February is the peak time of the year for letter writing, but not just any letters of course – love letters. This month we’re focusing on the history and art of writing a love letter! We’re talking about those wonderful Valentine’s Day missives written from the aching heart. Impress, woo and entertain someone you love this year by writing a Valentine’s love letter.
A history of love letters
Love letters are an ancient art that can be traced as far back as Imperial China and the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Ancient Rome did not have a specific day to celebrate romance and send letters to one another, but the act of writing love letters was very common. Unlike the flowery language of the 19th century, ancient Roman love letters were all about expressing the unbearable pains of the heart.
These more brutal observations of love were usually written by men to their female (and sometimes already married) sweethearts. Many marriages in ancient Roman culture were for political or social arrangements rather than for love. Maybe for this reason, the men wrote not of happy times together, but of deep emotional suffering. If you were to write a Valentine’s Day love letter in the style of ancient Rome you may want to describe your love interest as a ‘plague’ that ‘sets your bone marrow on fire’.
The ancient Egyptians had an approach to love letter writing more similar to what we have today. Burial tombs would often have deeply moving inscriptions like:
“When Princess Torenhotep met you, I tasted wine for the first time
Like an infant, breathing air for the first time
When I lost you, I fasted for life.”
The Victorian era was when the love letter became more popular and sophisticated. As well as having to include copious similes and decorated language, it was also all about sending the right signal with letter etiquette and code. The positioning of a stamp on the envelope of a love letter was as important as it’s contents. Although a writer may pour their heart out onto scented paper, a vertical arrangement of stamps was equal to a firm ‘goodbye’!
As Victorian love letters were the most expressive, it lead to the tradition of ‘returning letters’. Ex-lovers demanded a return of their love letters so that they couldn’t be used for means of blackmail or embarrassment. One such letter discovered by historians from the 1800’s read:
“Love is not a vegetable that it must grow nor is it a thing of logic that it must depend upon sequences and conclusions; but it is a passion of the soul, which may, like thought, be born in an instant, especially in the presence of beauty and accomplishments such as you possess.”
You can see why you’d want them back!
The role of the love letter was very important during the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in times of war. Love letters were one of the only ways for soldiers and their wives and families to keep in contact during the First World War. They were also a great source of courage for the soldiers fighting on the battlefields and the women who took up important work for the war effort back home. You can read some amazing and very moving love letters from World War I here.
So now it’s time to write your own! Here are some tips to think about when penning your Valentine’s Day love letter:
Choose your paper
Many Valentine’s notes, cards and letters are written on pink paper. You may even want to go for something more decorated like a Victorian floral design – or even spray the paper with your perfume or cologne! These days craft and handmade papers can be bought easily online and really give a personal touch.
Consider your writing style
There are many styles in which you can write a love letter – a poem, prose or a long reminiscence about good times …
Learn form the master of sonnets, William Shakespeare, to find inspiration for your own romantic poetry.
Don’t rush it
Write a draft copy for your eyes only to practice handwriting, layout and to check spelling. Use one of our Z-Grip Smooth ballpoints for extra pen control and neat writing.
Address to impress
Take a leaf out of the Victorians’ book and take care of how you fold your letter and put it in its envelope. A neat letter shows the sender has taken great care over it.
Keep it personal
If you’re suffering temporary writer’s block, try to avoid cheesy lines and keep it personal to the recipient. Keeping a love letter personal makes it very sincere and extra special.
Just be yourself and say what you want to say. Love letters can either be long or short. Remember, the quality of what you say is often better than quantity. Less is more!
If you’re more of an artist than a bard, express your feelings with a drawing. Use our great range of SARASA fineliners to create a work of art for your valentine.
Take inspiration from the greats
If you’re really stuck for ideas take a look at these masters of the heart who are famous for writing about love:
Good luck! Send us pictures of your Valentine’s Day creations and which Zebra Pen you used – we’d love to see them!