OK, it’s high time I admit to something – I’m a bit of a secret softy. I love an old romantic tale, and go a bit wobbly when I see old people holding hands. I love seeing people’s big romantic gestures, and hearing about lives well-lived, together: it’s one thing to see and read about it in fiction, but it’s completely different when you know the love is real. That’s why I loved today’s voyeuristic new things, reading love letters that were sent to other people (and found in flea markets).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t go searching for letters myself, but I was ecstatic to discover there is a website dedicated to such a pastime, appropriately named Flea Market Love Letters. The website is a digital archive of vintage love letters found at flea markets, spanning World Wars and key historical moments. I actually came across a batch of second-hand shop letters in my student days, all written to one man from different women – he seemed to be a real character and undeniably a true ladies man. Although my letters are a bit more salacious than the ones I read on Flea Market Love Letters, the idea is the same – getting a glimpse at other people’s lives within the context of history is thrilling.
I read a few different letters on the blog, but my favourites were from Jess to Bess, written in 1919. They detailed Jess’s life as a soldier, but also his attempts at winning Bess over from the other side of the world.
“Bess I have learned to love you much in fact I worship you”Jess, 1919
With today’s fast-paced modern communication, it’s hard to imagine wooing somebody with letters and then having to wait months for a reply. I love that Jess had to be sweet but direct, and tell his “sweetheart” in no uncertain terms how he felt. Over the past year, I have been writing more and more letters, to pen pals around the world, and I have to admit, some things are more easily said in a letter than by text or email. It is at turns confessional and thoughtful: there is no instant delete button or backspace.
Reading through these love letters really made for a happy afternoon, and I heartily recommend any romantic letter writers out there to have a look and to write more letters!