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The vast bulk of available love letters that may justly be termed "famous" would take a lifetime to translate and edit; what is offered here is a selection—into which it is impossible to prevent personal taste from entering—of those that have most personal interest and most dramatic significance.Variety has also been sought for; in point of period this is not easy to find, the letters chosen fall mostly within the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
We are forced to content ourselves with what has been, often by the strangest chance, preserved.
Love letters by their very nature stand in constant danger of destruction; they may be perilous possessions, and that frequent injunction "burn this" has too often been obeyed, or, treasured for a lifetime, they may be tenderly destroyed lest they should fall into unsympathetic hands; or, if they are not sacrificed to fear or affection, they may be to indifference, and cast into the fire or on to the rubbish-heap by those to whom they are so much lumber.
Love's appetite Did beauty first excite And left imprinted on the air These signatures of good and fair Which since have flowed, flowed forth upon the sense To wonder first, and then to excellence By virtue of divine intelligence. It would be an idle but pleasant amusement to wonder how many love letters have been written since reading and writing were invented, how many sheets of parchment, bark, papyrus, paper have been covered, and with how many millions of amorous words!
What survives must be a very small proportion of this vast output; probably the strangest and most beautiful love letters were those never seen save by the person to whom they were written and are long since dust; it is likely enough that hundreds of thousands of love letters lie at this moment folded away carefully in private possession—letters that would vie, for interest and charm, with any that have survived time and chance and any that have been published.
So Love emergent out of Chaos brought The World to Light!