As I write this letter
Send my love to you
Remember that I’ll always
Be in love with you
Treasure these few words till we’re together
Keep all my love forever
P.S. I love you
You, you, you
The Beatles – P. S. I love you.
Letters are a basic form of communication that has been around since before our modern understanding of it. The style and format of our messages may have changed but we still send messages and notes to loved ones regularly – be it texts, Whats App chats or other modern means of communication. Whether it is a special time of year, personal occasion and seasonal celebrations – it is popular. We are still spending £987million just on the Valentine’s Day for gifts and cards in 2017.
In ‘Letters and Letter writing’ the authors Nevala and Palander-Collin state: …‘the history of letter goes back a long way. We can still read letters written in the ancient Egyptian village of Dur-el-Medina (c1307-1020 B.C.) or in the ancient Mesopotamian city and Kingdom of Mari. Similar to the letter or emails of today, these were messages written by individuals to identifiable recipients. These letter afford us a glimpse of various aspects of the daily lives of people who lived well over 3000 years ago, including there societal organisations, business and personal relationships’.
The art of letter writing and means of sending these letters have continued…but have taken on changes with time and the development of technology.
Businesses and entrepreneurs in our shopping centres, high streets, pop-up shops and online rely on us to purchase items, or engage in some way to express our feelings to our loved ones. Cards, gifts, food and drink and other love tokens are mentioned in the report ‘Valentine’s’ in Global Data Online. It was reported that there has been a drop in the buying of cards possibly due to the rising cost of stamps and a squeeze on income (it’s tough playing Cupid!). It is reported that 55.3% of consumers ‘Did Nothing’ for Valentine’s Day. However, a fair amount of you are finding the time for such activities as: staying in for a romantic meal, out for a romantic meal, watched movies, went to the pub, for a walk, shopping, saw friends, went on holidays, mini breaks or to the theatre. These are great ideas if you are still thinking of doing something romantic and in the mood for sincere love.
There are still a large amount of us who buy cards to give to loved ones, and what I can gather from the figures – apparently, males aged between 25-34 years are buying the most cards! It is fascinating reading this as I get the impression that all is well and good with ‘romantic love’, where we are dedicating time to buy, write and give cards to our loved ones in our lives.
As you know, Valentine’s Day falls on the 14th February and the legend is linked to St Valentine’s. The facts are sketchy but they are listed on Wikipedia here. The stories range from St Valentine being a Roman priest who married soldiers and their lovers in secret …to a Charles d’Orleans in love and in jail who would send love letters to his lover writing ‘Your Valentine’s’ on the letters. Whatever the truth, we may never know. In the article ‘History of Valentine’s Day’ in U-Wire 1 January 2018, it explains ‘whichever myth you choose to believe, St Valentine became the patron saint of lovers, and is now celebrated across the global on February 14th each year’.
I also noticed a while ago that in Italy, the patron Saint Valentine’s is still celebrated on the 14th February. The oldest surviving love letter in English is displayed here online at the British Library.
There are three symbols and traditions I was unaware of in my short research – such as in the Middle Ages when people drew hearts and wore them on their shirtsleeves for a week. This is where the idiom – wear you heart on your sleeve originated. There are some splendid pictures of this medieval tradition on the Internet.
Turtledoves are said to choose their mate each year on February 14th, and the birds mate for life and are a symbol of fidelity and of the holidays. Other consumer goods such as chocolate, flowers and card are very popular romantic gifts. The colour of red, pink and yellow are also popular in the shops for Valentine’s. You may have noticed this already in the shops, and is part of our modern symbols and culture of love.
Hopefully you have received a Valentine’s card or given it to a loved one. I still see a card as a token of love and obviously expect one from my husband on Valentine’s Day. It is also interesting to read that more card suppliers changing to provide a more personalised card service which can be ordered online from companies such as Moonpig and Funky Pigeon. You can also order other things other than cards, such as flowers and gifts for your beloved one. Companies like these are smaller players in the market “but are growing in influence off the back of offering greater personalisation” according to Global Data Online.
Card and letters are good for business and creativity. I honestly have not used these online gift companies but can see that there is still some magic in personalisation as in the olden days of letter writing and card making. I still believe that the art of letter writing, and then posting it off with a stamp to a loved one is still very personal, thoughtful and quite simply…sweet. I still have letters from my friends, family and an admirer (who I later married). They are some of my most treasured possessions. A letter and card are still very low cost – all you need is paper, pen, stamps and time to write. It is even better when you can deliver it in person.
Letters and gifts have also inspired fabulous pop songs such as ‘Please Mr Postman’, ‘Love Letters’ (Kettey Lester and Alison Moyet), ‘Signed Sealed Delivered’, ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Love for Sale’ (which comes to mind here). You can tell me others too!
The art of love letter writing is interesting to read and it has inspired works of creativity such as the theatre play ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ (1897) about letter writing, which was made into a funny film ‘Roxanne’ (1987). Famous Romantic poets such as Keats, Byron, Shelly loved writing poems and letters to loved ones. In the book ‘In Love of Letters’, the author also has a letter writing business whereby the most requested type of letter is the…love letter! A few years ago there was a literary festival in my neighbourhood in which the library held a letter-writing event and displayed some letters to inspire letter writing. There are a few websites on inspirational famous letters.
I recently went to see the May Morris’s Exhibition at the William Morris Gallery. As William Morris’s daughter, May was sometimes overshadowed by her father’s fame but she was excellent designer in her own right and made fabulous embroidery. Her handmade love letter to George Bernard Shaw fascinated me as discussed in this Guardian article here – her handwriting is so neat and the letter looks like a piece of art. How personalised is that!
And just as sweet, I found this lost one-line note on the stairs at Walthamstow Central Underground train station last week. It seems whoever wrote this wants to convey their love, a genuine wish and reassurance of their emotions in a few words. By the way, if this belongs to you –I would kindly return it.
I am not sure if love letter writing will continue to be as popular as before, but digitally we are still using various communication tools to form relationships and to express our emotions. I read an article ‘How Apps Helped Log One Long-Distance Couple’s ‘Love Letters of Our Time’ on an international long distance romance on ‘Reddit’. All the angst is there as with the early stages of a relationship, and having these modern technologies makes it easier to send messages and communicate regularly…and cheaply. There will always be people out there who are falling in love who will be using Skype, What’s App, Messenger, Snapchat etc etc. Modern love is all of these things. Just imagine if Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet were able to get their letters in time. Perhaps a different ending to the play.
Online dating is another booming industry for matchmakers, cupids and lonely hearts. I have written about dating agencies in this link here. I guess that it is a whole new ball game with smartphones, online profiles and the sheer easy access to someone with whom you may want to develop a relationship. All of that is well and good if it suits you.
In case you want to keep your fire burning in this the season of love – wherever you may be – a few lines communicated to that cherished one is great. And a handwritten note too is free, creative and just that little bit more special.