The collection of the 5 volumes containing The Paston Letters
shows that capitalized I was used in private correspondence almost exclusively.
The purpose of this paper is to show the results and conclusions from a historical sociolinguistic study correlating the factor of gender with linguistic features such as mood and polarity in the correspondence of a married couple of the Paston family, from one of the most important linguistic corpora of late medieval English (the Paston Letters
Her discussions of 'The Franklin's Tale', 'The Clerk's Tale', 'The Shipman's Tale', 'The Merchant's Tale', 'The Man of Law's Tale', 'The Knight's Tale', Troilus and Criseyde and The Legend of Good Women, then, set these literary works against evidence of contemporary attitudes towards love and marriage, as presented in advice literature directed towards women (such as Caxton's translation of The Book of the Knight of the Tower) and in surviving letter collections (such as the Paston letters
While the Paston letters
were in the "newsletter" model rather than in that of humanist letters or letters of wisdom or exhortation, the omission of a date in a fair number of their letters never seems to have drawn an adverse comment or aroused the anger of its recipient.
When Maurice Keen introduced the Paston Letters
to the readers of History Today in May 1959, the correspondence had already been in print for more than 150 years.
While much work remains to be done in this area, servants' letters nonetheless represent an important part of that polyphony of voices we encounter when reading the Paston letters
. From them, we gain access not only to a frequently overlooked part of Margaret's social network and sphere of influence but also to a cluster of voices that collaborated in the chiselling of her social self and its various facets.
Cherewatuk examines the idea of companionate and political/societal marriage, and the interaction between the two, by comparing literary evidence from the Morte Darthur with historical evidence from the contemporary Paston Letters
. She draws comparisons between Gareth and Lancelot, noting the attitudes to marriage this reveals for Malory, and (by implication) for his audience.
The practice of calling oneself a "valentine" and asking one's beloved to be the same, is referred to in the Paston Letters
, the largest surviving collection of 15th-century English correspondence written by the Paston family and their neighbours in Norfolk.
(2) All quotations from the Paston letters
within this essay are from Norman Davis, ed., Paston Letters
and Papers of the Fifteenth Century, 2 vols.
All that said, and put aside, we now have to wonder, along with many other appraisers, what kind of beast this "novel" is, and my own contribution, based on various modes or manners or the writing, is that it is Coetzee trying to compose an experimental work, even if, say, it harks back to Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveler (1594) or The Paston Letters
(some 1,100 letters and other documents from the prosperous Pastons of Norfolk, England, covering business and family affairs for three generations from 1422 to 1509).
The writers of the famous Paston and Cely family letters of the mid-fifteenth century, like many medieval letter-writers, often depended for letter delivery on agents who, while not quite the social equals of the writers, were entrusted to augment the message with sensitive information the writers did not want committed to writing, often using the stock phrase "as the bearer of this may inform you" (Paston letters
, 1971, 1976; Cely letters, 1975).
Going back to the 15th century, the famous Paston letters
demonstrate how love can develop, even in an arranged marriage.