Love Lessons From Famous Breakup Letters
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Calling It Quits1 of 9
By Brienne Walsh
Long before there were breakup texts, there were breakup letters, mostly handwritten and often heart-felt, signaling the end of a relationship. While more than a hundred years have passed since some of them were sent, the emotions in these eight letters by famous writers and celebrities are still relatable. As they say, read 'em and weep.
No Explanation2 of 9
In 1907, novelist Edith Wharton began a romance with foreign correspondent W. Morton Fullerton. But by 1908, Fullerton's letters to Wharton had become fewer and fewer, and she discovered that he was seeing another woman.
From Wharton to Fullerton: You write to me like a lover, you treat me like a casual acquaintance!
But one cannot have all one's passionate tenderness demanded one day, & ignored the next, without reason or explanation, as it has pleased you to do since your enigmatic change in December.
Sweet Sorrow3 of 9
During the late 19th century when homosexuality was a criminal offense in England, Oscar Wilde carried on a secret affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1895, Wilde's letters to Douglas were discovered, leading to his imprisonment. Some two years later, he sent this harsh letter of reproach to Douglas, who had abandoned him.
From Wilde to Douglas: You came to me to learn the Pleasure of Life and the Pleasure of Art. Perhaps I am chosen to teach you something much more wonderful, the meaning of Sorrow, and its beauty.
Love Hurts4 of 9
After Rebecca West wrote a scathing review of H.G. Well's book, Marriage, the two began a volatile affair. After a few months, Wells broke things off, eliciting this emotionally raw letter from a distraught West.
From West to Wells: You've literally ruined me. I'm burned down to my foundations. I may build myself again or I may not. You say obsessions are curable. They are. But people like me swing themselves from one passion to another, and if they miss smash down somewhere where there aren't any passions at all but only bare boards and sawdust.
A Desperate Longing5 of 9
English novelist Vita Sackville-West had an open relationship with her husband, Sir Harold Nicholson, one which led her into the arms of Virginia Woolf. In 1926, she was forced to leave Woolf to travel with her husband to a diplomatic appointment in Persia—while she was gone, she wrote longing letters to her female lover.
From Sackville-West to Woolf: I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.
Commitment Issues6 of 9
French writer Simone de Beauvoir and American novelist Nelson Algren carried on a long-distance affair, beginning in 1947. In September 1950, de Beauvoir, unable to fully commit, broke things off in a letter.
From de Beauvoir to Algren: First, I hope so much, I want and need so much to see you again, some day. But, remember, please, I shall never more ask to see you — not from any pride since I have none with you, as you know, but our meeting will mean something only when you wish it. So, I'll wait. When you'll wish it, just tell.
Secret Lovers7 of 9
The intense romance between writers Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller lasted on-and-off for almost 20 years. It began in 1932, when both were married. After visiting Nin in Paris, Miller sent this impassioned letter.
From Miller to Nin: I can't see how I can go on living away from you—these intermissions are death. How did it seem to you when Hugo came back? Was I still there? I can't picture you moving about with him as you did with me.
Cashing Out8 of 9
Beware of a player, like Godfather of Soul James Brown, who wasn't exactly famous for his fidelity. In this letter to an anonymous woman only referred to as "Princess D," he keeps things brief, as brief as their fling, no doubt.
From Brown's letter to "Princess D": I hope our short relation—got you on the good foot. I'm going to give you another six thousand so you won't have to go work to [sic] quick but you'll be fine. I'll always be your friend.
Well Wishes9 of 9
Nine years after Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton married in 1964, their extravagant passion had grown tumultuous. By 1973, Taylor told Burton she wanted a divorce. He wrote a letter in response.
From Burton's letter to Taylor: I shall miss you with passion and wild regret.
All I care about—honest to God—is that you are happy and I don't much care who you'll find happiness with. I mean as long as he's a friendly bloke and treats you nice and kind.
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