The Dying Art of Letter Writing

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a Luddite – no mobile until 2003, no email until same year, used a Walkman every day until 2004 – but I do think that electronic communication has, to an extent, killed the dear old letter. Gone are the days when I used to write long, flowery letters – and if the emails I send (and receive) are anything to go by, communication in the digital age is shorter, more succinct and lacking in literary flair – real or imagined.

Which got me thinking about all those great edited collections of literary letters: Rousseau, Byron, Keats. If our writers now use email – which almost all do – what will happen to the great literary correspondences? Does anyone really want to read page after page of html from Will Self’s gmail account?

Spare a thought, too, for biographers of the future: how will these poor souls fare without lots of titillating, never-before-seen letters to give them new angles (and of course racy newspaper headlines)?

Perhaps I’m worrying over nothing, in my Guardian Books Blog from earlier this week, but will literary exchanges of real quality really survive the digital age? Or are tweets simply the new aphorisms? The Luddite in me still has his doubts…