Since Valentine's Day is next week, I figured we ought to talk about it a little bit. You'll know from last year's blog post that I'm not the biggest Vday fan. However, I'm all about love and expressing yourself so I put together a short list of some of the best love letters (in my humble opinion) to inspire you to write it all out this Valentine's Day!
1. Persuasion by Jane Austen | Often referred to as "the reconciliation letter," this letter from Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot comes at the end of the novel after a thwarted engagement, 7 years apart and other fantastic Jane Austen style misunderstandings between the two lovers. Wentworth crushes this love letter and by the third line I am toast, every time.
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
2. Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf | I love this love letter. Sackville-West's honesty and simplicity is beautiful and raw. She touches on the inadequacies we feel in love, the unbalanced exchange of emotions, and is brave enough to write candidly about both those feelings. This letter was written to Woolf in 1927 and will be relevant forever.
…I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your undumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it should lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is really just a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don’t really resent it.
3. Kahlil Gibran to Mary Haskel | Short and sweet, but powerful and touching this letter from painter, poet, and philosopher Kahlil Gibran is one we can all find relatable. If you've been in love, you know the place in your soul Gibran is speaking of that can never be tainted. When we love, it takes root and, even if it doesn't last, there is always the memory of the emotions. Haskel and Gibran would go on to write countless letters to one another throughout their unconventional, but eternal relationship and this one just scratches the surface of their beautiful correspondence.
When I am unhappy, dear Mary, I read your letters. When the mist overwhelms the “I” in me, I take two or three letters out of the little box and reread them. They remind me of my true self. They make me overlook all that is not high and beautiful in life. Each and every one of us, dear Mary, must have a resting place somewhere. The resting place of my soul is a beautiful grove where my knowledge of you lives.
4. William Shakespeare's Sonnet #116 | Okay, okay. I know this isn't a love letter, but I couldn't not include this. Just pretend it has a "Dear so-and-so" at the beginning and a "with love" at the end and let's call it a love letter. One of my favorite sonnets, Sonnet #116 expresses the constancy and invariability of love.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.
5. Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera | Kahlo and Rivera were both artists in the early twentieth-century that met, separated, and came back together all before Kahlo's early death in 1954. In this letter, Kahlo writes of a sensual, physical, and almost life-dependent love. She refers to his and her body, and in the same sentence elements of the earth. As if they are as natural and harmonious as earth and flowers, blood and nerves. It's a visceral letter that reminds us that writing a love letter isn't just about feelings.
Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. You are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightening. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. My fingertips touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.
6. Ludwig van Beethoven to his "Immortal Beloved" | Intrigue! Who is Beethoven's immortal Beloved? We don't know, but speculation is out there. Either way she is one lucky woman (though she never knew it since Beethoven never sent the letter) because the man could write nearly as well as he could compose. This letter touches on the duality of love: the ability it has to make one happy and sad, fulfilled yet unsatisfied, content and hungry.
Even in bed my ideas yearn towards you, my Immortal Beloved, here and there joyfully, then again sadly, awaiting from Fate, whether it will listen to us. I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all. Yes, I have determined to wander about for so long far away, until I can fly into your arms and call myself quite at home with you, can send my soul enveloped by yours into the realm of spirits — yes, I regret, it must be. You will get over it all the more as you know my faithfulness to you; never another one can own my heart, never — never! O God, why must one go away from what one loves so, and yet my life in W. as it is now is a miserable life. Your love made me the happiest and unhappiest at the same time. At my actual age I should need some continuity, sameness of life — can that exist under our circumstances? Angel, I just hear that the post goes out every day — and must close therefore, so that you get the L. at once. Be calm — love me — today — yesterday.
What longing in tears for you — You — my Life — my All — farewell. Oh, go on loving me — never doubt the faithfullest heart
Of your beloved
7. Emma Goldman to Dr. Benjamin Reitman | "Red Emma" was an anarchist living in New York City who believed in women's rights and free love. Her softer, more vulnerable interior was exposed through letters written to Dr. Ben Reitman whom she met in 1908. Goldman was tough and radical, but through her letters we see a woman torn between the demands of politics, society, family, and her heart.
You have opened up the prison gates of my womanhood. And all the passion that was unsatisfied in me for so many years, leaped into a wild reckless storm boundless as the sea...Can you then imagine that I could stay away from you? What is love, family ties, the power of association to the wanderer in the desert. His mind is bent on the spring that will quench his thirst...Yet, if I were asked to choose between a world of understanding and the spring that fills my body with fire, I should have to choose the spring. It is life, sunshine, music, untold ecstasy. The Spring, oh ye Gods, that have tortured my body all these years, I will give you my soul only let me drink, drink from the Spring of my master lover...There. You have the confession of a starved tortured being...my Ben.
If you're not in a frenzy of emotions and ready to put it all down on paper, I'm not sure what else to do! But in all seriousness the power of the written word endures and how amazing would it be for your Valentine to have something on paper to hold onto forever? You can do it!