As Valentine’s Day approaches, once again frantic Google searches are conducted to find someone who has said what you would like to say. Here are ten writers who wrote letters to their beloveds. Some are touching, some are steamy, some are funny. Perhaps you will find some inspiration from their words.
July 6, 1806
My angel, my all, my very self — only a few words today and at that with your pencil — not till tomorrow will my lodgings be definitely determined upon — what a useless waste of time. Why this deep sorrow where necessity speaks — can our love endure except through sacrifices — except through not demanding everything — can you change it that you are not wholly mine, I not wholly thine?
Oh, God! look out into the beauties of nature and comfort yourself with that which must be — love demands everything and that very justly — that it is with me so far as you are concerned, and you with
me. If we were wholly united you would feel the pain of it as little as I!
Now a quick change to things internal from things external. We shall surely see each other; moreover, I cannot communicate to you the observations I have made during the last few days touching my own life — if our hearts were always close together I would make none of the kind. My heart is full of many things to say to you – Ah! — there are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all — cheer up — remain my true, only treasure, my all as I am yours; the gods must send us the rest that which shall be best for us.
15 August, 1904
My dear Nora,
It has just struck me. I came in at half past eleven. Since then I have been sitting in an easy chair like a fool. I could do nothing. I hear nothing but your voice. I am like a fool hearing you call me ‘Dear.’ I offended two men today by leaving them coolly. I wanted to hear your voice, not theirs.
When I am with you I leave aside my contemptuous, suspicious nature. I wish I felt your head on my shoulder. I think I will go to bed.
I have been a half-hour writing this thing. Will you write something to me? I hope you will. How am I to sign myself? I won’t sign anything at all, because I don’t know what to sign myself.
I liked your hand-walking act; that got me hotter than hell…. everything you do gets me hotter than hell…. throwing clay against the ceiling… you bitch, you red hot shrew, you lovely lovely woman…. you have put new poems and new hope and new joy and new tricks into an old dog, I love you, your pussy hairs I felt with my fingers, the inside of your pussy, wet, hot, I felt with my fingers; you, up against the refrigerator, you have such a wonderful refrigerator, your hair dangling down, wild, you there, the wild bird of you the wild thing of you, hot, lewd, miraculous…. twisting after your head, trying to grab your tongue with my mouth, with my tongue…. we were in Burbank and I was in love, ultramarine love, my good god damned godess, my goad, my bitch, my my my my beating breathing hair-lined cunt of Paradise, I love you… and your refrigerator, and as we grabbed and wrestled, that sculpted head watching us with his little lyrical cynical love-smile, burning…
I want you,
I want you,
I want YOU
YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU!
Paris, December 1795
I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil. Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart! Are you angry? Do I see you looking sad? Are you worried?… My soul aches with sorrow, and there can be no rest for you lover; but is there still more in store for me when, yielding to the profound feelings which overwhelm me, I draw from your lips, from your heart a love which consumes me with fire? Ah! it was last night that I fully realized how false an image of you your portrait gives!
You are leaving at noon; I shall see you in three hours.
Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.
“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.”
Christ Church, Oxford, October 28, 1876
My Dearest Gertrude:
You will be sorry, and surprised, and puzzled, to hear what a queer illness I have had ever since you went. I sent for the doctor, and said, “Give me some medicine. for I’m tired.” He said, “Nonsense and stuff! You don’t want medicine: go to bed!”
I said, “No; it isn’t the sort of tiredness that wants bed. I’m tired in the face.” He looked a little grave, and said, “Oh, it’s your nose that’s tired: a person often talks too much when he thinks he knows a
great deal.” I said, “No, it isn’t the nose. Perhaps it’s the hair.” Then he looked rather grave, and said, “Now I understand: you’ve been playing too many hairs on the pianoforte.”
“No, indeed I haven’t!” I said, “and it isn’t exactly the hair: it’s more about the nose and chin.” Then he looked a good deal graver, and said, “Have you been walking much on your chin lately?” I said, “No.” “Well!” he said, “it puzzles me very much.
Do you think it’s in the lips?” “Of course!” I said. “That’s exactly what it is!”
Then he looked very grave indeed, and said, “I think you must have been giving too many kisses.” “Well,” I said, “I did give one kiss to a baby child, a little friend of mine.”
“Think again,” he said; “are you sure it was only one?” I thought again, and said, “Perhaps it was eleven times.” Then the doctor said, “You must not give her any more till your lips are quite rested
again.” “But what am I to do?” I said, “because you see, I owe her a hundred and eighty-two more.” Then he looked so grave that tears ran down his cheeks, and he said, “You may send them to her in a box.”
Then I remembered a little box that I once bought at Dover, and thought I would someday give it to some little girl or other. So I have packed them all in it very carefully. Tell me if they come safe or if any are lost on the way.”
My Own Boy,
Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-roseleaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days. Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place and lacks only you; but go to Salisbury first.
Always, with undying love,
When two souls, which have sought each other for,
however long in the throng, have finally found each other …a union, fiery and pure as they themselves are… begins on earth and continues forever in heaven.
This union is love, true love, … a religion, which deifies the loved one, whose life comes from devotion and passion, and for which the greatest sacrifices are the sweetest delights.
This is the love which you inspire in me… Your soul is made to love with the purity and passion of angels; but perhaps it can only love another angel, in which case I must tremble with apprehension.
April 16, 1945
So now I’m going out on the boat with Paxthe and Don Andres and Gregorio and stay out all day and then come in and will be sure there will be letters or a letter. And maybe there will be. If there aren’t I’ll be a sad s.o.a.b. But you know how you handle that of course? You last through until the next morning. I suppose I’d better figure on there being nothing until tomorrow night and then it won’t be so bad tonight.
Please write me Pickle. If it were a job you had to do you’d do it. It’s tough as hell without you and I’m doing it straight but I miss you so [I] could die. If anything happened to you I’d die the way an animal will die in the Zoo if something happens to his mate.
Much love my dearest Mary and know I’m not impatient. I’m just desperate.
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.
I rise up every moment saying to myself, “Come, I am going there!” Then I sit down again, moved by the sense of my obligations. There is a frightful conflict. This is not life. I have never before been like that. You have devoured everything.
I feel foolish and happy as soon as I think of you. I whirl round in a delicious dream in which in one instant I live a thousand years. What a horrible situation!
Overcome with love, feeling love in every pore, living only for love, and seeing oneself consumed by griefs, and caught in a thousand spiders’ threads.
O, my darling Eva, you did not know it. I picked up your card. It is there before me, and I talk to you as if you were there. I see you, as I did yesterday, beautiful, astonishingly beautiful.
Yesterday, during the whole evening, I said to myself “she is mine!” Ah! The angels are not as happy in Paradise as I was yesterday!
“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing
Pictured above is Stephen King’s own attic writing space at his home in Bangor, Maine. In contrast to his statement above, his desk does appear to be in the middle of his room, but surely he means “corner” to be taken metaphorically; that is, any place that is quiet, that is yours; the place where you sit to write your work. While there are some writers who purportedly can write in the midst of chaos, most of us require a place of retreat. I believe it was J.K. Rowling who said that she cleared out a walk-in closet, put a desk and a lamp in there, and sealed herself off from the rest of the family while she was composing her first Harry Potter novel.
Here are ten intriguing places where writer’s write, along with some advice for all who write:
1. Neil Gaiman‘s Gazebo/Cabin
- Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
- Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
- Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
- Remember: when people tell you somethings wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
- Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
- Laugh at your own jokes.
- The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But its definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
2. Edith Wharton‘s view from “The Mount” in Lennox, Massachusetts
“Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.”
3. Dylan Thomas‘s Boathouse at Laugharne, Wales
“Go on thinking that you don’t need to be read and you’ll find that it may become quite true: no one will feel the need to read it because it is written for yourself alone; and the public won’t feel any impulse to gate crash such a private party.”
4. Ernest Hemingway‘s Home in Key West, Florida
“Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done.”
“There’s no rule on how it is to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
“Ordinarily I never read anything before I write in the morning to try and bite on the old nail with no help, no influence and no one giving you a wonderful example or sitting looking over your shoulder.”
5. Rudyard Kipling: Dummerston, Vermont
“I am, by calling, a dealer in words; and words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
“I never made a mistake in my life; at least, never one that I couldn’t explain away afterwards.”
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
6. Ian Fleming‘s home, GoldenEye, in Jamaica
“All the greatest men are maniacs. They are possessed by a mania which drives them forward towards their goal. The great scientists, the philosophers, the religious leaders – all maniacs. What else but a blind singleness of purpose could have given focus to their genius, would have kept them in the groove of purpose. Mania … is as priceless as genius.”
7. Norman Mailer‘s Fourth Floor Apartment, Brooklyn Heights, New York
“I’ve written at times about the spooky element in writing. You go in each morning, and there’s a blank page. Maybe it takes five minutes, maybe it takes an hour. Sooner or later you start writing, and then the words begin to flow. Where does that come from? You can’t pinpoint it. You always wonder, “Will it all stop tomorrow?” In that sense it’s spooky. In other words, you’re relying on a phenomenon that’s not necessarily dependable. ” (“Norman Mailer Interview,” The Academy of Achievement, June 12, 2004)
“Over the years, I’ve found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.”
8. Virginia Woolf‘s Writing Desk at “Monk’s House,” Sussex, England
“Mental fight means thinking against the current, not with it. It is our business to puncture gas bags and discover the seeds of truth.”
“To write weekly, to write daily, to write shortly, to write for busy people catching trains in the morning or for tired people coming home in the evening, is a heartbreaking task for men who know good writing from bad. They do it, but instinctively draw out of harm’s way anything precious that might be damaged by contact with the public, or anything sharp that might irritate its skin.”
“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”
“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true. “
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. “
“The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty.”
“In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. “
10. Roald Dahl‘s “The Gipsy House,” Buckinghamshire, England
1. You should have a lively imagination
2. You should be able to write well. By that I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in the reader’s mind. Not everybody has this ability. It is a gift, and you either have it or you don’t.
3. You must have stamina. In other words, you must be able to stick to what you are doing and never give up, for hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and month after month.
4. You must be a perfectionist. That means you must never be satisfied with what you have written until you have rewritten it again and again, making it as good as you possibly can.
5. You must have strong self-discipline. You are working alone. No one is employing you. No one is around to fire you if you don’t turn up for work, or to tick you off is you start slacking.
6. It helps a lot if you have a keen sense of humor. This is not essential when writing for grown-ups, but for children, it’s vital.
7. You must have a degree of humility. The writer who thinks that his work is marvelous is heading for trouble.
I came across this fantastic gallery in the Rumpus today and had to share. The artist Timothy Lee Taranto illustrates literature’s most serious authors in a less than serious light. Check out our favorite, the “Vonnugget,” below, and many more. Happy Friday!
For many of us, pets offer companionship, love, and a patient ear to listen to the wild thoughts we cannot share with fellow members of our species. It’s no wonder, then, that so many artists crave the company of furry (or feathered) friends, so often held in high regard as either the inspiration behind or the initiator of the creative process. Just take a look at the special relationships between the following writers and their pets for example. Either as a retreat from humankind, a reminder to take a pensive walk outside, or the means by which scraps of paper find their way into the bin, these pets are so essential to their writers, it’s hard to imagine that they did not choose their artistic owners themselves.
Read on to see for yourself, then tell us what role you feel pets can play in stirring creativity in a comment below.
Hemingway had multiple cats, for which he held massive respect, remarking, “A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
with her dog Pinka.
“This you’ll call sentimental — perhaps — but then a dog somehow represents — no I can’t think of the word — the private side of life — the play side.”
Woolf’s dog biography, inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog Flush, is surprisingly her bestselling work to date.
The larger than life author with his tiny friend, Pumpkin.
Williams named his black cat Sabbath. He also named his best-known play after a feline in a precarious position:
“What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? — I wish I knew… Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can…”
Throughout her life, Wharton was often photographed with her dogs, of which she had many. She so loved canines, she actually helped to found the SPCA in the United States. Wharton even included her pups in her writing process, working in bed alongside them–what a picture! She also wrote a beautiful little poem in dedication to them:
My little old dog:
At my feet.
O’Connor’s stories are full of surprises, as was her taste in pets. This writer had quite the collection of peacocks.
“When the peacock has presented his back, the spectator will usually begin to walk around him to get a front view; but the peacock will continue to turn so that no front view is possible. The thing to do then is to stand still and wait until it pleases him to turn. When it suits him, the peacock will face you. Then you will see in a green-bronze arch around him a galaxy of gazing haloed suns. This is the moment when most people are silent.”
Warren’s love for his cocker spaniel Frodo (named after Tolkien’s character) was commemorated in his poem “Rumor Verified”:
English cocker: old and blind
But if your hand
Merely touches his head,
Old faithe comes flooding back—and …
The paw descends, His trust is infinite
In you …
…and his French poodle Charley, with whom he traveled the country, detailed in his book Travels with Charley.
“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”
Burroughs remarked of his beloved cat Ginger, “Like all pure creatures, cats are practical.”
And lastly, the lovable curmudgeon and creator of Where the Wild Things Are succinctly summarizes his love for his companion Herman (after Melville) with a simple phrase:
“I hate people.”
Halloween draws near, and with it, the reminders of our own mortality. Ghosts and goblins are ways of coping with what George Bernard Shaw called “that troublesome business”: death. And, as Jim Morrison aptly noted, “No one here gets out alive.” So on that cheerful note, here are some of the last words of famous writers and images of their final resting places. At eNotes, we only haunt you with the very best!
1. Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961)
“Goodnight, my kitten.” ~ To his wife, before he shot and killed himself.
2. L. Frank Baum (May 15, 1856 – May 6, 1919)
“Now I can cross the shifting sands.” ~ Referring to the desert that surrounded his fictional city, Oz. Baum suffered a stroke from which he never recovered.
3. Dylan Thomas (27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
“I had eighteen straight whiskies…I think that’s a record.” While alcohol probably hastened the poet’s demise, new theories attribute undiagnosed pneumonia as the more likely cause of death.
4. James Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941)
“Does nobody understand?” No direct cause has ever been attributed to Joyce’s death but his heavy drinking almost certainly played a prominent role.
5. Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)
“Is it not meningitis?” ~ It was not, actually. Alcott died as a result of mercury poisoning.
6. Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817)
“I want nothing but death.” ~ To her sister, Cassandra, inquiring if she wanted anything. (It has never been determined from what, exactly, the 41-year-old author succumbed to (speculations have included stomach cancer, Addison’s disease and bovine tuberculous) but the latest research suggests arsenic poisoning may have been the culprit.
7. Mark Twain (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)
“Goodbye. If we meet…” ~ To his daughter, Clara. Twain died of a myocardial infraction (heart attack).
8. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ( 28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832)
“More light!” ~ The cause of Goethe’s death is unknown.
9. Henrik Ibsen (20 March 1828 – 23 May 1906)
“On the contrary!” ~ Ibsen’s response to his nurse, who remarked that he seemed better. Ibsen died as a result of complications from a stroke.
10. Hunter S. Thompson (July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005)
“Relax — This won’t hurt.” ~ Thompson’s final line in his suicide note. The author shot himself. An iconoclast to the end, his widow said Thomas wanted to go out with a bang, and he did. On a platform he personally designed, Thompson had his ashes shot from a cannon to the music of Norman Greenbaum‘s “Spirit in the Sky” and Bob Dylan‘s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” You can watch a video of Thompson’s final farewell here.