When was the last time you wrote someone a letter?
And no, not an email or a particularly long private message on Facebook. A real letter, where you compose your thoughts, preferably on paper, and present them to another person. It’s such an intimate and meaningful thing to do and it’s often reserved for faraway family...or, in the case of love notes, your boyfriend or girlfriend.
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Love letter writing is an art that goes back thousands of years. There’s evidence of love letters written thousands of years ago during the time of Ancient Egypt and Rome. During and after the medieval period, love letters were greatly romanticised, with novels and plays written about lovers who send messages to each other to express their feelings.
Today, the art of the love letter is slowly being forgotten, and the last time most people have written any kind of letter probably involved drawing up a cover letter for their job applications.
If you’re looking for a beautiful and unique way to express your feelings for someone, learn from the best throughout history and check out the ten greatest love letters of all time, as well as some of the best love quotes from each.
5. Ernest Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich
Ernest Hemingway has won the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer Prize, two of the highest honours that a writer can receive from the literary world. Yet his writing style was famously muted, without room for any of the flourish that you might expect from one of the greatest writers of all time.
In a very loving letter to legendary Hollywood actress Marlene Dietrich, whom he considered his best friend, Hemingway wrote: "I can't say how every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home. Nor too many things. But we were always cheerful and jokers together."
While it’s often claimed that the two were platonic friends, that kind of writing inspires so much love and passion that we can’t help but wonder...
4. Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf
In very plaintive, simple language, poet Vita Sackville-West wrote to writer Virginia Woolf, "I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way." By itself, this could easily be one of the most romantic love quotes ever.
She would also write, in another love message and just as honestly, “…But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don’t really resent it.”
While Woolf and Sackville-West maintained a long distance relationship due to the Atlantic divide and of course their many travels, nothing could stop such a force of love.
3. Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash
After many years in the same relationship, love often fails to burn with the same, constant passion as it once did. That’s a normal part of growing old together. But it’s the ongoing decision to stay with each other, and the recognition of each other as life partners, that makes all the difference in the world.
Country singer Johnny Cash greeted his wife, June Carter Cash, on her 65th birthday with a wonderful letter that echoed this. “But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.”
2. Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor
The infamous affair of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton might have begun as a scandal, but Burton’s love letters for her are undeniably a gold mine for romantic prose. She kept nearly 40 letters from him over the years.
This 1964 letter deserves special mention: “My blind eyes are desperately waiting for the sight of you. You don’t realize of course, E.B., how fascinatingly beautiful you have always been, and how strangely you have acquired an added and special and dangerous loveliness.”
Taylor would later say, “After Richard, the men in my life were just there to hold the coat, to open the door. All the men after Richard were really just company.”
With such intense declarations of love like that, who wouldn’t feel the same?
1. Ronald Reagan To Nancy Reagan
There’s something to be said about the love letters of great men, how they transform powerful figures into loving, vulnerable creatures, as they speak from the heart.
Before he was an actor and a President, Ronald Reagan was a radio broadcaster. His rousing speeches and masterful oration were actually what got the Republican Party to ask him to run for Governor of California, launching his political career. He was even famous as “The Great Communicator” throughout his presidency.
Nowhere were his talents so exquisitely used, though, than in the many love letters he wrote to Nancy Reagan, his wife from 1952 until his death. In one beautiful excerpt from a 1972 letter, he wrote: “The important thing is I don't want to be without you for the next 20 years, or 40, or however many there are. I've gotten very used to being happy and I love you very much indeed.”
The two Reagans were together for 52 years until Ronald’s death. He certainly kept his promise.
How To Write Love Letters
You’ve seen a sample of the best of them. Now how do you write your own love letter?
Let’s address a common misconception right now. You don’t actually need to be a great writer or a use paragraphs upon paragraphs of deep language to craft something that can make her cry.
The very best love letters are nothing but earnest, and they talk about your feelings on a very personal level. The immortal advice of being yourself is key here.
Are you the kind of person who’s very cute and likes to be funny? Or are you a more stoic type, for whom love messages are a very rare luxury? Whatever you are, your love letter must come from you. Don’t say anything that would be out of character for you. If you’re not the kind to say something like Burton’s “My blind eyes are desperately waiting for the sight of you,” then don’t force it.
The Best Love Notes Are Short And Sweet
You don’t need a lot of words to make a great love letter. Being short, sweet, and straight to the point is the best way to go. After all, it was Shakespeare, one of the great romance masters, who said that “Brevity is the soul of wit”.
Say Exactly What It Is About Your Significant Other That Makes You Love Them
What sounds better?
“My love for you burns as bright as the sun?”
Or: “I love the way you get these little wrinkles on your nose when you smile at me?”
Being deeply personal about the reasons for your love will always beat generic platitudes!
The Best Time To Give A Love Letter
When are some good times to write love letters?
On your anniversary is definitely one. Maybe if you’re asking someone to go steady with you, that’s another good time.
A love letter is also a great thing to write when you feel like you’ve drifted apart. Rather than saying goodbye, it’s a perfect way to keep the love going.
Ultimately, your significant other will always appreciate any words of affirmation that you love them. There’s no bad time to write love letters for him or her!