There are few things more romantic than a well-considered, handwritten love letter, especially in our age of e-mail. And although receiving your own love letter is nice, it's maybe even more fun to read famous love letters by celebrities. These correspondences were meant to stay between the sender and the addressee, so in reading them, we get a little glimpse into a couple's private life. This is particularly tantalizing when the couple is one you've read about in textbooks and tabloids, like F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald or Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine.
Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler totally get the appeal of looking behind the curtain, especially when it comes to marriage and love. Their new book The Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration, and Cautionary Tales from Adam and Eve to Zoloft is a collection of advice on getting — and staying — married, pulled from newspaper and magazine articles and brochures and, of course, love letters. Grunwald and Adler, who are actually married write in the book's introduction, "Reading about other people's marriages... would be a lot like going to a series of dinner parties where the couples have a little too much to drink and you get to spend the ride home dishing about what's really going on with them."
Few things give you that feeling of knowing more than you're supposed to than reading a good love letter. So here are seven love letters between famous couples to pique your interest and stoke those romantic flames.
Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had a tumultuous — and very public — relationship, which Grunwald and Adler describe as "legendary, boozy, larger-than-life." They started dating on the set of Cleopatra in 1963, when they were both married. This eventually turned into a marriage of their own, followed by a divorce, followed by another marriage to each other, followed by a final divorce. Burton wrote this letter to Taylor after the first divorce in 1973:
F. Scott Fitzgerald to Zelda Fitzgerald
Another well-know, boozy marriage was that between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda. Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, wrote this letter to his wife in 1934, while she was battling a bout of mental illness in a sanitarium:
Victor Hugo to Adèle Foucher
Victor Hugo wrote this letter to Adèle Foucher in 1821 to convince her that they were perfect for each other, and the two married a year later. "They eventually had five children and countless infidelities," according to Grundwald and Adler, so clearly these words about their mutual "rightness" rang true until the end:
Napoleon Bonaparte to Josephine
This might be one of the harshest love letters ever written. Napoleon Bonaparte was definitely a little bit jealous and suspicious of his wife Josephine when he sent her this letter in 1796, but his adoration and desire for her is palpable:
John Steinbeck to Gwendolyn Steinbeck
John Steinbeck was married to three different women, but, somewhat surprisingly, he wrote this letter about oneness to his second wife Gwen in 1943 who, apparently, "became resentful of his success and was combative, competitive, and unfaithful":
William Wordsworth to Mary Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet who was clearly passionate about his marriage to Mary Wordsworth and expressed it in the most eloquent way possible. Grundwald and Adler write, "Wordsworth, as is evident from this and other letters, did not save all his poetry for his poems":
Amelia Earhart to George Putnam
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. A year prior to that voyage, she wrote a letter to her soon-to-be husband George Putnam to express her concerns about finding balance between married life and that of an aviation pioneer: