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The worst love letters no one’s ever read

In honor of Valentine's Day, we're posting a few pages from a one-sided collection of love letters that make up a French epistolary novel called Lettres de Bendé, a Monreset.  The novel has an imprint of Amsterdam (fictitious?), and is dated 1762.  A researcher in France recently emailed us with a question about this book, and in the course of our investigations we found that we have the only recorded copy, according to WorldCat.

It's always exciting to find a unique copy, but there may be a good reason for this title's near extinction.  This isn't a happy love story.  Friedrich Melchior, baron von Grimm, explains in a review published in his Correspondance litteraire:

Ce sont les lettres d'une femme qui aime et qui n'est point aimée. Ajoutez qu'elle ne mérite pas de l'être, car elle est insipide, guindée, sans naturel, sans grâce. Si ces lettres n'étaient pas si mauvaises, on serait tenté de croire qu'elles ont été confiées à l impression par une femme qui n'avait que cette voie pour apprendre à son amant sa situation et ses sentiments.

These are letters written by a woman who loves but is not loved. What's more, she does not deserve to be loved because she is dull, affected, stiff, and ungraceful. If these letters were not so bad, one would be tempted to believe that they have been entrusted to printing by a woman who had no other way of apprising her lover of her situation and feelings.

Ouch.  Are they really that bad?  You be the judge.  Brush up on your French, and take a look at the few, perhaps not-so-tantalizing pages we offer below; the rest will be freely available in our digital library soon.

Title page






Emblems of Love are in the Air

Happy Valentine's Day!  Today we're taking a look at Emblems of Love by Philip Ayres, a book "dedicated to the ladys" in 1683.

Ayres, a poet and translator, was a tutor to the Drake family and is known primarily in this century for his Lyrick Poems (1687).  However, his Emblems of Love was a well-known success in his own time.  Emblem books generally have engraved images or symbols with accompanying text or poetry, and they were popular during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Emblems of Love was one of the last of the genre to gain wide popularity in England.

The images for Emblems of Love feature putti and human beings in various activities, and are based on two earlier works: Amorum emblemata by Otto van Veen (1608) and Thronus cupidinis (1618).  Some of the verses are also borrowed from these sources, although the English versions were composed by Ayres.

A sampling from Emblems of Love: