"A beautifully researched study of how the Victorian Penny Post altered human relations. As Golden eloquently documents, family and friends could, at last, easily keep in touch with distant relatives, but cheap postage also provided new opportunities for blackmailers and con artists. In her richly textured study, we learn not only about the pervasive use of letters as a literary device in fiction, but also the immense increase in paraphernalia related to the writing and sending of a letter or that new invention, the postcard. Anyone interested in the complex relationship between material and cultural change will find this book illuminating."--Martha Vicinus, University of Michigan
"Just as the Penny Post revolutionized communications, Catherine Golden’s meticulous and imaginative analysis of its cultural effects transforms our reading experience of Victorian fiction. From the blackmail plot to the writing desk, the paraphernalia of the Victorian novel takes on new meaning and contemporary parallels."--Elaine Showalter, Princeton University
"Provides an engaging and comprehensive account of the context and spirit of Victorian postal reform and the resulting rise in affective correspondence that continues to this day."--Eileen Cleere, Southwestern University
"Combines historical perspective, social context, and literary criticism. It goes beyond the standard historical or literary work in that it provides insights into the daily lives and values of Victorians of all classes. As such it makes a significant contribution to Victorian cultural studies. Golden explains the impact of the Penny Post on the nineteenth century and draws parallels to the communications revolution of today."--Richard Fantina, Vermont State Colleges
Although "snail mail" may seem old fashioned and outdated in the twenty-first century, Catherine Golden argues that the creation of the Penny Post in Victorian England was just as revolutionary in its time as e-mail and text messages are today.
Until Queen Victoria instituted the Postal Reform Act of 1839, mail was a luxury affordable only by the rich. Allowing anyone, from any social class, to send a letter anywhere in the country for only a penny had multiple and profound cultural impacts.
Golden demonstrates how cheap postage--which was quickly adopted in other countries--led to a postal "network" that can be viewed as a forerunner of computer-mediated communications. Indeed, the revolution in letter writing of the nineteenth century led to blackmail, frauds, unsolicited mass mailings, and junk mail--problems that remain with us today.
Catherine J. Golden is professor of English at Skidmore College.
No Sample Chapter AvailableAwards
DeLong Book History Book Prize - 2010
"An excellent text, a core addition to community and college library history collections."
--The Midwest Book Review
" Catherine Golden offers more than a history of nineteenth-century postal reform."
"Golden provides a wealth of information about the material culture of the post and about the communications revolution that postal reform initiated. Throughout Golden's careful reading s of the many novels and paintings that reference the post and postal products emphasize the parallels between how Vicotirans experienced technological and communications innovations and how twenty-first-century consumers have experienced a wide variety of technological innovations."
--English Literature in Transition, vol. 54 issue 2
"Good read overall, is a fine hybrid of political, cultural (especially literary), social economic, and technological history and will be informative to some readers while reminding the rest of us about how revolutionary cheap postage."
"An intimate study of a subject which, as the author recognises, had extraordinarily wide ramifications in time and place.This is a stimulating book."
--Literature & History
"Catherine J. Golden has written a highly readable cultural history of the Penny Post in Posting It: The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing. The book is full of information, much of it fascinating, on the post's social and material epiphenomena: "writing desks and manuals, pens and inkwells, the official catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851, extant correspondence, pictorial envelopes, valentines, biographies, diaries, periodicals, book illustration, and narrative painting" (p. 6). Its forays into literary criticism, content based and thematic, are less compelling."
--Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, vol 50 no.4