The Art of the Love Letter
Published: Friday, February 14, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 15:02
You don’t have time. You’re no good at writing. You’re out of paper.
Get all the excuses out of the way up front. It’s time to write a love letter.
You’ve heard the tired complaints about how “no one writes letters anymore.” It’s not true, of course. Love letters haven’t died. Last year, the USPS processed 158 billion mail pieces. Not all of those could be people mailing in their taxes.
Letter-writing has new meaning in our generation. We no longer need to write letters to keep in touch. The necessary evil has lost its necessity. When you get a letter in 2014, it has a Christmas morning feeling. Imagine the smile you could give your amor today when she opens her mailbox and sees an envelope with her name on it tucked next to the Dominos flyer and the Seelos schedule. What does your beau realize when he gets a little note from you (even if it’s only a page)? He realizes you consider him, quite literally, worth your time. And time, as we all know at Holy Cross, is our most valuable currency.
Now, the little issue of what to say. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to be John Keats. You just have to be you. Be conversational, be disorganized, be honest. Try writing in ink, too. You’ll misspell words and you’ll phrase things awkwardly. You’ll worry you don’t sound cool enough. Perfect. Now, lick the envelope and drop it in the box.
It’s good to see how others have tackled this challenge throughout history. Here are a few excerpted examples. Note that even geniuses struggle to get their feelings across, and the result is charming:
Beethoven to his “Immortal Beloved:”
...We shall surely see each other; moreover, I cannot communicate to you the observations I have made during the last few days touching my own life—if our hearts were always close together I would make none of the kind. My heart is full of many things to say to you—Ah!—there are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all—cheer up—remain my true, only treasure, my all as I am yours; the gods must send us the rest that which shall be best for us.
Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf:
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 defenses. And I don’t really resent it.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Robert Browning:
And now listen to me in turn. You have touched me more profoundly than I thought even you could have touched me—my heart was full when you came here today. Henceforward I am yours for everything...
Now, pick up a pen, tear out some notebook paper, and go.