To answer a letter:
If the Letter is to be in answer to another, begin by
getting out that other letter and reading it through, in
order to refresh your memory, as to what it is you have
to answer, and as to your correspondent's present
address (otherwise you will be sending your letter to his
regular address in London, though he has been careful in
writing to give you his Torquay address in full).
Next, Address and Stamp the Envelope. "What! Before
writing the Letter?" Most certainly. And I'll tell you
what will happen if you don't. You will go on writing
till the last moment, and, just in the middle of the last
sentence, you will become aware that "time's up!" Then
comes the hurried wind-up--the wildly-scrawled
signature--the hastily-fastened envelope, which comes
open in the post--the address, a mere hieroglyphic--the
horrible discovery that you've forgotten to replenish
your Stamp-Case--the frantic appeal, to every one in
the house, to lend you a Stamp--the headlong rush to
the Post Office, arriving, hot and gasping, just after the
box has closed--and finally, a week afterwards, the
return of the Letter, from the Dead-Letter Office,
marked "address illegible"!
Next, put your own address, in full, at the top of the
note-sheet. It is an aggravating thing--I speak from
bitter experience--when a friend, staying at some new
address, heads his letter "Dover", simply, assuming that
you can get the rest of the address from his previous
letter, which perhaps you have destroyed.
Next, put the date in full. It is another aggravating thing,
when you wish, years afterwards, to arrange a series of
letters, to find them dated "Feb. 17", "Aug. 2", without
any year to guide you as to which comes first. And
never, never, dear Madam (N.B. this remark is addressed
to ladies only: no man would ever do such a thing), put
"Wednesday", simply, as the date!
"That way madness lies."