If you took a survey of human happiness, writers would occupy the nether regions of the list. Why are writers such a miserable lot? Because inner torture breeds creativity. Also, sitting alone in a room and thinking makes people sad. As Keats wrote, “Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?” Most writers live in a permanent state of pathos; this makes them a nightmare to date. The upside? You'll wind up with some seriously epic love letters that you'll then proceed to drench with your tears. We've collected 8 crushingly beautiful love letters written by famous authors. Caveat: The only reason we included George Bernard Shaw's is because it's fantastically mean.
1. Oscar Wilde
“MY OWN BOY—Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim-guilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you, in Greek days."
—1897 letter from Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas
2. Jack London
"Take me this way: a stray guest, a bird of passage, splashing with salt-rimed wings through a brief moment of your life—a rude and blundering bird, used to large airs and great spaces, unaccustomed to the amenities of confined existence."
—1899 letter from Jack London to Anna Strunsky Walling
3. Benjamin Franklin
"You renounce and totally exclude all that might be of the flesh in our affection, allowing me only some kisses, civil and honest, such as you might grant your little cousins. What am I receiving that is so special as to prevent me from giving the same to others, without taking from what belongs to you? The sweet sounds brought forth from the pianoforte by your clever hand can be enjoyed by twenty people simultaneously without diminishing at all the pleasure you so obligingly mean for me, and I could, with as little reason, demand from your affection that no other ears but mine be allowed to be charmed by those sweet sounds."
—1779 letter from Benjamin Franklin to Madame Brillon
4. Virginia Woolf
"Look here Vita—throw over your man, and we’ll go to Hampton Court and dine on the river together and walk in the garden in the moonlight and come home late and have a bottle of wine and get tipsy, and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads — They won’t stir by day, only by dark on the river. Think of that. Throw over your man, I say, and come.”
—1927 letter from Virginia Woolf to English poet Vita Sackville-West
5. Honoré de Balzac
"MY BELOVED ANGEL—I am nearly mad about you, as much as one can be mad: I cannot bring together two ideas that you do not interpose yourself between them. I can no longer think of anything but you. In spite of myself, my imagination carries me to you. I grasp you, I kiss you, I caress you, a thousand of the most amorous caresses take possession of me. As for my heart, there you will always be – very much so. I have a delicious sense of you there. But my God, what is to become of me, if you have deprived me of my reason? This is a monomania which, this morning, terrifies me."
—1836 letter from Honoré de Balzac to Éveline Hanska
6. Franz Kafka
"Write to me only once a week, so that your letter arrives on Sunday — for I cannot endure your daily letters, I am incapable of enduring them. For instance, I answer one of your letters, then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason I don’t want to know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?"
—1912 letter from Franz Kafka to Felice Bauer
7. George Bernard Shaw
"Very well, go: the loss of a woman is not the end of the world. The sun shines on: it is pleasant to swim: it is good to work: my soul can stand alone. But I am deeply, deeply, deeply wounded. You have tried me; and you are not comfortable with me: I cannot bring you to peace, or rest, or even fun: there is nothing really frank in our comradeship after all...Bah! You have no nerve; you have no brain: you are the caricature of an eighteenth century male sentimentalist, a Hedda Gabler titivated with odds and ends from Burne Jones's ragbag...You have wounded my vanity: an inconceivable audacity, and unpardonable crime. Farewell, wretch that I love."
—1913 letter from George Bernard Shaw to Stella Campbell
"I already love in you your beauty, but I am only beginning to love in you that which is eternal and ever previous – your heat, your soul. Beauty one could get to know and fall in love with in one hour and cease to love it as speedily; but the soul one must learn to know. Believe me, nothing on earth is given without labour, even love, the most beautiful and natural of feelings."
—1856 letter from Leo Tolstoy to Valeria Arsenev