Valentine’s Day: Fervent Love Letters by Famous Writers

by Isla McKetta on February 13, 2013


“On errands of life, these letters speed to death” – Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener

It doesn’t take a writer to pen a romantic note; in fact, some of the most endearing letters are straight from the heart expressions and observations of your beloved, without all the fancy talk. But writers do have a way with words. In case you need inspiration for a note to your beloved, here are some of our favorite expressions of love.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote beautiful poems about love. But the most passionate letters she received were from her “platonic lover,” poet Arthur Ficke, instead of her husband. She may not have been his “full four seasons of the year” but he certainly did like seeing himself in her.

“My dear—I have always loved you, and I have always felt that your finest poems were surpassed by no poems that have ever been written, anywhere, anytime… And in the terrific loneliness that is the fate of every poet, I have dreamed sometimes that a little of my work, too, might be remembered.” – Arthur Ficke

Her love for him soured a bit over the years, but Arthur just kept loving.

“I will not relinquish my right to keep on loving you. I shall not relinquish my rights to remember great poems, great letters, great moments of love…. I love you, my dear. I have always loved you. I always shall. One power can stop that—but it is not you.” – Arthur Ficke

Ernest Hemingway

As his four wives can attest, Ernest Hemingway loved the ladies. A lot. He wrote to his mother, “I haven’t seen a girl in Kansas City yet and that is a hard predicament for a guy that has been in love with someone ever since he can remember.” To his elder sister, Marcelline, Hemingway expressed his tender, playful side, “Tickles and pleasings enveloped me to get your sun dried and wind-blown epistles.”

But it was in a letter to his dear friend William D. Horne, Jr., that Hemingway expressed the darker side of love.

“She doesn’t love me Bill. She takes it all back. A ‘mistake’ one of those little mistakes you know. Oh Bill, I can’t kid about it and I can’t be bitter because I’m just smashed by it. And the devil of it is that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t left Italy. For Christ’s sake, never leave your girl until you marry her… But Bill I’ve loved Ag. She’s been my ideal and Bill I forgot all about religion and everything else—because I had Ag to worship.” – Ernest Hemingway to Bill Horne

If it wasn’t for love lost, we’d never be able to read A Farewell to Arms.

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald were seldom apart, which means the world has few letters to remember their love by. The letters Zelda wrote to Scott are full of gushing love and a strong dependency.

“Scott, my darling lover—everything seems so smooth and restful, like this yellow dusk. Knowing that I’ll always be yours—that you really own me—that nothing can keep us apart—is such a relief after the strain and nervous excitement of the last month. I’m so glad you came—like Summer, just when I needed you most—and took me back with you. Waiting doesn’t seem so hard now. The vague despondency has gone—I love you Sweetheart.” – Zelda Fitzgerald to F. Scott Fitzgerald

The letters read honestly and are sadly prescient, as in this epistle from before they were married, “Darling Heart, our fairytale is almost ended, and we’re going to marry and live happily ever…. Besides, I know you can take much better care of me than I can.” Though Zelda loved Scott madly until the day she died, her letters indicate that love was not enough to solve all their problems.

“It is easy to make yourself loved when one lives off love. Goofo—I adore you and worship you and I am very miserable that you be made even temporarily unhappy by those divergences of direction in myself which I cannot satisfactorily explain and which leave me eternally alone except for you and baffled. You are absolutely all in the world that I have ever been able to think of as having any vital bearing on my relations with the evolution of the species.” – Zelda Fitzgerald to F. Scott Fitzgerald

Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin

Much of what these two authors wrote to each other is not safe for work. Henry loved Anaïs. Anaïs loved Henry (and his wife June) and they wrote it all down in exquisite detail in their novels, diaries and letters while Anaïs’ husband paid the bills. The relationship lasted three decades and crossed oceans. He called her work sublime and monstrous and they both wrote porn on commission to supplement their incomes. Divine match or diabolical duo? You decide.

“Oh, Henry, I don’t know what is the matter with me. I am so exulted. I am almost mad, working, loving you, writing, and thinking of you, playing your records, dancing in the room when my eyes are tired. You have given me such joys that it does not matter what happens now—I am ready to die—and ready to love you all my life!” – Anaïs Nin to Henry Miller

“Anaïs, I am going to open your very groins. God forgive me if this letter is ever opened by mistake. I can’t help it. I want you. I love you. You’re food and drink to me—the whole bloody machinery, as it were. Lying on top of you is one thing, but getting close to you is another. I feel close to you, one with you, you’re mine whether it is acknowledged or not. Every day I wait now is torture. I am counting them slowly, painfully.” – Henry Miller to Anaïs Nin


Rainier Maria Rilke is known most for his “Duino Elegies” and his “Letters to a Young Poet,” but it’s his letters to an older woman that stole our heart. At the age of 21 he fell in love with Lou Andreas-Salomé who was both 36 and married. The result of their love is a series of letters like the following:

“Songs of longing!

And they will resound in my letters, just as they always have, sometimes loudly and sometimes secretly so that you alone can hear them…”

If you need serious inspiration, check out the full correspondence between the two in Rilke and Andreas-Salomé: A Love Story in Letters.

Do you have some favorite love letters you’d like to share with Written Word readers? Share them in the comments below.

Isla McKetta, MFA writes beautifully illegible love letters using her fountain pen and Noodler’s inks. Connect with her on Google+.

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