How to Write a Love Letter like Capt. Wentworth’s

How to Write a Love Letter like Capt. Wentworth’s

Most of you procap wentworthbably 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?



38 Responses to How to Write a Love Letter like Capt. Wentworth’s

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever read “Persuasion.” I doubt I’d ever have a problem putting praiseful comments into a love letter–sincere adoration is the whole point of it, I should think!

    • It’s not just praiseful comments in Captain Wentworth’s letter, it’s in a class of its own. It is my favourite page of any book I’ve ever read, absolute perfection!

        • I agree Sheila. I think the thing that works for me most in his letter is the sense of the deep feelings, he’s speaking from his soul and pouring it onto the page. Perfection!

          I have a feeling that this was an alternate ending, there’s a chapter existing when he speaks to Anne face to face but this is so much more exquisite!

  2. I have to laugh. My husband and I were separated 13 days after we were married as he entered the army. That was on September 13th. He came home for a short time at Christmas and then I went to observe his Stepping Up ceremony in July and then joined him in moving to/being stationed at Ft. Hood TX in August. Our letters were rated X and we re-read, then burned, them when we wanted to have children. Could not have such lying around! LOL

    I do think that of all the pages in Jane Austen’s works that letter stands out, in my mind, as the most romantic communication from any of her characters to another.

    Your instructions of writing a Love Letter are excellent but I wonder how many of us would be willing to put our hearts on the line like that, with no guarantee of reciprocation? He left nothing unsaid.

  3. Lovely post, Rebecca, and especially at Valentine’s Day! I too love Persuasion and all of Jane’s novels!

    Following graduation from high school, my boyfriend and I went to separate colleges and wrote each other daily… The letters were not always so passionate as Wentworth’s but they still helped us feel more connected… Three years later we married… and that was nearly 49 years ago. 🙂 (Now we don’t write letters but talk daily when he is away on trips.) I agree that letters are very precious, however, but good communication is the critical thing!

    • What a sweet story,Carol. Back when I was in college, we had to pay for long distance calls, so I didn’t call people as much as people do now. It’s funny how old-fashioned that sounds.

  4. I have to confess, I’ve not read Persuasion! I have other Austen books I’ve grown to appreciate but Anne and Wentworth seem so very different than Darcy and Elizabeth (who in turn are a lot like me and my husband) that I just keep returning to P&P and occasionally other stories. But I’ve resolved to read it this year to earn that true Janeite badge. Then in the last few weeks I’ve been writing about Jane and Bingley and I’ve considered how there are similar themes in place between the two stories (I’m aware of the plot, have seen the movies etc.) and so Anne no longer seems so stupid to me. Once upon a time I did actually read Wentworth’s letter. I heard so much about it I had to give it a try. Having you catalog it like this is really much more moving though. I’m definitely going to have to get to it then. Thanks for sharing!

    • I hope you like it, Rose. I haven’t enjoyed the Persuasion movies as much as the P&P, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility movies. Persuasion has a lot of inner dialogue, and it’s hard to capture that in a movie. Thanks for commenting!

  5. That letter *sigh* is just magnificent. I was only a teenager when I first read it and didn’t appreciate it properly at the time. It wasn’t until after I married that it really came to mean something to me. Then, after ten years of marriage, we had to spend around nine months apart, with only three weeks together halfway through, due to my husband working overseas. Phone communications were sporadic at best, so letters were really all we had of each other. I won’t pretend any of them were on a par with “that” letter but but they felt like it at the time.

  6. It’s my favourite page of Austen too! The first time I read it, I got to the end of the letter, sighed at how romantic it was, and straight away read the letter again. P&P is my favourite book but that letter from Persuasion is just perfection. I had never seen it broken down like you have, but it explains why it works so well. Sigh!

  7. That is my favorite page of Persuasion as well. I will bet it is for many. I have many in P&P but one sticks out today. “You are too generous to trifle with me.” Wonderful post.

  8. Thanks for the beautiful post, Rebecca! Captain Wentworth’s letter is without a doubt the most romantic one I can think of, and I loved your ‘five keys’! What a wonderful way to start the Valentine’s weekend!

  9. Though Pride and Prejudice has always been my favorite Jane Austen tale, Persuasion is right behind it! And, I believe that Jane Austen wrote no finer declaration of love than that of Capt. Wentworth’s letter to Anne. Oh to have written those words . . . You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope! I have to think that Jane must have experienced that hope and that agony in her short life or she would never written those words. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject with us.

  10. Captain Wentworth’s letter has always been my ideal of a truly romantic letter. I think the essence of a romantic communication, written or spoken, is its ability to take your breath away. The man I am dating can do that, and at such unexpected moments, that I am shocked at the feelings it evokes. The beauty of it is that it is never practiced or intentional, it just happens. He did it again the other day in a phone call and I never fail to let him know the effect it has on me. There are many Captain Wentworths out there, they just may not be writing it down. Pay attention to the small moments. 🙂

  11. Thank you. This is so beautiful. I have tears in my eyes. Your post is a love letter to all your readers. Perfect!

  12. A wonderful post which resonates with me. I used to write love letters way back when corresponding was the method of communication and used all of those keys, as well as referring to being soulmates.

    • My reply to your post went to the top of the comment string. Whoops. You must be a natural at writing letters, Anne. I actually used this post to write my Valentine’s letter this year, and it is so much better.

  13. Perfect blog for the day before Valentine’s Day! My husband then boyfriend wrote love letters to me the summer he went to boot camp. The problem was as he sent them for some reason they kept being sent to return to sender. So when I finally received them, they were all in one envelope unopened and then I got to read each one and of course the last ones w,ere so precious because he was beside himself wanting to let me know how much he missed and loved me. And knowing that I hadn’t received his letters. It made the summer wait, in seeing him all the better:D

  14. My boyfriend, now husband, wrote to me while I was away in Europe for 2 months. He always wrote about how much he missed me and memories of our times together kept him going and how he was anticipating our time together, what we would do, when I returned. Two weeks after I returned we were engaged. About 4 months later we were married. I saved every one of the letters he wrote to me back then.

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