Apr 25, 2012

Love letters

by Emmie Dark

Because today is ANZAC Day, a friend was telling me about a wartime story she heard. A New Zealand couple met just before he was called up to serve in World War II. They kept in contact all throughout the war and married as soon as he returned—she sewed her wedding dress while she was waiting for him. They then enjoyed almost 60 years of happy marriage. After their deaths – just three months apart – their children discovered a box of their love letters from during the war. They both signed each letter “yours forever and ever”.

Isn’t that just heart-melting?

It made me think about love letters and how special it is to receive words that let you know the place you hold in someone's heart.

I still have a box somewhere with letters from high school. I wouldn’t exactly call them Robert Browning quality literature, but then teenage boys aren’t always erudite. I also like to keep cards and notes from friends and family – those little notes where someone expresses how special you are can be so lovely to stumble across on a day when you’re not feeling your best.

Technology is, I think, helping bring the love letter new relevance.  Yes, you could complain that we don’t handwrite letters anymore. And you could argue that an email isn't as romantic as a letter.

But back in war time (or even back not so long ago) you couldn’t send an instant, quick message to let someone know you were thinking of them. A sweet, caring text message is a lovely way to brighten someone’s day. And as anyone who's posted their birthday on Facebook knows, you can't escape the happy birthday messages there -- and the reminder of how many people out there care about you!

I don't think that's a bad thing at all.  After all, it's the message that's important -- not the delivery. Wouldn't you agree? 

I did a bit of research into love letters to prepare this blog post. I have to share some of my favourites that I came across.

Robert Browning
"Dear Elizabeth: Do you know, when you have told me to think of you, I have been feeling ashamed of thinking of you so much, of thinking of only you--which is too much, perhaps." Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett.

“I love you, I love you. My Victor, I cannot reiterate it too often; I can never express it as much as I feel it. I recognise you in all the beauty that surrounds me  in form, in colour, in perfume, in harmonious sound: all of these mean you to me.” Juliette Drouet, French actress, to Victor Hugo.

It's too long for me to copy and past in it's entirety here, but you must read Lewis Carroll's letter to Gertrude Despite being posted on a site for romantic love letters, it's not a 'love letter' -- more of a 'get well soon' wish. (Gertrude Chataway was a child to whom he dedicated "The Hunting of the Snark" to.) It's typically Lewis Carroll in its eccentricity, but it's incredibly sweet.

How about this for a modern take on love letters?

“Can you all help me make her morning?” Ashton Kutcher made an appeal to the Twitterverse to surprise Demi Moore with hundreds of "good morning, I love you" tweets. (Okay, so I know that it’s over, but still, attempting to “crash Twitter with love” is pretty fabulous.) He succeeded. Demi replied: "I am feeling the love bomb and think I might explode! At least with a few tears of overwhelming joy."

I’m not going to include any quotes from James Joyce’s love letters to his wife Nora. Now they were eye-popping!! If you’re interested in having your horizons broadened (potentially in ways you didn’t want), Google “James Joyce love letters” and see what you find. I was going to put a link, but it’s really not LoveCats style stuff. :)

But, lest you fear I'm being too tame, let me leave you with the words of Gustave Flaubert to his wife, Louise: 

"I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy.  I want to gorge you with all the joys of the flesh, so that you faint and die.  I want you to be amazed by me, and to confess to yourself that you had never even dreamed of such transports...  When you are old, I want you to recall those few hours, I want your dry bones to quiver with joy when you think of them."



  1. Ooh, my goodness, Emmie. What a high point to leave on. Flaubert really had a powerful way with words, didn't he?

    There's nothing like a written message that you can keep without needing to turn on a computer. Even just a couple of words. Some of my most treasured possessions are little notes from my kids that I couldn't throw out.

  2. I love Flaubert's words. That's passion.
    As someone who attended boarding school I used to be a huge letterwriter as I craved news from family and friends all the time and figured if I didn't write to them they wouldn't send me mail. So it was natural to write letters to the guys in my life too.
    I don't feel emails quite do it the same but that may because I'm no longer "really young".

  3. I'm with you Annie - I treasure the little notes I have from family and friends. I also treasure some online messages I've received and I keep them in a special folder. Some I've printed out to keep.

  4. Thanks Anne. I hadn't read that quote from Flaubert before and I thought it was just wonderful. I used to write lots of letters in high school. Now a couple of friends and I will write emails to each other that become long chains of conversation. I love being able to send the same message to two (or more) people and talk with them. Like a letter, only better!

  5. Wow! Imagine receiving a note like that! I wonder if he was that good LOL

    My dh is not a reader or writer. He's has a maths brain so we complement each other, I guess. But he does take an extraordinary amount of time and care choosing cards for occasions.
    I grew up in a family where cards were considered a waste of money; buy a scratch-it instead or just save the money. I still appreciate that cards can be exxy, but poring over gorgeous words meant just for you - even if they weren't necessarily created by the giver - is someting to cherish.

    Thanks for a lovely post, Emmie! Wasn't that digger couple lucky to have found and kept one another all those years.

  6. The wartime romance you first spoke of could have been about my parents.

    My father first proposed to my mother when he was 16 and my mother 14. World War II arrived and got in the way of a budding friendship and romance. When my father was stationed in New Guinea for the war, my mother realised that she would miss him terribly if he did NOT come back! My father proposed a second time, almost 10 years after the first. My mother said ‘yes’ and they had their fairytale wedding. Now, 65+ years later, they still hold hands when they are out and about.

  7. A lovely post. But letter writing and us, now? We won't even know how to write! Texting and emailing is so much easy!


  8. Gorgeous post, Emmie. I have a whole box of notes and cards and letters that I treasure. And I too have printed out the occasional email that's touched me. Reading over them again can give me such a boost when I need it.

    I love those lines from Flaubert.

    Wowser! I did google James Joyce and love letters. His tone was definitely...umm...earthy!

  9. Robyn, I'm with you, I love giving and receiving cards. There's a beautiful card store in the US called "Papyrus" and whenever I'm there I stock up with a dozen or so cards to use throughout the year. I want them to open a store in Aus!

  10. Marybelle, that is a wonderful story!! How lovely that their love endured the war. And good on your father for having the courage to ask again!

  11. Riya, I kind of agree -- I'm much more likely to type or text than to write something long-hand. But I don't think the magic of a hand-written card or note will ever disappear, and so we'll still need to teach kids how to write -- for that reason if nothing else!

  12. Michelle -- I'm glad someone did the Google search!! Interesting, to say the least, right??? I actually went to an writers centre function where someone read some of the letters aloud. That was quite eye-opening and blush-inducing!!

  13. Emmie ~ I love the story about the couple and their love letters.

    Jim certainly wrote some eye opening letters to Nora. Too much information for me.

  14. What a gorgeous post, Emmie! I googled the James Joyce letters too - he was certainly fond of Nora...