Though an entire stranger to you, I write to you upon the presumption that you, in common with all authors, receive a great many letters from strangers. I write to you also, because being women, you know how to enter into the feelings of a woman. I do not want you to think me a girl in her teens, afflicted with a sham sentimentalism. I am nearly twenty-five, and have seen enough of the stern realities of life to make all such scales fall from my eyes. I have aspirations, but they are to occupy such a position as yours, and I write to you now for your advice and candid opinion. I have read with admiration and I hope appreciatively, your “Wide Wide World,” “Queechy” and “Say and Seal,” and it is my “misfortune not my fault” that I have not read the “Old Helmet.”
It is the height of my ambition to be able to write such books as these, but I am afraid to trust myself to begin. Besides I am not quite certain that I have the requisite amount of brains. I should like for you to be the judges. Are your books the spontaneous effusions of your combined intellects, or do they require thought, time and patience to evolve those delightful characters which you produce? One great difficulty with me would be the arrangement of a plot, in books it seems to come easily and naturally, but whether it thus to the authors, is what I should very much like to know. But here comes the most difficult part of all to me, the mechanical part of the business. I am utterly ignorant of the way in which a manuscript ought to be prepared. My advantages have been limited, the eldest daughter of a widowed mother in reduced circumstances, I have not had the opportunity to indulge my literary tastes as should have liked. If you will be so kind as to instruct me a little in they way that a manuscript should be prepared for publication, you will [bring] under many obligations.
Your sincere admirer