Is the love letter dead?
While popular culture is abundant with love expressed through letters, most of the people we’ve asked haven’t received a love letter anytime in the last several years. Of course, there have been expressions of love on post-its, texts, as part of an email, etc., but an actual, physical letter devoted solely to proclaiming one’s love for another? Nope.
Lovey-dovey text messages are cute, but they are not the same as writing or receiving a love letter on beautiful bond paper. Is sending a love letter even considered environmentally friendly anymore? If it can be said or done without using resources, like paper, is it even okay to use those resources? Or is it just looked at as being wasteful? The same argument can be made for having ebooks over their paper counterparts. But we digress.
Although it’s often better to give than to receive, when it comes to love letters from the ones we love, we find that the reverse is actually true. Why, then, is the love letter such a treasure?
1. It’s an expression of love: It lets us know what someone feels about us. Of course, there’s that old adage that talk is cheap, it’s only true when it’s not followed up with corresponding actions, which hopefully, would not be the case from one’s love interest. It’s also always a good thing when someone is communicative, something that someone who writes a love letter would most likely be.
2. It’s honest and direct: Sometimes things are easier to write than to say, and usually what’s in the love letter is something that is the result of a need to be honest and direct about the letter-writer’s feelings. By virtue of this, the letter also becomes declarative.
3. It’s bold: Someone is taking the step of putting their heart on their sleeve for you, and risking their ego for the sake of your love.
4. It’s formal, giving it validity: There is something serious and respectable about what is put into a letter, which means there’s an undercurrent of solemnity in what is being said. It’s especially nice when it’s obvious that there is care and attention behind it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the letter has to be written on nice paper, but that doesn’t hurt. Getting a love letter on paper from a legal yellow pad just doesn’t say romance, although if you’re getting a love letter from a human rights lawyer who is saving the world and he doesn’t have any other paper (it worked in Bridget Jones), it wouldn’t matter.
5. It’s a keepsake: It’s something to have that marks that time in your life, and if it’s a lasting love, it’s a memento of your love, and not only something that the older you will treasure, and if you end up famous or notorious, it gives your biographers something more to work with.
One of our favourite love letters is found in Love Letters of Great Men, edited by Ursula Doyle; written by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), author of The Scarlett Letter, to Sophia Peabody, his wife. Below is an excerpt:
Oh, Phoebe, I want thee much. Thou art the only person in the world that ever was necessary to me. Other people have occasionally been more or less agreeable; but I think I was always more at ease alone than in anybody’s company, till I knew thee. And now I am only myself when thou art within my reach. Thou art an unspeakably beloved woman.
And of course, there’s the classic love letter from Beethoven to his unnamed ‘Immortal Beloved,’ which people will remember from the Sex and the City movie and also included in Love Letters of Great Men, edited by Ursula Doyle. What’s really special about this love letter is the intimacy of the sign off:
Now that’s a way to close a love letter.
Clearly, there are no shortage of love letters in literature, and by extension in films, but in real life? Maybe this is a case of when life should seek to imitate art. Then we would all write and receive love letters. Wouldn’t that be nice?
It’s nice enough that people will make movies with love letters having great importance. A film that made good use of letter writing was Letters to Juliet. Watch below: