It is a truth universally acknowledged – by my best friends at least – that I am a hopeless romantic.
I’ll let you in on a secret, Dear Reader, I used to be ashamed to admit it. I would try to convince myself that those love stories are silly. You know the rigmarole – girl meets boy, they fall in love, they face hardship and distress, la di la di la, overcome it all and get married and live happily ever after. Ick! Right? Even while reading ‘Jane Eyre’ when I was eleven – nowadays one of my favourite books – I would still try to convince myself that classic romance and love stories are soppy and just plain stupid. That all changed however when I was introduced to Jane Austen.
Perhaps it’s because I was growing up, but when I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ some years ago, I remember thinking, ‘Ah! What the hey? I’m a romantic! Nothing wrong with that, is there?’ Hear me out, Dear Reader – I am not saying that I like every romance novel and piece of fiction ever written. Bella and Edward? Thank you, no! But Ms Austen is the genius who gave us some of the best – in my opinion – couples in literature: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy; Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley; and Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. She also gave us that love letter!
Ok, a bit of context first: Anne Elliot is engaged to be married to Captain Frederick Wentworth but she is ‘persuaded’ that his situation in life is not suitable and she calls off the engagement. Heartbroken, he goes back to sea and serves in the navy during the wars. Fast-forward almost nine years and Anne is still in love with the Captain. They meet again through family and both find out that neither is ‘attached’ shall we say. He absolutely must know how she feels about him and writes her one of the most beautiful love letters in the history of love letters. It still gets me every time I read it …
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. – Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? – I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others. – Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening, or never.
Small wonder Anne Elliot waited all those years for him. Even now, I’m reaching for that tissue …
Copyright – BBC