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So Love emergent out of Chaos brought The World to Light!
And gently moving on the waters wrought All form to sight!
Not only were early love letters seldom preserved, one suspects such letters were seldom written; the ladies were not very ready with the pen, and the men who were minded to pay them homage did so through song and verse, as in the notable examples of Dante to Beatrice, Petrarch to Laura, and Michael Angelo to Vittoria Colonna.
There were many difficulties in the way of a successful cultivation of the art of love-letter writing when marriages were arranged in early life, when women lived secluded, when means of communication were always tiresome and often impossible to find.
While in some cases there are only one or two letters available, in others a selection has had to be made from hundreds; in almost every instance the letters have been abridged; some are full of repetitions, others contain references to contemporary affairs no longer interesting—for example, those of Madame du Deffand contain complete "gazettes" of Parisian news and gossip, which would require copious elucidation, and those of Mary II accounts of contemporary English politics interesting only to the historian.The most fortunate of love stories, those where the lovers were early and always together, have no need of expression on paper, and in periods of violence and lawlessness unfortunate love stories were usually ended brutally before there was any opportunity for an amorous correspondence.There is another obstacle; not only have we the men expressing themselves in impersonal poetry and the women keeping silence, but we have, in the few letters that have come down to us, a strange idiom; the language is unfamiliar, and, in translating it, half the meaning disappears; the urgency of passion or affection, of joy or hate, is lost, the personality behind the writing is obscured and the letter becomes a curiosity or a matter of purely academic interest.Lord Derwentwater's letter is a heroic farewell to earthly affection, and those of Saint-vremond and Ninon de Lenclos show love witty and brilliant in old age.The letters of Robert Burns reveal another aspect of love, the coquettish, artful woman, the flattered, reluctant man; those of Lord Byron are loaded with a theatricality that is none the less a sincere expression of the character of the writer.