; 
but in any case of doubtful meaning, the Post-office, 
having framed the rules, claims the right of inter- 
preting them. At one time an element in the defini- 
tion of a newspaper, under the newspaper post, was 
that it should consist of a sheet or sheets unstitched. 
A newspaper having been taxed a penny, owing to 
the sheets being tied together with thread, the person 
who sent the newspaper made the following sharp 
remonstrance : 

" SIK, I had hoped that the utterly indefensible 
regulation in reference to which I send a wrapper 
had been silently abolished. The public is quite 
unable to understand why stitching is made the 
differentia of a newspaper and a pamphlet, and I 
can hardly suppose that the occasional penalty of 
Id. can be the motive. If in the printed regula- 
tions you would assign a sufficient motive, no one 
would of course object. Allow me to ask, if a 
piece of string is passed through two holes and the 


ends not tied in a knot, if that is considered stitch- 
ing ? According to Johnson's definition of stitching 
my newspaper was not stitched, but tied, for I used 
no needle." 

Again, a person having suffered the loss of a 
letter, containing something of value perhaps, 
launched a bolt from Scripture at the Depart- 
ment : 

" I got no redress before, but I trust I shall on 
this occasion ; or else there must be something 
rotten in the State of Denmark. Judas Iscariot was 
a thief, and carried the bag, and it will be a pity 
and a great scandal if he has found a successor in 
some branch of the Post-office." 

A fond parent, finding that some white mice sent 
by his little boy were detained in the Post-office, 
owing to the transmission of live animals being con- 
trary to regulations, writes very indignantly to the 
Department, overlooking its impersonal nature, and 
singles out the officer whose performance of duty 
provoked him for such castigation as his pen was 
capable of inflicting. Here is his letter, and it is 
mild compared with some of the comminatory effu- 
sions which occasionally reach the Post-office : 

" SIR, Tuesday last week my little son sent 


three white mice to a friend at , in a wooden 

revolving cage, done up strongly in brown paper, 
with such sufficient biscuit to serve them for the 
day ; but to-day we have heard that your officious 
manager at our district office delayed sending it, and 
wrote instead to ask the address of the sender, and 
called to-day to say he would not forward the cage. 
Now allow me to ask by what law has he dared to 
delay the delivery, and by that means no doubt 
killed the little animals ? They were in a wooden 
cage, carefully packed, and could not in any way have 
been an annoyance ; they were not explosive, they 
were not loose ; and I know of no notice in your 
regulations whereby he dare to delay the delivery 
and starve the little creatures to death. I would 
also ask by what law did he open the package ? 
The full postage was on the parcel, and no doubt 
the stamp (4d.) has been obliterated, which he 
will of course have to refund, as also the cost of 
the white mice ; he cannot, of course, pay the dis- 
appointment. Why did the office at take it 

if wrong ? But it is not, because he has sent 
several such little creatures to others, and they 
have always reached safely. He likewise had the 
impudence to say I was to send to the office for the 
cage, &c. I feel assured you will be equally aston- 
ished with me at his assurance. The package was 


booked from here over eight days ago, and it was 
his duty to have delivered it. Please see to it ; the 
address on the parcel was ." l 

A young man, conceiving that he had a call to the 
ministry, quitted the Post-office service to qualify for 
that vocation. After a time the following letter, 
which fully explains its own purpose, reached head- 
quarters : 

"Enclosed is from a young man in my parish, 
whose sister is a permanent invalid, and his father a 
retired Church officer, so that he must have a dry 

" I suppose his style does not take amongst the 
Independent congregations wanting pastors, so he 
is sent back to business (a great mistake, I told 
him, he ever left it). 

" He says something about being over twenty- 
four years of age ; but I think it hard he should go 
to college for three years, and then be sent adrift 
without a plank. Is it possible to reinstate him at 
the Post-office ? He goes to chapel in my parish, 
and his family are all deserving and needy. Excuse 
this effort to help a respectable though needy fellow." 

1 The mice were duly fed during their detention, and were 
eventually sent for by the applicant. 



EXTRAORDINAKY coincidences have been chron- 
icled in connection with almost every situation 
in life, some fortunate and attended with profit to 
those involved, others unfortunate or disastrous ; and 
the Post-office is no exception to the rule as being a 
field for the observation of such occurrences. The 
peculiar nature of the coincidences to be observed 
in the following examples may be worthy of note, or 
at any rate the cases may repay their perusal with 
some small degree of interest : 

" Among the workmen employed in some altera- 
tions at a nobleman's country seat were two bearing 
exactly the same Christian name and surname, but 
unconnected and unacquainted with each other, one 
being a joiner, the other a mason. The joiner, who 
was a depositor in the Post-office Savings Bank, 
having received no acknowledgment of a deposit of 


3, obtained a duplicate. The mason, who was not 
a depositor, became insane and was removed to a 
lunatic asylum about the same time ; and the orig- 
inal acknowledgment, intended for the joiner, having 
fallen into the hands of the mason's mother, she con- 
cluded that the account was his, and made a claim 
for the money towards defraying the expenses of his 
maintenance, and was with difficulty undeceived." 

A registered packet containing a valuable gold 
seal was sent to a firm of fancy stationers in New- 
castle-on-Tyne, and delivered at its address in due 
course. Complaint was shortly afterwards made, 
however, that the young person who opened the 
packet found the seal was not enclosed, and in- 
quiries were at once set on foot in the Post-office 
to discover how and where it could have been 
abstracted. A week or two after, and while these 
inquiries were still proceeding, the firm in question 
reported that a tradesman in town had presented to 
them the identical seal, with the view of ascertaining 
its value ! This information served as a clue to the 
elucidation of the matter, and the loss of the seal was 
shown to have occurred in the following fashion : 
In the process of opening the packet, the young 
person concerned had carelessly allowed the seal to 
fall, unobserved by her ; it got mixed up with waste- 



paper, which formed part of some waste shortly there- 
after removed to the premises of a marine-store 
dealer, where it underwent a course of sortation. 
An old woman engaged in this work found the seal, 
appropriated it, and without more ado pawned it. 
The person with whom it was pledged was he who 
presented it at the address where it had dropped 
from the letter. The coincidence is not only a 
curious one, but the case illustrates how, but for the 
coincidence, the blame of the loss would have rested 
on the Post-office. 

A traveller in the north of Europe became sadly 
puzzled with letters which followed him about, al- 
though not intended for him, and the difficulties in 
his case are described in a letter written by him, of 
which the following is a transcript : 

" I am sorry you have had so much trouble re- 
specting the registered letter supposed to have been 

lost in transmission from my wife to me in . 

But I assure you the letter was most carefully and 
punctually delivered, not having been even a post 
behind its due time, and I think your case can hardly 
have referred to me at all. There was another Eev. 
J D (the same name) travelling in Nor- 
way at the same time, whose letters kept crossing 
my path everywhere ; and when I read them, I was 


almost in doubt whether I was myself or him, for his 
wife had the same name as mine, and his baby the 
same name as mine, and just the same age ; but who 
he can be I cannot make out, only he is not I. 
Perhaps the registered letter which has given you 
such trouble may have been for him. It may satisfy 
you, however, to know that mine was all right." 

The following incident occurred about twenty 
years ago. A gentleman of the uncommon name of 
Onions was travelling in Scotland, and was expected 
by his friends to call at a certain post-office for let- 
ters on a particular day. The day prior to this, a 
telegram reached this post-office from his home in 
the south of England, requesting that he might be 
told to return at once, owing to the serious illness of 
his brother. The telegram upon its receipt was duly 
placed in the proper box by the clerk in charge of 
the paste restante at the time, and who of course, the 
telegram being open, was aware of its contents. 
Next day, when the same clerk was upon duty, a Mr 
Onions presented himself, asking for letters ; but the 
clerk, on going to the box to get the aforesaid tele- 
gram, was unable to find it, nor could any one in the 
office at the time say anything about it. Mr Onions 
was, however, informed of its import, whereupon he 
said he had no brother, but as his father had been ail- 


ing when lie left, he supposed a mistake of " brother " 
for " father " had been made in transmission, and 
that the message was no doubt intended for him. 
He then left the office. A few days later the post- 
master received a letter from this gentleman, then in 
the south of England, stating that lie had been made 
the victim of a cruel hoax (he having found on 
reaching home that no telegram had been sent to 
him), and he was the more convinced of this because 
his visit to Scotland was in pursuance of his honey- 
moon. The matter being investigated, it transpired 
that on the morning of the day on which Mr Onions 
called for letters, another Mr Onions, for whom the 
message was meant, had called and received the 
telegram from a clerk who shortly thereafter went 
off duty. The confusion had thus arisen through 
two persons of the same uncommon name calling at 
the same post-office on the same day for letters, and, 
as it happened, applying for their letters at hours 
when two different clerks were in attendance. 

In the following case the names are fictitious, 
but in their similarity the}' will adequately illustrate 
the narrative : 

The sudden expansion of telegraph business upon 
the transfer of the telegraphs to the State in 1870, 
necessitated the employment of a large number of 


inexperienced operators, and some awkward blunders 
were the consequence. In the year mentioned, a 
Liverpool man named Parlane went to London ; but 
before parting with his wife, it was arranged that 
on a certain day he would telegraph whether she 
should join him in London or he would return to 
Liverpool. On the appointed day the promised tele- 
gram was sent asking his wife to come to London, the 
message being directed (we shall say) to Mrs Parlane, 
24 Menzies Street, Toxteth Park, Liverpool. By some 
accidental failure of current, or imperfect signalling, 
the word " Menzies " 1 reached Liverpool as " Meins," l 
and there being no Meins Street in Liverpool, the 
messenger was directed to take the message for 
trial to Main Street, for which it was thought it 
might be intended. The messenger found at 24 
Main Street l a Mrs M'Farlane, and to this person 
the message was presented. The names being sim- 
ilar, Mrs M'Farlane opened the telegram, and -her 
husband also being in London, she had no doubt 
whatever that the command which it contained to 
repair to London, though altogether unexpected, was 
intended for herself. That evening she accordingly 
started for the metropolis. 

Meanwhile Mrs Parlane had been suffering intense 
anxiety at not receiving the promised telegram, and 
1 The names are given from memory. 


being unable longer to endure the suspense in which 
she found herself, she likewise started for London 
the same evening. Strange as it may appear, both 
Mrs Parlane and Mrs M'Farlane travelled to London 
not only by the same train, but in the- same com- 
partment ; and it was by a comparison of notes that 
the telegram intended for the one was discovered to 
have got into the hands of the other. The string of 
coincidences in this matter is exceedingly singular 
viz., that two persons of similar names should reside 
at the same number in neighbouring streets ; that 
the husbands of both should be in London at the 
same time ; that the two wives should travel" to 
London in the same train ; and that they should find 
themselves companions in the same compartment. 

Identity in names and addresses in all particulars 
sometimes gives rise to trouble and inconvenience. 
Through the misdelivery of a savings-bank acknow- 
ledgment, it was brought to light that in a suburban 
district of London, where there were two terraces 
bearing exactly the same designation, there were 
residing, at the same number in each, two persons 
having not only the same surname, but the same 
Christian name. 

But even more curious are the following facts in 
the matter of similar names and addresses, though 


in this instance nothing of ill-consequence has yet 
arisen beyond the occasional misdelivery of a let- 
ter. In Edinburgh at the present time (1885), 
there resides at 5 St Andrew's Terrace a Mr James 
Gibson, and, immediately opposite, at 5 St Andrew's 
Place, another Mr James Gibson. It happens, also, 
that a Mr John Gibson is to be found at 5 St 
Andrew Square. Hence we have this very singular 
series of almost identical addresses, the persons con- 
cerned being all different, and, so far as we are aware, 
unacquainted with each other : 

(1) Mr J.Gibson, 

5 St Andrew's Terrace. 

(2) Mr J. Gibson, 

5 St Andrew's Place. 

(3) Mr J. Gibson, 

5 St Andrew Square. 

In consequence of the misdelivery of a post- 
packet, the following case of almost identical ad- 
dresses in two different towns was brought under 
notice : 

Mr Andrew Thorn, 

Boot Maker, 

8 South Bridge Street, 




Mr Andrew Thorn, 

Boot Top Manufacturer, 

86 South Bridge, 


Not very long ago, two letters directed to Mrs 
R at her residence in Edinburgh were duly de- 
livered there ; but as the lady was at the time living at 
the Grand Hotel in London, they were placed under 
a fresh cover by one of her family and forwarded 
thither. Some days thereafter the Postmaster of 
Glasgow received a communication from a Mrs 

E (the same name), residing at the Grand 

Hotel, expressing great astonishment that the two 
letters, which she now returned, had been sent to 
her, since her permanent address was not in Edin- 
burgh, but Glasgow. The matter was afterwards 
explained, on the fact becoming known that two 
ladies of the same name, one hailing from Glasgow, 
the other from Edinburgh, had been living at the 
same time in the same hotel, and that the waiter 
had delivered the letters to the wrong person. 




WITH persons who deposit their hard-earned 
savings in the Post-office Savings Bank, there 
is sometimes observed a disposition, not to be won- 
dered at in their case, to use more than ordinary 
care in keeping their savings secret, which care, 
however, does not always secure the aim which they 
have in view, but results in quite a different fashion. 
A domestic servant who had invested in a Trustee 
Savings Bank about 100, entered the holy bonds 
of matrimony in 1826, when it might have been 
expected she would be ready to admit the man of 
her choice to a knowledge of her monetary worth ; 
but instead of doing so, she concealed this matter 
from him, and he remained ignorant of it through- 
out the remainder of his life. The sum at her 
credit in the Trustee Savings Bank was afterwards 
transferred to the Post-office Savings Bank, and by 
dint of saving she added to that amount nearly 50 
more. At length, in 1862, after thirty-six years of 


married life, she died, leaving her husband with 
three children, but without revealing what she had 
so jealously guarded, in the interest, no doubt, of her 
children. Not many months thereafter the man 
married again. The second wife seems by some means 
to have come to a knowledge of her predecessor's 
savings, and in order to pave the way to future pos- 
session, prevailed upon the old man to make a will 
in her favour, which he consented to do, not knowing 
that he was worth anything, and thus gratified a 
whim, as he might suppose, at small cost. The 
effect of this was, that, when the old man died, the 
second wife obtained the whole amount of the ac- 
count, while the poor children, whose mother had 
kept her secret so many years in their interest, 
derived no benefit whatever from the savings which 
she had hoped to leave them. 

An Irishman who had managed to get some 
savings together in the savings bank was exercised 
as to the safe-keeping of his deposit-book, and he 
adopted the following plan to give himself peace of 
mind on this score. First of all, he placed his book 
inside a box, which he then locked. This box he 
placed inside a second box, which he locked like- 
wise. Continuing the series of operations, he locked 
the second box inside a third box ; and then, to 
crown the business, hung up all the keys in a place 


where they were accessible to many persons. In a 
short time the book disappeared, and by forging the 
signature of the rightful owner, the thief succeeded 
in obtaining payment of the poor Irishman's deposits 
to the amount of about 100. This unfortunate 
depositor is a type of a considerable class of persons, 
who show themselves capable of carrying out plans 
to a certain stage, but fail in some one particular to 
give them the completeness necessary to success. 

Another individual who had some misgivings as 
to the safety of his deposit-book, suggested a plan 
for his identification, furnishing the necessary data, 
which were his age, and a statement that he had a 
scar under his left arm, known to himself alone. He 
desired that no one should be allowed to withdraw 
money from his account unless upon satisfactory in- 
formation being given on these points. 

In another instance a depositor proposed to send his 
likeness, with a view to his identification, lest some 
other person might get possession of his book, and 
so withdraw his savings. He then proceeded in his 
letter to touch upon another matter as follows : 
" There are some little articles I would like to get 
from London, and one of them is some natural leaf- 
tobacco, which I would be glad if you sent me an 
ounce of, and charge me for it it is only to be 
bought in the largest tobacco-stores." Not receiving 


the tobacco, he expressed surprise in a subsequent 
letter that his request had not been complied with, 
observing, by way of reproach perhaps, that " the 
commonest person in America (my country) can 
speak to General Grant, and there is nothing said 
wrong about it." 

A good deal of trouble has to be taken in sifting 
claims for moneys in the Post-office Savings Bank 
especially in cases where the persons concerned are 
of a poor and illiterate class. The following may be 
taken as a case in point : 

" An account had been opened in a manufacturing 
town in Yorkshire in 1868 by a girl who was de- 
scribed as a minor over seven years of age. Only 
one deposit was made ; and nothing further was 
heard of the account until 1872, when a labourer 
wrote from Northumberland claiming the money as 
having been deposited by his wife, who had recently 
died. On a marriage certificate being forwarded, it 
was found that the marriage took place in 1851, 
and that the wife was thirty-five years of age at 
that time. The applicant also stated that he could 
swear to his wife's handwriting, whereas the depos- 
itor could not write. He was informed of these 
discrepancies, but still insisted that the money was 
deposited by his wife, and employed a lawyer to urge 
his claim." 


Sometimes depositors mislay their deposit-books, 
or lose them altogether, and in course of time forget 
that they have anything lying at their credit. This 
is an instance of such a case : A depositor, upon 
being reminded that he had not sent up his book 
for a periodical examination the time for which 
was already past replied that his book was lost, 
but that if there was any balance due to him, he 
would be glad to have the particulars. The amount 
due to him was upwards of 10; but as, when a 
depositor has lost his book, it is usual to test his 
knowledge of the account, this course was followed, 
when, from the answers received, it was made clear 
that he was entirely ignorant of the sum standing 
to his credit and, indeed, that he believed his 
account to be closed. But for the notice sent to 
him in regard to his deposit-book, he would never 
have made any claim. 

As might readily be supposed, strange communi- 
cations are often received on savings-bank business 
some quaint and curious, though written quite 
seriously, while others are evidently written with 
the intention of making fun ; yet another class 
deriving their peculiarities from a too common cause 
want of education. A few of such specimens are 
given as follows : 

A depositor being asked to furnish particulars 


of his account, the reply received from some one 
who had opened the letter on his behalf was to 
this effect : " He is a tall man, deeply marked with 
smallpox, has one eye, wears a billycock, and keeps 
a pea-booth at Lincoln Fair," a description ample 
enough, and one that would rejoice the heart of a 

The envelopes supplied to depositors, in which 
they send their books to headquarters, have within 
the flap a space provided to receive the depositor's 
address, and the request is printed underneath 
" State here whether the above address is perman- 
ent." This request has called forth such rejoinders 
as these " Here we have no continuing city," " This 
is not our rest," " Heaven is our home," " Yes, D. V." 
In one case the reply was " No, D. V., for the place 
is beastly damp and unhealthy ; " while another de- 
positor, being floored by the wording of the inquiry, 
wrote " Doant know what permanent is " ! 

When deposit-books are lost or destroyed, some 
explanation is usually forthcoming as to how the 
circumstance occurred, and some of these statements 
are of a very curious kind. Thus a person employed 
in a travelling circus accounted for the loss of his 
book in these terms : " Last night, when I was sleep- 
ing in the tent, one of our elephants broke loose 
and tore up my coat, in the pocket of which was 


my bank-book, and eat part of it. I enclose the 
fragments." In another case the statement furnished 
was : " I think the children has taken it out of 
doors and lost it, as they are in the habbit of play- 
ing shutal cock with the backs of books." Another 
depositor said that his book was " supposed to have 
been taken from the house by our tame monkey." 
While in a further case the explanation vouchsafed 
was as follows : " I was in a yard feeding my pigs. 
I took off my coat and left it down on a barrell ; 
while engaged doing so, a goat in the yard pulled it 
down. The book falling out, the goat was chewing 
it when I caught her." A sergeant in the army 
lost his book "whilst in the act of measuring a 
recruit for the army," a circumstance which is, 
perhaps, not creditable to the recruit. A needy 
depositor pledged his coat, forgetting, however, to 
withdraw his deposit -book, which was in one of 
the pockets. On applying to redeem his property, 
he found that the coat had been mislaid by the 
pawnbroker, and that his book was thus lost. In 
a somewhat similar way another depositor accounted 
for his loss "through putting the book in an old 
coat-pocket, and selling the coat without taking out 
the book again." It was suggested that he should 
apply to the person who purchased the coat, when 
he replied that he had been " to the rag merchant," 


but could find no trace of his book. On another 
occasion a depositor explained that his book had 
been mutilated by a cat. Another book, which was 
kept in a strong box in a pigsty, had been destroyed 
by the tenant a pig. While in yet another case 
the depositor explained that " his little puppy of a 
dog got hold of it and tore it all to pieces not 
leaving so much as the number." A coast-guards- 
man employed on the Sussex coast, writing shortly 
after the occurrence of some severe storms, explained 
that his book had been washed away with the whole 
of his household effects. In a case of mutilation 
of a book, the following account of the circumstance 
was given by the owner : " In the early part of last 
year I was taken seriously ill away from home ; and 
having my bank-book with me, I wrote in the mar- 
gin in red ink what was to be done with the balance 
in case of a fatal result, and as a precaution against 
its being wrongfully claimed on my recovery, I cut 
this out." 

These are some of the more curious instances of 
the loss of books the loss being ordinarily ascribed 
either to change of residence, to .the book being 
dropped in the street, or to its being burnt with 




FOE many years past it has been incumbent upon 
all candidates seeking employment in the Post- 
office, as in other public departments, to undergo 
medical examination, with the view of securing 
healthy persons for the service ; and in the course 
of such examinations the medical officer requires 
to make inquiry into the state of health of the 
candidates' parents, brothers, sisters, &c., the infor- 
mation being elicited in forms to be filled up by 
the candidates. Though it is not to be expected 
that persons entering as postmen, messengers, and 
so on, should exhibit perfection in their orthography, 
still, in referring to the more common troubles that 
afflict the human frame, some approach to an intel- 
ligible description of diseases might be hoped for. 
Dr Lewis, who held the post of medical officer in 
the General Post-office, London, for many years, 



recorded the following examples of answers received 
to his questions : 

" Father had sunstroke, and I caught it of him." 
" My little brother died of some funny name." " A 
great white cat drawed my sister's breath, and she 
died of it." A parent died of " Apperplexity "; an- 
other died of " Parasles." One " caught Tiber fever in 
the Hackney Eoad " ; another had had " goarnders " ; 
a third " burralger in the head." . Some of the other 
complaints were described as "rummitanic pains," 
" carracatic fever," " indigestion of the lungs," " ton- 
certina in the throat," " pistoles on the back." One 
candidate stated that " his sister was consumpted, 
now she's quite well again" ; while the sister of 
another was stated to have " died of compulsion." 

It is to be hoped that the work of the school 
boards will be seen in the absence of such answers 
from the medical officers' schedules of the future. 





SUPERSTITION rarely stands in the way of the 
*J extension of postal accommodation or con- 
venience ; but a case of the kind occurred some 
time ago in the west of Ireland. Application was 
made for the erection of a wall letter-box, and 
authority had been granted for setting it up; but 
when arrangements came to be made for providing 
for the collection of letters, no one could be found 
to undertake the duty, in consequence of a general 
belief among the poorer people in the neighbour- 
hood that, at that particular spot, " a ghost went out 
nightly on parade." The ghost was stated to be a 
large white turkey without a head. 

Curious Names. 

Everything that departs from the usual mode or 
fashion of things is regarded as curious, and the 


term may be applied also to the incidence of names 
and professions, either in regard to their relative 
fitness of relationship, or to an opposite quality. 
As the sight of two or three individuals with 
wooden legs walking in company would be sure 
to claim our attention, if it did not excite our mirth, 
so the coming together of persons having similar 
names under the same roof by mere chance, would 
not fail to attract notice, and be thought a peculiar 
circumstance. Of the first class the following cases 
may be noted, namely, that at Torquay, Devon- 
shire, there used to be a butcher called Bovine ; in 
the east of London there is a James Bull, a cow- 
keeper ; and at Birnam, Perthshire, a gardener and 
strawberry - grower called John Eake. There is 
further, we are informed, at Cork a person carrying 
on the pawnbroking business whose name is Uncle, 
than which there could be nothing more appropriate. 
Of the second class the following is an instance, 
persons of the names given having been employed 
together in a single office of the General Post-office 
some years ago : 

A Lacroix. 

A Parsons. 

A Partridge. 

A Laforet. 

An Archer. 

A Peacock, 

A Deforge. 

A Fisher. 


A Defraine. 

A Hunter. 

One Berdmore. 

A Clark. 


Letter-box, St Martin s-le-Grand. 

So much has it become the custom in these later 
times for the Post-office to afford facilities to the 
public in whatever will tend to increase the business 
of the Department, that in all large towns pillar- 
boxes or branch offices are dotted about everywhere 
at short distances, thus altering the conditions which 
formerly obtained, when the chief office was the 
great central point where correspondence had to be 
deposited for despatch. London is no exception to 
this general plan of accommodation, and there may be 
some lingering regrets that the stirring scenes which 
used to attend the closing of the letter-box at St 
Martin's -le- Grand (when the great hall led right 
through the building) no longer exist, at least as 
things worthy of note. Lewins, who wrote the 
History of the Post-office (Her Majesty's Mails), 
thus describes what nightly took place at the clos- 
ing of the box at six o'clock : 

" The newspaper window, ever yawning for more, 
is presently surrounded and besieged by an array of 
boys of all ages and costumes, together with children 
of a larger growth, who are all alike pushing, heav- 
ing, and surging in one great mass. The window, 
with tremendous gape, is assaulted with showers of 


papers, which fly thicker and faster than the driven 
snow. Now it is, that small boys of eleven and 
twelve years of age, panting Sinbad-like under the 
weight of huge bundles of newspapers, manage 
somehow to dart about and make rapid sorties into 
other ranks of boys, utterly disregarding the cries 
of the official policemen, who vainly endeavour to re- 
duce the tumult into something like post-office order. 
If the lads cannot quietly and easily disembogue, 
they will whizz their missiles of intelligence over 
other people's heads, now and then sweeping off 
hats and caps with the force of shot. The gather- 
ing every moment increases in number, and inten- 
sifies in purpose ; arms, legs, sacks, baskets, heads, 
bundles, and woollen comforters for who ever saw 
a veritable newspaper boy without that appendage ? 
seem to be getting into a state of confusion and 
disagreeable communism, and yet ' the cry is still, 
they come.' Heaps of papers of widely opposed 
political views are thrown in together no longer 
placed carefully in the openings ; they are now sent 
in in sackfuls and basketfuls, while over the heads 
of the surging crowd were flying back the empty 
sacks, thrown out of the office by the porters inside. 
Semi-official legends, with a very strong smack of 
probability about them, tell of sundry boys being 
thrown in, seized, emptied, and thrown out again 


void. As six o'clock approaches still nearer and 
nearer, the turmoil increases more perceptibly, for 
the intelligent British public is fully alive to the 
awful truth that the Post-office officials never allow 
a minute of grace, and that ' Newspaper Fair ' must 
be over when the last stroke of six is heard. One 
in rush files of laggard boys, who have purposely 
loitered in the hope of a little pleasurable excite- 
ment ; two and grown men hurry in with the last 
sacks ; three the struggle resembles nothing so 
much as a pantomimic mUe ; four a babel of 
tongues vociferating desperately ; five final and 
furious showers of papers, sacks, and bags ; and 
six when all the windows fall like so many 
swords of Damocles, and the slits close with such 
a sudden and simultaneous snap, that we naturally 
suppose it to be a part of the Post-office operations 
that attempts should be made to guillotine a score 
of hands; and then all is over, so far as the out- 
siders are concerned." 

Though the tradition referred to of boys being 
thrown into the letter-box may not have a very 
sure foundation in fact, it is the case at any rate 
that a live dog was posted at Lombard Street, and 
falling into the bag attached to the letter-box, it 
was not discovered till the contents of the bag were 
emptied out on a table in the General Post-office. 


Curious Explanation. 

In the considerable army of servants who carry 
on the work of the Post-office, embracing all grades 
from the Postmaster-General to the rural postman, 
are to be found individuals of every temperament, 
character of mind, and disposition the candid, the 
simple, the astute, the wary ; and the peculiarities 
of the individuals assert themselves in their official 
dealings as surely as they would do in the ordinary 
connections of life. 

The following " explanations " furnished by post- 
masters who had failed to send up their accounts 
at the proper time, will illustrate the procedure 
of the candid or simple when in trouble, who 
seem quite unnecessarily to give every detail of 
their shortcomings, instead of doing, as most men 
would do in the circumstances make a general 
excuse : 

"My daily accounts would have reached you in 
time ; but on Saturday morning, whilst purchasing 
American cheeses and sampling them, I tasted some 
of them, which brought on a bilious complaint, so 
that I was obliged to suspend work on Monday. 
Being now somewhat better, I trust all will go on 


" I regret the daily accounts should have been 
delayed so long ; but having some friends to see 
me, the accounts were forgotten." 

" The Postmistress of , Cambridge, is very 

sorry that she has not sent her accounts before this ; 
she will be sure to do so to-inorrow. The delay is 
on account of her having three little motherless 
grandchildren staying with her for a few days." 

The following will bear company with the three 
foregoing specimens. It is a pathetic appeal from 
a letter - receiver, who, mistaking the purpose for 
which a certain credit of official money was allowed 
him, spent it, and was unexpectedly called upon to 
account for the balance due by him to the head 
office : 

"Mr , Superintendent of the Money-order 

Department, called upon me yesterday, and dispelled 
a very mistaken notion of mine viz., that as I had 
given a guarantee of 200, I was perfectly 'justi- 
fiable ' in making use of a portion of the money re- 
ceived for my own business. I am now very sorry 
indeed that the idea had gained such an ascendancy 
over me as it had done. The letter I received from 
you a few days ago aroused me from that delusive 
lethargy into which I was sinking; and if you would 


have the kindness to compare the amount now with 
what it was then, you will perceive that an effort 
has been made to retrieve my folly. 

" My object in writing this to you is an earnest 
appeal not to degrade me in the position I have 
struggled so hard to maintain through such distress 
as we have had, by suspending the business of the 
office. I beg and earnestly entreat of you to give 
me time to recover myself; and I assure you that 
under such a stimulation a vigorous effort will be 
made to place myself in that honourable position 
which it has been my desire to hold. Therefore, 
hoping that you will take a favourable view of the 
case, I subscribe myself, your contrite and obedient 

Prisoners of War. 

The following incident, though not directly bearing 
upon Post-office matters, has a relation to letters. 
It forms the subject of a pathetic story, and brings 
into contrast the possible isolation of poor fellows 
who may be taken in war, with the rapid and con- 
stant intercourse kept up between the peoples of 
enlightened countries during times of peace by the 
intermediary of the Post-office. The facts are here 
quoted from a notice of the circumstance published 
in a local newspaper : 


"The extensive works for the manufacture of 
paper belonging to Alex. Cowan & Sons at Valley- 
field, near Edinburgh, were in 1811, owing to the 
dulness of trade, sold to Government, and converted 
into a prison for the French soldiers and sailors, of 
whom over 6000 were kept from 1811 to 1814, 
when peace was happily established between Britain 
and France. During these three years 309 died, 
whose remains rest in a quiet spot near the mills. 
Of these, a list of the names, ages, and place of 
capture is preserved by Messrs Cowan. The mills 
were reacquired from Government about 1818, and 
are carried on as among the largest paper-mills of 
Britain by the same firm. In some repairs lately 
carried out at these works (1881) an old floor was 
lifted, and underneath was found a letter written by 
a prisoner, but which he was never able to despatch. 
A copy of this letter is annexed, as possibly some of 
the writer's relatives may see it and be interested by 
a perusal." 

The French is not very good ; but here it is : 


16 Mars, annee 1812. 

plusieur lettre que je vous ecrives, e*tant en Angle- 
terre, sans en avoir pu en recevoir aucune re'ponse. 


Je ne sais a quoi attribuer cette interuption, et depuis 
on va arrivez en Ecosse, je me suis toujours em- 
pressez pour vous donner de mes nouvelles, et qui a 
(Ste* bien impossible, a moins jusqu'a presens, d'en 
recevoir. Je de'sirai ardement d'en recevoir des 
votres, ainsi mon cherre pere et ina cherre mere, je 
vous prie trees umblement de prendre des procotions 
pour me clonne de vos nouvelle, est des chaugement 
du pays, est dans ce qui est dgale a mon e"gard, de la 
famille, seullement pour a 1'egard de ma sante, elle 
a toujours ette bonne depuis mon de part. Je de'sire 
que la pre"sente vous soieut pareille, ainsi que mes 
frerre et seurre, paran, et ami, rien autre chose que 

je puis vous marqu^ pour le . Je soussignez 

Jean Frangois Noel de Sariget, la Commune de Saint 
Leonard, Canton de Fraize, arrondissement de Saint 
Dies, Departemeant Voges. Monsieur Perigord La- 
feste, Banquier a Paris, dans la Eue de Mont No. 9. 
Je soussignez Jean Nicolas Demange de Saint Leo- 
nard, Canton de Tranche." 

A handsome monument was erected in 1830 over 
the last resting-place of the poor prisoners who died 
during their period of captivity, and it bears the 
following inscription : 

" Pres de ce lieu rdposent les cendres de 309 prisonniers de 
guerre morts dans ce voisinage entre le 21 Mars 1811 et le 26 
Juillet 1814. 


" Nes pour benir les vceux de vieillissantes meres, 

Par le sort appele"s 

A devenir amants aimes, epoux, et peres, 
Us sont morts exiles ! 

" Plusieurs habitans de cette Paroisse aimant a croire que tous 
les homines sont freres, firent elever ce monument 1'an 1830." 

Explosion in a Pillar-tox. 

A singular accident, though one not altogether 
unique in its character, befell one of the pillar letter- 
boxes in Montrose some years ago. A street had 
been opened up for the purpose of effecting repairs 
on the gas-pipes, and while the examination and 
repairs were in progress, some gas, escaping from the 
pipes, found its way into the letter-box. The night 
watchman, intending to light his pipe, struck a match 
on the box close to the aperture, when a violent 
explosion immediately followed, blowing out the 
door, and otherwise doing damage ; but, luckily, 
neither the watchman nor the letters sustained any 

The Mulready Envelope. 

The failure of the Mulready envelope to establish 
itself in public favour is surely a monument to the 
caprice of the national taste, if it be not an evidence 
of how readily the tide of thoughtless opposition may 



set in to reject that which is new or unusual, with- 
out serious grounds for dislike. A facsimile of the 
design is here given, the envelopes for sale being 
printed in two colours black and blue. 

It was introduced to the notice of the public at 
the time of the establishment of the penny post- 
age, being intended to supply a desideratum in this 
respect, that the cover should serve the combined 
purposes of an envelope and a postage-stamp, the 
envelopes being good for a postage of one penny or 
twopence, according as they were printed in black or 

Mulready, a member of the Eoyal Academy, was 
the artist, and the design had the approval of the 
Royal Academicians, so that it did not go forth with- 


out substantial recommendations. If the subjects 
be examined, it will be found that they are accurately 
drawn, ingeniously worked together, and apposite in 
their references to the beneficent work of the Post- 
office Department. Britannia sending forth her 
messengers to every quarter of the globe, ships upon 
the sea with sails unfurled ready to obey her instant 
behests, the reindeer as the emblem of speed in the 
regions of snow, intercourse with the nations of the 
East and of the West, and the blessings of cheap 
postage in its social aspects, are all suitably depicted. 
Yet the whole thing fell flat ; the envelope drew down 
upon itself scorn and ridicule, and it had to be 
quickly withdrawn. In the end, it was necessary to 
provide special machinery to destroy the immense 
quantities of the envelope which had been prepared 
for issue. 

It is amusing, however, to read the contemptuous 
and very funny criticisms which were showered upon 
the artist and Mr Eowland Hill by the newspapers 
of the day, in one of which the following remarks 
appear : 

" The envelopes and half-sheets have an engraved 
surface, extremely fantastic, and not less grotesque. 
In the centre, at the top, sits Britannia, throwing 
out her arms, as if in a tempest of fury, at four 
winged urchins, intended to represent postboys, 


letter - carriers, or Mercuries, but who, instead of 
making use of their wings and flying, appear in the 
act of striking out or swimming, which would have 
been natural enough if they had been furnished with 
fins instead of wings. On the right of Britannia 
there are a brace of elephants, all backed and ready 
to start, when some Hindoo, Chinese, Arabic, or 
Turkish merchants, standing quietly by, have closed 
their bargains and correspondence. The elephants 
are symbolic of the lightness and rapidity with 
which Mr Eowland Hill's penny postage is to be 
carried on, and perhaps, also, of the power requisite 
for transporting the 1500 a-year to his quarters, 
which is all he obtains for strutting about the Post- 
office with his hands in his pockets, and nothing to 
do, like a fish out of water. On the left of Britannia, 
who looks herself very much like a termagant, there 
is an agglomeration of native Indians, missionaries, 
Yankees, and casks of tobacco, with a sprinkling of 
foliage, and the rotten stem of a tree, not forgetting 
a little terrier dog inquisitively gliding between the 
legs of the mysterious conclave to see the row. 
Below, on the left, a couple of heads of the damsel 
tribe are curiously peering over a valentine just 
received (scene, Valentine's Day), whilst a little girl 
is pressing the elders for a sight of Cupid, and the 
heart transfixed with a score of arrows. On the 


right, again, stands a dutiful boy, reading to his 
anxious mamma an account of her husband's hap- 
less shipwreck, who, with hands clasped, is blessing 
Eowland Hill for the cheap rate at which she gets 
the disastrous intelligence. With very great pro- 
priety the name of the artist is conspicuously placed 
in one corner, so that the public and posterity may 
know who is the worthy Oliver of the genius of a 
Eowland on this important occasion. As may well 
be imagined, it is no common man, for the mighty 
effort has taxed the powers of the Eoyal Academy 
itself, if the engraved announcement of W. Mulready, 
E.A., in the corner, may be credited. Considering 
the infinite drollery of the whole, the curious assort- 
ment of figures and faces ; the harmonious mdange of 
elephants, mandarins' tails, Yankee beavers, naked 
Indians squatted with their hindquarters in front, 
Cherokee chiefs with feathered tufts shaking mis- 
sionaries by the hand ; casks of Virginia threatening 
the heads of young ladies devouring their love- 
letters ; and the old woman in the corner, with hands 
uplifted, blessing Lord Lichfield and Sir Eowland for 
the saving grace of lid. out of the shilling, and 
valuing her absent husband's calamity or death as 
nothing in comparison with such an economy, al- 
together, it may be said that this is a wondrous 
combination of pictorial genius, after which Phiz 
2 A 


and Cruikshank must hide their diminished heads, 
for they can hardly be deemed worthy now of the 
inferior grade of associates and aspirants for Aca- 
demic honours." 

All this is excessively funny, and enables us to 
smile ; but if the grounds of condemnation were of 
no more solid kind, we might venture the suggestion 
that the envelopes had hardly a fair trial at the bar 
of serious public judgment. 

Lines on the Penny Postage. 

The following lines were popular about the year 
1840, when Sir Eowland Hill introduced the uni- 
form penny rate of postage. The scheme was not 
looked upon hopefully in all quarters, and some 
persons predicted an early failure for it, while 
others only saw in the new departure grounds for 
ridicule or jest. These lines, which are certainly 
amusing, are said to be the production of Mr James 
Beaton : 

Something I want to write upon, to scare away each vapour 
The " Penny Postage " shall I try ? Why, yes, I'll write on paper.- 
Thy great invention, Rowland Hill, each person loudly hails ; 
The females they are full of it, and so are all the mails. 
This may be called the " Penny Age," and those who are not 

Are daily growing " penny wise," though not, I hope, pound 



We've penny blacking, penny plays, penny mags, for informa- 

And now a " Penny Post," which proves we've lots of pene- 

Their love- sick thoughts by this new act may Lucy, Jane, or 

Array in airy-diction from Johnson's dictionary. 

Each maid will for the postman watch the keyhole like a cat, 

And spring towards the door whene'er there comes a big rat-tat. 

And lots of paper will be used by every scribbling elf, 

That each should be a paper manufacturer himself. 

To serve all with ink enough they must have different plans ; 

They must start an "Ink walk "just like milk, and serve it 
round in cans. 

The letters in St Valentine so vastly will amount, 

Postmen may judge them by the lot, they won't have time to 
count ; 

They must bring round spades and measures, to poor love-sick 

Deliver them by bushels, the same as they do coals. 

As billet-doux will so augment, the mails will be too small, 

So omnibuses they must use, or they can't carry all ; 

And ladies pleasure will evince, instead of any fuss, 

To have their lovers' letters all delivered with a 'bus ! 

Mail-coachmen are improving much in knowledge of the head, 

For like the letter which they take, they're themselves all over 

Postmen are " men of letters " too ; each one's a learned talker, 

And 'cause he reads the diction'ry, the people call him 
" Walker." 

Handwriting now of every sort the connoisseur may meet ; 

Though a running hand, I think, does most give postmen run- 
ning feet. 


They who can't write will make their mark when they a line 

are dropping, 
And where orthography is lame, of course it will "come 


Invention is progressing so, and soon it will be seen, 
That conveyance will be quicker done than it has ever been ; 
A plan's in agitation as nought can genius fetter 
To let us have the answer back, before they get the letter. 

At the Stamp-counter. 

A man who can stand at the stamp-counter and 
serve the public without fear and without reproach, 
must needs be possessed of a highly sweetened 
temper. What with the impatient demands of 
some, the unreasonable demurs of others, the tire- 
some iteration of questions propounded by the eccen- 
tric, and the attention required to be given to the 
Mrs Browns of society, not to mention the irritating 
remarks at times of the inconsiderate, the position 
behind the counter is one which calls for self-control 
and a large share of good-nature. 

The sort of thing that has to be endured at the 
hands of 

" Perfect woman, nobly planned, 
To warn, to comfort, and command," 

when she chooses to lay siege to the stamp-window, 
is thus described by an American writer, and the 
description is not to any great extent an exaggera- 


tion (if it be so at all) of experiences which are had 
in our own country in this particular direction : 

"Just about eleven o'clock yesterday forenoon 
there were thirteen men and one woman at the 
stamp-window of the Post-office. Most of the men 
had letters to post on the eastern trains. The woman 
had something tied up in a blue match-box. She 
got there first, and she held her position with her 
head in the window and both elbows on the shelf. 

" ' Is there such a place in this country as Cleve- 
land ? ' she began. 

" ' Oh yes.' 

" ' Do you send mail there ? ' 

" ' Yes/ 

" ' Well, a woman living next door asked me to 
mail this box for her. I guess it's directed all right. 
She said it ought to go for a cent.' 

" ' Takes two cents,' said the clerk, after weighing 
it. ' If there is writing inside, it will be twelve 

" ' Mercy on me, but how you do charge ! ' 

" Here the thirteen men began to push up and 
bustle around, and talk about the old match-box 
delaying two dozen business letters ; but the woman 
had lots of time. 

" ' Then it will be two cents, eh ? ' 


" ' If there is no writing inside/ observed the 

" ' Well, there may be ; I know she is a great 
hand to write. She's sending some flower-seed to 
her sister, and I suppose she has told her how to 
plant 'em ' 

" ' Two threes,' called out one of the crowd, as he 
tried to get at the window. 

" ' Hurry up ! ' cried another. 

" ' There ought to be a separate window here for 
women,' growled a third. 

" ' Then it will take twelve cents ? ' she calmly 
queried, as she fumbled around for her purse. 

" ' Yes.' 

" ' Well, I'd better pay it, I guess.' 

" From one pocket she took two coppers, from her 
reticule she took a three-cent piece, from her purse 
she fished out a nickel ; and it was only after a hunt 
of eighty seconds that she got the twelve cents to- 
gether. She then consumed four minutes in lick- 
ing on the stamps, asking where to post the box, 
and wondering if there was really any writing 

" But woman proposes and man disposes. Twenty 
thousand dollars worth of business was being de- 
tained by a twelve-cent woman, and a tidal wave 


suddenly took her away from the window. In sixty 
seconds the thirteen men had been waited on and 
gone their ways, and the woman returned to the 
window, handed in the box, and said, ' Them stamps 
are licked on crooked ; it won't make any difference, 
will it?'" 




rPHE description furnished by Scott in the ' Anti- 
-*- quary ' of the internal management of a country 
Post-office, as existing towards the close of last cen- 
tury, is extremely amusing and piquant; but the 
probability is that, while so much of what is said 
might be true to circumstances, the picture was 
heightened in colour for the purpose of literary 
effect. No doubt a certain amount of gossip emerged 
from such country offices, derived from the outsides 
and occasionally from the insides of letters ; yet it is 
hardly likely that a group of curious women should 
have gathered together in the postmaster's room to 
make a general overhaul of the contents of the mail- 
bag, as is described in the case of the Post-office at 
Fairport. In small country towns in the present 
day, it is no uncommon thing to attribute the spread 
of " secrets " about the place to a breach of confidence 


at the Post-office, while the real fact is that things 
told by the persons concerned in strictest secrecy 
to their most intimate friends are by these communi- 
cated again to other kind friends, and so the ripple 
of information rolls on till there is no longer any 
secret at all, and the poor official at the Post-office 
is assumed to be the only possible offender. The 
smaller the place the greater is the thirst for neigh- 
bourly gossip, the more quickly does it spread when 
out, and the more ready are those whose secrets 
ooze forth to point the finger of suspicion at the 

Every one knows what a small country Post-office 
is nowadays. When we seek change of air and 
relaxation in the holiday season, choice is made 
maybe of some little country village or seaside re- 
sort whereat to spend the few weeks at our disposal. 
If the place be a place at all, there we shall find a 
Post-office ; but possibly there is no house-to-house 
delivery, and letters must be called for at the Post- 
office itself. As the post-hour approaches, groups of 
visitors take up positions near the office door, or squat 
themselves down on any patch of sward that may be 
conveniently near. Young ladies waited upon by 
their admirers, mothers with their children, a bachelor 
group or two from the inn, and here and there a native 
of the place, some expecting letters, others indulging 


a feeble hope in that direction, attend as assistants at 
what is one of the excitements of the day. Presently 
the post-runner, with his wallet slung upon his back 
and a rustic walking-stick in his hand, appears in the 
distance, jogging along with that steady swinging 
stride which is so characteristic of his class. The 
visitors begin to close up around the Post-office ; in 
a few minutes the runner steps into it ; he throws 
down his wallet of treasures on the counter, removes 
his faded and dusty hat, and with his coloured cotton 
handkerchief wipes the sweat from his soiled and 
heated face. Meanwhile the attention of the post- 
mistress is given to the contents of the bag ; and as 
the expectant receivers of letters crowd in at or 
around the door, a few who have been unable to ap- 
proach sufficiently near derive what consolation they 
can from eyeing the operations through the shop 
window, or ,by vainly endeavouring to catch an 
early glimpse of some well-known superscription as 
the letters pass one by one through the hands of 
the postmistress. 

The division of the letters, which can hardly be 
called a system of sorting, is a proceeding worthy of 
study. Some letters are placed up on end against 
sweetie-bottles in the window, others are laid down 
on shelves, others again are spread out on drawers 
or tables, quite in an arbitrary fashion. The post- 


mistress has no difficulty in reading the addresses, 
as a rule, but the name of a new-comer seems to 
demand a little study : the letter is looked at back 
and front, and then laid down hesitatingly in a place 
by itself, as if it were an uncanny thing. The ad- 
dress of a letter for any young lady supposed to be 
engaged in correspondence of a tender kind seems 
also to require scrutiny ; and should she happen to 
be well in at the door, it is immediately handed 
to her, those who are in the secret and those who 
are not forming different ideas as to the reason for 
this special mark of favour. While this is being 
done, an undefined sensation is produced in the small 
crowd, and the recipient retires in confusion to peruse 
the letter in peace and quiet elsewhere. At length 
the whole treasures are ready, and the distribution to 
the eager callers is a matter of a very few minutes, 
to be renewed again at the same hour next day. 

Something like this is the routine observed when 
the delivery is being effected at small rural Post-offices 
in our own days the keeper of the post being a 
shopkeeper, generally a grocer. 

In the earlier history of the post, and up till the 
time of mail-coaches, the Post-office was very gen- 
erally to be found established at the inn of the 
place. There was an evident convenience in this, 
owing to the innkeeper being the postmaster in 


the other and original sense of the provider of 
horses to ride post, when it was common to send 
on expresses, by means of these agents, from stage 
to stage. But the innkeepers, being often farmers 
besides, had business more important than that of 
the post to look after, and consequently the work 
was delegated to others. The duty of receiving and 
despatching the mails was frequently left to waiters 
or chambermaids, with the undesirable but inevitable 
result that the work was badly done. Often there 
was no separate place set apart for Post-office busi- 
ness ; letters were sorted in the bar or in one of the 
public rooms, where any one could see them, thereby 
excluding all possibility of secrecy in dealing with 
the correspondence. Eeferring to the middle of last 
century, a surveyor expressed himself to the effect 
that " the head ostler was often the postmaster's 
prime minister in matters relating to the mails." 

The interest taken by Boniface in the Post-office 
does not seem to have been very great ; for an 
English surveyor, writing in 1792, thus expresses 
himself : " Persons who keep horses for other uses, 
and particularly innkeepers, may assuredly more 
conveniently and at less expense work the mails 
than those who keep horses for that business only. 
But, on the other hand, it may be observed that 
innkeepers, so far from paying Government service 


the compliment of employing in it their best horses, 
too often send their worst with the mails ; and as 
to their riders, they are, in general, the dregs of 
the stable-yard, and by no means to be compared 
to those employed by postmasters in private sta- 

Lack of interest in the mails did not, however, 
stand in the way of their turning the post to 
account in favour of their visitors ; for in another 
official report the following observation is made on 
the subject of franking : " The Post-office is not of 
the consequence or recommendation to an inn which 
it used to be before the restriction in franking took 
place ; and a traveller, now finding that my host at 
the public office is deprived of that privilege, moves 
over to the Eed Lyon." 

When mail-coaches came to be put upon the road, 
the necessity for having postmasters other than 
innkeepers forced itself upon the authorities, so that 
there should be an independent check upon the 
contractors, and a better regulation of the arrival 
and departure of the mails, with less chance of 
excuse for delays ; and thus a change was brought 
about in the status of country postmasters. 

But postmasters in the old days do not seem to 
have been uniformly happy in their posts. The 
following from a surveyor's report of December 


1792, relating to the postmaster of Wetherby, in 
Yorkshire, shows this, and no doubt describes the 
case accurately. The "Wetherby office had been 
made more important by some rearrangement 
of posts, with the result which the surveyor 
thus pathetically brings under notice : " The Post- 
master-General's humanity, I humbly apprehend, 
would be very much affected if they knew exactly 
the situation of this poor deputy. He has now 
experienced the difference between his former 
snug duty and the very great fatigue of a large 
centre office, and labour throughout almost the whole 
of every night since the 10th October 1791. Also 
the very heavy expenses incurred thereby for assist- 
ance, coal, candles, paper, wax, &c., without any 
addition to his salary. To add to his distresses 
for he is not rich " (who ever heard of a rich post- 
master ?) " he has been so closely pressed from the 
Bye-letter Office for his balance due there as to have 
been compelled to borrow money to discharge them, 
at the very time that he could not obtain any ac- 
count from the General Office, nor warrants for 
payment of as large sums due to him." 

It is not difficult to picture this poor postmaster of 
Wetherby, tied to duty all night long arranging his 
mails by the light of a guttering candle, and smarting 
under financial difficulties ; the Head Office squeezing 


him for revenue with one hand, and holding back 
what was due to him for his services with the other. 

Sometimes country Post-offices would be the 
scene of small gatherings late at night, waiting 
the arrival of the mail, as was the case at Dumfries 
in 1799, when some few of the inhabitants would 
wait up till ten, eleven, or twelve o'clock to receive 
the English newspapers, so eager were they to per- 
use them. Then again, when a mail was passing 
through a town between stages in the middle of 
the night, the postmaster, awoke by the post-boy's 
horn, would present himself at an upper window 
and take in his bag by means of a hook and line, 
his body shivering the while in the cold night blast. 

These postmasters required looking after occa- 
sionally, however, for they sometimes did wrong. 
In 1668 the postmaster of Edinburgh got into 
trouble by levying charges of Id., 2d., or 3d. upon 
letters over and above the proper rates, and he was 
peremptorily ordered to discontinue the practice. 

They also, it would appear, exercised some sort of 
surveillance over private correspondence. Chambers, 
in his 'Domestic Annals of Scotland,' to which 
valuable work we are again indebted, gives a case 
in point: "In July 1701, two letters from Brussels, 
having the cross upon the back of them, had come with 
proper addresses under cover to the Edinburgh post- 


master. He was surprised with them, and brought 
them to the Lord Advocate, who, however, on open- 
ing them, found they were of no value, being only 
on private business ; wherefore he ordered them to 
be delivered by the postmaster to the persons to 
whom they were directed." Yet zeal for the King's 
interest did not always have an acceptable reward, 
as is shown by the Scotch Privy Council record of 
1679. The keeper of fhe Edinburgh letter-office 
was accused of "sending up a bye-letter with the 
flying packet upon the twenty-two day of June last, 
giving ane account to the postmaster of England of 
the defeat of the rebels in the west, which was by 
the said postmaster communicated to the King before 
it could have been done by his Majesty's Secretary 
for Scotland, and which letter contains several un- 
truths in matter of fact." For having forestalled 
his Majesty's Secretary, probably, rather than for the 
inaccuracy as to facts, the keeper of the post was 
sent to the Tolbooth, there to meditate upon the 
unprofitableness of official zeal, during the Council's 

It does not seem to have been thought prudent 
to intrust the date-stamping of letters to postmasters 
generally until some time in the present century. 
Down to the close of last century, at any rate, 
according to a Survey report of the year 1800, this 


was allowed only at the more important offices. 
The report is as follows : " In regard to having the 
Dumbarton letters stamped with the day of the 
month, as now done at Glasgow, the subject has 
often been considered, and although it has been 
approved of with some large commercial towns in 
England, and Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, 
it has been much doubted how far it would be 
proper or necessary to establish it generally with 
less towns, where the practice might be more 
subject to irregularity or abuses, besides the very 
great expense such a supply of stamps would occa- 
sion to the revenue." 

The smallness of the salaries allowed to the post- 
masters of former times is referred to in another 
chapter, and this may, no doubt, have contributed 
to the lack of interest taken in the work by some 
of these officials. 

Traditions of hard work and long hours linger still 
in the Post-office, though nowadays the periods of 
duty are generally reduced to moderate limits. Some 
idea of the service required to be rendered formerly 
by Post-office servants may be gathered from the 
following order, dating about 1780 or 1790. It 
refers to the Secretary to the Post-office in Dublin, 
but we ought perhaps to put a very free interpreta- 
tion upon it : " The duty of the Secretary is to 

2 B 


carry on the general correspondence, and, under the 
direction of the Postmaster-General, to superintend 
the whole business of the office ; to attend the Board, 
and give directions for carrying into execution the 
orders of the Postmaster- General. His attendance 
is constant, and at all hours by day and by night 
generally from 7 until 10, from 12 until 5, and 
from 9 until 11 o'clock each day." 

The Postmasters of the United Kingdom are a 
very large class, numbering many thousands, and 
comprising every variety of individual from the 
honest country shopkeeper to the highly intelligent 
men who are placed in charge of the offices in our 
principal towns. The former have enough to do in 
mastering the various codes of rules under which the 
many branches of business are carried on ; while the 
latter, in exercising discipline over their forces, carry - 
ing out changes of administration, and endeavouring 
to meet the wishes of a public ever wakeful to their 
interests and privileges, are something in their way 
like petty sovereigns, of whom it might not inaptly 
be said, " Uneasy is the head that wears a crown," 
though the material emblem itself be wanting. 




Post-office is no stranger to the taunt that it 
-L is swathed from head to foot in red tape ; or, 
at any rate, that its operations are so trammelled 
with routine that no inquiry into irregularities can 
be made with anything like due expedition. Such 
accusations as these often come from unreflecting 
persons, or from those whose business operations are 
of a small kind, and who have no idea of the methods 
necessary for carrying on a huge administration. 

An ordinary shopkeeper, for example, has under 
his own eye the whole sphere of his daily business ; 
he has a personal knowledge of all purchases from the 
wholesale houses, and knows exactly the particulars 
of his daily sales ; he has, moreover, the behaviour of 
his servants constantly under observation with a view 
to discipline ; in fact, he is ever present in his own 
business world, the whole scope of which is within' 
his individual purview. If a person of this class 


were asked a question in regard to his affairs, it 
would probably be in his power to afford an answer 
at once ; and when he addresses an inquiry to the 
Post-office he expects a reply with like rapidity. 
Not receiving an answer with the looked-for de- 
spatch, as might very likely happen, the cause would 
be assumed to be -needless routine otherwise red 

Now it is proper here to observe, that between 
business or trade in the ordinary sense, and the 
administration of a department like the Post-office, 
there exists a gulf which forbids all comparison, 
and establishes a contrast of the most striking kind. 
A stranger, were he taken through the Secretariat 
of the Post - office at St Martin's - le - Grand, the 
brain of the whole Department, could not fail to be 
struck by the method which reigns throughout, and 
the way in which various subjects coming up for 
consideration are disposed of in different branches. 
In one quarter he would find inquiry going on into 
the characters and antecedents of candidates for ap- 
pointments .throughout the country, and preparations 
being made for their examination by the Civil Ser- 
vice Commissioners. In another room would be 
found officers exercising judicial functions in regard 
to cases of misbehaviour reported from the country 
meting out arrest of pay or dismissal in accordance 

RED TAPE. 389 

with the gravity of the offence in each instance. 
Then in other rooms questions as to new buildings, 
their fittings and furniture, and the increase of staff 
when demanded by provincial offices, are undergoing 
close examination. Inquiries for missing letters take 
up attention in one branch ; various other kinds of 
irregularities are dealt with in another. The foreign 
mails branch, the home mails and parcel-post branch, 
the telegraph branch, with all their subdivisions of 
work, occupy separate rooms, and claim the attention 
of officers specially trained to their several duties. 

And how does all the correspondence for the 
Secretary at headquarters find its way to its proper 
quarter for treatment ? There is a branch called 
the Eegistry, in which every letter or communica- 
tion of any importance is registered on receipt that 
is, it receives a number, the name of the writer is 
indexed, and the subject of his letter recorded. The 
number of officers employed in the Eegistry is 73 ; 
and the original papers passing through the branch 
in the way stated exceed 320,000 annually. From 
this branch every morning the papers for treatment 
are distributed over the Secretariat, each officer re- 
ceiving the papers proper to his duty. Nor does the 
business of the Eegistry end here, for every case 
each separate set of papers on a subject is called a 
case is recorded again whenever sent elsewhere, so 


that its destination can be traced. Were this not done, 
laggard postmasters, or persons acting from base or in- 
terested motives, might find it convenient not to return 
the papers, and so by silence end them. Sometimes a 
single case will go backwards and forwards thirty or 
forty times, yet its whole history of travel is recorded. 
This is the routine which some people call red tape. 

In dealing in this way with large masses of corre- 
spondence, each atom of which has to receive its 
due share of brain -attention, there is necessarily 
some degree of retardation ; and it may be remarked 
that, between this process and the law in mechanics, 
under which, other things being equal, a gain of 
power is accompanied by a loss of speed, there exists 
a strong analogy. But by this classification and 
division of labour it is possible to bring about results 
which could not be achieved by a much larger staff 
under any plan of desultory working. 

We will mention one thing which, perhaps more 
than any other, excites the public to use the taunt of 
red tape. It is a printed reply to a complaint, com- 
monly spoken of as the " stereotyped reply." The 
public do not know how carefully and conscien- 
tiously delays and reported losses of letters are inves- 
tigated in the Post-office. Inquiries are made in 
every office through which the letters would pass in 
transit, and records made, lest an explanation should 

KED TAPE. 391 

afterwards be forthcoming ; but after all, in the eyes 
of some persons, the printed reply spoils all. These 
persons forget, however, that the printed letter con- 
veys all that is to be said on the subject, and that 
it is used in the interests of economy. 

It may be admitted of the Post-office, that of all 
its characteristics, the most prominent is that of its 
method, routine, or red-tapeism, in the limited sense 
of what is necessary for the furtherance of the pub- 
lic service ; but there is, perhaps, no concern of like 
magnitude in the world in which there is less of the 
musty fusty red tape of antiquity that has outlived 
its time, and no longer serves any useful purpose. 








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Embracing Scientific and other Terms, numerous Familiar Terms, and 
a Copious Selection of Old English Words. To which are appended 
Lists of Scripture and other Proper Names, Abbreviations, and Foreign 
Words and Phrases. 


The PRONUNCIATION carefully revised by the Rev. P. H. PHELP, M.A. CANTAB. 
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Opinions of the British and American Press. 

. " This may serve in great measure the purposes of an English cyclo- 
pedia. It gives lucid and succinct definitions of the technical terms in 
science and art, in law and medicine. We have the explanation of words 
and phrases that puzzle most people, showing wonderfully comprehensive 
and out-of-the-way research. . . . We need only add, that the dictionary 
appears in all its departments to have been brought down to meet the 
latest demands of the day, and that it is admirably printed." 

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Opinions of the British and American Press Continued. 

>tX>iCC 0a3CttC. " We have liad occasion to notice the peculiar 
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tion. . . . This is a pre-eminently good, comprehensive, and authentic 
English lexicon, embracing not only all the words to be found in previous 
dictionaries, but all the modern words scientific, new coined, and adopted 
from foreign languages, and now naturalised and legitimised." 

atlO Queries. " The whole constitutes a work of high utility." 

, "The book has the singular merit of being a diction- 
ary of the highest order in every department and in every arrangement, 
without being cumbersome; whilst for ease of reference there is no dic- 
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we must repeat, precisely the sort of volume required, and indispensable 
to every large reader or literary worker." 

." Every page bears the evidence of extensive scholar- 
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high place in fact, it is quite a library in itself. . . . It is a marvel of 

i>0tk tribune. "The work exhibits all the freshness and best results 
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. "Its merits will be discovered and- commended until 
the book takes its place among our standard and best English dictionaries." 

intelligencer, IReW UOrfc. "A trustworthy, truly scholarly 
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lexicography has yet produced for general use." 

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the scholar and of the general reader. It can have for the present no 
possible rival in its own field." 

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