The Elizabethans and their friends do not seem to have settled
on any one form of salutation for letters, such as "Dear Mom..."
Overall, the conventions of letter writing were as formal as
if they were speaking in person, or perhaps even more so!
Perhaps the most nearly standard brief opening is something like: My humble duty remembered...
Salutations are often long and full of blessings and humility.
The date is usually at the end.
In these examples, I have left the punctuation more or less
intact, except that they often used a virgule (/) instead of
a period to indicate a full stop. They also used commas
with considerable abandon, and they do ramble on. The word
(sig.) indicates the signature.
Note: Numbers are frequently
given in lower case Roman numerals, with the last "i" in a
number written as a "j". For example, viij March.
Short notes for special occasions:
- To a very noble mother.
- Right honourable, with our most humble and
dutiful thanks for your ladyship's bountiful
goodness towards us all times, my wife and I have
made bold to present your Honourable Ladyship with
such poor and homely things for a simple new year's
gift as this place can afford, beseeching that
according to your ladyship's accustomed goodness,
you will vouchsafe them in good part; and we shall
pray most earnestly to God almighty to send your
honourable ladyship many happy healthful new years.
The almighty preserve your ladyship in health and send
you a good and comfortable end of all your great
troubles and griefs. Wynfield this Tuesday the v of
November at viij of the clock at night 1588
Your honour's most dutiful bound obedient servant
The Privy Council to Master William More
- (The direction reads: To our very loving friend W. More,
After our very hearty recommendations we have thought meet,
for good consideration, to require you to signify unto us
by your private letter, whether the Earl of Southampton,
at present remaining in your house, do come to Common
Prayer or not; and in case he have not so done already,
then we require you as of yourself to move and persuade
him thereunto, and of that he shall do or hath done, and
shall answer thereupon, we pray you to advertise us with
convenient speed. And so we bid you farewell.
From Windsor, the xviij of October, 1570
Your loving friends,
(signed by) North, Bedford, Leicester, Howard, Cecil,
Knollys, Mildmay, & Crofts.
- To a relative
- Good uncle, after my heartiest commendations to you and to mine aunt...
- To a friend
- After my very hearty commendations...
- To a mother
- My humble duty remembered...
- To a noble man
- Right Worshipful, My humble duty remembered, hoping in the Almighty of your health and prosperity which on my knees I beseech him to long to continue...
- To a noble relative
- Your lordship's assured friend and kinsman
- To an equal who has done (or perhaps been asked) a favor
- Thus indebted to you for your pains taken for me, I bid you farewell.
Sprowston, this xx of April. Your friend,
- To a friend
- Thus I commit you to god's good protection.
From Hampton Court the 2d of January 1592. Your very assured friend
- To a parent
- And thus with commendations from my partner and sister with
thanks for our good cheer, and not forgetting Aunt Lettyce,
with blessing to Mall, nephews Lewis, Harvey, and Nick, and Nan,
with our humble duty to my mother we commit you to God this
- To the Queen
- And so I bid your Grace and the rest heartily farewell.
From my house in the Strand this xix of March, 1596, Your assured
To a noble mother
- And so humbly craving your ladyship's daily blessing to
us both, we most humbly take our leave, Tutbery the last of
Your ladyships humble and obedient son
To a brother
- I pray you remember my duty to my good mother.
This with my kindest commend to you and my good sister,
wishing you all happiness, I rest your loving sister
Court at Woodstock
this 26th August 1599
To a kinsman
- Your very assured loving friend and kinsman
To a mother
- With the remembrance of my humble duty unto you,
I humbly take my leave and rest,
Your dutiful and obedient son,
Dawson and Kennedy-Skipton: Elizabethan Handwriting
Rowse: Southampton, Shakespeare's Patron
The Lisle Letters, Muriel St. Clare Byrne, ed.
27 March 2008 mps