Love is the greatest of all human euphoria, and some of the best prose in literature are the ones dedicated to its temple or affirmation as the height of human emotions. In this age of technology and text messages, the love letter, unfortunately, seems to be in a coma and hospitalized in the archives of history, yet few texts, or graphic displays capture the human condition than a handwritten, heart felt letter.
Love, like good prose stands the test of time, and we bring you some of the most memorable and affectionate love letters in record, written by some of the most brilliant of minds, who, in succumbing to cupid’s arrows, penned these lovelies straight from their hearts.
- Kafta’s letter to Felice.
Kafka’s characters, more often than not, tend to be paranoiac, evasive and only at times happy. And his courtship of Felice was an extension of his fiction. Their affair was tumultuous, with very few instances of happiness, except for the letters by Kafka – 500 in number. They met at a dinner party and he began sending her letters the very next day ( almost for five years) and he expected a reply, without which, he would send an angry missive, only to apologize in his next letter. They got engaged twice, but broke it off on both occasions. Yet, both still professed love for each other. The nervous affair finally ended when Kafka died of tuberculosis at age 40. The only good thing about it all were the beautiful, sometimes sad, conflicting letters, now collated into a book.
Write to me only once a week so that your letters arrives on Sunday – for I cannot endure our daily letters, I am incapable of enduring them. For instance, I answer one of your letters, and then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason, I don’t wanna know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t wanna know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?
- Vladimir Nabokov’s letter to his wife Vera
Nabokov met Vera at her father’s publishing firm where she was working as a secretary. After their first meeting, he started writing her letters the next day, and there began their budding romance which eventually led to marriage in April 1925. But more than a mere marriage, theirs was a partnership of two great minds, a coming together of two souls that ultimately created some of the best pieces of literature of the 20th century. Apart from being his soul mate, Vera was also Nabokov’s editor, critic, chauffeur, and bodyguard (she carried a gun in her purse to protect him during field trips) and the main reason Lolita was published, and not burnt. To show his gratitude, Nabokov dedicated all his work to her.
How can I explain to you, my happiness, my golden wonderful happiness, how much I am all yours – with all my memories, poems and outbursts, inner whirlwinds? Or explain that I cannot write a word without hearing how you will pronounce it – and can’t recall a single trifle I’ve lived through without regret – so sharp – that we haven’t lived through it together – whether it’s the most, the most personal, intransmissible – or only some sunset or other at the bend of a road – you see what I mean, my happiness?
And I know, I can’t tell you anything in words – and when I do on the phone then it comes out completely wrong. Because with you, one needs to talk wonderfully, the way we talk with people long gone… You can be bruised by an ugly diminutive – because you are not completely resonant – like seawater, my lovely.
I swear – and the inkblot has nothing to do with it – I swear by all that’s dear to me, all that I believe in – I swear that I have never loved before as I love you, – with such tenderness – to the point of tears – and with such a sense of radiance.
- Violet Trefusis’s letter to Vita Sackville-West
Violet and Vita were both married…to different men, but both kept on an affair with each other through letters that were passionate, yet filled with sadness, unquenched longing and heartbreak borne out of the realization that their union was frowned upon by the public, and the duty of being another’s wife.
Well, you ask me point blank why I love you… I love you, Vita, because I’ve fought so hard to win you… I love you, Vita because you never gave me back my ring. I love you because you have never yielded in anything; I love you because you never capitulate. I love you for your wonderful intelligence, for your literary aspirations, for your unconscious coquetry. I love you because you have the air of doubting nothing. I love in you in what is also in me: imagination, the gift of language, taste, intuition and a host of other things. I love you Vita because I have seen your soul.
My days are consumed by this impotent longing for you and my nights are riddled with insufferable dreams. I want you. I want you hungrily, frenziedly, and passionately. I am starving for you, if you must know it. Not only the physical you, but your fellowship, your sympathy, the innumerable points of view we share. I can’t exist without you; you are my affinity, the intellectual ‘pendant’ to me, my twin spirit. I can’t help it. No more can you… we complete each other.
- Mozart’s letter to his wife.
I get all excited when like a child when I think about being with you again – if [people could see into my heart I should feel ashamed. Everything is cold to me – ice cold – if you were here with me, maybe I would find the courtesies people are showing me more enjoyable, – but as it is, it’s all so empty – adieu – my dear – I am forever
Your Mozart who loves you
With his entire soul
PS – while I was writing the last page, tear after tear fell on the paper. But I must cheer up – catch – an astonishing number of kisses are flying about – The deuces – I see a whole crowd of them. Ha Ha… I have just caught three – They are delicious. I kiss you millions of times.
- Frida Kahlo letter to Diego Rivera
Image source: Hedden Herera.
The marriage between Frida and Diego was one of the most famous alliances of artists in their period, and also one of the stormiest. Their marriage was unable to survive the numerous infidelity by both of them and was ultimately tagged as an affair between an ‘elephant and a dove’ to buttress not only their physical incompatibility, but also the dichotomy in both their temperament and artistic styles. Both would later be regarded as two of Mexico’s greatest artistes, and their letters to each other revealed why.
Truth is, so great, that I wouldn’t like to speak, or sleep, or listen, or love. To feel myself trapped, with no fear of blood, outside time and magic, within your own fear, and your great anguish, and within the very beating of your heart. All this madness, if I asked it of you, I know, in your silence, there would be only confusion. I ask you for violence, in the nonsense, and you, you give me grace, your light and your warmth. I’d like to paint you, but there are no colours, because there are so many, in my confusion, the tangible form of my great love.
Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. You are the mirror of the night. The violet flash of lightening, the dampness of the earth. The hollow of the armpits is my shelter. My fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountains that mine keeps to fill all the paths to my nerves which are yours.