BACK in the summer of 1852, Salisbury was the latest stop for a Post Office worker in the process of setting up a postal network for the West of England.

The role involved travelling around our region on horseback, working out all the routes for local postmen to walk (at a maximum of 16 miles a day).

Then came his stop in Salisbury and a life-changing stroll in the Cathedral Close.

‘Whilst wandering there one mid-summer evening round the purlieus of the cathedral,’ he later wrote in his autobiography, ‘I conceived the story of The Warden, from whence came that series of novels of which Barchester, with its bishops, deans and archdeacon was the central site.’ The postal worker in question was the novelist Anthony Trollope.

His lightbulb moment came when he ‘stood for an hour on the little bridge in Salisbury and had made out to my own satisfaction the spot on which Hiram’s hospital should stand’.

Hiram’s hospital, the setting for The Warden, was based on St Nicholas Hospital; the ‘little bridge’ Trollope found inspiration on was Harnham Bridge.

Next week, Salisbury plays host to another postal literary link in the form of Quebec writer Denis Thériault. Thériault, who is appearing as part of the Arts Festival at the Salberg on Friday June 9, does not have Trollope’s postal past but his latest novels do: The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman and its sequel, the just published The Postman’s Fiancée.

The novels’ protagonist is Bilodo, a postman who secretly steams open the letters he is delivering. When he chances upon a long-distance relationship and one of the lovers dies, he decides to step in and continue the exchange himself.

Deft and delightful, the novels tap into both the tradition of the postman as romantic lead (as epitomised in the film Il Postino) and also by the ongoing power of love letters.

There remains something romantic about receiving a letter by post: something the local village of Lover knows well, with their Valentine’s Day post office and ‘Posted at Lover’ franking.

I wonder, however, how long this literary link will continue. Buffeted by the internet and rival delivery firms, the Post Office is an institution in long term decline. The Lover Post Office is only a pop-up one: the proper one, like so many rural offices, closed a decade ago. I always remember the surprise of reading The Tiger Who Came To Tea to my children and having to explain what a milkman was. By the time I’m a grandparent the postman may be a similar part of history. One hopes that’s not the case, both for future generations of young lovers and novelists alike.