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    11 Letters About Heartbreak And Loss Written By Women

    The end of a relationship is awful. From unrequited love to the end of an affair, or the ache that can come from simply missing, women have been written about their heartbreak for at least the last 900 years.

    1. Héloïse d'Argenteuil to Pierre Abélard, 12th Century

    Via en.wikipedia.orgéloïse_(abbess)

    Heloïse d'Argenteuil, writer, scholar, and abbess, is well known for her love affair with philosopher and theologian, Pierre Abélard. They had fallen in love and secretly married in 1116 while Abélard was Heloïse's tutor in Paris, but when her family discovered the relationship they attacked and castrated Abélard, causing the two lovers to be separated for many years. Abélard became a monk, and, at his insistence, Heloïse became a nun. But a chance discovery allowed Heloïse to locate Abelard after many years, and soon they began to write to each other. Seven letters remain, showing Heloïse's spirit, defiance of social rules and her physical and emotional love for Abélard.

    "You know, beloved, as the whole world knows, how much I have lost in you, how at one wretched stroke of fortune that supreme act of flagrant treachery robbed me of my very self in robbing me of you; and how my sorrow for my loss is nothing compared with what I feel for the manner in which I lost you.

    Surely the greater the cause for grief the greater the need for the help of consolation, and this no one can bring but you; you are the sole cause of my sorrow, and you alone can grant me the grace of consolation. You alone have the power to make me sad, to bring me happiness or comfort; you alone have so great a debt to repay me, particularly now when I have carried out all your orders so implicitly that when I was powerless to oppose you in anything, I found strength at your command to destroy myself.

    I did more, strange to say—my love rose to such heights of madness that it robbed itself of what it most desired beyond hope of recovery, when immediately at your bidding I changed my clothing along with my mind, in order to prove you the sole possessor of my body and my will alike. God knows I never sought anything in you except yourself; I wanted simply you, nothing of yours."

    2. Juliette Drouet to Victor Hugo, 1839


    A French actress and mistress of Victor Hugo, Juliette Drouet gave up her life to travel and live with Hugo after their first meeting in 1833, when she was 27. Hugo was already married, but took Juliette with him during his exile and she remained with him for most of their lives. She wrote thousands of letters to Hugo, clearly utterly in love with him till her death in 1883. Hugo died two years later.

    "Nothing in this world can turn me from my purpose, for it is to me a question of life and death…

    I count upon you to help me, my beloved. I am asking you for more than life—for the moral consummation of our marriage of love. Let me go with you wherever my happiness is threatened, let me be the wife of your mind and heart, if I cannot be yours in law. If I express myself badly, do not scoff, but understand that I have a right to put into words what you yourself have felt, and that I insist upon defending myself"

    3. Charlotte Brontë to Constantin Héger, 1844


    In 1844, English author, Charlotte Brontë, began a (mostly one-sided) correspondence with her old tutor and employer, Constantin Héger. He ran a boarding school in Brussels, which Charlotte had both attended and taught at before retuning to England. Charlotte clearly developed a deep and painful attachment to Héger, who was unfortunately a) married and b)did not return her feelings. She channelled all her rage and doomed love into one of the greatest (and most painful) love stories ever written, Jane Eyre. But her letters to Héger remain, preserved by the diligence of his wife, who allowed Brontë to write to him every six months. Understanding much?

    "I said to myself, what I would say to someone else in such a case: "You will have to resign yourself to the fact, and above all, not distress yourself about a misfortune that you have not deserved." I did my utmost not to cry not to complain — But when one does not complain, and when one wants to master oneself with a tyrant's grip — one's faculties rise in revolt — and one pays for outward calm with an almost unbearable inner struggle.

    Day and night I find neither rest nor peace — if I sleep I have tormenting dreams in which I see you always severe, always saturnine and angry with me —

    Forgive me then Monsieur if I take the step of writing you again — How can I bear my life unless I make an effort to alleviate its suffering?"

    4. Edith Wharton to W. Morton Fullerton, 1909

    Csu Archives / CSU Archives / Everett Collectio / Via

    In an early moment of girl power, Edith Wharton's break up letter to the journalist W. Morton Fullerton is pretty impressive. They had met in 1907, through their mutual friend Henry James, and enjoyed a hugely passionate - but extremely short lived - love affair. By 1909, Edith grew tired of his constant changeability, and wrote this heartbroken but tough letter, ending it for the last time for her own sense of self worth.

    "I have borne all these inconsistencies & incoherences as long as I could, because I love you so much, & because I am so sorry for things in your life that are difficult & wearing—but I have never been capricious or exacting, I have never, I think, added to those difficulties, but have tried to lighten them for you by a frank & faithful friendship.

    Only now a sense of my worth, & a sense also that I can bear no more, makes me write this to you.

    Write me no more such letters as you sent me in England."

    5. Rebecca West to H.G. Wells, March 1913

    George C Beresford / Photograph: George C Beresford/G / Via

    In 1912, Rebecca West, British author and critic, scathingly reviewed H.G. Wells latest novel 'Marriage', calling him the 'Old Maid among novelists'. This attracted Wells interest and shortly after he invited her to lunch. What followed was a ten-year affair, resulting in one son, born in 1914, and a friendship that lasted until his death in 1946. Their affair was carried on with the full knowledge of Wells' wife, Jane, and tempestuous from the start, as this early letter shows. (edited for length)

    "I don't understand why you wanted me three months ago and don't want me now. I wish I knew why that were so. It's something I can't understand, something I despise. And the worst of it is that if I despise you I rage because you stand between me and peace.

    You've literally ruined me. I'm burned down to my foundations. I may build myself again or I may not. You say obsessions are curable. They are. But people like me swing themselves from one passion to another, and if they miss smash down somewhere where there aren't any passions at all but only bare boards and sawdust. You have done for me utterly. You know it. That's why you are trying to persuade yourself that I am a coarse, sprawling, boneless creature, and so it doesn't matter.

    But I hate you when you try to cheapen the things I did honestly and cleanly.

    You once found my willingness to love you a beautiful and courageous thing. I still think it was.

    I would give my whole life to feel your arms round me again."

    6. Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murray, 1917


    Born in New Zealand, British novelist Katherine Mansfield fell madly in love with the critic John Middleton Murray and they married in 1918. She left him twice, including only two weeks after thy were first married. Whatever reconciliation could be offered was cut short by Katherine’s early death from tuberculosis in 1923. This letter, written during their courtship in 1917, shows a gentler moment from the intensity that their relationship is known for. A quiet missing, for a lover away from home.

    "Last night, there was a moment before you got into bed. You stood, quite naked, bending forward a little, talking. It was only for an instant. I saw you — I loved you so, loved your body with such tenderness. Ah, my dear!

    And I am not thinking of *passion*. No, of that other thing that makes me feel that every inch of you is so precious to me — your soft shoulders — your creamy warm skin, your ears cold like shells are cold — your long legs and your feet that I love to clasp with my feet — the feeling of your belly — and your thin young back. Just below that bone that sticks out at the back of your neck you have a little mole."

    7. Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West, 1918

    National Portrait Gallery London - / National Portrait Gallery London / Via

    The all-consuming passion felt for Vita Sackville-West by her childhood friend and sweetheart, the socialite Violet Trefusis, is captured in a series of letters sent during their early love affair. In a time when LGBT relationships were not widely accepted by society, both women had married men but remained desperately in love with each other, often running away together only to be retrieved by one husband or the other, or sometimes both, in an attempt to keep the scandal from reaching British society. This letter from Violet at the height of their passion will speak to anyone trapped by loving someone they are kept from.

    "What sort of a life can we lead now? Yours, an infamous and degrading lie to the world, officially bound to someone you don't care for…

    I, not caring a damn for anyone but you, utterly lost, miserably incomplete, condemned to leading a futile, purposeless existence, which no longer holds the smallest attraction for me…

    I never thought I would (or could) love like this."

    8. Vita Sackville West to Virginia Woolf, 1926

    Lenare / Getty Images / Via

    Not long after her intense relationship with Violet Trefusis, Vita Sackville-West fell for novelist Virginia Woolf, who was already married - happily - to Leonard Woolf. Although Vita and Virginia only seem to have consummated their relationship on two occasions, it had a profound impact on both of their writing livings.

    "I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.

    You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn't even feel it. And yet I believe you'll be sensible of a little gap. But you'd clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal.

    So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become."

    9. Virginia Woolf to Leonard Woolf, 1941


    Throughout Virginia Woolf's life, her marriage seems to have been a hugely important and happy part of a world ravaged by depression. In 1937, she wrote in her diary that with Leonard "Love-making—after 25 years can't bear to be separate ... you see it is enormous pleasure being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete." But her illness cost them both an incredible amount, and no matter how hard Leonard tried to help her, Virginia took her own life at the age of 59. This letter was a goodbye, and is heartbreakingly full of love for their time together.


    I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.


    For confidential support on mental health call the Samaritans on 116 123, email or attend a local Samaritans branch.

    10. Anaïs Nin to C. L. (Lanny) Baldwin, 1945


    The eroticist and Bohemian Anaïs Nin and C.L. Baldwin had an affair while they were both married to other people, something Nin celebrated as true celebration of passionate love. However, when Baldwin decided to return to his wife, Nin turned on him, writing this cutting brush off to mock his rejection.

    "My poor Lanny, how blind you are! A woman is jealous only when she has nothing, but I who am the most loved of all women, what can I be jealous of? I gave you up long ago, as you well know, also I refused you the night you wept—I only extended the friendship as I told you then until you found what you wanted—When you did I withdrew it merely because I have no time for dead relationships. The day I discovered your deadness—long ago—my illusion about you died and I knew you could never enter my world, which you wanted so much. Because my world is based on passion, and because you know that it is only with passion that one creates, and you know that my world which you now deride because you couldn’t enter it, made Henry [Miller] a great writer, because you know the other young men you are so jealous of enter a whole world by love and are writing books, producing movies, poems, paintings, composing music.

    I am in no need of “insisting” upon being loved. I’m immersed and flooded in this. That is why I am happy and full of power and find friendship pale by comparison.

    But in the middle of this fiery and marvellous give and take, going out with you was like going out with a priest. The contrast in temperature was too great. So I waited for my first chance to break—not wanting to leave you alone.

    You ought to know my value better than to think I can be jealous of the poor American woman who has lost her man to me continually since I am here—


    11. Simone de Beauvoir to Nelson Algren, 1950


    Long distance love affairs are the hardest. For Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren the separation between Chicago and Paris was the death kneel for a relationship that had begun in 1947, and had resulted in de Beauvoir's seminal work, The Second Sex. As it drew to a close she wrote this sweetly accepting letter, for the end of an affair.

    "...know that I'll always long for your asking me. No, I cannot think that I shall not see you again. I have lost your love and it was (it is) painful, but shall not lose you. Anyhow, you have me so much, Nelson, what you gave me meant so much, that you could never take it back. And then your tenderness and friendship were so precious to me that I can still feel warm and happy and harshly grateful when I look at you inside me. I do hope this tenderness and friendship will never, never desert me. As for me, it is baffling to say so and I feel ashamed, but it is the only true truth: I just love as much as I did when I landed into your disappointed arms, that means with my whole self and all my dirty heart; I cannot do less. But that will not bother you, honey, and don't make writing letters of any kind a duty, just write when you feel like it, knowing every time it will make me very happy.

    Well, all words seem silly. You seem so near, so near, let me come near to you, too. And let me, as in the past times, let me be in my own heart forever.

    Your own Simone."