In an age of heart-eye emojis and apps that deliver blooms direct to your door, writing a love letter feels like an obsolete art. This very fact makes the act of receiving one all the more special, which is why we’re suggesting you give it a go this February 14th. Admittedly, the thought of laying our grand ol’ feelings bare on a blank piece of paper can be somewhat intimidating for many of us. But thankfully, there’s a whole catalogue of extraordinarily beautiful and honest examples from history’s famous lovebirds for us to draw on. Here, we pluck a few of our favourite lines from iconic love letters to inspire you this Valentine’s Day. And if you want some more examples, our What to Write in a Valentine's Day Card is ready to play Cupid for you.
From Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf, Thursday, January 21, 1926
The passionate love affair between British author Virginia Woolf and poet Vita Sackville-West began in the mid-twenties and was the inspiration behind Woolf’s novel Orlando. In this correspondence, Sackville-West pens an honest exchange to Woolf from Milan that’s ‘miserable’ and filled with love all at once.
But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don’t really resent it …
Please forgive me for writing such a miserable letter.
From F. Scott Fitzgerald to Zelda Fitzgerald, 1939
The great love between author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, American socialite, painter and novelist Zelda Fitzgerald, has been preserved forever in a collection of letters. Here, The Great Gatsby writer goes heavy on superlatives when conveying his untold affection for his muse.
You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known – and even that is an understatement.
From Ludwig van Beethoven to ‘Immortal beloved’, 6th July 1812
Following his death in 1827, a love letter to a mysterious ‘Immortal Beloved’ was found amongst the personal papers of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Our favourite part? His succinct but sublime sign off, shown here.
From Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera
Despite both having multiples affairs, the deep, immense love between Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego can be seen in a set of love letters spanning their 27-year relationship. In this note to Diego, Frida references another of her great loves: painting.
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. F.
From Charles Eames to Ray Eames (née Kaiser), 1941
Legendary design duo Charles and Ray Eames are known for writing sweet scribblings to one another. Mirroring the beautiful simplicity seen in his modern architecture and furniture, Charles even proposed to Ray with a sweet, to-the-point letter.
Dear Miss Kaiser, I am 34 (almost) years old, single (again) and broke. I love you very much and would like to marry you very very soon. I cannot promise to support us very well. — but if given the chance I’ll shure in hell try –
soon means very soon.
What is the size of this finger??
As soon as I get to that hospital I will write “reams” well little ones.
From Ernest Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich, Sept 26, 1951
A selection of 30 letters and telegrams from Noble prize-winning writer Ernest Hemingway to German singer and actress Marlene Dietrich reveals the adoration between the two figures. Although their written words speak of longing and passion, it’s thought their relationship was never consummated.
I can't say how every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home.
From Marilyn Monroe to Joe DiMaggio, 1954
Silver screen icon Marilyn Monroe is noted for her penchant for writing private letters and diary entries. These devoted words to baseball player Joe DiMaggio, her husband of nine months, were written when Monroe was filing for divorce in 1954.
I don't know how to tell you just how much I miss you. I love you till my heart could burst. All I love, all I want, all I need is you—forever.
From Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash, undated
In a passionate letter to his wife, American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash draws on the lyrics of his one of his best-selling hits Ring of Fire. The song was written by June Carter in 1962 and later recorded by Cash in 1963. Extra props from us for the brilliant use of ‘pepper sprout.’
You've got a way with words and a way with me as well. The fire and excitement may be gone now that we don't go out there and sing them anymore, but the ring of fire still burns around you and I, keeping our love hotter than a pepper sprout.
Feeling inspired? Pen your words of grand passion in one of our heart-swellingly beautiful Valentine's Day cards. And if you need some music to put you in the mood, we've compiled this Spotify playlist that's a sure-fire way to find your inner Shakespeare.