Saturday, 20 August 2016

Letters

Juliette Drouet wrote Victor Hugo some 20,000 love letters. Now that's commitment to the written word. One wonders if she spent all her time writing him and whether she received 20,000 letters in return.


Héloïse d'Argenteuil wrote many letters to Peter Abélard. Their's was an ill-fated story of forbidden love and secret marriage. Sadness aside, how right she was in the extract from her letter to Peter below. It is the words that undress you, not only of clothes but they lay bare your heart and your soul.


“I have your picture in my room. I never pass by it without stopping to look at it; and yet when you were present with me, I scare ever cast my eyes upon it. If a picture which is but a mute representation of an object can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? They have souls, they can speak, they have in them all that force which expresses the transport of the heart; they have all the fire of our passions....”


Mary Wollstonecraft, was instrumental in the beginnings of feminism and is something of a hero to me. I'm further impressed to discover that she and her husband, William Godwin, lived in adjoining houses. They often communicated via letters from their unusual living space! I can see great beauty in this. Given Mary's groundbreaking writing of Vindication on the Rights of Women, at a time when women had practically none, it is perhaps unsurprising that her marriage also defied established social rules.  


The loves of these great ladies, suggest that when the written word is spoken with passion, with love, with soul - they become as real as the body, as conversation, as lived memories. In other words, the love letter is as much the relationship as the lived physical experience of love itself.

The RGF xx

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