When authors pen love letters, sometimes they can get a little scandalous. After all, we know that great authors can tend to be a little dirtier than your average swooner, and what better place to let their freak flag fly than in private correspondences they never dreamed would go down in history? If you’re lucky, this Valentine’s Day will bring a plethora of long, handwritten love letters for you to peruse by candlelight, but since you probably aren’t that lucky, we’ve collected a few of our favorite literary love letters for you to read by the soft glow of your computer screen. Some are flat-out obscene (Joyce, we’re looking at you) and some composed of more subtle and suggestive flirting, but all of them are titillating, romantic, and of course, exceedingly well-written. We’re not saying that you should necessarily pick up any tips for when you write tonight’s Valentine’s Day card from these, but then again, if your lady if a Flaubert fan, it might be exactly the ticket. Click through to read a few of our favorite scandalous correspondences between great authors and the objects of their affection — but reader be warned: as you might expect, colorful language abounds.
From Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet, 1846:
A love for the ages.
“I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy. I want to gorge yu [sic] with all the joys of the flesh, so that you faint and die. I want you to be amazed by me, and to confess to yourself that you had never even dreamed of such transports… When you are old, I want you to recall those few hours, I want your dry bones to quiver with joy when you think of them.”
From Charles Bukowski to Linda King, 1972:
This doubles as a love letter to King’s refrigerator — apparently with good reason.
“I liked your hand-walking act; that got me hotter than hell…. everything you do gets me hotter than hell…. throwing clay against the ceiling… you bitch, you red hot shrew, you lovely lovely woman…. you have put new poems and new hope and new joy and new tricks into an old dog, I love you, your pussy hairs I felt with my fingers, the inside of your pussy, wet, hot, I felt with my fingers; you, up against the refrigerator, you have such a wonderful refrigerator, your hair dangling down, wild, you there, the wild bird of you the wild thing of you, hot, lewd, miraculous…. twisting after your head, trying to grab your tongue with my mouth, with my tongue…. we were in Burbank and I was in love, ultramarine love, my good god damned godess, my goad, my bitch, my my my my beating breathing hair-lined cunt of Paradise, I love you… and your refrigerator, and as we grabbed and wrestled, that sculpted head watching us with his little lyrical cynical love-smile, burning… I want you, I want you, I want YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU!”
From James Joyce to Nora Barnacle, 1909:
The king of the dirty love letter, this is only one of Joyce’s many graphic missives to his wife. What can we say? The man was into flatulence.
“My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also. You say when I go back you will suck me off and you want me to lick your cunt, you little depraved blackguard. I hope you will surprise me some time when I am asleep dressed, steal over to me with a whore’s glow in your slumberous eyes, gently undo button after button in the fly of my trousers and gently take out your lover’s fat mickey, lap it up in your moist mouth and suck away at it till it gets fatter and stiffer and comes off in your mouth. Sometimes too I shall surprise you asleep, lift up your skirts and open your drawers gently, then lie down gently by you and begin to lick lazily round your bush. You will begin to stir uneasily then I will lick the lips of my darling’s cunt. You will begin to groan and grunt and sigh and fart with lust in your sleep. Then I will lick up faster and faster like a ravenous dog until your cunt is a mass of slime and your body wriggling wildly. Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird! There is one lovely word, darling, you have underlined to make me pull myself off better. Write me more about that and yourself, sweetly, dirtier, dirtier.”
From Franz Kafka to Milen Jesensk, 1921:
Kafka’s dirtiness is all rather metaphorical, but nonetheless.
“No, Milen, I beg you once again to invent another possibility for my writing to you. You mustn’t go to the post office in vain, even your little postman — who is he? — mustn’t do it, nor should even the postmistress be asked unnecessarily. If you can find no other possibility, then one must put up with it, but at least make a little effort to find one. Last night I dreamed about you. What happened in detail I can hardly remember, all I know is that we kept merging into one another. I was you, you were me. Finally you somehow caught fire. Remembering that one extinguished fire with clothing, I took an old coat and beat you with it. But again the transmutations began and it went so far that you were no longer even there, instead it was I who was on fire and it was also I who beat the fire with the coat. But the beating didn’t help and it only confirmed my old fear that such things can’t extinguish a fire. In the meantime, however, the fire brigade arrived and somehow you were saved. But you were different from before, spectral, as though drawn with chalk against the dark, and you fell, lifeless or perhaps having fainted from joy at having been saved, into my arms. But here too the uncertainty of trans mutability entered, perhaps it was I who fell into someone’s arms.”
From Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas, 1893:
Tame by modern standards (though lyrically delicious), this is one of the letters that was used to prosecute Wilde on charges of obscenity.
“My Own Boy, Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red-roseleaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry. I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly, was you in Greek days. Why are you alone in London, and when do you go to Salisbury? Do go there to cool your hands in the grey twilight of Gothic things, and come here whenever you like. It is a lovely place and lacks only you; but go to Salisbury first. Always, with undying love, Yours, Oscar”
From Edith Wharton to W. Morton Fullerton, 1908:
She’s a better flirt than she thinks, if she can so subtly paint a scene of ravishment.
“There would have been the making of an accomplished flirt in me, because my lucidity shows me each move of the game – but that, in the same instant, a reaction of contempt makes me sweep all the counters off the board and cry out: – “Take them all – I don’t want to win – I want to lose everything to you!””
From Virginia Woolf to Vita Sackville-West, 1927:
This one’s not all that dirty — unless you take the next step and get to imagining the “millions, myriads” of things in her head that “won’t stir by day,” not to mention note a double entendre or two — but it’s one of our all-time favorites, so we’re imagining away.
“Look Here Vita — throw over your man, and we’ll go to Hampton Court and dine on the river together and walk in the garden in the moonlight and come home late and have a bottle of wine and get tipsy, and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads — They won’t stir by day, only by dark on the river. Think of that. Throw over your man, I say, and come.”
From Benjamin Franklin to Madame Brillon, 1779
Man, Benjamin Franklin was a serious cad. This letter is basically saying that he likes everything about his lady friend except that she doesn’t want him to cheat on her — and oh, he also hates that she won’t put out. That seems pretty dirty to us, but not in a sexy way.
“Madame Brillon, What a difference, my dear friend, between you and me! You find innumerable faults with me, whereas I see only one fault in you (but perhaps that is the fault of my glasses). I mean this kind of avarice which leads you to seek monopoly on all my affection, and not allow me any for the agreeable ladies of your country. Do you imagine that it is impossible for my affection (or my tenderness) to be divided without being diminished? You deceive yourself, and you forget the playful manner with which you stopped me. You renounce and totally exclude all that might be of the flesh in our affection, allowing me only some kisses, civil and honest, such as you might grant your little cousins. What am I receiving that is so special as to prevent me from giving the same to others, without taking from what belongs to you? The sweet sounds brought forth from the pianoforte by your clever hand can be enjoyed by twenty people simultaneously without diminishing at all the pleasure you so obligingly mean for me, and I could, with as little reason, demand from your affection that no other ears but mine be allowed to be charmed by those sweet sounds. Yours, Benjamin”
From Ernest Hemingway to Mary Welsh (who would become his fourth wife), April 16, 1945
Who would have ever figured Papa for a hopeless romantic? He sounds positively love crazed here — calling her by the adorable pet name “Pickle” — which makes us feel the good kind of dirty.
So now I’m going out on the boat with Paxthe and Don Andres and Gregorio and stay out all day and then come in and will be sure there will be letters or a letter. And maybe there will be. If there aren’t I’ll be a sad s.o.a.b. But you know how you handle that of course? You last through until the next morning. I suppose I’d better figure on there being nothing until tomorrow night and then it won’t be so bad tonight.
Please write me Pickle. If it were a job you had to do you’d do it. It’s tough as hell without you and I’m doing it straight but I miss you so [I] could die. If anything happened to you I’d die the way an animal will die in the Zoo if something happens to his mate.
Much love my dearest Mary and know I’m not impatient. I’m just desperate.