Most of you probably have a favorite Jane Austen novel. What about a favorite page? Mine is page 223 of Persuasion, otherwise known as Captain Wentworth’s love letter.
If you’ve never read Persuasion, stop right now and get a copy. If you have, go ahead and sigh with me as I quote: “I can no longer listen in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.”
Wouldn’t you love to receive a letter like that? Or better yet, write a letter like that for someone you love? Everybody loves a love letter. It’s the perfect recession-proof Valentine’s gift. It’s also a great way to rekindle a relationship that’s gone a little flat.
I’ll admit that Captain Wentworth is in a class by himself when it comes to writing love letters, but we can still learn about romance from him:
First of all, if you want to write a really great love letter, you must take an emotional risk. You must be willing to reveal feelings that have remained hidden before. When Capt. Wentworth writes, “I have loved none but you,” he holds nothing back. He is completely open and honest. He’s even dramatic, which might just be why his letter hits such a romantic home run.
The second element of a great love letter is a touch of humility. The captain writes: “Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.” He acknowledges his weakness and in the process makes an apology. Notice, though, that he doesn’t overdo the humility. His apology is just one sentence out of twenty-one, but oh how that one sentence adds to the whole.
Third, you must give evidence of your love. Capt. Wentworth explains how his actions reflect his feelings: “You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan.—Have you not seen this?” What good is a lover who only talks about feelings? If you want to prove your love, explain how you’ve acted on your emotions.
The fourth element of a truly romantic love letter is a reminder of your unique bond. Captain Wentworth writes, “You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others.” There’s always that special something in a romantic relationship. Maybe, like Captain Wentworth, he understands you in a way no one else has. Perhaps, instead, you share a common interest. Whatever it is, a love letter is the perfect way for both of you to remember what drew you together.
Fifth, a good love letter heaps on praise. Among other things, Capt. Wentworth refers to Anne as, “too good” and “too excellent.” Not much has changed in the last 200 years. Everyone still loves a compliment, and words of affirmation are a great way to help someone feel loved.
So there they are, the five keys to a romantic love letter: an emotional risk, a touch of humility, evidence of your love, a reminder of your unique bond, and praise. Can you think of something else that makes a love letter extra romantic for you?