In the "one drink" category of the Jane Austen Drinking Game we have men leaping on to or off of horses to relay news of great import. With a clattering of hooves, scattering of gravel, and whinnying of a protesting steed, some impetuous male would be off to deal with some important business, usually in London.
I recently heard on the radio a sad anecdote from the early 1800s. Samuel Morse, a famed painter, was commissioned to paint the portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, who was visiting in Washington, D.C. Morse traveled from his home in New Haven, Connecticut, over 300 miles, leaving behind his wife who was soon expecting a child. While working on the portrait, a rider arrived with a letter informing him that his wife was "convalescent". He prepared to leave, but not before another letter reported his wife's unexpected death. He rode hard, day and night, but did not arrive home until after her burial. It was then that Morse began to focus on a way that messages could be transmitted more quickly, sparing others such heartbreak. Over the next 20 years, he worked on a method of transferring electromagnetic signals through wires - the telegraph - using an alphabetic system of clicks - the Morse Code. Of course, receiving telegrams has become a symbol of heartbreaking news.