Historical and famous love letters are documented sentiments of great men. A review of these letters extends an opportunity to see through the inner person, the mind and soul of these great men. It is amazing to note that a king and a beggar are the same at the threshold of love. Mark Twain wrote in the preface of his autobiography in 1850, “The frankest and freest product of the human mind and heart is a love letter; the writer gets his limitless freedom of statement and expression from his sense that no stranger is going to see what he is writing.”
1.Winston and Clementine Churchill
On meeting Clementine Hozier in 1904 for the first time, Churchill felt affinity towards her and in the next meeting proposed to her. The proposal was accepted. After their engagement, Churchill wrote a note to Clementine inviting her for a walk in a rose garden. The invitation was accepted happily. Their correspondence at times entailed their pet sketches. They married on September 12, 1908 and, according to Churchill, “I married and lived happily ever afterwards.” Churchill was the most favorite leader of the English people, and every step of his life including his personal life and even his love letters are properly documented and well preserved.
2. Allama Iqbal to Atiya Faizi
Allama Iqbal, the philosopher poet of the East, conceived the idea of a separate state for Muslims in India, a dream finally realized in the form of emergence of Pakistan. Atiya Faizi, the daughter of a prominent trader Hussain Afandi, met Iqbal in Cambridge in 1907 and won a soft corner in Iqbal’s heart. Asif Naqshbandi quoted Abdul Rabb Quraishi about his compiling some letters from Iqbal to Atiya Faizi. A translated excerpt is:
’17th July, 1909
My Dear Miss Atiya!
I am totally grateful for the letter I have just received. Today, since morning, my temperament has been uncommonly joyful. Therefore, if you perceive the sweetness of jocularity in this missive consider it a compulsion.’
3. Napolean Bonaparte (15 August, 1769 ”œ 5 May, 1821) to Josephine
Soon after marriage, Napoleon had to leave his wife Josephine de Beauharnais behind as he was going to command the French Army near Italy. His early letters were very emotional but were not responded to in the same spirit. Rather, they were not responded to at all at times. This gave rise to doubts in the heart of Napolean, and he then wrote quite acrimonious letters to Josephine. He felt very jealous, and to retaliate developed an affair with a young officer’s wife. Napolean never addressed Josephine in the conventional manner of letter writing. Here is an excerpt from one letter:
I have your letters of the 16th and 21st. There are many days when you don’t write. What do you do, then? No, my darling, I am not jealous but sometimes worried. Come soon. I warn you, if you delay, you will find me ill. Fatigue and your absence are too much.’
4. Byron to Teresa
Lord Byron (January 22, 1788 – April 19, 1824) was one of the greatest English poets. He was known for many love affairs he had with quite a few women. His letters to Countess Teresa Guiccioli occupy a special place. On August 25, 1819 he wrote a letter to her sounding quite amorous ‘My Dearest Teresa, I have read this book in your garden. My love, you were absent, or else I could not have read it. It is a favorite book of yours, and the writer was a friend of mine.’
5. King Henry VIII (June 28, 1491 – January 28, 1547)
Love letters of King Henry VIII were found in the Vatican Library during his efforts to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. In an undated letter to Anne Boleyn, he wrote, ‘My mistress and friend: I and my heart put ourselves in your hands begging you to have them suitors for your good favor, and that your affection for them should not grow less through absence.’ He ended his letter with the words, ‘This by the hand of your loyal servant and friend, H.Rex.’
6. Keats to Fanny Brawne
John Keats, the great English romantic poet, having fallen in love with Fanny Brawne, wrote heart-rending letters to her. Keats suffered from tuberculosis, and the letters written to Fanny requesting her to ‘write immediately”were either lost or were too late. Keats did not survive long. The pathos in his letters is just immense.
7. Voltaire to Olympe Dunover
Voltaire was born on November 21, 1694 in Paris and expired on May 30, 1778. He developed relations with beautiful Olympe but was disliked by her mother. The French Ambassador placed him behind prison bars. Voltaire wrote to Olympe, ‘The Hague 1713
I am a prisoner here in the name of the King. They can take my life but not the love that I feel for you. Yes, my adorable mistress, to-night I shall see you, and if I had to put my head on the block to do it.’
8. John Adams and Abigail Adams
John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was the second President of The United States of America. He was peace loving and refrained from war against France in spite of many calling for it. He later on expressed his decision as ‘the most splendid diamond in my crown.” Both the husband and wife loved each other and expressed it to one another through 1,100 letters. John Adams exchanged views with her even on official matters.
9. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and Elizabeth Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell is famous for the English rebellion which deposed and executed King Charles I in 1649. Cromwell wrote to his wife, Elizabeth Cromwell, on September 4, 1650, ‘Thou art dearer to me than any creature; let that suffice.’
10. Albert Einstein to Elsa Einstein
After her divorce in 1908, Elsa began her relationship with her cousin Albert Einstein whom she called ‘Albertle’ and they married on June, 1919. Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to Elsa ‘Soon I’ll be fed up with the relativity. Even such a thing fades away when one is too involved with it.” The great Nobel Laureate who propounded the famous Theory of Relativity was probably trying to assure that, for him, it was Elsa who was the most important.
A review of these letters indicates that love letters culminate either into a marriage in the case of success or an acrimonious or retaliatory relationship in the case of failure. In the former case, people like Churchill live ‘happily ever afterwards.’ However, what used to be a love letter before marriage becomes an assurance letter after marriage, and the husband is bound to keep on assuring and reassuring his wife throughout the span of life that he still loved her as much as he loved her before marriage. These assurances are seen a bit suspiciously, and people of even as great a caliber as Einstein find it quite a difficult task. Content of such letters, even the words of salutation, reflect a point in time of history. Great nations keep the records of their great people preserved for passing on to the next generations and, for that matter, probably no one excels the English who have kept even the love letters of their heroes like a national heritage.