However, I was somewhat concerned by a comment on a forum that people should not expect emails to receive a quick response "because they would not have got a quick reply when correspondence was by letter and what is now called snail mail."
I have memories of more than one mail delivery in a day and to a term that has now fallen out of use: "Please reply by return of post". Then an Agatha Christie mystery on TV had a plot which depended on a letter sent in the morning being delivered that evening, so I decided to find out a little more.
It seems that in cities such as London and New York the postman could go by each address as many as 12 times in a day and it was common to expect a reply "by return of post" meaning an expectation of delivery within a couple of hours and of a response a couple of hours after that.
Randall Stross covered the subject well in the New York Times back in 2010: The birth of cheap communications (and junk mail)
He states: "And, not unlike us, most Victorian letter writers seemed more concerned about getting a rapid response than a long one. 'Return of post' was an often-used phrase, requesting an immediate response, in time for the next scheduled delivery that day."
The real revolution in mail occurred not with email but with the penny post of Victorian times, well covered by Catherine J. Golden
in her book "Posting It: The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing" published by University Press of Florida.
This revolution soon spread to many other countries and letter writing came within the reach of just about anyone in society. Unfortunately, as a reviewer of this book commented, "Indeed, the revolution in letter writing of the nineteenth century led to blackmail, frauds, unsolicited mass mailings, and junk mail--problems that remain with us today."
The New York Times reported that 2000 “swindling establishments” were using the postal system "just after the Civil War".
So next time you take a little longer than you'd like to reply to an email or are upset by the amount of spam, reflect on these being problems that did not start with the computer. They began in Queen Victoria's reign, with the advent of the penny post.