Some may say letter-writing is a dying art in the 21st century, yet nothing matches the power of someone's handwritten thoughts and confessions. After all, for most of history, writing letters was the only way expressions of love could be exchanged with a distant lover. Fortunately for us, many of these epistles have survived their authors and recipients, making their way to libraries and printed volumes.
Some of the greatest writers of all time have recorded their rawest, most honest feelings in personal correspondence with paramours. Their poetry can be found beyond rhyme, rhythm, and fiction, through the intimacy of their private sentiments. Here, we have compiled a selection of some of the most memorable lines found in letters by the likes of John Keats, Franz Kafka, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, and others. Whether it is in joy or sorrow, these declarations of love may inspire you to reach out to that person in your life, or even to compose some words of your own.
You have, by your tenderness and worth, twisted yourself more artfully round my heart, than I supposed possible.
— Letter from English writer and philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft to her American lover Gilbert Imlay, February 1794
Life seems emptier without you, the soulwarmth isn’t around...
— Letter from Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to his long-time partner, Peter Orlovsky
All that my soul pines to express at this instant, is included in the one word, love …
— Letter from Edgar Allan Poe to his friend and possible love interest, Annie Richmond, November 16, 1848
Although I may not be yours, I can never be anothers.
— Letter from Frankenstein author Mary W. Shelley to her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, July 1814
Tonight I love you on a spring evening. I love you with the window open. You are mine, and things are mine, and my love alters the things around me and the things around me alter my love.
— Letter from French philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre to his life partner, Simone de Beauvoir
Even when I am not thinking of you I receive your influence and a tenderer nature stealing upon me.
— Letter from English poet John Keats to his fiancee, Fanny Brawne, July 8, 1819
It is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing.
— Letter from Oscar Wilde to his lover, Lord Alfred 'Bosie' Douglas, January 1893
This face of mine that wore a happy expression at our good-bye shed tears on the plane.
— Letter from Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector to her close friend, writer and journalistFernando Sabino, April 21, 1946
My heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough.
— Letter from Franz Kafka to his fiance Felice Bauer, November 1912
Think of me much, and warmly. Place me in your breast with those who you love most: and comfort me with your letters.
— Letter from then-American Minister to France Thomas Jefferson to the object of his affection, Italian-English artist Maria Cosway, December 24, 1786
I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.
— Letter from poet John Keats to his fiancee, Fanny Brawne, July 3, 1819
If all that I have said & done, & am still but too ready to say & do, have not sufficiently proved what my real feelings are & must be ever towards you, my love, I have no other proof to offer.
— Letter from English poet Lord Byron to his lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, August 1812
My heart overflows with a longing to tell you so many things — Oh — there are moments when I find that speech is quite inadequate.
— Letter from Ludwig van Beethoven to his “immortal beloved,” (the identity of the woman the composer fell in love with was never discovered)
Oh, yes! I should indeed dream of you for hours and hours;(...). You would be present, you would be with me in the air that I breathe; and I should cease to see you only when the tears rolled out of my eyes, and this naked, undomestic room became again visible.
— Letter from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Sarah Fricker, November 26, 1798
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