Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love Letters

To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written. ~ Jean Jacques Rousseau

Like my dream of holding hands on a ferris wheel, I hold dear the idea of the love letter. Here are some excerpts of good ones, of which my favorite is the last.

To Peter Abelard: I have your picture in my room. I never pass by it without stopping to look at it; and yet when you were present with me, I scare ever cast my eyes upon it. If a picture which is but a mute representation of an object can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? They have souls, they can speak, they have in them all that force which expresses the transport of the heart; they have all the fire of our passions.... ~ Heloise

To Fanny Brawne: I cannot exist without you - I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again - my life seems to stop there - I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I were dissolving ....I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion - I have shudder'd at it - I shudder no more - I could be martyr'd for my religion - love is my religion - I could die for that - I could die for you. My creed is love and you are its only tenet - you have ravish'd me away by a power I cannot resist. ~ John Keats

Twenty times during the day, I ask myself where you are; judge how strong the illusion is, and how cruel it is to see it vanish. When I go to bed, I do not fail to make room for you; I push myself quite close to the wall and leave a great empty space in my small bed. This movement is mechanical, these thoughts are involuntary. Ah! how one accustoms oneself to happiness.

Alas! one only knows it well when one has lost it, and I'm sure we have only learnt to appreciate how necessary we are to each other, since the thunderbolt has parted us. The source of our tears has not dried up, dear Sophie; we cannot become healed; we have enough in our hearts to love always, and, because of that, enough to weep always. ~ Gabriel (Count Gabriel Honore de Mirbeau, 1790)

There would have been the making of an accomplished flirt in me, because my lucidity shows me each move of the game - but that, in the same instant, a reaction of contempt makes me sweep all the counters off the board and cry out: - "Take them all - I don't want to win - I want to lose everything to you!" ~ Edith Wharton, an American novelist to W Morton Fullerton, an American journalist, June 8, 1908

Beware, Josephine; one fine night the doors will be broken down and there I shall be. In truth, I am worried, my love, to have no news from you; write me a four page letter instantly made up from those delightful words which fill my heart with emotion and joy. I hope to hold you in my arms before long, when I shall lavish upon you a million kisses, burning as the equatorial sun. ~ Napolean Bonaparte, 1797

July 24, 1940 - I cannot get that beautiful afternoon out of my head, above me where I lay the grass was silhouetted against the blue of the heavens, small clouds were rushing past as the wind drove them on an endless journey. Then close to me was the most lovely of all, your soft hair against my cheek, your kisses so cool and unearthly and my happiness was so great. ~ Julia Lee-Booker to Lieut. Pat McSwiney, a British soldier.

February 10, 1867 - ...and now, love, you with the warm heart and loving eyes, whose picture I kissed last night and whose lips I so often kiss in my dreams, whose love enriches me so bountifully with all pleasant memories and sweet anticipations, whose encircling arms shield me from so much evil and harm, whose caresses are so dear and so longed for awake and in slumber, making my heart beat faster, my flesh tremble and my brain giddy with delight, - whose feet I kiss and whose knees I embrace as a devotee kisses and embraces those of his idol, - my darling whose home is in my arms and whose resting place my bosom, who first came to them as a frightened bird but now loves to linger there till long after the midnight chimes have uttered their warning, - my life, with your generous soul, my heart's keeper and my true lover, - Good night: a good night and a fair one to thy sleeping eyes and wearied limb, the precursor of many bright, beautiful mornings when my kisses shall waken thee and my love shall greet thee. ~ Lyman (Lyman Hodge, an American merchant to Mary Granger, his fiancee).

December 31, 1839 - I send you some allumettes (lampshades) wherewith to kindle the taper. There are very few but my second finger could no longer perform extra duty. These will serve till the wounded one be healed, however. How beautiful is it to provide even this slightest convenience for you, dearest! I cannot tell you how much I love you, in this back-handed style. My love is not in this attitude,-- it rather bends forward to meet you.

What a year has been to us! My definition of Beauty is, that it is love, and therefore includes both truth and good. But those only who love as we do can feel the significance and force of this.

My ideas will not flow in these crooked strokes. God be with you. I am very well, and have walked far in Danvers this cold morning. I am full of the glory of the day. God bless you this night of the old year. It has proved the year of our nativity. Has not the old earth passed away from us?--are not all things new? ~ Your Sophie (to Nathaniel Hawthorne)

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. ~ Gustave Flaubert

September 1, 1834 - But let me have this letter, containing nothing but your love; and tell me that you give me your lips, your hair, all that face that I have possessed, and tell me that we embrace - you and I! O God, O God, when I think of it, my throat closes, my sight is troubled; my knees fail, ah, it is horrible to die, it is also horrible to love like this! What longing, what longing I have for you! I beg you to let me have the letter I ask. I am dying. Farewell. ~ Alfred de Musset, French Poet, to Amantine Aurore Dudevant, French writer.

25 August, 1819 - My dearest Teresa, I have read this book in your garden;--my love, you were absent, or else I could not have read it. It is a favourite book of yours, and the writer was a friend of mine. You will not understand these English words, and others will not understand them,--which is the reason I have not scrawled them in Italian. But you will recognize the handwriting of him who passionately loved you, and you will divine that, over a book which was yours, he could only think of love.

In that word, beautiful in all languages, but most so in yours--Amor mio--is comprised my existence here and hereafter. I feel I exist here, and I feel I shall exist hereafter,--to what purpose you will decide; my destiny rests with you, and you are a woman, eighteen years of age, and two out of a convent. I love you, and you love me,--at least, you say so, and act as if you did so, which last is a great consolation in all events.

But I more than love you, and cannot cease to love you. Think of me, sometimes, when the Alps and ocean divide us, --but they never will, unless you wish it. ~ Lord Byron

May 12, 1869 - Out of the depths of my happy heart wells a great tide of love and prayer for this priceless treasure that is confided to my life-long keeping.

You cannot see its intangible waves as they flow towards you, darling, but in these lines you will hear, as it were, the distant beating of the surf.
~ Mark Twain to Olivia Langdon, his future wife.

Christ Church, Oxford, October 28, 1876

My Dearest Gertrude:

You will be sorry, and surprised, and puzzled, to hear what a queer illness I have had ever since you went. I sent for the doctor, and said, "Give me some medicine, for I'm tired."
He said, "Nonsense and stuff! You don't want medicine: go to bed!"

I said, "No; it isn't the sort of tiredness that wants bed. I'm tired in the face."

He looked a little grave, and said, "Oh, it's your nose that's tired: a person often talks too much when he thinks he knows a great deal."
I said, "No, it isn't the nose. Perhaps it's the hair."
Then he looked rather grave, and said, "Now I understand: you've been playing too many hairs on the pianoforte."

"No, indeed I haven't!" I said, "and it isn't exactly the hair: it's more about the nose and chin."
Then he looked a good deal graver, and said, "Have you been walking much on your chin lately?"
I said, "No."
"Well!" he said, "it puzzles me very much.

Do you think it's in the lips?"
"Of course!" I said. "That's exactly what it is!"

Then he looked very grave indeed, and said, "I think you must have been giving too many kisses."
"Well," I said, "I did give one kiss to a baby child, a little friend of mine."

"Think again," he said; "are you sure it was only one?" I thought again, and said, "Perhaps it was eleven times."
Then the doctor said, "You must not give her any more till your lips are quite rested again."

"But what am I to do?" I said, "because you see, I owe her a hundred and eighty-two more."
Then he looked so grave that tears ran down his cheeks, and he said, "You may send them to her in a box."

Then I remembered a little box that I once bought at Dover, and thought I would someday give it to some little girl or other. So I have packed them all in it very carefully. Tell me if they come safe or if any are lost on the way." ~ Lewis Carroll

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