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obtained the following account of the number
of district letters that passed through this
office on St. Valentine's Day:—

Feb.14th,
1850

Paid.

 

 

Unpaid.Stamped.Total.
1 d.1 d.2 d.

Collections.

8 o'clock

6,872

52

1,216

20,062

28,222

10 "6,2121960713,62920,467
12 "7,0693661215,24022,957
1 "2,989172776,3959,678
2 "6,5203953513,69620,790
3 "2,456363286,9099,729
4 "4,8733637513,47813,478
5 "3,340283178,20711,892
6 "9,30012995827,95038,337
8 "3,903328126,65011,487
53,6244,246037126,952187,037
To this total are to be added 6,000 ' bye '
lettersor those which passed from village
to village within the suburban limits of the
district post without reaching the chief
officeand 100,000 destined for the provinces
and places beyond sea, which were transferred
to the Inland Department. The grand total
for the day, therefore, rose to nearly 300,000.
Thus the sacrifices to the fane of St. Valentine
consisting of hearts, darts, Cupid peeping
out of paper-roses, Hymen embowered in hot-
pressed embossing, swains in very blue coats
and nymphs in very opaque muslin, coarse
caricatures and tender versescaused an
augmentation to the revenue on this anniversary
equal to about 70,000 missives; 123,000
being the usual daily average for district and
' byes ' during the month of February. This
increase, being peculiar to cross and district
posts, does not so much affect the Inland
Office, for lovers and sweethearts are
generally neighbours. The entire correspondence
of the three kingdoms is augmented on each
St. Valentine's day to the extent of about
400,000 letters.

' Is it possible? ' exclaimed one of the visitors,
regarding the piles of epistles on the
numerous tables, 'that this mass of letters can
be arranged and sent away to their respective
addresses in time to receive the next collection,
which will arrive in less than an hour? '

' Quite,' replied an obliging informant, ' I'll
tell you how we do it. We have divided
London into seventeen sections. There they
are, you perceive.' He then pointed to the
tables with pigeon-holes numbered from one
to seventeen; one marked ' blind,' with a
nineteenth labelled ' general.' It was
explained that the proper arrangement of
the letters in these compartments constitutes
the first sorting. They are then sorted
into sub-divisions; then into districts, and
finally handed over to the letter-carriers,
who, in another room, arrange them for their
own convenience into 'walks.' As the visitors
looked round they perceived their coloured
envelopeswhich were all addressed to Scotland
suddenly emerge from a chaotic heap,
and lodge in the division marked 'general,' as
magically as a conjurer causes any card you
may choose to fly out of the whole pack.
' These letters,' remarked the expositor, ' being
for the country will be presently passed into
the Inland Office through a tunnel under the
hall. The "blind" letters have superscriptions
which the sorters cannot decypher, and are
sent to the " blind " table where a gentleman
presides, to whom, from the extreme sharpness
of his vision, we give the lucus à non
lucendo name of the " blind clerk." You will
have a specimen of his powers presently.'

While this dialogue was going on there was
a general abatement of the noise of stamping,
and shuffling letters, and when the visitors
looked round, the place had relapsed into its
former tranquillity. It was scarcely credible
that from 30,000 to 40,000 letters had been
received, stamped, counted, sorted, and sent
away in so short a time. 'A judicious division
of labour,' remarked one of our friends,
' must work these miracles.'

' Yes, sir,' was the reply of an official, ' and
there are from 1200 to 1700 of us to do the
work of the district post alone. When it was
removed from Gerard Street to this building
there was not a quarter of that number. For
instancethen, three carriers sufficed for the
Paddington district; but, by the dispatch
you have just seen completed, we have sent
off 2000 letters to that single locality by the
hands of twenty-five carriers.'

' The increase is attributable to the penny
system? ' interrogated one of our inquiring
friends.

' Entirely.'

The questioner then referred to a
Parliamentary paper of which he had obtained
possession. It showed him the history of general
postal increase since the era of dear distance
rates. In 1839under the old systemthe
number of letters which passed through the
post was 76,000,000. In 1840 came the
uniform penny, and for that year the number
was 162,000,000, or an increase of 93,000,000,
equal to 123 per cent. That was the grand
start; afterwards the rate of increase
subsided from 36 per cent. in 1841, to 16 per cent,
in 1842 and 1843. In 1845, and the three
following years, the increase was respectively, 39,
37, and 30 per cent. Then succeeded a sudden
drop; perhaps the culminating point had been
attained. The Post-Office is, however, a
thermometer of commerce: during the depressing
year 1848, the number of letters increased no
more than 9 per cent. But last year 37,500,000
epistles passed through the office, being an
augmentation of 8,500,000 upon the preceding
year, or 11 per cent. of progressive increase.
Another Parliamentary document shows,
that, although the business is now exactly four-
and-a-half times more than it was in 1839,
the expense of doing it has only doubled. In
the former year the cost of the establishment
was not quite 690,000l.; in 1849 it was about
1,400,000l.

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