Scribbling – a letter to oneself?

Scribbling – a letter to oneself?

Can there be such a thing as a letter to oneself, does such a thing exist? I don’t mean in the deliberate sense of sitting down and writing a letter that observes the conventions – ‘Dear Liz, I hope this finds you well… I am OK… I would like to take you out this evening if you are free. Best wishes, Liz’ – for of course any of us could sit down and write such a thing on paper, on screen, on a card and so on. No, what I mean is a ‘naturally-occurring’ version. In the same way that a note is a truncated kind of letter to another person – ‘Milk in fridge feed cat back soon’ – is there a truncated or halfway form that is a letter to oneself?

Scribbles, the kind of notes that we write as aide memoirs to ourselves when carrying out a piece of research, for example, might well come under this heading. One of my scribbles (in my research notebook, always open on my desk during archival visits) from an archival trip last year reads as follows:

‘Hunt Mrs Townsend’s accounts tomorrow, focus on Smith’s letters today

Were Edward’s family jewellers too, signs are yes, but how to find? He might have killed himself when the promissory note bounced

Get Sim card topped up remember shampoo

Need new map


Write reference for X before leaving

How much was a turnover of £7000 in 1840 worth today?

There are some signs of epistolarity here, It involves a ‘voice’ writing to another ‘voice’ as though separated in time and space from its other. It provides information, makes a comment, asks questions, suggestions are made about as to ‘shared’ activities. And asking a question implies non/response. And so on. There is also something curious about it, regarding its mode of address.

This is that it has a transitive verb tense structure, one in which ‘I’ and ‘You’ are conjoined in self asking and questioning its own self, as commented astutely by the social theorist Roland Barthes about scribbles more generally. My thought about this is that, yes, I and You are conjoined, but also at the same time they are separate too. And this verbal complexity is what constitutes the signs of epistolarity mentioned above, of the one communicating with the other, the sense of separation, and there being some expectation of response, albeit not necessarily in the form of another scribble.

Last updated: 7 May 2016


Recent Posts