{how to write a better love letter}

Mark Twain gets little sympathy from Janeites for his cracks about our beloved author, but it is my firm belief that he was a closet Janeite or he wouldn't have read her so much. So without further ado, one of her admirers...

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Written by Samara O’Shea

Photography by Levi Brown

Even with the many fast and furious ways to stay in touch these days, nothing has replaced the love letter. It still stands as the most meaningful memo—giving both the writer and receiver reason to slow down and appreciate each other. Here Samara O’Shea, author of For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing, highlights some of the best techniques found in a breezy and beautiful love letter written by legend Mark Twain to his wife, Livy. Ideas to revive your own relationship are yours for the taking.

—Samara O'Shea,

Mark Twain to his wife, LivyHartford, November 27, 1875

Livy darling, six years have gone by since I made my first great success in life and won you, and thirty years have passed since Providence made preparation for that happy success by sending you into the world. [Referring to the moment your guy or girl agreed to go out with or marry you as a “great success” is a fun way to flatter. “Victory,” “triumph,” and “ultimate achievement” are also words that work well.]

Every day we live together adds to the security of my confidence, that we can never any more wish to be separated than that we can ever imagine a regret that we were ever joined. [Relationships are in the details. While big events are fun and good for photo albums, it’s the little events that really count. When writing a letter, mention the everyday things that mean so much.] You are dearer to me to-day, my child, than you were upon the last anniversary of this birth-day; you were dearer then than you were a year before—you have grown more and more dear from the first of those anniversaries, and I do not doubt that this precious progression will continue on to the end. [Love is in constant motion—always growing and changing. Keep your lover posted on how your feelings evolve and what new insights you have.]

Let us look forward to the coming anniversaries, with their age and their gray hairs without fear and without depression, trusting and believing that the love we bear each other will be sufficient to make them blessed. [Writing about the future is hopeful and optimistic. It doesn’t matter what point you’re at in the relationship. If you are in the beginning stages, you can say, “I long to know everything there is to know about you.” If you’ve been married for twenty years, quip “we’re just getting started!”] So, with abounding affection for you and our babies, I hail this day that brings you the matronly grace and dignity of three decades.

[Take note, this first paragraph is a tribute to the past, the next to the present, and the final to the future of the relationship. it’s a simple, effective formula to follow when writing a love letter.]
Always yours,

["Mark Twain" was a nom de plume, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was his given name.]

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