The Lost Art of Longhand

The Lost Art of Longhand

I have always admired people who had a beautiful  and consistent longhand script. I considered the ability to have that lovely artistic flow to one’s handwriting as a talent, a peek insider one’s innermost self.  I always blamed my fourth grade teacher for robbing me of this talent. She didn’t approve of the way I held my new ink pen, complete with light blue ink cartridges that had to be changed at regular intervals.  It was such an exciting new skill for me.  I loved the way the ink flowed onto the paper, how the heaviness of my hand on the pen would change the amount of ink in my writing, and thus the depth of each letter with every stoke of the pen..  It carried such emotion, such feeling.  

Several of my cousins had developed this lovely, passionate longhand.  I admired it and found myself rather jealous of their skill, for it seemed that no matter how much I practiced, my “cursive” had a sloppy, uneven texture to it that made it seem insincere and unprofessional.

I have loved exploring  my family’s past from the time I was a teenager. Among the treasures that my grandmother kept in a quaint old wardrobe were copies of letters and photographs dating back to the Civil War. My favorite letters were those written by my great-great-grandfather when he was a prisoner in a Yankee prison camp in Sandusky Bay, Ohio. It was surprising to me that even many educated men in this era had developed a lovely script and flow to their writing.  Somehow, the beauty of the longhand, itself, seemed to fill his thoughts  with a sort of prose. There would be hopeful letters reporting that “no one else had died” in the camp, or emotional letters of how he longed to meet his son, born while he was a prisoner of war.  Later, when he worked as a surveyor and traveled, he had written this same son, now grown, a letter of advise on what to do to insure the success of his upcoming marriage. His dark, elaborate script brought his words to life.

My aunt had inherited a collection of another relative’s Victorian-era Post Cards. Many of them had photographs of loved ones on the front of the card, as was the style during that time.  Each card would draw out to the reader details surrounding current events in the life of the person or persons pictured. I remember my aunt using her finger to trace the delicately slanted script that filled the back of each card.  The beauty of the handwriting served to enhance the details of her captions.

Remembering my struggles to develop the artful script of longhand writing, I encouraged my daughters to work on the quality of their “cursive”, as it was called, when they were around nine or ten years old. This “coming of  age” event, when we were  allowed to write in cursive was a big deal when I was in school. Even fifteen years ago, when most school papers were written by hand, the art of using “cursive” instead of print was becoming less important.  Sadly, the older daughter never really learned to write in a traditional cursive script, and the younger one rarely used the nicely flowing script she developed when word processors became the way to write papers and e-mail and face book took the place of writing letters.
Perhaps, now that we have realized that using longhand to communicate is becoming a lost art, we will seek to teach its beauty and heritage much as we have begun to revere the customs and languages of our forbearers.  There is something about seeing a letter written in someone’s own hand, that makes it more personal, gives it life and personality.  Indeed, longhand is much like any craft we might learn, it serves to remind us of a more simple time, when people took pleasure in communicating their feelings and didn’t mind investing the time required to do it.


12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    billgncs said,

    writing can be beautiful, I always type my correspondence because my left handed scrawl embarresses me. But I admit I love a finely written thank you card, it is so personal.

  2. 2

    I remember being in school and first learning cursive. Everyone was excited about because we thought it looked cool and made us more mature. This piece makes me wonder if that’s been lost to kids because of computers.

  3. 3

    Steven S. Walsky said,

    Normally, I like to write out my thoughts for my flash fiction, poetry, and my longer narrative in long hand; then I’ll transcribe onto the computer. I love the flow of words across the paper. When I write at a local coffee café, I can get the strangest looks from people jabbing away at keyboards. I do not mind, because I can feel the passion in my words, and not just hear clickity-click. (Sadly, when I write fast, it’s sometimes not even readable to me 🙂 )

  4. 4

    beebeesworld said,

    I agree, I used to correspond with several older relatives and enjoyed their handwritten letters so much. It seems that we write from the heart when we don’t have the “delete” and “correct” so handy. Today’s kids don’t realize how difficult it was to produce a truly great report in the days before correcting became a “button push”. Perhaps, the art of the handwritten word will regain popularity as we seek to have “real” relationships” instead of edited “friendships” with people we don’t really know. Thanks for reading.

  5. 5

    Sandra Bennett said,

    I share your sentiments over the loss of the art of longhand script.

  6. 6

    Kathleen said,

    My husband says my handwriting is abysmal. (I’m another lefty.) I type faster and think better than I ever did by hand, but I also appreciate the personal touch. I scrapbook and have not really made the transition to computer-layouts or typed “journaling,” because I think the handwriting is of value. I have a cousin who sends letters quite regularly…I should imitate her example!

  7. 7

    Gilly Gee said,

    I had lovely handwriting until I learnt shorthand – now I can’t write neatly and I certainly can’t do shorthand!

  8. 8

    cait said,

    Longhand certainly has it’s own beauty! While I admire people who can do that flowing, beautiful cursive (they’re talented!), I’m one for the computer myself. It’s easier to correct backward sentences when you type. 🙂

  9. 9

    I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger award. You can collect it from my blog simply by following the rules of acceptance. Keep up the good work:)

    • 10

      beebeesworld said,

      Thank you for your kindness, sugarcoatedangel-since I have the award and ai am way behind, I probably will not respond right now-It is a great honor to me that you nominated me and I will keep your post and act on it asap. I deeply appreciate you following my blog and thinking enough of me to nominate me for the award. beebee

  10. 12

    Wisper said,

    I hear you – I was always jealous of people with nice, neat, even long hand. I never could do it either. I also think it’s sad that it is so rare to get hand written notes from anyone anymore – and I am just as guilty as most people I know for sending emails and texts instead.

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