‘A Tangible Kind of Love’: Love Letters
By Kristin Heng Schanke
Edited by Hannah Laker
“Your word travels the entirety of space and
reaches my cells which are my stars then goes
to yours which are my light.”– frida kahlo, to diego rivera
Perhaps it’s a mix between my hopeless romantic personality and the fact I’m an English student that has made me think the ultimate gesture of love is a handwritten love letter. It also helps that they appear repeatedly in movies and books, and even in real life. Well, others’ lives I assume, not mine.
It was through watching Sex and the City 2 my initial interest in them was piqued. As Carrie rests her head on Mr. Big’s chest in a very romantic motion, she reads to him from a book called Love Letters of Great Men. I don’t know if it was a peek inside Carrie’s glamorously romanticised life I was interested in, or if it was the actual book. But regardless, I Googled it, found the exact book on Amazon and then it was on my doorstep the following day.
Love letters written by men such as Ludwig Beethoven, Lord Byron, Vincent Van Gogh, Voltaire. There they were. Some sad, some happy, most of them expressing a longing I can only imagine. I later read letters by some great women too. Frida Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, and Tove Jansson, to mention a few.
“I was and am yours, freely & most entirely,
to obey, to honour, love.”– Lord byron, to lady Caroline Lamb
“Waiting is a sheer pleasure when it’s for you.”– Tove Jansson, to Tuulikki Pietilä
Though the letters were all written to and by different people at separate times throughout history, what they all had in common was that they felt remarkably intimate to read, and I couldn’t get enough.
The thought that these letters travelled miles and miles to reach the right people really struck me, and it’s partly why I started liking them so much. As a literary form they’re personal in a way only letters can be. They’re a testament to unwavering affection in the trials of great distances. And they have a certain quality text messages lack – belonging to the physical world, with the fingerprints and scent of your lover still clinging to the pages. They’re a tangible kind of love.
In Nicholas Spark’s ‘The Notebook’ and ‘The Longest Ride’ and in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’, love letters are an important part of the storyline. Movies like ‘P.S. I Love You’, ‘The Lakehouse’ and ‘The Young Victoria’ also feature love letters. Though not love letters specifically, the ones in Romeo and Juliet play an integral part of the plot, altering the outcome of the most famous love story ever told.
Though handwritten love letters may seem an outdated form of communication today, the hopeless romantic in me would like to think there are still people out there who read and write them.
Perhaps you have one you’d like to share?
Here at the Letters Page though, we really do adore all kinds of letters, so if you have any, don’t hesitate to mail them in! In the words of Beethoven (and quoted by Carrie Bradshaw), our love of letters remains
The Letters Page team are back in the office, and ready to read your real letters again. We publish stories, essays, poems, memoir, reportage, criticism, recipes, travelogue, and any hybrid forms, so long as they come to us in the form of a letter. We are looking for writers of all nationalities and ages, both established and emerging.
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The Letters Page, School of English, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.
See our submissions page for more information.
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