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Published: Sunday, 2/9/2003

Words from the famous

Searching for the right words to tell your sweetheart of your deep and undying love?

Head for the library, where you can pick up pointers from anthologies of letters some of history's most famous couples penned each other - Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Napoleon and Josephine, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Beethoven and his mysterious “Immortal Beloved,” Harry and Bess Truman, Nancy and Ronald Reagan, and many more.

The Brownings' romance started with just a letter, in fact. Robert's biographers say that in early 1845 the struggling poet wrote Elizabeth to thank her for mentioning him in her book, Poems, which was published the previous year. That was the beginning of an intense correspondence that led to their first meeting four months later and their marriage - against her father's wishes - within the next year.

If you lean toward mushiness, you might take inspiration from some of the letters that appear in The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time (Crown Publishers, 2002).

In one of those letters, the novelist Honore de Balzac writes to Countess Eveline Hanska, a married Polish woman: “My Beloved Angel, I am nearly mad about you, as much as one can be mad: I cannot bring together two ideas that you do not interpose yourself between them. ... In spite of myself, my imagination carries me to you.”

A few pages later, Irish poet and dramatist Oscar Wilde writes his wife, Constance: “The air is full of the music of your voice, my soul and body seem no longer mine, but mingled in some exquisite ecstasy with yours. I feel incomplete without you.”

But the direct approach works, too, as the collection of love letters reveals.

From Harry Truman to Bess Wallace in a letter written from France on May 5, 1918, is this: “I'm sure crazy to see you.”

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