Do ac­tions al­ways speak louder than words?

In years gone by, sep­a­rated from their loved ones by oceans and war, great men poured out their feel­ings on pa­per. Vic­to­ria Marston re­vis­its the love letters of those who made his­tory

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

In years gone by, great men poured out their feel­ings on pa­per. Vic­to­ria Marston peeks at their love letters

HENRY VIII, Mozart, Napoleon and Dar­win: the ac­tions of each of them left a legacy known to all of us, but what of the man be­hind those ex­cep­tional feats? ‘Letters are among the most sig­nif­i­cant me­mo­rial a per­son can leave be­hind them,’ said Ger­man poet Jo­hann Wolf­gang von Goethe. Love letters, in par­tic­u­lar, are re­veal­ing— who would have thought that the ab­sence of word from his wife could leave Napoleon in a state of de­spair and in­se­cu­rity?

Did you know that Mozart pre­ferred his love not to go walk­ing with­out him, that Dis­raeli was thought a for­tune hunter, that one of Nel­son’s last deeds was to write a let­ter home or that the poet Alexan­der Pope could ap­par­ently only ex­press his own emo­tions when drunk?

In this age of in­stant communication, let­ter writ­ing is be­com­ing a lost art, yet our de­scen­dants are un­likely to sit and study our love texts—or, more likely, mis­sives stat­ing at what time we will ar­rive home. Let us look to the love letters of the great men of the past, learn about them and learn from their (some­times) elo­quent ex­am­ple.

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