Notes to the Wise: Writing the Medieval Missive

This week, Dame Aoife offers her links about how to write letters forsoothly and includes links on how to write award recommendations.

Unto the most glorious and learned worthies whom this missive shall receive, beseeching their attention for a small fragment of their precious attention, in hopes of sharing the heretofor under-used elightenment contained herein, please accept fond (and lengthy) greetings from your dear and absent friend, whom I commend me unto you: Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon, citizen of the Kingdom of Aethelmearc and devoted subect to Their Sylvan Majesties.

Translation: Please enjoy this Links List devoted to writing letters with Medieval (or Modern Medieval) panache, by Aoife.

Please note that I have included sites that deal with writing letters of SCA Award Reccomendation. These letters should not be confused with private, more flowery missives: In fact it is my experience that Royalty by and large prefer predominantly MODERN letters for award reccomendations, with perhaps a brief opening in a more medieval style of introduction. Some Kingdoms, I understand, are begining to use awards-reccomendation web-forms! One such link (the best, I think) is included below. So please save the flowery text for those who will appreciate it, and save the eyes of a Royal in your kingdom by agreeing to separate Art and Business when writing award reccomendations! But when you have private, more intimate missives to compose, the below websites will guide you in your choice of historical expression.

Alas, dear friends, this will be the last list for 3 weeks. After that time (which nicely corresponds with packing for and attending Pennsic :), the list will be coming from a new address. Begining August 6th, *this* address will no longer be viable. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you all to clean your machines regularly! Nothing replaces a good anti-virus and a good ad-ware removal program (several of which are free). And alas, nothing can protect us long from poeple who hijack email addresses for their own purposes. The promulgation of such e-garbage is forcing me to find a new address.

Look for a new Links List at the end of August, and know that it will be coming from a new address.

Your Humble Servant, ever reaching for the perfection known to have been bestowed on so few glorious gentlepersons here on this earth, which I am certain must have found it's lonley home in your soul, I shall constantly remain ever yours,

(Translation: Sincerely)

Aoife

Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
Barony of the Endless Hills
Sylvan Kingdom of Aethelmearc

Medieval Sourcebook: Letter of Thomas Cranmer, 1533
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/cramner-hen8.html
(Site Excerpt) Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, to Mr. Hawkyns the Ambassador at the Emperor's Court; upon the Divorce of Queen Catherine, and the Coronation of Queen Anne Boleyn. 1533. In my most heartie wise I commend me unto you and even so, would be right glad to hear of your welfare, etc. This is to advertise you that inasmuch as you now and then take some pains in writing unto me, I would be loathe you should think your labor utterly lost and forgotten for lack of writing again; therefore and because I reckon you to be some deal desirous of such news as hath been here with us of late in the King's Graces matters, I intend to inform you a parte thereof, according to the tenure and purport used in that behalf.

Medieval Missives: Aids to Letter-Writing by Caryl de Trecesson
http://www.dragonbear.com/letters.html
(Site Excerpt) 4th century Constantinople From St. John Chrysostom (c. 346-407) to the deaconess Olympias, original in Latin: TO MY LADY, THE MOST REVEREND AND DIVINELY FAVORED DEACONESS OLYMPIAS, I JOHN, BISHOP, SEND GREETING IN THE LORD.... Pray say many kind words from me to all your blessed household. May you continue in good health and good spirits, most reverend and divinely favored lady. (NOTE: This is a compilation of medieval letters, with their openings and closings, for you to emulate when you write a missive.)

Medieval Sourcebook: Joan of Arc: Letter to the King of England, 1429
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/joanofarc.html
(Site Excerpt) King of England, render account to the King of Heaven of your royal blood. Return the keys of all the good cities which you have seized, to the Maid. She is sent by God to reclaim the royal blood, and is fully prepared to make peace, if you will give her satisfaction; that is, you must render justice, and pay back all that you have taken. King of England, if you do not do these things, I am the commander of the military; and in whatever place I shall find your men in France, I will make them flee the country, whether they wish to or not; and if they will not obey, the Maid will have them all killed. She comes sent by the King of Heaven, body for body, to take you out of France, and the Maid promises and certifies to you that if you do not leave France she and her troops will raise a mighty outcry as has not been heard in France in a thousand years. And believe that the King of Heaven has sent her so much power that you will not be able to harm her or her brave army.

Medieval Sourcebook: Columbus' letter to the King and Queen of Spain, 1494
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/columbus2.html
(Site Excerpt) Most High and Mighty Sovereigns, In obedience to your Highnesses' commands, and with submission to superior judgment, I will say whatever occurs to me in reference to the colonization and commerce of the Island of Espanola, and of the other islands, both those already discovered and those that may be discovered hereafter. In the first place, as regards the Island of Espanola: Inasmuch as the number of colonists who desire to go thither amounts to two thousand, owing to the land being safer and better for farming and trading, and because it will serve as a place to which they can return and from which they can carry on trade with the neighboring islands:

The Medieval Art of Letter Writing: Rhetoric as Institutional Expression
(Cal State) Acrobat Reader Required
http://wac.colostate.edu/books/textual_dynamics/chapter4.pdf

Stephen, Count of Blois and Chartres
Letter to his wife, Adele (1098)

http://history.hanover.edu/texts/1stcrusade2.html
(Site Excerpt) You may be very sure, dearest, that the messenger whom I sent to give you pleasure, left me be before Antioch safe and unharmed, and through God's grace in the greatest prosperity. And already at that time, together with all the chosen army of Christ, endowed with great valor by Him, we had been continuously advancing for twenty-three weeks toward the home of our Lord Jesus. You may know for certain, my beloved, that of gold, silver and many other kind of riches I now have twice as much your love had assigned to me when I left you. For all our princes with the common consent of the whole army, against my own wishes, have made me up to the present time the leader, chief and director of their whole expedition.

Medieval Sourcebook: Charlemagne: Missi 17 (802)
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/carol-missi2.html
(Site Excerpt) Moreover, that the monks shall live firmly and strictly in accordance with the rule, because we know that any one whose goodwill is lukewarm is displeasing to God, as John bears witness in the Apocalypse: "I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Let them in no way usurp to themselves secular business.

A Practical Guide to the Practical Art of Letter Writing: Dictamen for Dummies
http://webpages.acs.ttu.edu/wharlow/Rhetoric%20Spring%202003/dictamen.htm
(Site Excerpt) While in modern times it might seem silly to have a handbook that dictated what every part of a letter should look like, it was a rather important tool 900 years ago. In an age when few people were literate and where social custom varied widely from place to place, it was important to have a standardized format in which letters (which were generally written in Latin) could be written so as to allow people in divergent settings to have an effective means of communicating with one another.

How to Write an Award Recommendation by Lord Rory ua Riada, C.B.T.
http://www.meridies.org/as/dmir/SCALife/1719.html
(Site Excerpt) This is an outline of the process I use when deciding to write an award recommendation to the Crown. It need not be followed in order shown nor completed in full, but should be thoroughly read as an overview to what you are trying to accomplish; that is, a good solid letter telling someone why another person deserves to be considered for a particular award. A sample award recommendation letter is included at the end.

The Rotunda: Award recommendation letter writing
http://www.therotunda.net/sca/recommend-award.html
(Site Excerpt) I was in the Society for over ten years before writing one. I do hope you don't wait as long as I did. You can use this article to help you get started. Use a fill-in-the-blank style if that works for you, but each recommendation letter that I write is an original to fit the particular candidate.

Midrealm Award-reccomendation on-line form
http://www.midrealm.org/op/recommend/
Note: You must join the website in order to view the form: there is no fee, and it is quick and easy. Form is very comprehensive and includes the ability to rescind your reccomendation!

Stefan's Florilegium
Award-Rec-Let-art by Countess Berengaria de Montfort de Carcassonne.

http://www.florilegium.org/files/SCA-INC/Award-Rec-Let-art.html
(Site Excerpt) Gentle readers, I am sure that the more experienced among you have read numerous articles and checklists on this topic of writing award recommendation letters. For newcomers, all of the information contained herein will be fresh news. However, this article will be slightly different than most articles in that it will go beyond the mere form of the letter and how to set it up, and will go into what to say, and effective ways of saying it.

How to Write an Award Recommendation by Dorinda Courtenay
(note that it appears in the Ealdormerean website but is written by a Duchess from Aethelmearc)
http://www.ealdormere.sca.org/recwrite.shtml
(Site Excerpt) There are often misconceptions that only Peers can write letters of recommendation, or that a person should not write a recommendation for an award that they do not have. Neither of these is true. While it may be true that those with higher level awards may have special insight into the criteria and requirements for an award, the knowledge and insight of even the newest member of the Society is welcomed by the Royalty. Anyone who feels strongly that they know someone who is worthy of recognition should write. And write often!

About.com: A Medieval Love Story --The Letters
http://historymedren.about.com/library/weekly/aa020500d.htm
(Site Excerpt) Your letter written to a friend for his comfort, beloved, was lately brought to me by chance. Seeing at once from the title that it was yours, I began the more ardently to read it in that the writer was so dear to me, that I might at least be refreshed by his words as by a picture of him whose presence I have lost...

Some Notes on the Historical and Physical Context of Letters: Heather Blatt
http://www.people.cornell.edu/pages/heb4/letters.html
(Site Excerpt) Across periods, letters often evidence shared traits, those that make a letter recognizable as such even if written 1000 years apart. One such trait is the textual structure of a letter: there is always identification of the recipient as part of the letter's greeting; in many periods, identification of the sender also occurs here. After the greeting follows the body of the letter, which may be subdivided into functional parts. Whether or not this takes place can hallmark particular stages in the development of letter-writing. Until the 15th and even into the 17th century, the means of transport and delivery for personal mail was the responsibility of the individual letter-writer, usually achieved by sending a servant with the missive, or making contact with a person travelling in the needed direction.

Medieval Writing: History, Heritage and Data Source
http://www.medievalwriting.50megs.com/writing.htm
(Site Excerpt) If you have so far only used the general information pages on this site, and not yet ventured into the dreaded paleography exercises, take your courage in both hands and go and take a look at them. They are not highly technical or jargonised, and each example has an interesting bit of history attached. I have a personal passion for the way that bits of parchment can tell the stories of the little players in the game of life while the old steam driven history books go on about kings, emperors and popes. Find out the monetary value of human dignity in the cost of serfs in the 13th century, how the knights and esquires of the French army got paid, what the ladies of the court of Edward III wore under their petticoats, how a chantry priest in the time of Henry VIII prepared for his redundancy, how much wine an abbess drank in a year and what Henry II thought of abbots. OK, so this is tabloid paleography. Enjoy!