Page:The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago.djvu/15

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THE POST OFFICE OF FIFTY YEARS AGO.

there was no full and free epistolary intercourse in the country, except for those who, like Members of Parliament, had the command of franks. There were few families in the wide middle class who did not feel the cost of postage a heavy item in their expenditure; and if the young people sent letters home only once a fortnight, the amount at the year's end was a rather serious matter. But it was the vast multitude of the lower orders who suffered like the Crusading families of old and the geographical discoverers of all time. When once their families parted off from home, it was a separation almost like that of death. The hundreds of thousands of apprentices, of shopmen, of governesses, of domestic servants, were cut off from family relations as if seas or deserts lay between them and home.[1]

In those days, the visit of the postman, so far from being welcomed, was, as a rule, dreaded. Letters were almost always sent unpaid, and the heavy postage demanded for what might sometimes turn out to be merely trade circulars was a serious tax grudgingly paid, or, amongst the poorer classes, the letter had to be refused as too expensive a luxury.

The lowest postage on any letter, except those in the local town deliveries and their suburban posts, was 4d. This, however, would only suffice if the distance it was carried did not exceed 15 miles. The

  1. Vide Martineau's History of the Thirty Years' Peace, Vol. IV., p. 11.

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