Why are love letters so powerful? Why does the written word feel more sincere and passionate than when spoken? Perhaps it is that intimacy that entwines souls when words, unfurled from the page, create the most cerebral and intimate connection two people can share. Unlike conversation, a letter can be held and smoldering words can be read again and again. The sender is absent and yet we are in the company of their thoughts with that piece of paper, touched and inked by their hand. Words have the power to cast a spell on our hearts and enkindle our deepest emotions.
The Victorians were masters at writing love letters because they had to be. With rigidity surrounding courtship, correspondence became one of the only means for letting feelings be known. There was even a handbook The New Lover’s Instructor which contained a collection of fictional letters and compliment cards that were intended as templates for the love-smitten to use during courtship. This handy little manual offered advice on how to compose a well polished letter for every stage of courtship.
It takes more than a template, however, to write a truly impassioned love letter. When inspired by the depths of desire, words tumble from the heart rather than being carefully selected. It has been said that being in the throes of love is a form of madness so it is no surprise that the product of those emotions is unruly and wild. Some famous love-struck victims have had their words immortalized and have captured the desperation of their tormented souls. We have collected a few examples from history that we consider to be the most sincere and swoon worthy words ever written.
Napoleon fell desperately in love at the age of 26 with a 32-year-old widow, Joséphine de Beauharnais, who was the love of his life. He wrote her over 75,000 love letters and conquered her heart as well as most of Europe. Desperate for an heir, he later divorced his beloved Josephine to sire a son, but his last word on his deathbed was her name.
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria are known for having one of the most romantic relationships in the history of the British monarchy. Albert penned these sweet words to Victoria shortly before their wedding day.
Clementine was Winston Churchill’s rock and his true love, but their marriage was anything but peaceful. They argued over political views and she once hurled a plate of spinach at him over a spat about money.
John Keats met Fanny Brawne in late 1818 when he moved next door to the Brawne family, and it wasn’t long before Keats was head-over-heels in love with Fanny. He wrote love letters declaring his love for her for three years until his death in 1821.
Mark Twain saw a picture of his wife-to-be, Olivia, and it was love at first sight. Known for his ease with words, he wrote this letter for his wife’s birthday in 1875 and claimed that he fell in love with her again each day.
One of the greatest mysteries of the well-documented life of beloved composer Ludwig van Beethoven is the identity of his great love, which he addressed as his “Immortal Beloved” in an unsent letter found after his death.
Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald
The two were drawn to each other instantly and fell in love like it was meant to be. Despite a volatile relationship, they knew they could not bear to be apart. They were married for 20 years and whenever separated by distance, they wrote heartfelt letters to each other which were later published as, Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda.
In a few weeks, St. Valentine’s Day will be upon us and maybe some of these great romantics will inspire you to take pen to paper and express your sincerest affection for the one you hold most dear. The sentiment of the human heart is more precious than gold and a gift of words lasts a lifetime. Centuries have passed and so much has been forgotten, but heartfelt words inspired by epic romances, never fade.