Upon reading the article The Letter-Writing Manual in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: From Polite to Practical by Lyda Fens-de Zeeuw, a number of interesting research questions came to mind. For me the most challenging and thought provoking question was the following:
Would it be possible to reconstruct the identity of Penholder? How much information can we deduce in terms of gender, age, socioeconomic status, etc?
In order to research this particular question I would need a substantial database of letters written in the same period of time as Penholder. These letters should be written by men and women of all sorts of backgrounds and from a large range of different age categories. This database should not be too difficult to construct.
My problem lies in the following: Penholder’s manual titled Saxon’s Everybody’s Letter Writer, being a Complete Guide to Letter Writing (1896), is nowhere to be found. Does anyone have more information about this book? Does anyone know where I could possibly find it?
Fens-de Zeeuw, Lyda 2008. The Letter-Writing Manual in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: From Polite to Practical. In Dossena, Marina / Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ingrid (eds) Studies in Late Modern English Correspondence: Methodology and Data. Bern etc.: Peter Lang, 163-192.