Love letters

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Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:41 pm


Henry VIII
(1491-1547)
Love note in Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours, c1528
While Henry was still married to Catherine of Aragon, some of the earliest and most evocative evidence for his love affair with Anne Boleyn can be found in his future queen’s sumptuously illustrated Book of Hours. Henry chose to write his note to Anne on a page depicting the man of sorrows, thereby intentionally presenting himself as the lovesick king. He wrote in French: “If you remember my love in your prayers as strongly as I adore you, I shall scarcely be forgotten, for I am yours. Henry Rex forever” Photograph: British Library Board

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:43 pm


Margery Brews
(? - 1495)
To John Paston III, February 1477
Margery Brews addressed her betrothed, John Paston III, as her “right well-beloved Valentine”, making her letter the oldest surviving Valentine in the English language. Revealing that she was worried about the bitter family dispute over the size of her dowry, she pleaded with him not to leave her: “If you love me, as I trust verily you do, you will not leave me therefore.” She promised him her undying love, declaring: “My heart bids me ever more to love you, truly over all earthly thing.” She added her initials in the shape of a heart. Photograph: British Library Board

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:46 pm


Elizabeth Barrett Browning
(1806-61)
Sonnet 43 from Sonnets From the Portuguese, c1846
In January 1845, Robert Browning wrote to the poet, “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett.” She replied, “I thank you, Mr Browning, from the bottom of my heart”. So began a correspondence that led to their first meeting and eventually to their marriage on 12 September 1846. It was only after the birth of their son in 1849 that Elizabeth showed her husband the sonnets she had secretly written during their courtship, including “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”. Photograph: British Library Board

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:49 pm


Charlotte Brontë
(1816-55)
To Professor Constantin Héger, 18 November 1844
While studying languages in Brussels, Charlotte Brontë became infatuated with her Belgian professor. On her return to England, she wrote to him, revealing the extent of her feelings, and confessing: “Truly I find it difficult to be cheerful solong as I think I shall never see you more.” Her letters were torn up in shock by the professor who was married with children. Curiously, it is thanks to his wife, who retrieved them from the waste-paper basket, that we are privy to their contents today. Photograph: British Library Board

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:53 pm


Mervyn Peake
(1911-68)
To his wife, Maeve Gilmore, early 1940s
In 1935, Mervyn Peake, who later wrote Gormenghast, was offered a teaching job at Westminster School of Art where he met his future wife, the artist Maeve Gilmore. Whenever he was away from home, Peake wrote regularly to Maeve, his “little plum-cake”, his “darling sweetheart and companion”, his “little daisy-chain” and his “darling little lover”. His letters were often charmingly illustrated, such as the one received by Maeve just before she was due to give birth, in which he simply declares: “Maevie. I am in love. Deeply. Un-endingly, for ever and ever”. Photograph: Estate of Mervyn Peake

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:57 pm


Oscar Wilde
(1854-1900)
To Lord Alfred Douglas, “De Profundis”, January 1897
In 1891, Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas, an affair that eventually led to Wilde’s imprisonment and public disgrace. While in Reading jail he wrote “De Profundis”, an eloquent 50,000 word letter, to his lover. Even though “our ill-fated and most lamentable friendship has ended in ruin and public infamy for me,” he says, “yet the memory of our ancient affection is often with me, and the thought that loathing, bitterness and contempt should for ever take that place in my heart held by love is very sad to me”. Photograph: British Library Board

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:02 pm


Rupert Brooke
(1887-1915)
To Cathleen Nesbitt, 1913
Rupert Brooke’s letters to the English actress Cathleen Nesbitt are full of raw passion and provide a fascinating insight into their two-year romance, which began when the poet fell under her spell while watching her play Perdita in A Winter’s Tale at the Savoy theatre in London. Brooke – once referred to by WB Yeats as “the most handsome man in the country” – was captivated by Cathleen and worshipped “her great beauty”. In a letter dated early 1913, he tells her: “I’m madly eager to see you again. My heart goes knocking when I think of it… I will kiss you till I kill you”. Photograph: Professor John Stallworthy

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:06 pm


Sir Ralph Richardson
(1902-83)
To his wife, Meriel Forbes, undated
After the tragic death of his first wife, the actress Muriel “Kit” Hewitt, stage and screen actor Richardson married Meriel “Mu” Forbes, a member of the theatrical Forbes-Robertson family, in 1944. Their son, Charles, was born the following year. In 2002 the British Library bought Sir Ralph’s papers, including many love letters and delightfully illustrated notes to his wife as “Ferret” or “Ferrety”. Photograph: The Trustees of The Ralph and Meriel Richardson Foundation

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:11 pm


Sir John Fenwick
(c1645-97)
To his wife, Mary, January 1697
Tragedy and romance mingle in Sir John Fenwick’s last letter to his wife, sent from Newgate prison where the Jacobite conspirator was awaiting execution for treason against William III. He urged Mary: “D[earest] d[earest] life, you will kill yourself, and the fear I have for you is a double death to me. For God’s sake take care of yourself and destroy not your health.” Desperately he implored her: “Get to me, if possible, before I die… all my fear is I shall never see you.” Fenwick was executed on Tower Hill on 28 January 1697Photograph: British Library Board

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:17 pm


Gordon Bottomley
(1874-1948)
To Emily Burton, 17 October 1899
The Yorkshire poet and playwright Bottomley wrote to Burton, an artist: “O, how I hope that I am not estranging you even when I tell you that I love you wholly, that as long as I have known you, you have been to me ‘half angel and half bird and all a wonder and a wild desire’, that your influence alone can waken what is best in me.” The letter marks the beginning of a true love story; the pair married and remained inseparable. When Emily died in 1947, Gordon was lost without her devoted companionship and outlived her by less than a year. Photograph: British Library Board

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Re: Love letters

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:24 pm

Love letters of Barrett and Browning sent online on Valentine's Day

573 billets-doux that capture Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett's romance put online by Wellesley College and Baylor University

Associated Press

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 February 2012 12.18 GMT


First love letter sent by Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett in January 1845, which begins: 'I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett.' It is now available to see online. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP


"I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett … " So begins the first love letter to poet Elizabeth Barrett from her future husband, fellow poet Robert Browning.

Their 573 love letters, which capture their 19th century courtship, their blossoming love and their forbidden marriage, have long fascinated scholars and poetry fans. Though transcriptions of their correspondence have been published in the past, the handwritten letters could only be seen at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where the collection has been kept since 1930.

But beginning on Valentine's Day, their famous love letters will become available online where readers can see them just as they were written – with creased paper, fading ink, quill pen cross-outs, and even the envelopes they used.

The digitisation project is a collaboration between Wellesley and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, which houses the world's largest collection of books, letters and other items related to the Brownings.

Wellesley administrators hope the project will expose students, romantics, poetry lovers and others to their love story.

Barrett, one of the most well-known poets of the Victorian era, suffered from chronic illness and was in her late 30s when Browning first wrote to her in 1845 to tell her he admired her work.

In their fifth month of corresponding, they met for the first time, introduced by Barrett's cousin.

After more than a year of almost daily letters between them, the couple wed in secret in September 1846, defying her father's prohibition against her ever marrying. They fled from London to Italy, where doctors had told Barrett her health might improve. Her father disinherited her and never spoke to her again.

"It's the fact that she defied her father, she was in ill health, they fell in love through letters, she left with hardly anything," said Ruth Rogers, Wellesley's curator of special collections.

"If you want a perfect romance, just read the letters," she said.

The website set up for readers to see the correspondence includes both the handwritten letters and transcriptions, as well as a zoom function for readers to try to decipher faded or illegible words. The body of letters will also be searchable by keywords.

Henry Durant, who founded Wellesley College in 1870, admired the Brownings and considered Elizabeth Barrett Browning to be an example of a strong, educated woman who would be a good role model for the young women of Wellesley. Durant gave his large personal library to the college, including many first editions by both poets.

Because the college was already known for its Browning room and collection, Robert Browning donated Elizabeth's handwritten poem, Little Mattie, to the college in 1882.

A former Wellesley president, Caroline Hazard, purchased the collection of Browning letters and in 1930 donated them to Wellesley, where they have remained.

The library even has the actual mahogany door to the Barrett house in London, where Browning's letters to Elizabeth passed through a brass letter slot. The slot was screwed shut by a Wellesley librarian more than 40 years ago because students slipped through letters of their own to pay homage to the Brownings. Rogers said she is considering reopening the slot.

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