Most anthologies of literature for school use are pretty dire efforts. But just occasionally they threw up an absolute gem, something that sticks in the memory for life. I came across this one while teaching the offspring of the good burghers of Hull in the 1980s, and it has stayed with me.
All I can tell you about it is that it was apparently found on the seashore at Bidmouth in Devon 1887 by Mrs A M W Stirling, and quoted by her in her biography of William de Morgan. I know nothing more about it, but of course if any reader knows better I would be delighted to find out more. It was apparently written by William Taylor, an unknown artisan:
Deerest Marey, I be verry happy to inform you that I am verry well at present and do hope you be the same. Deer Marey, I be verry sorry to hear as you do not like your new quarters, as I chant be able to look on your dear face so often as I have done, dearest Marey, pure and holy meek and lowly lovely Rose of Sharon. Dear Marey, dear Marey, I hant got now no particlar news to tell you at present but my sister that marryed have got such a nice lettel babby and I wich how as that our letter affair was setteld and that we had got such a nice letter deer two. Dearest Marey I chall not be happy till then, dearest Marey puer and holy meek and loly lovely Rose of Sharon.Worth sharing, I thought. There's the obvious 'Four Yorkshiremen*' angle, and the 'kids today don't know they are born' stuff, but I was more taken by the direct and simple expression and the sincerity of the emotion. I hope they got it all sorted out and had a long and happy life together.
Sometime I do begin to despair as I am afraid our not will never be tied but my master have promised I that when I get ye he will put ye in the dairy yard to feed the pigs at atin pens a week dearest marey pure and holy meek and loly lovely Rose of Sharon. I be coming over tomorro to by the ring and you must come to the stay shun to meet me and bring a peese of string the size of yur finger and be sure and do not make a miss take dear marey. Father is goen to give us a bedsted and granny a 5lbs note to by such as washing stand fier irons moustrap and sope and we must wait till we can by carpetting glass crockery ware and chiny. Dearest Marey pure and holy meek and loly lovely Rose of Sharon I be verry happy to say as our old sow as got seven young uns last night and father be goen to give us a rooster for our weddin brekfast, dearest marey puer and holy meek and lowly lovely Rose of Sharon. So no more at present from yur loving and fewture husband William Taylor.
*Atin pens a week? We useter dreeeeam of atin pens a week ...