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Love Letters of Great Men, edited by Ursula Doyle is a hardback, attractive looking book, the cover being white and covered in hearts which is representative of what you find inside - the perhaps long forgotten art (in these days of technology) of the romantic love letter. This book originally cost £9.99 and was first published in 2008 by Macmillan.
Having had a long distance relationship with an Australian man many moons ago I still have the many love letters he sent to me and I can remember how wonderful receiving those letters were and indeed responding back to them.
Unlike the telephone, I could read them over and over and saviour the romantic nature of the written word which to me was equally rewarding if not more so than words of love spoken over the telephone. At the time I thought of my partner as a great man but within the pages of this book are great men that most of you will have heard of, amongst others: - Henry VIII, Mark Twain, Ludwig van Beethoven, Oscar Wilde, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lord Byron, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alexander Pope, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lord Nelson, Robert Burns, John Keats, Honore de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Robert Browning and Gustave Flaubert.
What is interesting about the love letters featured within this collection is that whilst the way in which we now communicate with those we love may largely have changed, the emotions revealed are very much the same: passion, longing, frustration, jealousy, hope devotion and love. Each man may portray this in different ways - the writers' and poets' letters are filled with eloquence and romantic turns of phrase whilst others are more straightfoward but portray just as effectively their feelings of love & devotion.
Before each letter a short paragraph sets the scene for you as to who the people are and a little bit of history puts what they write into context for you. This is particularly helpful if your history is a litlte rusty or the people are not that well known to you.
One letter from Ludvig Van Beethhoven to his unnamed 'Immortal Beloved' got a mention in the Sex and the City film when Sarah Jessica Parker was reading (I think from this very book) to Mr Big so you may remember this one as an example of the flavour of this book:
You - my Life - my All - farewell. Oh, go on loving me - never doubt the faithfullest heart Of your beloved
Ever thine Ever mine Ever ours.
What I particuarly like about these type of collections is that you can just delve into the book at any place and read the letters of those who interest you most. What struck me over and over was the ernest nature of the love letters and it reminds you that men can be romantic and have feelings of insecurity, doubt and a great capacity to love, something not all men are comfortable revealing to women or anyone for that matter. In this day and age men are perhaps sometimes afraid to express their true feelings for fear of rejection. A letter protects you from face to face rejection but then you are left with the question as to what your beloved's reaction to the letter is and when you might hear from them again and this also comes across in most of the letters in this book. Back then it probably took a longer time to get a response so the waiting must have been torture!
What's interesting is that these great men who in most cases had either great power or talent in their day to day lives show their vulnerability and self-doubt when it comes to love and whether their beloved feels the same strength of feeling towards them. Equally there are entries whereby the writing is filled with such confidence that the writer comes across as a little arrogant and self-absorbed!
I found this book interesting largely because I am fascinated by human nature and how people interact and express themselves and the fact that these words are written by men of note adds an interesting dimension to their characters and allows you an insight not usually seen into perhaps the deepest & most heartfelt emotion one can have - that of love.
There's nothing like a love letter. Me and my husband exchanged loads of letters in the early days of our courtship. We were separated by quite a few miles (this was the pre-internet and pre-mobile phone era) so there was always that almost unbearable wait for the post to come, but it was exciting. Somehow a text or a message on Facebook can't quite compete!