Remember what it was like to sit down with a quill and ink to scribe love letters? Nope, neither do we. In fact, it’s rare we even pick up a ballpoint pen these days with the advent of the Internet. Despite the digital degradation of letter writing, however, there’s nothing more passionate than penning a personal message to a lover, like these 10 notable romantics were wont to do:
In 1812 – between writing little ditties such as Symphony No.9 – German composer-pianist Ludwig van Beethoven would scribe romantic revelations to his unidentified ‘Immortal Beloved’. He wrote of the perils of long distance relationships, the beauty of nature, and of his unwavering faithfulness. A brilliant man, with equally brilliant sign offs: “Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours“.
Contrary to Beethoven’s steadfast faithfulness was King Henry’s affinity for infidelity, which led him to ultimately marry one of his illicit lovers before ordering her execution – for adultery, none the less – in 1536. But in the heat of their relationship, Henry was a hopeless romantic, figuring the way to Anne Boleyn’s heart was through her stomach; in the form of an animal he’d slaughtered the night before and sent via courier. Charming, Henry.
During his breaks from world domination, Mr Bonaparte turned his attention to keeping his nuptial fire alive by writing love letters to wife Joséphine de Beauharnais. Her real name was actually Rose, but Napoleon decided Josephine was better, and as such she was henceforth known. He wrote, “I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil. Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart“.
A classy lady – with animalistic intentions – Miss Taylor wrote to Welsh actor and husband Richard Burton describing the ups and downs of their tumultuous relationship: “I wish I could tell you of my love for you, of my fear, my delight, my pure animal pleasure of you – (with you) – my jealousy, my pride, my anger at you, at times. Most of all my love for you, and whatever love you can dole out to me – I wish I could write about it but I can’t.”
Three years prior to releasing her first major novel, Jane Ayre, Charlotte Bronte sent unrequited love letters to a Belgian professor she’d stayed with in Brussels while studying language. As history reveals, the older professor was married with children, and is believed to have torn the letters up in disgust. If not for his nosy wife finding the pieces and sewing them back together, the tale may never have been told.
It could be said that the twice British Prime Minister had a good handle on the politics of love, having been married 53 years to wife Clementine. He wrote, “What it has been to me to live all these years in your heart and companionship no phrases can convey…Time passes swiftly, but is it not joyous to see how great and growing is the treasure we have gathered together.” Winnie, you big softie!
“Even if you prove to me that you have the blemishes you think you have, it cannot appall me any, because with them, you will still be better, and nobler, and lovelier than anyone I have known.” Did Mark Twain not know exactly what every woman needed to hear? Let’s hope his then soon-to-be wife Olivia L. Langdon (who rejected his first proposal of marriage) appreciated this romantic penmanship in 1869 as much as we do today!
Between multiple affairs, some iconic artwork and 27 years of explosive romance, Frida Kahlo found time to scribe some profound and passionate words to her husband, Diego Rivera. Of course everything sounds better in the language of love, but it’s still an emotive translation: “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 lightning. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter…”
He is the only US President to have been divorced, but if not for meeting his second wife, actor Nancy Davis, Reagan’s romantic letter writing ability may have never been realised. In the lead up to their 20th wedding anniversary in 1972, Mr Reagan wrote to Nancy in an endearing denial of possibly being together so long: “20 minutes maybe — but never 20 years. In the first place it is a known fact that a human cannot sustain the high level of happiness I feel for more than a few minutes — and my happiness keeps increasing.”
Irish writer, poet, playwright and gay icon, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, was fluent in French, German, and romance. The following excerpt was taken from a love letter written to 21-year-old Oxford undergraduate Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas: “It is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing.” Oh, the importance of being romantic!