This Is What Being in Your Twenties Was Like in 18th-Century London
May 10, 2024 11:42 PM   Subscribe

This Is What Being in Your Twenties Was Like in 18th-Century London. A newly restored collection of letters describes a 27-year-old’s office job, social life and financial concerns beginning in 1719.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (10 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I was going to comment on his excellent handwriting until I got to his complaints.
In his handwritten letters, Browne described his new job training as a clerk to a lawyer, Richard Rowlandson. He complained about working long hours, copying legal documents from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. In one letter, he expressed frustration with his father’s decision to apprentice him to his employer for five years, rather than a shorter training period. “I have Lost the prime of my Youth,” he wrote.
posted by pracowity at 12:16 AM on May 11

This is great, thanks so much for posting!
posted by odd ghost at 5:44 AM on May 11

I get the same vibe as those food stalls in Pompeii, like lots of things have changed, but the human experience is the same.
posted by Gorgik at 7:23 AM on May 11 [5 favorites]

this is wonderful!

I'm a history geek, for sure, but what I love about it is the relatability of the human experience across space and time.

Medieval university students used a form letter to beg for money from home (to buy books) which they often then used to get drunk and rowdy, to the lament of their neighbors.

Gorgik I felt very much like that when I saw the food stalls at Herculaneum! I love the idea of busy Romans going about their day, street food in hand, from their favorite stall.

I'm so thankful that we have people who care so much to preserve these glimpses of regular life from so many years ago. what a gift!
posted by supermedusa at 10:05 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]

I do enjoy the faint suggestion that Browne begged his parents for drinking money and then secretly spent it on books. Since his big scandal was that he married the nearest maidservant.
posted by clew at 10:40 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]

My business is writing family history books and I always try to hunt down contemporary writings whenever I can - I’m absolutely bookmarking this as a client with family from eighteenth century England isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

It’s always amazing to me that we’ve all essentially been the same guys in different pants throughout history.
posted by sonika at 6:08 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]

Mod note: [btw, this post has been added to the sidebar and Best Of blog!]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:06 AM on May 12

Thanks so much for the post! I was not expecting to spend three pre-dawn hours today reading the letters of a young man man (and his family…his brother’s widow’s letters, so sad!) from 1719. And yet I did. Now I’m considering my own daily personal writing and imagining some future stranger reading it and despairing over the navel-gazing nature of my journals. “This woman wrote lots of letters, nut mostly to herself! Yawwwn…”

In summary: filling up a fountain pen and dashing off some correspondence later today. Sorry for hást!
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 3:31 AM on May 12

Here is a PDF of the letters, for people who had to hunt for it a bit like I did (external link)
posted by shadytrees at 10:13 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]

> I was going to comment on his excellent handwriting...

This was in the day before any kind of mechanical text composition. All original copy was written in longhand, with a pen. Flawless penmanship was a zeroth level qualification for any kind of career that touched upon business. Idiosyncratic handwriting was Not Allowed. If you complained about the discipline required to reach the necessary standard of perfection you could always look forward to a short and brutal life digging ditches or something.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 7:45 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]

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