The necessity of love letters in the modern age

Communication is ever changing, but that does not mean love letters are on their way to extinction. "On the contrary, they become more invaluable with every sent emoji," writes Sten Spinella. (Sherman Yang/Flickr Creative Commons)

Remember a few years back when, with the rising popularity of e-books, the death of the printed book was declared? Well, that was premature, as e-book sales have leveled off . To me, this says that there is staying power in the physical. While the written word may be the most important aspect of reading, holding a book can make one feel as if they are holding the world.

Which brings me to love letters.

Being a good texter has never hurt anyone’s chances at finding love, whether that love is to last one night or for a lifetime, but being a quality writer of love letters sets you apart from your peers. This is a dimension of seduction and expression many lack, or never think to attain, perhaps because of the entrenched popularity and convenience of texting, emailing, messaging and other digital forms of communication.

But love letters have not lost their place in society. On the contrary, they become more invaluable with every sent emoji.

Why, exactly? Well, first off, the recipient of your letter will most likely find you more appealing because you’ve actually taken the time to write a letter and print it out (or tear it out of a notebook). This is not to be overlooked: a worthy companion will take notice of effort.

Also consider the nostalgic, mystical implications of love letters. They invoke a time of true love before Tinder, when royal figures, such as Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, would extoll each other’s praises on the page; a time of emboldened scribes like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Gustave Flaubert , Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway and Edith Wharton writing of sex, flirtation and longing; a wartime romance that could either end miraculously or tragically. Love letters contextualize. When you write one, you enter a long, proud, desperate history of romantics, names big and small, as if you were carving your initials into an old, storied tree.

Love letters will never go out of style. As long as there is love, there will be letters. But before you write one, there a few things to be cognizant of.

1. How well do you know the person you’re writing to?

Maybe the object of your affection is rather cold and doesn’t respond well to an enormous display of fondness. In this case, keep the letter concise and refrain from going overboard. Do not, for example, author a stack of love letters and poems and gift them to someone you had a one-night-stand with, someone who will eventually block you on Facebook in an effort to negate your existence. Such behavior would be embarrassing and the target doesn’t deserve the gravity of your literary abilities/passion, anyway.

2. Are you literate?

Just try and make it good. The poet John Keats once wrote to Fanny Brawn: “My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you — I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again — my Life seems to stop there — I see no further…I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you…I would be martyr’d for my Religion — Love is my religion — I could die for that – I could die for you. My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet — You have ravish’d me away by a Power I cannot resist.” You don’t have to be as eloquent as Keats, you only have to convey the depth of your feeling as best you can.

3. Keep the attention on your subject.

I once read a response to a particularly narcissistic love letter that read something like: “That was a lovely letter, but next time, could you address it to me?” Ironically, it’s easy to get caught up in yourself and how great you are when you’re writing a love letter. Your final product should be without self-congratulatory writing. It should be simple, only exhibiting flourish once you’ve mastered the art.

For Valentine’s Day, you don’t need to buy anything, or do anything out of the ordinary, if you write a love letter. Nowadays, we are buried in social media and electronic correspondence, which can make it hard to establish a genuine connection. Use a love letter as a shovel.


Sten Spinella is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.