5 Swoon-Worthy Love Letters From History

By Diane Haddad Premium

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There is perhaps nothing quite as genuinely romantic as a love letter. How else would the shy and the star-struck find the courage to write about how their partner takes their breath away and makes their heart beat even faster? It’s even the perfect medium for penning sugary-sweet love poems.

History provides plenty of inspiration for wooing your love be it Sweetest Day, Valentine’s Day or just an ordinary Monday in need of a little passion. Here are five swoon-inducing quotes from love letters of the past.

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?”

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.

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

The wonderful relationship between President Harry Truman and his wife Bess is a well-documented story that could make for a beautiful romantic film. While they had known each other since they were young children, their playful courtship endured for almost a decade over the course of nine love letters.

There is so much to swoon over in these letters, but it’s hard to resist such genuine admiration as this: “I still believe that my sweetheart is the ideal woman.”

You can read the rest of the letters on the Truman Library Institute website.

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