The Love Letters Project #10: Pliny the Younger

One of the very earliest love letters, from Rome’s Pliny the Younger.

Who better to write the world’s most memorable love letters than the world’s most famous writers? This week the clock gets turned back to AD 100 to discover one of the world’s earliest love letters, courtesy of writer and magistrate Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Younger…

You say that you are feeling my absence very much, and your only comfort when I am not there is to hold my writings in your hand and often put them in my place by your side. I like to think that you miss me and find relief in this sort of consolation. I, too, am always reading your letters, and returning to them again and again as if they were new to me – but this only fans the fire of my longing for you. If your letters are so dear to me, you can imagine how I delight in your company; do write as often as you can, although you give me pleasure mingled with pain.

The object of Pliny’s devotion was his third and most beloved wife Calpurnia – his marriage to her is recorded in the extraordinary collection of letters and written documents he left behind, including his famous account of his father’s ill-fated attempt to rescue victims of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Without Pliny the Younger’s love of the written word (and a great deal of luck in its successful conveyance to us) we would know a great deal less about Ancient Rome – and it can also be justly said that he was the father of the modern love-letter.

Images: Wolfgang Sauber/Wikimedia Creative Commons and thaumazein.

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.