I was cleaning out some drawers the other day and my hands closed around a worn envelope. When I dragged it out, I saw a familiar old scrawl and my heart did an actual pitter patter. I slowly pulled out the white paper. Unfolded it carefully. The rustle rose up to my ears as sweet as Beethoven. Then read it.
My dearest love…
And so it began.
An old lover who’d made an impression on my life but was not meant to be my soul-mate. Writing his feelings, stark, and haunted, and passionate, in a bold blue scrawl. It was poetry, and a romance novel, and a symphony in one hard twist. His words carried me back to the precise moment I opened his letter; my uncertainty about our relationship, my trembling fingers as he poured out his heart, the patter of rain against the windowsill in the background as I read his words.
Ahhh, the love letter.
Is there anything as romantic and passionate in its simplicity as words written on a plain piece of paper from someone we love? For a lover of words, or someone who is good at expressing his or her feelings but can’t handle the verbal exchange, the love letter is the savior and the last stand of romantic love.
Words are still just as powerful today. We may write them on Twitter and email and Facebook, but we are still writing to express humor, frustration, passion, or love. A friend of mine once had a boyfriend who sent note cards in the mail with one mysterious sentence such as, Thinking of tonight….I caught your scent and looked for you today….You are my heart…
Those note cards were more exciting than receiving a text or email. Something about a letter received through the mail makes the exchange seem extra special.
So, my old lover got me thinking about the history of love letters. I perused one of my favorite books (citation below) which details actual love letters throughout history. I posted some excerpts below:
“I already love in you your beauty, but I am only beginning to love in you that which is eternal and ever precious – your heart, your soul. Beauty one could get to know and fall in love with in one hour and cease to love it as speedily; but the soul one must learn to know. Believe me, nothing on earth is given without labour, even love, the most beautiful and natural of feelings.” –Count Leo Tolstoi, Russian writer, to Valeria Arsenev, his fiancée. November 2nd 1856/
“Carry me off into the blue skies of tender loves, roll me in dark clouds, trample me with your thunderstorms, break me in your angry rages. But love me, my adored lover.” Sarah Bernhardt, French actress, to Jean Richepin, French writer, in 1883
“Sometimes I have a rush of feeling, that seems like the passage of a spirit through me, and ought to flow to you like blessing. This is the most beautiful feeling I ever experienced; it is indeed divine, and too much for mortal force: there is no music for it; it can never, I fear me, be expressed…Like sunset it cannot be remembered.” Margaret Fuller, American writer and critic, to James Nathan, April 22nd 1845.
“I lie awake the greatest part of the night in thinking of you…my feet carry me of their own accord to your apartment at those hours I used to visit you; but not finding you there, I return with as much sorrow and disappointment as an excluded lover.” Pliny the Younger, Roman writer, to Calpurnia, his third wife 1st century AD.
My husband never wrote me a love letter and would probably laugh out loud at the idea of trying to come up with one. But one afternoon, I was searching for my husband’s birth certificate in the drawer he keeps his important papers. My fingers closed around a napkin. I cursed under my breath at finding garbage in his bureau, and pulled it out. Carefully folded, I opened the napkin and found my own handwriting. With sheer astonishment, I realized my husband had kept the cocktail napkin where I wrote my name and phone number on the night we met at a bar. Nine years ago.
My heart light, a smile on my lips, I folded the napkin and tucked it back in. That was my own love letter to him. And he has kept it.
Writers are lovers of words. Romance novelists are in the profession of love and happily ever afters. A love letter is a tool for our profession.
Imagine your hero sitting down and writing out a letter to the heroine. It can be a sentence, a paragraph, or a page. It can be sarcastic, passionate, humorous, or confused. What he says in the letter can give you an insight into his character and how he expresses himself with the heroine.
I now find myself the writer of another type of love letter. Each morning I tuck a simple note in my son’s lunchbox. He is learning to read, and is delighted by these surprise notes which help him discover words and lets him know every day that I love him. You are my best friend…I love you sooooo much…Have a wonderful day my big boy….
I complete these love notes with suns and happy faces in magic marker. I treasure these letters and his eagerness to revel in my feelings and words. He tries his own hand at one and surprises me at odd times during the week…I Luv You Mom…You r the best…with little hearts drawn and his signature in large awkward letters adorning the page like the sweetest of perfumes.
One day, I hope he will write his own love letter to a very lucky lady. But until then, his words and letters belong to me. They are tucked away in the back of my bureau in a neat pile where they will remain until one day, I will reach in the drawer when my son is older, and reread them, and remember…
Stop by and share your experience with love letters – receiving, writing, or just appreciating your favorite.
Lovric, Michelle. Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion. Shooting Star Press, NY 1994.