03/02/2014

Romance, the 'slut', and a loss of faith.

'The commonly held view these days is that people don't write love letters any more, and that email and text messaging are death to romance.  And it does seem unlikely that even the most impassioned lover would today claim, as the playwright Congreve does, that 'nothing but you can lay hold of my mind, and that can lay hold of nothing but you.'

'Perhaps people have grown less romantic and more cynical.  Or perhaps people were less self-conscious than we are today...It is tempting to think that we modern barbarians have lost faith, both in love itself and in the art of its expression.'

There are some excerpts from Ursula Doyle's introduction to her collection of love letters entitled: 'Love Letters of Great Men'.  As many Sex And The City fans will know, this is the book which inspires Mr. Big to win back Carrie - writing her a love letter from the collection everyday.

As I sat reading some of the letters last night I cried, laughed, and learnt something from every letter.  

My first tears were shed while reading Henry VIII's letter to Anne Boleyn as what he wrote rang very true to how I feel right now:


'This brings to my mind a fact in astronomy, which is, that the further the poles are from the sun, notwithstanding, the more scorching is the heat.  Thus it is with our love; absence has placed distance between us, nevertheless fervor increases - at least on my part.  I hope the same from you, assuring you that in my case the anguish of absence is so great that it would be intolerable were it not for the firm hope I have of your indissoluble affection towards me.'

Never in a million years would I have thought that Henry VIII would provide the words that I have struggled to find myself.

Moving through the collection, I laughed when I read a letter sent by Laurence Sterne:

'My dear Kitty, I have arrived safe and sound except for the hole in my heart, which you have made, like a dear, enchanting slut as you are.  And now my dear, dear girl! let me assure you of the truest friendship for you, that ever a man bore towards a woman.  Wherever I am, my heart is warm towards you and ever shall be till it is cold for ever.'

Could you ever imagine, today, the phrase 'enchanting slut' being a positive comment?  Language has changed so much over the years; and that's not the only thing.

As I read on, I realised Ursula Doyle was right - people today are less romantic and much more cynical.  She also hit the nail on the head with her comment that people are more self-conscious.  I am a prime example of this - I hate talking about my feelings and wearing my heart on my sleeve.  A couple of weeks ago I decided I would write down my feelings in a letter, but at the last minute I got 'the fear' and wrote it all out in shorthand (knowing that the recipient would never know what it said).  With this in mind, it would probably be fair to agree with her final point - we have lost faith in love itself and the art of its expression.

I wonder how many people are alone because they were afraid to take a leap and have faith in love?

It makes me really sad to think that there are so few 'great men' around today who would put pen to paper to let someone know how much they mean to them.  Of course, in today's society nobody writes any more so it would be fingers to keyboard or phone.  Emails, texts, Twitter and Facebook have had a huge impact on the decline of romance.  Today, speed takes presidence over sentiment.  Everyone is too rushed and too busy to confront and confess their feelings.

Romantic gestures are few and far between, like the men that carry them out; nobody says how they really feel any more (unless it's a public display of affection to make sure everyone else knows how truly, madly, deeply in love they are); and there is no incentive for men to 'woo' women.

This is for two reasons: 1. most men are lazy and just want as much as they can get with as little work as possible, and 2. women make themselves too easy to obtain, with no need for men to work.  It's for this reason that women are just as guilty as men for the decline in romance.  

It is worth bearing in mind that romance means something different to every person.  The key is knowing your audience.  Some women don't like flowers, or spontaneous surprises, or love letters (note: I like all of the aforementioned).  Some women prefer less obvious, traditional gestures like a statement of intent or an offer to do the housework.

I believe it is unlikely that in one hundred years time there will be a book published which contains collections of love letters by 'great men' of today.  However, I look forward to having the cynic in me proved wrong and my faith in love restored once more.

I will leave you with the humorous words of Mozart, in a letter to his wife:

'I am delighted that you have a good appetite - but whoever gorges a lot, must also shit a lot - no, walk a lot, I mean.  But I should not like you to take 'long walks' without me.  I entreat you to follow my advice exactly, for it comes from my heart.  Adieu - my love - my only one.  Do catch them in the air - those 2999 1/2 little kisses from me which are flying about, waiting for someone to snap them up.'


See, romance isn't always as black and white as it seems, is it?

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