Susan Whyman draws on a hidden world of previously unkwn letter writers to explore bold new ideas about the history of writing, reading, and the vel. Capturing actual dialogues of people discussing subjects as diverse as marriage, poverty, poetry, and the emotional lives of servants, The Pen and the People will be enjoyed by everyone interested in history, literature, and the intimate experiences of ordinary people. Based on over sixty previously unkwn collections of family papers, it tells the stories of workers and the middling sort: a Yorkshire bridle maker, a female domestic servant, a Derbyshire wheelwright, an untrained woman writing poetry and short stories, as well as merchants and their families. Their ordinary backgrounds and extraordinary writings challenge accepted views that popular literacy was rare in England before 1800. This democratization of letter writing could never have occurred without the development of the Royal Mail. Drawing on new information gleaned from personal letters, Susan Whyman reveals how the Post Office had altered the rhythms of daily life long before the nineteenth century. As the pen, the post, and the people became increasingly connected, so too was eighteenth-century society and culture slowly and subtly transformed.
Susan E. Whyman returned to the academic world after a career that encompassed the publishing, editing, and library professions. She received both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in British History from Princeton University. She is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society has been a visiting scholar at Wadham College, Oxford and the Huntington Library, San Marino California. Whyman lectures and publishes widely, both in England and the U.S., on letters and British Culture.
Winner of Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars 2009.