Title: Love Letters of Great Men.
Author: (edited by) Ursula Doyle.
Genre: Non-fiction, letters, romance, history.
Publication Date: 1690, 1780, 1819, 1820, 1839, 1843, 1866, 1890 (this book November 25, 2008).
Summary: Collects together some of history's most romantic letters from the private papers of Beethoven, Mark Twain, Mozart, and Lord Byron. For some of these great men, love is "a delicious poison" (William Congreve); for others, "a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music" (Charles Darwin). Love can scorch like the heat of the sun (Henry VIII), or penetrate the depths of one's heart like a cooling rain (Flaubert). Every shade of love is here, from the exquisite eloquence of Oscar Wilde and the simple devotion of Robert Browning, to the wonderfully modern misery of the Roman Pliny the Younger, losing himself in work to forget how much he misses his beloved wife, Calpurnia. Taken together, these letters show that perhaps men haven't changed all that much over the last 2,000 years, at least when it comes to love.
My rating: 8.5/10.
♥ I came, I saw, and was conquered; never had man more to say, yet can I say nothing; where others go to save their souls, there have I lost mine; but I hope that Divinity which has the justest title to its service has received it; but I will endeavour to suspend these raptures for a moment, and talk calmly -
Nothing on earth, madam, can charm, beyond your wit but your beauty; after this not to love you would proclaim me a fool; and to say I did when I thought otherwise would pronounce me a knave; if anybody called me either I should resent it; and if you but think me either I shall break my heart.
To Anne Oldfield, Sunday, after Sermon (1699?), George Farquhar.
♥ Would not any man in his senses run diametrically from you, and as far as his legs would carry him, rather than thus causelessly, foolishly and foolhardily, expose himself afresh and afresh, where his heart and his reason tell him he shall be sure to come off loser, if not tally undone.
To Lady Percy, Sent from the Mount Coffee House, Tuesday, 3 o’clock, Laurence Sterne.
♥ Oh, how hard this secret has become for me, that I, as long as we have known each other, have had to conceal! Often, when we still lived together, I collected my whole courage and came to you with the intention to disclose it to you - but this courage always forsook me. I thought to discover selfishness in my wish, I feared that I had only my happiness in view, and that thought drove me back. Could I not become to you what you were to me, then my suffering would have distressed you, and I would have destroyed the most beautiful harmony of our friendship through my confession. I would have also lost that, what I had, your true and sisterly friendship. And yet again there come moments, when my hope arose afresh, wherein the happiness, which we could give each other, seemed to me exalted above every, every consideration, when I considered it even as noble to sacrifice everything else to it. You could be happy without me - but not become unhappy through me. This I felt alive in me - and thereupon I built my hopes.
To Charlotte von Lengefeld, 3 August 1789, Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller.
♥ Even in bed my ideas yearn towards you, my Immortal Beloved, here and there joyfully, then again sadly, awaiting from Fate, whether it will listen to us. I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all.
...Be calm - love me - to-day - yesterday.
What longing in tears for you - You - my Life - my All - farewell. Oh, go on loving me - never doubt the faithfullest heart.
Of your beloved
To ‘Immortal Beloved,’ Good morning, on 7 July, Ludwig van Beethoven.
♥ You know I would with pleasure give up all here or beyond the grave for you, and in refraining from this must my motives be understood?
I care not who knows this, what use is made of it - it is to you and to you only, yourself. I was, and I am yours, freely and entirely, to obey, to honour, love and fly with you, when, where, and how, yourself might and may determine.
To Lady Caroline Lamb, Lord Byron.
♥ My sweet Girl,
- Your letter gave me more delight than anything in the world but yourself could do; indeed, I am almost astonished that any absent one should have the luxurious power over my senses which I feel. Even when I am not thinking of you, I perceive your tenderness and a tenderer nature stealing upon me. All my thoughts, my unhappiest days and nights, have I find not at all cured me of my love of Beauty, but made it so intense that I am miserable that you are not with me: or rather breathe in that dull sort of patience that cannot be called Life. I never knew before, what such a love as you have made me feel, was; I did not believe in it; my Fancy was afraid of it, lest it should burn me up. But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, ‘twill not be more than we can hear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasure.
To Fanny Brawne, 8 July 1819.
You uttered a half complaint once that I only lov’d your beauty. Have I nothing else then to love in you but that? Do I not see a heart naturally furnish’d with wings imprison itself with me? No ill prospect has been able to turn your thoughts a moment from me. This perhaps should be as much a subject of sorrow as joy - but I will not talk of that. Even if you did not love me I could not help an entire devotion to you; how much more deeply then must I feel for you knowing you love me. My Mind has been the most disconnected and restless one that ever was put into a body too small for it. I never felt my Mind repose upon anything with complete and undistracted enjoyment - upon no person but you. When you are in the room my thoughts never fly out the window; you always concentrate my whole senses. The anxiety shown about our Loves in your last note is an immense pleasure to me; however, you must not suffer such speculations to molest you and more; nor will I any more believe you can have the least pique against me.
To Fanny Brawne, 1820, John Keats.
♥ My soul flies towards you with these papers; I say to them like a crazy man, a thousand things; like a crazy man I think that they go towards you to repeat them to you; it is impossible for me to understand how these papers impregnated by me will be, in eleven days, in your hands, and why I remain here…
To the Countess Ewelina Hanska, Sent from Dresden, 21 October 1843, Honoré de Balzac.
♥ I can live, as I live, without disgrace, until the inevitable progress of events give me that independence which is all I require. I have entered into these ungracious details because you reproached me with my interested views. No; I will not condescend to be the minion of a princess; and not all the gold of Ophir shd ever lead me to the altar. Far different are the qualities which I require in the sweet participator of my existence. My nature demands that my life shall be perpetual love.
To Mary Anne Wyndham Lewis, Sent from Park Street, Thursday night, 7 February 1839, Benjamin Disraeli.
♥ Since you loved him, I am sorry for you. That loss is added to others. How we keep these dead souls in our hearts. Each one of us carries within himself his necropolis.
To George Sand, 1866, Monday night, Gustave Flaubert.
♥ 10th. A soul, hitherto idle and omnivorous but now happy enough to be ashamed of itself.
11th. A body, equally idle and quite equally omnivorous, absorbing tea, coffee, claret, sea-water and oxygen to its own perfect satisfaction. It is happiest swimming, I think, the sea being a convenient size.
12. A Heart - mislaid somewhere. And that is about all the property of which an inventory can be made at present. After all, my tastes a stoically simple. A straw hat, a stick, a box of matches and some of his own poetry. What more does man require?
To Frances Blogg (189-?), G. K. Chesterton.