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Love Letters of Great Men by Ursula Doyle

Love Letters of Great Men (edition 2008)

by Ursula Doyle

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1053114,970 (3.58)2
Title:Love Letters of Great Men
Authors:Ursula Doyle
Info:St. Martin's Press (2008), Hardcover, 160 pages
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Love Letters of Great Men by Ursula Doyle



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I found this mostly quite boring, though my reasons for reading it were hardly inspired (seasonal, under 150 pages, had been lying around unread for years). There is a companion volume Love Letters from Great Women which, if I had to read one of these collections, I would have preferred.

The most interesting and affecting letters in the book were actually the four from nearly-unknown soldiers - from ordinary people. (And a very sweet one from a Daniel Webster - possibly better-known in the US - to a lady who left her bonnet at his house after a party.)

In the first half, there was mostly floweriness, letters essentially consisting of "I miss you so much, I love you so much, please believe me". (Yeah right, Byron & Rabbie Burns.) This sort of thing is terribly dull if you're not one of the people involved.

From the 1830s onwards, things picked up a bit and the writers started talking more about culture, work and daily life. It made me curious as to whether this related to a change in male-female relations and /or other currents in history.

Unlike those of his contemporaries, Oscar Wilde's letters (to Bosie) are deeply emotional. It was easier to be moved by these because I'd first read them in my teens. But seen through older eyes, they are also maddening: get some boundaries and look after yourself, man!

Each author's letters are preceded in the book by a small bio; it was interesting to see that this had quite some influence on how I viewed the letters. Those who stayed together long term (such as Balzac and Ewelina Hanska, who married after a 17-year correspondence) were quite touching. Whereas the many who declared "I will love you always" when you know they left after a fairly short time, only made this cynic more sceptical than ever, thinking that people should use caveats such as "at the moment I feel like..." (Yet I find the positivity some of the WWI soldiers show in the face of the odds against them rather inspiring. Hmmm, insight... The only good thing I got from reading this book, bar a tick on a list.)

It turns out that this book was mentioned in Sex and the City (which I stopped watching a couple of years before it ended) - that must have been the reason it was part of a promotional deal in the bookshop where I bought it 3 or 4 years ago.

Read 12-13 Feb 2012. ( )
  antonomasia | Apr 4, 2013 |
Why don't men from our generation write like this anymore?
  deadgirl | Dec 6, 2009 |
My lovely sister bought me this beautiful book after receiving it as a gift herself; we had both seen it on the Sex and the City movie. Doyle has created a collection of love letters from some of history's most prominent men. There are politicians, writers, composers, poets, lords and kings. The letters are all very different in style but the sentiment of running through all of them is unmistakably love. Some men wrote of their love to one woman over a length of time and some men had many women to correspond with.

I really, really enjoyed reading these letters, mainly due to the fact that they are letters. Today, messages are too often conveyed in abbreviated text messages; instant chat conversations or speedily written emails. Maybe I am old-fashioned but I still write letters to those closest to me and pop them in the post. You can take your time with a letter and really make the effort to get your feelings down in words.
The letters in this collection are all well before email and telephones and that makes them even more poignant. You have Nelson writing from on board HMS Victory to Lady Emma Hamilton; they had probably not seen each other for months and his only comfort were the handwritten words that he could send her and those he would hope to receive in return.
This book is a brilliant idea and a lovely present to receive. I am off to look for the love letters of great women; I am sure there is a book of those out there somewhere. ( )
  dotholden | Feb 3, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312567448, Hardcover)

Remember the wonderfully romantic book of love letters that Carrie reads aloud to Big in the recent blockbuster film, Sex and the City? Fans raced to buy copies of their own, only to find out that the beautiful book didn't actually exist. However, since all of the letters referenced in the film did exist, we decided to publish this gorgeous keepsake ourselves. 
Love Letters of Great Men follows hot on the heels of the film and collects together some of history's most romantic letters from the private papers of Beethoven, Mark Twain, Mozart, and Lord Byron. For some of these great men, love is "a delicious poison" (William Congreve); for others, "a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music" (Charles Darwin). Love can scorch like the heat of the sun (Henry VIII), or penetrate the depths of one's heart like a cooling rain (Flaubert). Every shade of love is here, from the exquisite eloquence of Oscar Wilde and the simple devotion of Robert Browning, to the wonderfully modern misery of the Roman Pliny the Younger, losing himself in work to forget how much he misses his beloved wife, Calpurnia. 
Taken together, these letters show that perhaps men haven't changed all that much over the last 2,000 years--passion, jealousy, hope and longing still rule their hearts and minds. In an age of e-mail and texted "i luv u"s, this timeless and unique collection reminds us that nothing can compare to the simple joy of sitting down to read a letter from the one you love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:53 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Collects some of the most romantic letters in history. This book presents various shades of love, from the exquisite eloquence of Oscar Wilde and the simple devotion of Robert Browning, to the wonderfully modern misery of the Roman Pliny the Younger, losing himself in work to forget how much he misses his beloved wife, Calpurnia.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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