Happy Valentine’s Day!
Whether you’re a lover of Valentine’s day or not, I had to find something fitting to read in preparation for the day of love. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before so I thought, why not?
What sparked this idea off was on a recent trip to Scarborough, I saw this book of love letters from the war. I absolutely love a letter and find myself saddened that it’s dying out. However, it brought back a memory of the book, Love Letters of Great Men made famous by the Sex and the City film. It was time to give this a read and experience love through the ages.
What’s it all about?
Rather than tell you all of the letters, I’ve picked my favourite three all for very different reasons. The collection covers prolific men in history from the likes of King Henry VIII to Lord Nelson, Napoleon Bonaparte to Oscar Wilde, just to name a few. Devised in chronological order, it really is wonderful to see love and all that is associated with it through time. It made me wonder how much has actually changed over the course of history.
My first pick of the letters is by Ludwig van Beethoven. Written in July to his Immortal Beloved, the full extent of the letter is an impressive ten pages long. The reason why I love this so much is because it’s written on my birthday (many moons before) so it felt like fate. Most importantly though, you can see how it oozes romance and despair.
“Be calm – love me – to day – 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
My next favourite comes from Oscar Wilde. Oscar and I go way back. I discovered him when I was at university and became obsessed with everything about him: his wit, his style, his talent and his life. A soul born before his time, Wilde was a broken man following his imprisonment for homosexuality. I’ve read all of his letters but this one shows love at its most vulnerable.
“My sweet rose, my delicate flower, my lily of lilies, it is perhaps in prison that I am going to test the power of love. I am going to see if I cannot make the bitter wardens sweet by the intensity of the love I bear you.”
Finally, I’ve picked a letter by Robert Browning. Every year I teach Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and I really enjoyed seeing some of his letters back. Their love is something that I think every aspires too: overwhelming, all encompassing, complete joy. My favourite letter is from their wedding day. It makes my heart soar.
“Words can never tell you… how perfectly dear you are to me – perfectly dear to my heart and soul. I look back and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence – you have been entirely perfect to me.”
There’s so many other incredible letters in this collection. It’s a joy to see them published. I can only imagine what it was like to receive them. There is a real art to writing a letter – I still write them now. However, there really is something special about these. We’re stumbling into these historical relationships where distance and time were real issues and where communication was by letter alone. It almost feels like a much simpler time.
Whether single, taken or in between, these letters really were something special. Love is an emotion that really has stood the test of time. These great men, all great for different reasons, all evoked the same reaction, acknowledgement of what a beautiful thing to receive. That snapshot into a little moment into these varied lives really is special. It’s a collection that will remain treasured on my shelf.
Sending you all love on this Valentine’s Day.