Love Letters of Great Men

Love Letters of Great Men


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A Newly Ordered World

Napoleon’s Love Letters

Meet the Eames Couple

Hardy’s Steamy Accounts

Art of the Essay

History of two Empires

Oscar Wilde Trial

Letters to Madame Hanska

Love Letters of Great Men Vol 1

Love Letters of Great Men Vol 2

18th Century Love Letters

Voltaire in Love

Above photography
The Love Letter by Willem Bartel van der Kooi
c. 1808 Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Rijkmuseum, The Netherlands

Dutch artists of the 19th century drew inspiration from the 17th century, the Golden Age of Dutch art. In this picture, Van der Kooi reprised a typically 17th-century theme, the delivery of a love letter. The tension between the lady and the young messenger is almost palpable. Yet The Love Letter is also highly contemporary, for the interior, hairstyles and clothing are entirely in keeping with the fashions of 1808.


Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim’s exhibition, “A Newly Ordered World – Treasures from the Napoleonic Era,” spotlighted Napoleon’s influence, as well as the jewelry and fashion of his era. In 1796, Napoleon married Joséphine Beauharnais and for him, it was love at first sight. For a solid 8 years, from 1796 to 1804, Napoleon and Joséphine exchanged love letters – some sweet, some heated and some outright lewd. 


It was not only Napoleon who was known for his infamous epistolary musings, it turns out that even the staunchest military leaders and political demagogues have a big heart behind closed doors, or in public as is the case with some letters which were published to the masses.


While some men are unabashedly poetic and romantic, others skew to the extremely opposite spectrum, to say the least. Then there’s that gray area in between with the gents who you would never peg as ever having a sweet spot for sappy love letters, yet they do – oh do they.

The love letters that have gone down in the annals of time vacillate from the uber raunchy to Victorian sonnets, affirmations of love written from the viewpoint of a dog and the most unconventional of marriage proposals.

I am a prisoner here in the name of the King; they can take my life, but not the love that I feel for you.

An unconventional proposal
Charles Eames proposes to Ray Kaiser


“I am 34 (almost) years old, single (again) and broke. I love you very much and would like to marry you very very soon.* I cannot promise to support us very well.


— but if given the chance I will shure in hell try –


*soon means very soon.


What is the size of this finger??

as soon as I get to that hospital I will write ‘reams’ well little ones.

love xxxxxxxxxx



The father and son architecture duo Eliel and Eero Saarinen were the ones who initially encouraged Charles Eames to fast track his studies at Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan. It was there that he met Ray (Bernice Alexandra Kaiser) who became his second wife in 1941. Charles and Ray Eames moved to Los Angeles together and became life partners – on the love and business front – creating iconic furniture pieces that are still in production by Herman Miller and Vitra until today.


Charles always saw Ray as an equal in all of their endeavors, even when the world they lived in at the time was not lithe to do so “Anything I can do, Ray can do better,” he said.

Love your poise, Of perfect thighs
When they hold me in paradise . . .

Penned by Voltaire to Olympe Dunover
while in prison for their affair


“I am a prisoner here in the name of the King; they can take my life, but not the love that I feel for you. Yes, my adorable mistress, tonight I shall see you, and if I had to put my head on the block to do it.


For heaven’s sake, do not speak to me in such disastrous terms as you write; you must live and be cautious; beware of madame your mother as of your worst enemy. What do I say? Beware of everybody; trust no one; keep yourself in readiness, as soon as the moon is visible; I shall leave the hotel incognito, take a carriage or a chaise, we shall drive like the wind to Sheveningen; I shall take paper and ink with me; we shall write our letters.


If you love me, reassure yourself; and call all your strength and presence of mind to your aid; do not let your mother notice anything, try to have your pictures, and be assured that the menace of the greatest tortures will not prevent me to serve you. No, nothing has the power to part me from you; our love is based upon virtue, and will last as long as our lives. Adieu, there is nothing that I will not brave for your sake; you deserve much more than that. Adieu, my dear heart!




Olympe’s mother and the French ambassador were never a fan of their relationship and decided to take matters into their own hands by throwing Voltaire in prison to keep them separated from his beloved girlfriend. To their chagrin, Voltaire managed to escape prison by climbing out of the window just shortly after writing to Olympe.

It always comes to the same thing − he gets thinking that nothing that he writes or says ever quite expresses his feeling, and he worries about his inarticulateness just the same as he does about his bowels, except it is worse, and it makes him either mad, or sick, or with a prickly sensation in the head.

The Love Letter by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1669 − c. 1670
Oil on canvas

Courtesy of Rijkmuseum, The Netherlands

Vermeer chose an unusual vantage point for this painting. From a dim space in the foreground, a glimpse is afforded of another room with a domestic scene. An elegantly dressed woman looks up expectantly at a maidservant, who has just handed her a letter. The seascape on the wall behind them may well allude to the epistle’s subject: during the 17th century, the sea was often compared to love, and the lover to a ship.

Sexting by way of post
President Warren Harding gets hot and heavy with his paramour, Carrie Fulton Phillips


I love your poise
Of perfect thighs
When they hold me
in paradise …


I love the rose
Your garden grows
Love seashell pink
That over it glows


I love to suck
Your breath away
I love to cling −
There long to stay …


I love you garb’d
But naked more
Love your beauty
To thus adore …


I love you when
You open eyes
And mouth and arms
And cradling thighs …


If I had you today, I’d kiss and
fondle you into my arms and
hold you there until you said,
‘Warren, oh, Warren,’ in a
benediction of blissful joy.


I rather like that encore
discovered in Montreal.
Did you?


According to the book “The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War” by Ohio attorney and author James David Robenalt, Harding’s affair with Phillips began in 1905. They both had defunct marriages, with Harding’s wife chronically ill from kidney problems and Phillips’ husband battling depression after the death of their 2-year-old son.


Both families had lived in Marion, Ohio, and Philips happened to be a friend of a friend. The affair took off while Harding was serving as Ohio’s lieutenant governor and later a U.S. senator according to the Library of Congress. Some 106 love letters were penned on official Senate stationery. The letters were filled with code names, Phillips was “Sis” or “Mrs. Pouterson” while Harding, and/or his penis, was “Jerry” and together they were “the Poutersons.”


The affair likely lasted until Harding took office as president in 1921, although he served a terse two years before he died in office from a heart attack.

The dog days of love
E.B. White takes pen to paper to celebrate his wife’s pregnancy. Just one thing: it was ‘written’ by their dog Daisy


“Dear Mrs. White:

I like having Josephine here in the morning, although I suppose I will get less actual thinking done – as I used to do my thinking mornings in the bathroom. White has been stewing around for two days now, a little bit worried because he is not sure that he has made you realize how glad he is that there is to be what the column writer in the Mirror calls a blessed event. So I am taking this opportunity, Mrs. White, to help him out to the extent of writing you a brief note which I haven’t done in quite a long time but have been a little sick myself as you know.


Well, the truth is White is beside himself and would have said more about it but is holding himself back, not wanting to appear ludicrous to a veteran mother. What he feels, he told me, is a strange queer tight little twitchy feeling around the inside of his throat whenever he thinks that something is happening which will require so much love and all on account of you being so wonderful. (I am not making myself clear I am afraid, but on the occasions when White has spoken privately with me about this he was in no condition to make himself clear either and I am just doing the best I can in my own way).


I know White so well that I always know what is the matter with him, and it always comes to the same thing – he gets thinking that nothing that he writes or says ever quite expresses his feeling, and he worries about his inarticulateness just the same as he does about his bowels, except it is worse, and it makes him either mad, or sick, or with a prickly sensation in the head […]

Lovingly, Daisy”


For issue 48 of The Paris Review in 1969, George Plimpton & Frank Crowther interview E.B. White – also known as Andy White – writing that “Andy and Katharine have been married for forty years, and in that time they have been separated so rarely that I find it impossible to think of one without the other. On the occasions when they have been obliged to be apart, Andy’s conversation is so likely to center on Katharine that she becomes all the more present for being absent.”

Red rose-leaf lips
Oscar Wilde to his muse Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas


“My Own Boy,

Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days.


Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place and lacks only you; but go to Salisbury first.


Always, with undying love, yours,


Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, a chap 16 years his junior, first crossed paths in the summer of 1891 and had an other-worldly love that blossomed with every passing day. They were practically connected at the hip until Wilde’s absolute denigration in public and arrest four years later.


Oscar Wilde tried to keep his homosexuality well hidden for much of his life as it was outlawed in19th England and considered sodomy. When Sir John Sholto Douglas, known as Queensbury, caught wind of his son’s intimate relationship with Wilde, he was outraged to say the least. Queensbury claimed that Wilde had seduced a total of 12 boys to commit sodomy between 1892 and 1894 and made it his mission to oust Wilde in public about it.


Wilde tried to fight back with a libel suit as Douglas was sullying his name in public, but it was to no avail. Wilde was cross examined extensively about a “love that dare not speak its name” and eventually convicted of gross indecency with a sentence of two years in prison. He remained exiled three years following his release from prison and died in France.

Madly, deeply
Honoré de Balzac pours his heart out to
Countess Ewelina Haska


“My beloved angel,

I am nearly mad about you, as much as one can be mad: I cannot bring together two ideas that you do not interpose yourself between them. I can no longer think of nothing but you. In spite of myself, my imagination carries me to you. I grasp you, I kiss you, I caress you, a thousand of the most amorous caresses take possession of me. As for my heart, there you will always be — very much so. I have a delicious sense of you there. But my God, what is to become of me, if you have deprived me of my reason?


This is a monomania which, this morning, terrifies me. I rise up every moment say to myself, ‘Come, I am going there!’ Then I sit down again, moved by the sense of my obligations. There is a frightful conflict. This is not a life. I have never before been like that. You have devoured everything.


I feel foolish and happy as soon as I let myself think of you. I whirl round in a delicious dream in which in one instant I live a thousand years. What a horrible situation! Overcome with love, feeling love in every pore, living only for love, and seeing oneself consumed by griefs, and caught in a thousand spiders’ threads.


O, my darling Eva, you did not know it. I picked up your card. It is there before me, and I talked to you as if you were here. I see you, as I did yesterday, beautiful, astonishingly beautiful. Yesterday, during the whole evening, I said to myself ‘She is mine!’ Ah! The angels are not as happy in Paradise as I was yesterday!”


The story of Honoré de Balzac and Countess Ewelina Haska started off as a cat and mouse chase through anonymous letters and literary critiques. It was Countess Ewelina who first made the move in the spring of 1832 with a letter sent to Balzac’s residence in Paris. The letter had no return address and was postmarked from Odessa, a far-off town in Ukraine.


Turns out it was a critique of his most recent novel, La Peau de chagrin. The countess was clearly not impressed with the “cynicism and atheism” of his latest novel and its view on women, who “were portrayed as evil monsters.” The letter “urged him to return to the more elevated ideas of Scènes de la Vie Privée with their angelic victims.”


She signed the letter with an eerie “L’Étrangère” (“The Stranger” or “The Foreigner”). Balzac was intrigued and decided to strike back with a classified ad in the Gazette de France, hoping to find his mystery pen pal, it read:


“M. de B. has received the letter that was sent to him on 28 February. He regrets that the means of replying has been withheld, and though his wishes are not of a nature that permits them to be published here, he hopes that at least his silence will be understood.”


She wrote back again and revealed that she was Ewelina Hańska, a Polish countess married to a man many years her senior. She made it no secret that she was a huge fan of his literary works and his treatment of women, save for La Peau de chagrin of course, and thought that she could talk some sense into him by becoming The Stranger. Balzac and Countess Ewelina exchanged letters up until her husband’s death 1841. On March 14th, 1850, Honoré and Ewelina married at last, although Balzac tragically died in August of that same year.



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