Spell the word love backwards and you get evol – amazingly, few people realize this is where the ancient root of our current understanding of the word came from, apart from Eve and a few frustrated linguists at Oxford eager to trade their dissertations for the burning sensations that can be attributed during the ritual of VD that is known as ‘Valentine’s Day’.
We all know that love is a gamble – or as the late French actress Sarah Bernhardt once described it – love is the only game you can become rich at by spending what one has of oneself. Considering Sarah often slept in a rosewood coffin lined with letters from her lovers, it is obvious that love also strikes a stiff bargain.
So on Valentine’s Day 2015, it should be paramount to develop and cultivate what today – in the world of emails and instagrams – has become a lost art. The art of writing the perfect Love Letter. For as any happy, successful and amoral Hollywood writer will tell you, love is an art painted with extremes: hot and cold, Harold & Maude, big and small, Mork & Mindy.
Most people who don’t write love letters and sit around watching soap operas are perfect examples of Ben Franklin’s emotional law of diminished returns – making a young girl miserable is sure to give one commensurate opportunity to make an old woman happy; so it is important to quit feeding one’s flab and even more important to forget-me-not.
For those eager to develop the language of love, remember the ebb and flow of emotional rides have always been best expressed in the love letter. Dante had his Beatrice, Abelard his Eloise, Byron had his sister, and Aeschylus had a batch of Greek boy scouts and each of these esteemed literary figures could swing quite a quill, despite the fact that even today they are often ridiculed as being ‘fruits’ because of their use of what we might call ‘flowery language’.
Flowery language has received extreme criticism and is especially despised in our home state of Michigan where Ernest Hemingway’s curt assessments of the opposite sex (“Her gown was as slippery as a perfumed pike” and “It was a good clean shot” are more proudly supported.
Hemingway did not understand that women, unlike men, love the use of big words. When used with guile and expertise, poetic inversions and frilly phrases can turn complete disinterest into a white tie invitation to an expensive restaurant; or at least a date to the Court Theatre.
Take America the Beautiful as an example. Without its flowery language what you have is something like this: You’re good looking because you have a big sky and your grain is green and you have giant mountains taller than your valuable farmland. With proper use of flowery language, however, we have the correct version: “Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purpled mountains majesties about the fruited plain.’
It may take time to develop your art at love letters, but you must have confidence and above all, don’t try pitching garbage with the varsity team until you practice on everyday notes and memos.
Women know if you’re writing a love letter and are sincere, or writing a love letter because you’re in love. And if you’re writing a love letter because you’re in love that means you haven’t got anything better to do with your time than scribble notes to yourself.
Above all else, remember that practice makes perfect. Shakespeare had to have some reason to write those love sonnets and when the practical function of your outward appearance is to start fights and inspire suicide, the significance of the love letter is even clearer.
It may take time, but taming the heart through developing the mind is well worth it. And it doesn’t take a subscription to True Confessions to figure out that people love to get mail – especially femail correspondence from the postman.
Here are a few examples of sentiments expressed through the love letter that I discovered digging around the Internet. These originally appeared in The Art of Letter Writing, an advice book originally published in 1918 and reissued by Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
Letter No. 1.
From a Gentleman to a Lady, on Love at First Sight.
Dear Miss B -- ,
I am writing that which I fear I have not the courage, on so short an acquaintance, to tell you. The moment you came into my life I loved you. Before we met I did not believe love at first sight possible. But you opened my eyes, and caused me to see this wondrous truth in life -- the sudden revelation of all that is lovely and divine in a human soul. May I call on you? or will you consent to meet me? Be as merciful as you are beautiful, and save from despair
A. L. Margrave.
Letter No. 2.
From a Lady to a Gentleman, asking him to refrain from Further Attentions.
Dear Mr. Dashaway,
I now feel it necessary to write you on a matter, which has caused me some concern lately. I refer to your persistent and, to me, very distasteful attentions.
I do not know that I have ever consciously given you any encouragement; and I am therefore hoping that, on receipt of this expression of my sentiments towards you, your gentlemanly instincts will prompt you to desist from what I cannot but consider an embarrassing annoyance.
Letter No. 3.
From an Absent Gentleman to his Fiancée.
My dearest Kathleen,
I am eagerly grasping the first moment’s leisure of the day to again say how much I love you.
The thought of you is so constantly with me that I find it difficult at any time to wholly fix my attention to the task I have in hand.
All things beautiful suggest you. As I write, I catch the sound of distant music -- and at once the charm of your low, sweet voice steals over me. A fair face passes my window -- and instantly I recall all your loveliness and grace.
Yesterday a tiny flower fell at my feet. Because it was of the kind you love, I saved its delicate life; and now, as its fragrance compels my notice, it seems, in its purity and freshness, a perfect symbol of you.
How dull and empty the evening hours are without you! And how frequently at these times do I conjure up a vision of the home that is to be, with you by my side -- cheerful, helpful, and inspiring, and never wearying in your effort to make it a veritable heaven on earth. Send me an assurance of your love by return. Tell me all that is in your heart as you read this and always think of me as
Letter No. 4.
From a Gentleman Pleading for Forgiveness after a Lovers’ Quarrel.
My dearest Love,
I cannot rest until I have written imploring forgiveness for leaving you so abruptly, and in such jealous anger.
What your thoughts to-day must be of me I dare not imagine. I have nothing to say by way of excuse for my churlish behaviour. Only do I ask for pardon. You may not know, dear, but at times your beauty, your grace, your intelligence, and the witching charm of your voice, all seem to unite in a conspiracy to rob me of reason.
That you will send me a reply at once, and restore me to the paradise of your trusting love, is the feverish wish of
Yours very sorrowfully,
9th February, 2024