Pat Wahler

Penning stories to savor.

On Love Letters

Book cover, “My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love”, edited by M.E. Kodner.

At the January meeting of the Civil War Roundtable of St. Louis, M.E. Kodner presented on a collection of one hundred sixty letters donated to the Missouri History Museum. The letters were written by Captain James Love to his sweetheart, Molly, over the course of the Civil War. Ms. Kodner compiled them into a book. The letters give a fascinating glimpse of what daily life must have been like for a Union soldier from Missouri, and his affection for Molly warmed my heart.

Here’s a line from his letter of January 3, 1862: “I believe I am blessed beyond the power of words in your true love. No shade of doubt ever crossed my mind. I pray that I may ever return it-as you deserve.”

Molly must have been suitably impressed by his devotion, as they were married on May 2, 1865, after Captain Love escaped from a Confederate prison and made his way home to her in St. Louis.

This book, along with the approach of Valentine’s Day, got me to thinking about love letters. Does anyone write them anymore?

There have been some glorious letters composed in the past by names we all know. It surprised me to find this ancient snippet from Pliny the Younger, written circa AD 100: “If your letters are so dear to me, you can imagine how I delight in your company; do write often as you can, although you give me pleasure mingled with pain.”

There’s something beautiful about seeing loving thoughts set down on paper. They’re tangible and real and took some time and effort to prepare. The writer considered what to say, wrote it down, addressed an envelope, and carried the missive somewhere else for mailing.

“Old Letters” by Jarmoluk, CCO Public Domain via Pixaday.

I used to be a prolific letter writer. If my current “crush” went out of town, you can bet he’d receive pages and pages from me-often accented by the tiniest touch of perfume. I wanted my letters to trigger the senses in more ways than one.

This brings me to my point. On Valentine’s Day, instead of buying a greeting card or using social media, how about writing a heartfelt letter to your beloved telling him/her how you feel? It doesn’t matter whether the object of your affection is a sweetheart, spouse, your child, or a friend-I’m betting this could be one of the best gifts they’ve ever received. Imagine someone reading what you wrote five, ten, fifteen or more years from now.

Talk about a treasure!

Don’t worry. I have suggestions. For anyone who needs inspiration, click on this LINK to read bits of love letters written by a multitude of people from history. You’ll see love letters can be sweet, tender, or playful.

Take some time to jot down thoughts on what makes your loved one special to you. Organize your thoughts and let the words flow. Please, please, don’t type. Hand-write what you want to say-in cursive, of course.

Now it’s time to spill secrets. Do you have a stack of precious letters tied with a faded ribbon and stored in an attic or trunk?

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18 Comments

  1. What a delightful post. I know my old teen love letters are in an attic in the inner city of my parent’s old flat. I hope no one ever reads them

    • Pat Wahler

      February 8, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Linda, I’m afraid the art of letter writing has been replaced by email, text messages, and social media. You should retrieve your letters and enjoy the stroll down memory lane!

  2. I don’t think anyone writes love letters anymore, it’s all texting with emoticons!
    I used to have some love letters when I was about 15 and my boyfriend used to live about 20 miles away so we’d write during the week. Shh don’t tell my hubby ?.
    Lynne x

    • Pat Wahler

      February 8, 2017 at 7:42 pm

      Lynne, no one writes a letter like you do! Are your love letters still around? I’ll bet it would be fun to read them.

  3. Pat–What about if a person’s cursive is more-or-less illegible? Could they handprint it instead? 😉

    You and I both know someone (Lynn) who LOVES to write hand-written letters and cards. I don’t think she’ll need this reminder…

    And you’re right. There is something special about a hand-written letter or card. I think a person’s character and their feelings are more evident then, compared to a typed letter.

    • Pat Wahler

      February 8, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Sioux, I thought about Lynn when I wrote this post. She’s extraordinary with her letter-writing talents. Can you imagine the treasure trove her children and grandchildren will have?

  4. I love this, Pat! My husband and I dated through our college years and during two of the summers I worked as a counselor at a residential camp. We wrote probably 2 to 3 letters every week. The ones he sent to me are tied together and tucked into a momento box from our courtship days. Mine to him are tucked into a box of special things he kept from that same time frame. I haven’t taken them out for a long time now, but I treasure them. They’really sweet and silly and occasionally downright sappy. My hope is that someday when we’re gone, our children will find them and get a good glimpse into their mom and dad, how we were just like real people, who were very much in love.

    • Pat Wahler

      February 8, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      Sarah, that is so awesome. I’m sure your children, and your grandchildren, too, will be thrilled with the opportunity for a peek into the past.

  5. Oh, how I love a good story about love letters (or Civil War love stories)! Thanks for sharing these gems!

    As for me and mine, we met when we both worked at the same radio station and so it wasn’t so much love letters I wrote but ridiculous, funny things like TV scripts or commercials (I had to look busy so I sat at my typewriter–yes, a typewriter! Like love letters, gone with the wind–and typed away). Once I left the station, I quit writing. But Dave wrote a letter to me a couple of years ago and included it in a card on our anniversary and you can imagine how special it is to me now!

    So yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you, Pat, write! Silly, sweet, or serious, say those words that are in your heart. I promise, your love letter will be treasured!

    • Pat Wahler

      February 8, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      Cathy, what a sweet story. How wonderful you have such a treasured memento. Yes, I love reading old letters, too-some of them are beautiful enough to be called poetry.

  6. As a writer of romance novels, you had to know I’d be all over this post. This is awesome! I can’t wait to check out the link. I’m not the letter writer I used to be, but did write letters to each of my kids when they turned 18. Maybe it’s time to do it again. And the hubster would appreciate the sentiment, too. Thanks for a great post!

    • Pat Wahler

      February 8, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Lisa, writing a letter to your children is a wonderful idea. I, of course, didn’t do it, but I’ve gotten a second chance. I plan to write letters to my little grandbaby!

  7. Pat–Send me your home address. You won a book–an old anthology–and it includes a story by Donna.

  8. I have a shoebox of Cards and letters from college…love to look at it still!

  9. That sounds like a wonderful book! I can’t imagine what it would be like to be separated for so long. When I was 15, I met a guy at the beach and we wrote letters for a while. That was LONG before the internet and cell phones, of course. Kids in long-distance situations now do the whole texting/Facetiming thing, I’m sure. Something about that just isn’t the same!

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