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Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion largely found in the British Library

The pleasure of handling fragile and beautiful love letters in the Manuscript Room of the British Library apparently gave the author the idea for this book of love letters. They include one of the 400 letters from Sir Richard Steele, co-founder of the Spectator magazine, to Mary Scurlock; lines hurriedly dashed off by Sir Walter Raleigh to his wife Bess in 1603, a dark hour since Raleigh had just been condemned to death. Fortunately he managed to escape with a reprieve.

Among the letters is one Captain Douglas Talbot wrote from Gallipoli to his sweetheart:

Oh! You simply have been haunting me lately. I have really been able to picture you. I suppose it is these times our souls yearn more than ever for communion. I see you now in your dear grey dress, now in the town kit, with the fur round your neck, leaning against the mantel at Inverness Terrace and saying: ‘I want to be kissed by you!’ What a fool I was. You would not have to wait so long now.’

Alas, brave Talbot would come to haunt her, for he was killed a month later. More prosaically, there is this epistle from Horatio Nelson to Lady Emma Hamilton:

I can neither Eat nor Sleep for thinking of You my dearest love, I never touch even pudding.

The author has also written a book about how to write love letters. That is a volume the inspired letter writers in her collection would never have bothered to open.


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