Postal Reform of 1840

In 1840, 23 years after Austen's death, the British postal system was radically reformed mostly through the efforts of Rowland Hill. Hill published "Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability" in 1837 proposing a savings of time and expense through collecting postage before the letters were delivered (Robinson 266). He also proposed that one penny be made the basic charge on all inter-Britain letters weighing not more than one ounce with an additional penny for each half ounce (267).

Hill's second edition included a request for paper "cohered at back with a glutinous wash which could be adhered by applying a little water," and the modern-day stamp was born (269). He also conceived the idea for "wrappers" or "covers made of cheap paper" on which addresses could be written and stamps placed (268). Stamps were to be marked at the receiving house so that they could not be used again (268).

Hill's proposal also included the abolition of franking, the practice of granting free postage to members and friends of Parliament (288). The practice of franking was heavily abused.

Hill's proposal was so well received that between 1837 and 1838, Parliament received 320 petitions bearing nearly 9,000 signatures in favor of Penny Postage (288).


Rates and Terms

Mail Carriers

Mail Coaches

Mail Guards


Postal Moneys Used for War

Postal Reform of 1840

Austen's Style

Quotes from Austen's Characters