Many people believe letters the most personal and revealing form of communication. In them we expect to find the charmer at his nap, slumped, open-mouthed, profoundly himself without thought for appearances. Yet, this is not quite true. Letters are above all useful as a means of expressing the ideal self; and no other method of communication is quite so good for this purpose. In conversation, those uneasy eyes upon you, those lips ready with an emendation before you have begun to speak, are a powerful deterrent to unreality, even to hope. In art it is not often possible to make direct use of your dreams of tomorrow and your excuses for yesterday.
In letters we can reform without practice, beg without humiliation, snip and shape embarrassing experiences to the measure of our own desires - this is a benevolent form. The ideal self expressed in letters is not a crudely sugary affair except in dreary personalities; in any case the ideal is very much a part of the character, having its twenty-four hours a day to get through, and being no less unique in its combinations than one's fingerprints.