Love letters and Valentine’s Day are good for each other in the world of archives and special collections because repositories are filled with letters that reveal love stories as strange and as familiar as those we hear today. Valentine’s Day is a reason to exhibit these fascinating primary sources. Here are some postings that caught my eye on the special collections and archives blog-o-sphere:
Harvard University’s Modern Books and Manuscripts department has a new online exhibit featuring love letters John Keats wrote to Fanny Brawne and manuscripts of poems his passion for Brawne inspired him to write. Here is an excerpt from a letter featured in the exhibit that Keats wrote to her in 1820:
“Upon my soul I have loved you to the extreme. I wish you could know the Tenderness with which I continually brood over your different aspects of countenance, action and dress... “
University of Iowa featured on its blog a lengthy letter a Civil War soldier wrote by candlelight to his wife while in battle in 1861. Volunteers transcribed the letter, and here is a passage:
“I always thought that you had more attractions for me than any woman I ever saw long yes years before I married you, but now I know you, and indeed you are tenfold more woman than I ever imagined you in my love dreams…Darling you know that I am a man of very, very strong passions, but I pledge you my honor & my very soul before God that I am all yours, every whit…”
Wellesley College and Baylor University collaborated to digitize and put online a collection at Wellesley of 573 love letters between 19th-century poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. One letter Elizabeth wrote starts out expressing the joy and passion of their love:
“Ever dearest-how you can write touching things to me,-& how my whole being vibrates, as a string, to these! How have I deserved from God & you all that I thank you for? Too unworthy I am of all!”
Other treasures buried in archives and special collections are words of wisdom, and for Valentine’s Day, I am posting examples of what our predecessors had to say about love and living well.
University of North Carolina’s blog highlights anecdotes printed in 20th century cookbooks from their collections that dish out advice in the form of recipes about practical topics, like matchmaking (“Take a man in love and a girl not quite convinced…”), preserving a husband (“Be very careful in your selection…”), happiness, contentment, good days, and cooks.
Ready to explore Valentine’s Day ephemera on your own? ArchiveGrid has hundreds of finding aids for collections containing materials related to the topic, such as the ones for Cornell University’s diverse holding of Valentine’s Day greeting cards.