How to write and reply letters for marriage, engagement letters, love letters, and how to know a girl to marry


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How to write and reply letters for marriage, engagement letters, love letters, and how to know a girl to marry


Nigerian literature (English)


This is a how-to pamphlet where "you will learn the styles and ways to write "letters that are "very interesting and reasonable, and the English very educative," (pg.4). Abiakam advises his readers to "Read and recommend to your friends one by one and they must never forget you," (pg.4). The author cautions his male readers by telling them that "money alone cannot make you happy," for "children and long life is very important," (pg.5). He includes a brief section on "How to know a girl to marry," however the bulk of the pamphlet's advice consists of sample letters that appear on pages 7-35. The author claims to have three important types of letters to teach: 1) letters for marriage; 2) engagement letters; and 3) love letters, (pg.5). Both the front and back cover have interesting illustrations about writing letters and knowing a girl to marry.

The remainder of the pamphlet is a play, "Rich Man's Daughter," by Raja Raphael, (pg.35-72). This play's inclusion with these letters seems obvious because the play deals with the power of romantic love over arranged marriages and the power of love to surmount differences in class and wealth. This is a common theme in the letters as well.

The opening scene sets up a confrontation between John Bull and his daughter Magi that serves as the play's source of conflict and action. However, this first scene also begins to establish class confrontations through initial characterizations. Language serves as a means to develop the differences between the classes and the sides of the confrontation. John Bull and his daughter Magi speak in nearly standardized English compared to their servant Ikem's pidgin. Keni, Magi's lover, and his friend Feli also speak a standardized English. However, Keni's parents, Mary and Joseph, speak something closer to pidgin initially. Additionally, the names identify the more elite and westernized characters: John Bull and Magi Bull rather than a Nigerian name such as Ikem.

Magi and her father argue over which man she will marry. John Bull has chosen Bonny, a chief's son, as the future husband, and he has initiated the negotiations to seal the deal. Magi, however, has selected another man that she loves. Both have strong plans and know that they will win and make the other see reason. John Bull has his servant, Ikem, spy on Magi and follow her around. In the end, it is Magi's machinations that win over her father. She Reveals that she is pregnant to her mother, who then warns John Bull to accept his daughter's wishes. Fearing that she will commit suicide or have an abortion, he agrees that she should marry the man of her choice. Both Bonnie and his father, the Chief, are also quite enamored with Keni, her chosen partner.

Keni and his family are characterized as good people. Keni is identified as a proper husband and partner for Magi, who in turn will make a good wife, for she does not "do like the daughter of a rich man," (pg.43). Magi will make a good obedient wife. Other gendered characterizations are also of interest. For Example, men in this play expect women to be soft and sweet. Women are literally like sugar. Feli: What makes her sweet? She tastes like sugar or salt? ...O.k. Until that day, so that I can get a packet of sugar for my own use. Keni: And give another packet of sugar to her so that two of you can taste sweet to each other, (pg.47-48).

Women, on the other hand, perceive men to be deceptive and manipulative.However, they still find themselves interested in the game of love. Katty: Some young men may appear very charming outside, but inside their heart, they are as black as coal about love. ... Magi: That's one thing wrong with men. When you are after them, they will start to dodge you. I tell men know how to keep women in great expectations when in love, (pg.49).

This play uses intrigue to prove the importance of romantic love. Yet it still emphasizes the cultural values embedded within Igbo society. In the end, Keniis a good match for Magi because of his character and his family's character rather than his wealth.

* Note that this play has some scenes printed out of sequence and several repeated scenes.


Abiakam, J.


Onitsha, Nigeria : J.C. Brothers Bookshop


ca. 1963?


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Onitsha market literature





Abiakam, J., “How to write and reply letters for marriage, engagement letters, love letters, and how to know a girl to marry,” KU Libraries Exhibits, accessed March 2, 2021,