The joy of writing or receiving a love letter

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The love letter has long been celebrated as a wonderful, romantic gesture. We think a return to the practice is long overdue!

Romance is traditionally in the air this month as St Valentine’s Day falls on February 14.

As the patron saint of lovers, it seems appropriate that his saint’s day is traditionally marked by the exchange of cards and gifts between romantic couples.

However, the first record of February 14 being a day for romantic celebrations wasn’t until a poem written by Geoffrey Chaucer around 1375. In “Parliament of Foules” Chaucer links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day.

The earliest evidence of Valentine love letters

While Chaucer might have been writing of the celebration as early as 1375, the oldest surviving romantic love letter written in English for Valentine’s Day wasn’t composed until 1477.

The letter is held in the British Library in London, UK. It was written by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston. Describing John as her “right well-beloved valentine”, she tells him that if he loves her he will marry her anyway, regardless of whether her dowry is increased: “But if you love me, as I trust verily that you do, you will not leave me therefore.”

Happily, the British Library reports that there was a romantic ending to the story, as the couple did eventually marry.

Famous love letters

Perhaps the most famous love letters are the fictional! Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, the French satirist and dramatist who lived between 1619 and 1655, is renowned for his works that combine political satire with science fantasy and have inspired a number of later writers. As such, he has inspired many romantic legends, including Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac.

Rostand’s fictional account portrayed Cyrano as a gallant and romantic but shy and ugly lover, who woos the beautiful Roxanne on behalf of Christian. Cyrano writes love letters signed with Christian’s name, and Roxane doesn’t realise that it’s Cyrano’s words she falls for.

The tale of Cyrano de Bergerac was famously told in the 1990 film starring the French actor Gerard Depardieu. The story is enjoying renewed interest at the moment, with a production in London’s West End starring James McEvoy. Plus, this year, a new film of the story with Peter Dinklage playing Cyrano will reach cinemas.

Write your own romantic love letter this Valentine’s day

With so much interest in the love letters of this famous character, it’s a great time to write some love letters of your own this Valentine’s day. This year, instead of purchasing gifts, why not put some heartfelt words down on paper for a really special Valentine’s gift?

If you fancy writing a love letter of your own, you can find some wise words about letter writing in one of our previous articles.  

Choose some beautiful paper such as the Presentation 100 g.m -2, which will help you to impress your loved one with the best bulky paper in town, and let them know how much they mean to you. The best letters are from the heart. For inspiration, Bustle has collected some beautiful love letters written by famous lovers.

However, if you aren’t confident about creating your own prose, you could always add a special verse of romantic poetry. WB Yeats is always a favourite – he makes it to number three on Oprah Winfrey’s list. Or for a selection of less well-known love poems, try the UK’s Guardian newspaper’s recommendations from famous authors.

Need more inspiration?