And what, you may ask, is my opinion on this matter? Well I do have one and it is a strong one. Its author is none other than Miss Jane Austen (are you surprised?) and it is penned, in the story, by Captain Frederick Wentworth.
Before I post the text and my discussion of it here, a bit of background to the story might be necessary as the Letter (yes the uppercase L is important) is penned and delivered in one of the last chapters of the last complete book that Miss Austen scribed before her untimely death. That novel is Persuasion, which has, as I’ve grown older, supplanted Pride and Prejudice (oh the horror! supplanted?) as my favorite all-time novel. I do plan to discuss that progression of my tastes at another date. It is fresh on my mind, dear reader (notice I use the singular as I am well aware of the singularity of my readership), and will be touched, I promise you.
The set-up for the letter is as follows: Anne, daughter of a rather vain and spend-thrifty baronet was persuaded by family and close friends to jilt her fiancé, an up-and-coming naval officer of no fortune or notable family (both very important) and so, finds herself, eight years later at the beginning of the book well on her way to becoming a spinster. In the meantime, she has turned down at least one other offer of marriage (a young man who has gone on to marry her younger sister) and never forgotten Frederick Wentworth, though she had been urged to do so.
Through a bizarre coincidence (as they surely happen in almost all of good literature), due to the spend-thrifty and vain nature of her father, they must let out their estate while they “retrench” to Bath. Anne stays behind with her sister’s family at a nearby estate while the house is let out to a retired Navy Admiral, whose wife is none other than the sister of Captain Frederick Wentworth. Thus, Anne is forced back into the society of her former fiancé, who has since become extremely successful in the navy and, more importantly, extremely rich on prize money. During this period of reacquaintance, Frederick never allows Anne to forget what she has lost. He is resentful and virtually ignores her and she must stand back and watch as he woos the Musgrove sisters, sisters-in-law to her younger sister Mary.
Throughout the course of the story, other things happen and then, the entire party of people end up in Bath. The Musgrove sisters each end up engaged to other men.
And now the question hangs between Frederick and Anne: can he forgive her?
Anne is speaking to Captain Harville, a close friend of Wenthworth’s, in a salon where a few people are assembled. Harville is the brother of a young lady who has passed away, and whose fiancé is now engaged to Louisa Musgrove. The two discuss the differences in how the sexes approach love. Are men more constant or are women? Are men more passionate or are women?
Frederick Wentworth sits nearby, silent, seemingly not listening as he writes an order for picture framing. Anne and Harville make an interesting study of the differences, ultimately agreeing to disagree. Anne underlines the constancy of a woman’s love, that though a man may love stronger, a woman’s love will endure. That women love longest “when existence or when hope is gone.”
Soon after the captains leave on their errand, Anne discovers a Letter. It has been penned to her by Captain Wentworth, who had listened to every word of her conversation with Harville and, as evidenced, was moved by it.
Thus, here be the Letter:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
And so, gentlemen of the readership (or likely, gentleman–or underage kid that got here by googling “good love letters to plagiarize”), here is the most knee-melting, the most heart-piercing, the most swoon-worthy love letter in all literature. Penned by a man to a woman, but ultimately, by a spinster author of middle age. Who lived 200 years ago. She can still teach us all a thing or two about love.
The bald-faced raw emotions expressed here, especially by a man who has shown little indication of these things to Anne throughout the story. In fact, his actions demonstrate quite the opposite but for the little things that Anne grasps onto during their association together. Yes he ignores her completely as the group strolls through the countryside, but he immediately implores his sister, driving by in a carriage, to give her (and only her) a ride as she is having difficulty. He praises her quick-thinking and capability in a tough situation even while he has spent an entire outing to Lyme wooing Louisa Musgrove and agonizing over her accident. These small things Anne clings to and they give her hope, even when “all hope is gone.”
But Wentworth has never stopped loving her. And in this Letter, he pours out his emotions, “half-agony, half-hope.” He speaks of the heart (his) that she “almost broke eight years and a half ago.” His soul is pierced. He is overpowered and fervent. And these emotions he expresses wholly and unabashedly to the woman he loves.
He also lays bare his heart to her. “I offer you my heart… I have loved none but you.” He is “undeviating” in his feelings and has loved her the entire time though she heartlessly spurned him.
He praises her, “too good, too excellent creature” in possession of “such precious feelings.” And in lines closely associated, admits his faults, “Unjust I may have been. Weak and resentful, I have been.” But despite all this. He is never inconstant.
And lastly, he singles her out as the object of his heart’s desire and happiness: “You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes?”
There you go, ladies and gentlemen.
How to Pen the Ultimate Swoon-Worthy Love Letter 101
by Miss Jane Austen.
1. Bare your emotions
2. Pour out your heart
3. Praise the object of your affections
4. Admit your own faults and your regret for them
5. Single out the oject of your desire and tell him/her your plans for the future and their irreplaceable part in those plans (in the most non-creepy and non-stalkery way, of course. Sure he followed her to Bath but he was ready to leave again when he thought she got engaged to her cousin. So he wasn’t going to push the matter until he heard her speak about the constancy of her love even though she had lost hope.)
Best of luck to you in writing your own.