Letter of introduction
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The letter of introduction, along with the visiting card, was an important part of polite social interaction in the 18th and 19th centuries. It remains important in formal situations, such as an ambassador presenting his credentials, and in certain business circles.
In general, a person would not interact socially with others unless they had been properly introduced, in person or by letter. A person of lower social status would request a patron of higher social status to write a letter of introduction to a third party, also of higher social status than the first person, but lower than the second person. It was important to observe the niceties of etiquette in requesting, writing and presenting such letters, in such matters as the quality of the paper used, and whether it would be delivered unopened to allow the requesting party to read it. For example, it was best practice to deliver a letter of introduction to the intended recipient with a visiting card, to allow the recipient to reciprocate by calling upon the sender the next day.
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