Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dear Bess

Today I cam across this Valentine's Day section of The History Channel website and I found a bunch of really amazing love stories that tickled my heart so much that I now feel compelled to impart them to all of the interweb.

The first story that I found was about President Harry Truman and his wife Bess. It really was love at first sight for Harry with Bess. He was completely taken with Bess from the moment he laid eyes on her in Sunday school. They graduated from high school together in 1901, but then went their separate ways until they were reunited nine years later. It was then that Harry began his epic courtship of Bess.

He ardently courted her and tried to win her love for seven years, a great deal of which was through letters due to the fact that they lived 20 miles away, which was a very long way back then. Harry proposed in 1911, but Bess turned him down. But Harry was not to be discouraged. He persisted and soon Bess fell in love with him (that's called determination, y'all).

In 1917, Truman enlisted in the Army in 1917 to fight in World War I. Then Bess told him she thought they should get married (not great timing, Bess). Harry was fearful of leaving her a widow if he died in the war, so he said they should wait until after the war. Then he died...just kidding! He came back safely and they married in 1919! During his time at war, he always carried a picture of Bess in his pocket and wrote to her frequently. His spirits and hope were always strengthened by her promise to marry him upon his return.

After Harry became President, he was obviously traveling a lot. But whenever the pair were apart, they would always write to each other almost daily, totaling thousands of correspondences at the end of their lives together. As they both grew up in the turn of the century, they always preferred writing to each other instead of phoning each other and always used notes to stay involved in each others lives or to remind the other of their affection.

Of course, they always wrote to each other whenever circumstances prevented them from being together on their anniversary. But even when they were together, they would write hand-written notes and deliver them to each other. Over the years, the notes changed little, showing the same deep love and devotion that the two had for each other from the start of their relationship.

I seriously started tearing up when I read their story and some of their letters (yes, I am that much of a sap). It is just such a touching story, and it's so refreshing to read about such true love as theirs. I can only hope that my marriage is filled with as much love and devotion as theirs.

This is an excerpt from one of Harry's early letters to Bess that I thought was ridiculously adorable:

“I suppose that I am too crazy about you anyway. Every time I see you I get more so if it is possible. I know I haven’t any right to but there are certain things that can’t be helped and that is one of them. I wouldn’t help it if I could, you know.”
—Harry Truman to Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace, December 21, 1911


This story about Harry and Bess lead me to even more presidential love stories. I was SO shocked at some of the stuff that came out of some of our seemingly stern and somber presidents! I guess that was just on the outside, because inside they were a big bowl of mushy gushy looooooooooooooooovvvveee. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

“You are more wonderful and lovely in my eyes than you ever were before; and my pride and joy and gratitude that you should love me with such a perfect love are beyond all expression, except in some great poem which I cannot write.” —Woodrow Wilson to Edith Bolling Galt, September 19, 1915

“. . . I go fully trusting in that Providence, which has been more bountiful to me than I deserve, & in full confidence of a happy meeting with you sometime in the Fall—I have not time to add more, as I am surrounded with Company to take leave of me—I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change. . . .” —George Washington to Martha Washington, June 23, 1775

“Still this is the day, the day that marks 31 years of such happiness as comes to few men. I told you once that it was like an adolescent’s dream of what marriage should be like. That hasn’t changed. . . . I more than love you, I’m not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone I’m waiting for you to return so I can start living again.” —Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan, March 4, 1983

So...that is basically the sweetest thing ever. I just want to give Ronny a big ol' kiss on the forehead!! He is such a sweetheart! And Nancy is too cute! Ronald constantly wrote to Nancy, whom he met in 1949, while they were both actors. After a courtship that was uneventful by Hollywood standards, they married in 1952. Of all the letters, Nancy said that she always looked forward to the special ones she received for their anniversary the most.

“But that you may not be discouraged from a correspondence which begins so formidably, I will promise you on my honour that my future letters shall be of a reasonable length. I will even agree to express but half my esteem for you, for fear of cloying you with too full a dose. But, on your part, no curtailing. If your letters are as long as the bible, they will appear short to me. Only let them be brimful of affection. I shall read them with the dispositions with which Arlequin, in Les deux billets spelt the words “je t’aime,” and wished that the whole alphabet had entered into their composition.” —Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

While serving as the American minister to France, Jefferson, then a widower, became enchanted with the married Maria, an Anglo-Italian painter and composer (scandalous, I know! I had no idea!). In the letter, Jefferson writes of his struggle to reconcile his head and his heart. The letter was also a struggle for a different reason: he wrote it with his left hand, having broken his right wrist. Now that's true love.

“It is now one Oclock in the morning the candle nearly out, and I must to bed, May the angelic hosts that rewards & protects virtue and innocence, and preserves the good, be with you untill I return—is the sincere supplications of your affectionate Husband.” —Andrew Jackson to Rachel Jackson, January 8, 1813

Jackson, who was in command of the Tennessee militia, was en route to New Orleans to help defend the port against the British, when he wrote this to his wife Rachel. There was a lot of controversy surrounding Rachel and Andrew's marriage, so he was baited about it a great deal. Jackson fought thirteen duels defending her honor. Can you believe that?? THIRTEEN! I mean, I can understand like one or two MAYBE. But thirteen??? Geesh! That was a lot of honor defending.


Pretty amazing, huh? And look at where we are today. I wonder how many girls/women have gotten even one love letter on par with any of these. Probably very few, if any. Basically, men, you need to step it up. This is what you need to be doing, ok? No more texts and phone calls. We want poetic, heart-wrenching love letters and we want them now!!

1 comment:

  1. Here, here soulsista!!!!

    I love reading old love letters. It does make me pine for a guy to do that nowadays, which is maybe why I'm so stuck in the past and in love with how things were centuries ago!