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April 8, 2011

I was cleaning out some drawers the other day and my hands closed around a worn envelope. When I dragged it out, I saw a familiar old scrawl and my heart did an actual pitter patter.  I slowly pulled out the white paper. Unfolded it carefully. The rustle rose up to my ears as sweet as Beethoven. Then read it.

 My dearest love…

And so it began.

An old lover who’d made an impression on my life but was not meant to be my soul-mate. Writing his feelings, stark, and haunted, and passionate, in a bold blue scrawl. It was poetry, and a romance novel, and a symphony in one hard twist. His words carried me back to the precise moment I opened his letter; my uncertainty about our relationship, my trembling fingers as he poured out his heart, the patter of rain against the windowsill in the background as I read his words.

Ahhh, the love letter.

Is there anything as romantic and passionate in its simplicity as words written on a plain piece of paper from someone we love? For a lover of words, or someone who is good at expressing his or her feelings but can’t handle the verbal exchange, the love letter is the savior and the last stand of romantic love.

Words are still just as powerful today. We may write them on Twitter and email and Facebook, but we are still writing to express humor, frustration, passion, or love.  A friend of mine once had a boyfriend who sent note cards in the mail with one mysterious sentence such as, Thinking of tonight….I caught your scent and looked for you today….You are my heart…

Those note cards were more exciting than receiving a text or email. Something about a letter received through the mail makes the exchange seem extra special.

So, my old lover got me thinking about the history of love letters. I perused one of my favorite books (citation below) which details actual love letters throughout history. I posted some excerpts below:

“I already love in you your beauty, but I am only beginning to love in you that which is eternal and ever precious – your heart, your soul. Beauty one could get to know and fall in love with in one hour and cease to love it as speedily; but the soul one must learn to know. Believe me, nothing on earth is given without labour, even love, the most beautiful and natural of feelings.” –Count Leo Tolstoi, Russian writer, to Valeria Arsenev, his fiancée. November 2nd 1856/

“Carry me off into the blue skies of tender loves, roll me in dark clouds, trample me with your thunderstorms, break me in your angry rages. But love me, my adored lover.” Sarah Bernhardt, French actress, to Jean Richepin, French writer, in 1883

“Sometimes I have a rush of feeling, that seems like the passage of a spirit through me, and ought to flow to you like blessing. This is the most beautiful feeling I ever experienced; it is indeed divine, and too much for mortal force: there is no music for it; it can never, I fear me, be expressed…Like sunset it cannot be remembered.” Margaret Fuller, American writer and critic, to James Nathan, April 22nd 1845.

“I lie awake the greatest part of the night in thinking of you…my feet carry me of their own accord to your apartment at those hours I used to visit you; but not finding you there, I return with as much sorrow and disappointment as an excluded lover.” Pliny the Younger, Roman writer, to Calpurnia, his third wife 1st century AD.

My husband never wrote me a love letter and would probably laugh out loud at the idea of trying to come up with one. But one afternoon, I was searching for my husband’s birth certificate in the drawer he keeps his important papers. My fingers closed around a napkin. I cursed under my breath at finding garbage in his bureau, and pulled it out. Carefully folded, I opened the napkin and found my own handwriting. With sheer astonishment, I realized my husband had kept the cocktail napkin where I wrote my name and phone number on the night we met at a bar. Nine years ago.

My heart light, a smile on my lips, I folded the napkin and tucked it back in. That was my own love letter to him. And he has kept it.

Writers are lovers of words. Romance novelists are in the profession of love and happily ever afters.  A love letter is a tool for our profession.

 Imagine your hero sitting down and writing out a letter to the heroine. It can be a sentence, a paragraph, or a page. It can be sarcastic, passionate, humorous, or confused. What he says in the letter can give you an insight into his character and how he expresses himself with the heroine.

I now find myself the writer of another type of love letter. Each morning I tuck a simple note in my son’s lunchbox. He is learning to read, and is delighted by these surprise notes which help him discover words and lets him know every day that I love him. You are my best friend…I love you sooooo much…Have a wonderful day my big boy….

I complete these love notes with suns and happy faces in magic marker. I treasure these letters and his eagerness to revel in my feelings and words. He tries his own hand at one and surprises me at odd times during the week…I Luv You Mom…You r the best…with little hearts drawn and his signature in large awkward letters adorning the page like the sweetest of perfumes.

One day, I hope he will write his own love letter to a very lucky lady. But until then, his words and letters belong to me. They are tucked away in the back of my bureau in a neat pile where they will remain until one day, I will reach in the drawer when my son is older, and reread them, and remember…

Stop by and share your experience with love letters – receiving, writing, or just appreciating your favorite.

 Lovric,  Michelle. Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion. Shooting Star Press, NY 1994.

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  1. What a lovely memory. Husbands can surprise us at times, can’t they? My husband and I worked together when we were dating and he would write me love notes on phone message pads. I’ve kept them all. ♥ Diane

    • jennifer121 says:

      Diane, that’s sweet. It can be a napkin, a phone pad, or a sticky note. When men write how they feel about us, we treasure it forever. If only they knew how easy we really are!!! Thanks for sharing yoru story!

  2. Cindi Lee says:

    My beau hates writing love letters because he doesn’t think he’s “good at them” and can’t express himself properly, lol. He’s actually better off expressing himself in on-the-moment texts: “I really miss you right now,” “You love me today?” “I’m really stressed out. Can’t wait to see you later.” And I definitely appreciate those because I know they come from the heart. I actually used to write him plenty of love letters when we started dating. The first day we met face to face (16 then, I’m 24 now–going strong!) after talking for months on the phone was when I gave him my first love letter. He told me loved Winnie the Pooh as a kid so I wrote up a love letter, asking him to be my boyfriend and drew Winnie the Pooh on it. I think this blog is the only place I’ve ever shared this story! lol Oh, and he did LOVE the Pooh bear letter. lol

    • jennifer121 says:

      OK, that is just so awesome, I love that story! You made him remember you forever with that. I know most men aren’t great at the standard love letter, but like you said, the texting is sometimes a short format of telling you he’s thinking about you. Thanks so much for sharing – I love true romantic stories!

  3. This was so lovely!! In addition to the love letters I receive from people, be it husband, parents, children and friends, I always count the Bible as a love letter to me from God. I know it sounds hokey and incredibly overly sentimental, but its truly what I do…

    • jennifer121 says:

      No, I don’t think that’s hokey at all! One of the greatest books of all time and chock full of beautiful and inspiring stories. So glad you stopped by!

  4. Thanks, Jennifer, it was my pleasure…

  5. Liz says:

    I still have the love letters my husband sent when we were dating and one when we were first married – also have the cards that came with the flowers he sent.
    Love reading old love letters – I did a post for valentines day on it too.

  6. My husband wrote me a love letter once and once was enough. I had to wait until he returned so he could tell me what he wrote. He’s a doctor, you know.

  7. @ Janet LOL. Deciphering a doctor’s love letters. That made me smile. 🙂

  8. What a beautiful post, Jen. If made me think of all those little lunch box love letters I’ve sent over the years. My oldest is 20 and away at college, but I still send him love letters of a sort. Once a week or so right before lights out (he’s ROTC) I text, “Sleep tight, your Mama loves you.”

  9. That was so refreshing to read… I love the way words were used so long ago… Passionate, romantic, bold. Thank you for taking the time to share such a beautiful piece. I am so glad I found your site.

    • jennifer121 says:

      I’m so glad you stopped by and liked the entry! I checked out your site and you have some beautiful jewelry -and one of my mottos in life is from the famous Nemo: just keep swimming!

      • Thank you so much! Our logo is from a cookie jar that we bought, it reminded us of our daughter (now 20) who when after she watched Finding Nemo would run around making fishy faces all the time. Just seeing still makes me smile.

  10. Very nice, Jen. As always.

  11. Tara Stearns says:

    Hi Jen – The kiddie love notes are so sweet. I do that for my son, too. I hope he doesn’t declare himself to old for it any time soon.

    As for receiving love letters – I have to say I have been sadly deprived. the closest I can come up with is when my DH writes “mushy” stuff in my birthdy cards. LOL.

    • jennifer121 says:

      HI Tara! I know – I love the kiddie notes. The other night my son asked me to write some new ones because he realized I had “recycled” a few!! And I personally think mushy stuff in birthday cards counts as a love note!!

  12. I wasnt sure were to post this, but congratulations on your book today!!!!

  13. Lori Dyan says:

    I recently found some letters I’d written to my grandparents when I was a kid, along with their replies. A different kind of love letter, to be sure, but still brought back sweet nostalgia 😀

  14. […] in love with her writing. Her writing is romantic, alluring, and passionate. Please go check out “Love Letters” and her book “The Tantric […]

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