I've always loved fountain pens; they remind me of the thrill of passing the Common Entrance Exam and going to St Joseph's Convent when I was ten or so. No more elementary school; that meant no more short skirts or knickers except at P.E., no more marching in lines from assembly. It also meant no more pencils, except at math class. Our teachers came to us, while we sat at our very own desks that we chose at the beginning of the term. In the middle of the immovable area of each desktop, behind the desk's lid, sat an inkwell. I remember stopping by the stationery store on the way home, proud in my convent girl long skirts and crisp blouses with the school pin at the throat, and spending long periods choosing inks and admiring new pens.
We were not allowed to use ballpoints; strict lectures assured us that ballpoints would ruin a young lady's handwriting, and that elegant penmanship with neatly-executed and above all legible lettering was one of the hallmarks of true refinement. I remember the thrill and horror of blotches as we worked with the pens for the first time, and the easy admiration for those girls who learned first to use them. I remember still how the weight and fit and flow of them lifted the simple act of writing out of the commonplace and made it an art. And I still feel, today, as if a good instrument lends its weight to the thoughts being transferred to paper.
I've owned a few fountain pens over the years, as you might imagine. Cheap ones, mostly, picked up at grocery stores for the joy of reminiscing, and invariably lost soon afterward, because they felt nothing like the ones I remembered. Last year, however, I bought myself a Sheaffer. I loaned it to my father, and the loan became a gift. I almost don't begrudge it.
The two pens I bought recently more than make up for the loss of the Sheaffer. I was wary of the Levenger pens; I need not have been. I bought a very affordable Levenger Exeter as an afterthought, and it's become my favourite, over and above the cyan-blue Cross ATX with my birth name engraved on it. (Guess which one I expected to be my favourite.) The Exeter is heavier, sturdier, easier to grasp, and the fine nib lays down clean, crisp lines. The ATX also has a fine nib, but for some reason, it has a more fluid feel, something better suited to writing affectionate letters to dear (and forgiving) friends than to aiding in the capture of the right words to carry a thought, with many pauses and deliberate execution of strokes and curves. The ATX is less intimidating. The Exeter is a superior taskmaster. Neither one, I'm thinking, will see the inside of its case again soon.