Leonie Hannan
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Connecting reason and emotion
in Women of letters
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Writing, like reading, was an activity that held a magnetic draw for some women of this period. Writing could be a strong impulse, a necessity that kept the mind free, the thoughts flowing and the writer psychologically stable. Eighteenth-century correspondents commonly spent many lines of ink on the very subject of how writing letters to their friends acted as an emotional salve. In letters, emotional responses to life were articulated and both the expression of those feelings and the manner in which they were expressed provide important insights into the history of emotions. Relationships were forged and fostered through letter-writing and, thus, correspondence played a critical role in the continuation of significant friendships. The reciprocal nature of letter-writing prompted some correspondents to cover pages in ink at a staggering pace and regularity, using the expanding postal network to their advantage. Some wrote to ease the pain of separation, but others used their correspondence as a means to explore new avenues of exchange alongside a friendship conducted in person. When this practice of daily writing became a task of intellectual note, in general, the intensity of the connection increased as the correspondence moved from cheerful conversation to contemplative exchange.

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Women of letters

Gender, writing and the life of the mind in early modern England


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