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5 Swoon-Worthy Love Letters From History

By Diane Haddad Premium


History provides plenty of inspiration for wooing your love on Sweetest Day or Valentine’s Day. In 1797, a British publisher printed The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which suggested sentimental verses for one’s sweetheart.
Here are five swoon-inducing quotes from love letters of the past.
Gen. Nathanael Greene, 1785, Library of Congress

1. Revolutionary War Gen. Nathanael Greene to his wife, Catharine:

“I feel a blank in my Heart which nothing but your presence can fill up. There is not a day or night, nay not an hour, but I wish to fold you to my heart.”

We couldn’t find the full letter online, but you can read more about the correspondence of this couple and their contemporaries in Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts.

2. Poet Elizabeth Barrett to Robert Browning, Jan. 10, 1846:

“It seems to me, to myself, that no man was ever before to any woman what you are to me—the fullness must be in proportion, you know, to the vacancy … and only I know what was behind—the long wilderness without the blossoming rose … and the capacity for happiness, like a black gaping hole, before this silver flooding. Is it wonderful that I should stand as in a dream, and disbelieve—not you—but my own fate? ”


Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1876, Library of Congress 

3. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) to Olivia Langdon, Dec. 31, 1868:

“The Old Year is passing. … It found me careless of the here & the [hereafter]—it leaves me with faith in the one & hope for the [other. It] found [me. my ] heart scorched, bitter, barren, loveless—& leaves it filled with softening, humanizing, elevating love for the dearest girl on earth, Livy—& I, the homeless then, have on this last day of the [die dying] year, a home that is [pre priceless], a refuge from all the cares & ills of life, in that warm heart of yours, & am supremely happy! And so with grateful benediction I give [Godspeed] to this good Old Year that is passing away. If I forget all else it has done for me I shall still remember that it gave me your love, Livy, …” Read more of this letter,  transcribed at the Mark Twain Project Online.

4. Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah, July 14, 1861:

Ballou wrote these words one week before he was killed in the Battle of Bull Run (this letter was made famous in Ken Burns’ documentary “The Civil War“).
“… something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. … How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness …” Read more of this letter.
President Harry Truman, 1945, Library of Congress

5. Harry Truman to his wife, Bess, May 7, 1933:

“I still believe that my sweetheart is the ideal woman …” Read more of this letter.


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