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The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time (Anglais) Relié – 4 janvier 2005

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Chapter 1
Tender Love
Horatio Nelson to Emma Hamilton

"I love you most tenderly and affectionately . . ."

Horatio Nelson (1758-1805). British admiral. Nelson, whose naval career began when he was twelve, advanced to the rank of commodore in 1796. A year later, he helped the British defeat the Spanish, French, and Dutch fleets at Cape St. Vincent and was promoted to rear admiral. That same year, he was shot in the right elbow, suffered through a botched amputation, and returned to active duty a few months later. In 1798, after his victory over the French at Abu Qir Bay (the Battle of the Nile), Nelson renewed his acquaintance with the extremely beautiful and vivacious Lady Emma Hamilton (nee Lyon; 1765-1815) who was the wife of the scholar and diplomat Sir William Hamilton. Emma had helped arrange a hero's welcome for Nelson when he returned to port in Naples, Italy, where her husband was the British envoy. Their liaison soon resulted in the birth of a daughter, Horatia, in 1801. On Nelson's instructions, Emma purchased a country house, Merton Place, in Surrey, outside London, and it was here that Nelson, as he writes below, was to spend many happy days. Sir William, now best remembered for tolerating their affair, died April 6, 1803, with his wife and her lover at his side. This letter, written on board the Victory from October 11 to the 13, is one of the very last Nelson wrote to his beloved Emma, before his decisive victory over the French, and his death off Trafalgar on October 21, 1805.

Mr. Denis request of Lt. Hargraves introduction shall be attended to but it must be considered that very few opportunities offer of ever getting on board the Commander-in-chief's ship in the Winter Months and, our battle I hope will be over long before the summer days. The wind has blown so fresh these two days that the Enemy if so disposed have not had the power of putting to Sea which I am firmly of opinion they intend. God send it for our selves as well as that of our Country well over. Our friend Sutton is going home for his health. Hoste has Amphion and Sir Wm Bolton Eurydice which I hope the Admiralty will approve. This is the last chance of Sir Billys making a fortune if he is active and persevering he may do it and be easy for life. Oh my Beloved Emma how I envy Sutton going home, his going to Merton and seeing you and Horatia. I do really feel that the 25 days I was at Merton was the very happiest of my life. Would to God they were to be passed over again but that time will I trust soon come and many many more days added to them. I have been as you may believe made very uneasy or rather uncomfortable by the situation of Sir Robt. Calder. He was to have gone home in another ship . . . However I have given way to his misery and have directed the Prince of Wales to carry him to Spithead for whatever the result of the enquiry might be. I think he has a right to be treated with Respect, therefore My Dear Emma do not form any opinion abt. him till the trial is over. I am working like a horse in a Mill but never the nearer finishing my task which I find difficulty enough in keeping clear from confusion but I never allow it to accumulate. Agamemnon is in sight and I hope to have letters from you who I hold dearer than any other person in this World and I shall hope to hear that all our family goes on well at that dear dear Cottage. Believe all I would say upon this occasion but letters being in quarantine may be read, not that I care who knows that I love you most tenderly and affectionately. I send you Adam Campbell's letter & copy of those from the King & Queen. You see they would never wish me out of the Mediterranean. Kiss Dear Horatia a thousand times for Your faithful Nelson & Bronte.

Though she inherited money from both her husband and Nelson, Emma squandered most of it and died, nearly destitute, in Calais, France. Horatia went on to marry an English clergyman and helped rear a large family.

George A. Custer to Elizabeth Custer
"Yours through time and eternity . . ."

George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876). American general. The son of a blacksmith who graduated last in his West Point class of 1861, George went on to become a Civil War cavalry commander. Although eleven horses were shot out from under him, he was wounded only once, and was promoted to brigadier general at the age of twenty-three, and major general at twenty-five. In 1866, George became a lieutenant colonel of the 7th Cavalry, and took part in General Winfield Scott Hancock's expedition against the Plains Indians. His wife, Elizabeth (nee Bacon), or "Libbie," the daughter of an Ohio judge, was a well-educated, strong-minded woman with an ambitious spirit. She initially refused to marry George until he promised never to drink, swear, or gamble again, most of which he steadfastly continued to do. Her devotion was legendary, as she followed him throughout his military campaigns, staying in tents, farms, and boardinghouses. His feelings toward her were no less devotional--in 1867, George was court-martialed and suspended for one year without pay for having made an unauthorized visit to his wife at a nearby fort. On June 25, 1876, in an attempt to drive the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian tribes off Montana land, George, his brother Thomas, and 266 men under his command were massacred at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

The following letter was written shortly after the battle of Yellow Tavern, near Richmond, Virginia (May 11, 1864), an engagement in which George participated, and where the great Confederate general James Ewell Brown, or "JEB," Stuart was mortally wounded.

Dear little "durl"--Again I am called on to bid you adieu for a short period. To-morrow morning two Divisions, 1st and 2nd, of this Corps set out on another raid. We may be gone two or three weeks. I will write, the first opportunity. Keep up a stout heart, and remember the successful issue of the past. God and success have hitherto attended us. May we not hope for a continuance of His blessing?

With thoughts of my darling and with the holy inspiration of a just and noble cause I gladly set out to discharge my duty to my country with a willing heart. Need I repeat to my darling that while living she is my all, and if Destiny wills me to die, wills that my country needs my death, my last prayer will be for her, my last breath will speak her name and that Heaven will not be Heaven till we are joined together. Write to Monroe and tell them of my absence.

Yours through time and eternity,
Autie

John Ruskin to Euphemia Ruskin
". . . to think of all my happy hours . . ."

John Ruskin (1819-1900). English writer and art critic whose scholarship and opinions had considerable influence on Victorian English taste. John's parents recognized their son's complex genius from an early age, and tended to shelter him from the world. Their protection, however, could not help John overcome an unrequited love affair at the age of seventeen, which set the stage for his future relationships. High strung and self-centered, he cautiously entered into an engagement with Euphemia ("Effie") Gray, the Scottish daughter of family friends, and the two were married in April 1848. Though few of their love letters survive, many were written, and some were quite passionate. Nevertheless, their marriage seems never to have been consummated. John wanted to be surrounded by art and artists, and one of his close friendships was with the English painter John Everett Millais, with whom Effie fell in love. As soon as Millais was elected to the Royal Academy--an election which assured him of commissions and a financially secure future--Effie left John, obtained an annulment in July 1854, and married Millais several months later. Together they had eight children. John's father once slyly observed that "Effie is much better calculated for society than he [John] is--He is best in print." This letter from John to Effie dates from June 1849.

I have been thinking of you a great deal in my walks today, as of course I always do when I am not busy, but when I am measuring or drawing mountains, I forget myself--and my wife both; if I did not I could not stop so long away from her; for I begin to wonder whether I am married at all--and to think of all my happy hours, and soft slumber in my dearest lady's arms, as a dream--However I feel--in such cases--for my last letter and look at the signature and see that it is all right. I got one on Friday; that in which you tell me you are better--thank God; and that your father is so much happier, and that Alice is so winning and that you would like a little Alice of our own, so should I; a little Effie, at least. Only I wish they weren't so small at first that one hardly knows what one has got hold of . . .

I have for seven years thought over the various topics of dissuasion which you mention--nor have I yet come to any conclusion--but I asked you for your own feelings, as their expression would in some sort turn the scale with me--not affirmatively indeed--but negatively: as, if you were to tell me that you would be unhappy, living in Switzerland, I should dismiss the subject from my mind; while if you told me you could be comfortable there, I should retain the thought for future consideration, as circumstances may turn out. I wanted therefore to know, not so much whether you would like places of which you can at present form no conception, as whether you had any plans or visions of your own respecting this matter-- any castles in the air which I could realize--or any yearnings which I could supply. I myself have for some time wished to have a home proper, where I could alter a room without asking leave--and without taking leave of it after it was altered . . .

Poor Venice--I saw they were bombarding it last week. How all my visions about taking you there; and bringing you here, have been destroyed: Well, it might have been too much happiness to be good for me; as it would certainly have been ...

Présentation de l'éditeur

If a picture speaks a thousand words, a love letter speaks a thousand more . . .

Even in this age of e-mail, faxes, and instant messaging, nothing has ever replaced the power of a love letter. Much the way light displays every color when passed through a prism, love letters express the spectrum of our emotions, offering a colorful glimpse into the soul of the writer, and of the writer’s beloved. For passionate readers and lovers of words, a letter is irresistible.

Internationally renowned collector David Lowenherz sifted through hundreds and hundreds of historical and contemporary epistles and selected the most ardent, witty, whimsical, sexy, clever, and touching letters for this inspiring collection. Unlike interviews or biographies, these letters give us marvelous insight into the lives of some of history’s most famous lovers and provide intimate glimpses into the hearts of some whose fervent or amusing expressions of devotion will come as a great surprise.

Zelda Fitzgerald to Scott Fitzgerald
Michelangelo Buonarroti to Vittoria Colonna
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart toConstanze Mozart
Harry Truman to Bess Wallace
Khalil Gibran to Mary Haskell
Benjamin Franklin to Madame Brillon
Horatio Nelson to Emma Hamilton
George Bush to Barbara Pierce
Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
Elizabeth Barrett Browning to George Barrett
Jack London to Anna Strunsky
Marc Chagall to Bella Chagall
Ernest Hemingway to Mary Welsh
Jack Kerouac to Sebastian Sampas
Alfred Dreyfus to Lucie Dreyfus
Marjorie Fossa to Elvis Presley
Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West
Ludwig van Beethoven to the “Immortal Beloved”
Emma Goldman to Ben Reitman
Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera
Dylan Thomas to Caitlin Thomas
Franz Kafka to Felice Bauer
Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine Bonaparte
Abigail Smith to John Adams
John Ruskin to Euphemia Ruskin
George Sand to Gustave Flaubert
Simone de Beauvoir to Nelson Algren
Anaïs Nin to Henry Miller
Voltaire to Marie Louise Denis
James Thurber to Eva Prout
George Bernard Shaw to Stella Campbell
Sarah Bernhardt to Jean Richepin
Marcel Proust to Daniel Halevy
Frank Lloyd Wright to Maude Miriam Noel
Anne Sexton to Philip Legler
Elizabeth I to Thomas Seymour
Oscar Wilde to Constance Lloyd
Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Maury
Charles Parnell to Katherine O’Shea
Lewis Carroll to Clara Cunnyngham

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