The Love Letters of Great Men (the most comprehensive collection available) – Published by English Rose Books, 2011
Including letters written by Prince Albert, Charles Darwin, Victor Hugo and Oscar Wilde, each section starts with a mini-biography of the writer and the object (sometimes more than one) of his affections, setting out the context. Then there are the letters themselves, and what letters! Some were written at the start of a relationship, others at the end, Many seem remarkably modern in tone, for example Pliny the Younger, writing to Calpurnia, his third wife, in 100AD, “I like to think that you miss me…if your letters are so dear to me, you can imagine how I delight in your company, do write as often as you can…”. Others are beautifully poetic, but have not stood the test of time, for example John Ruskin’s reference to “a sweet forest of pleasant glades and whispering branches”.
But who could resist the words of Robert Browning “All my soul follows you, love – encircles you – and I live in being yours.”
Moving and often sad, this is a book to dip into and savour when the mood is right. To quote Kahlil Gibran*, “…love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation”; it is separation in its various forms which led to the writing of these heartfelt letters. Some appear to be one-offs; others clearly form part of a lengthier correspondence, and most make you yearn for a return to the age of letter writing. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, what better time to buy this book – for your partner or, if you need some inspiration, why not buy it for yourself and impress your loved one with a few “almost” original sentiments?
* Gibran was a Lebanese writer and artist
(Why wasn’t I asked to contribute then? Ed.)