I am enough of a sap…

I am enough of a sap that I actually have two separate books that collect love letters -- in my defense, I only bought myself one of them; the other was a Valentine's Day present from Sherman, lo, these many years ago. In honor of the holiday, I'm transcribing my favorite for you, and hoping that published in 1936 means it's now in public domain. :-)

Evelyn Waugh to Laura Herbert, 1936

Tell you what you might do while you are alone at Pixton. You might think about me a bit & whether, if those wop priests ever come to a decent decision, you could bear the idea of marrying me. Of course you haven't got to decide, but think about it. I can't advise you in my favour because I think it would be beastly for you, but think how nice it would be for me. I am restless & moody & misanthropic & lazy & have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve. In fact its a lousy proposition. On the other hand I think I could do a Grant and reform & become quite strict about not getting drunk and I am pretty sure I should be faithful. Also there is always a fair chance that there will be another bigger economic crash in which case if you had married a nobleman with a great house you might find yourself starving, while I am very clever and could probably earn a living of some sort somewhere. Also though you would be taking on an elderly buffer, I am one without fixed habits. You wouldn't find yourself confined to any particular place or gorup. Also I have practically no living relatives except one brother whom I scarcely know. You would not find yourself involved in a large family & all their rows & you would not be patronized & interfered with by odious sisters in law & aunts as often happens. All these are very small advantages compared with the awfulness of my character. I have always tried to be nice to you and you may have got it into your head that I am nice really, but that is all rot. It is only to you & for you. I am jealous & impatient -- but there is no point in going into a whole list of my vices. You are a critical girl and I've no doubt that you know them all and a great many I don't know myself. But the point I wanted to make is that if you marry most people, you are marrying a great number of objects & other people as well, well if you marry me there is nothing else involved, and that is an advantage as well as a disadvantgae. My only tie of any kind is my work. That means that for several months each year we shall have to separate or you would have to share some very lonely place with me. But apart from that we could do what we liked & go where we liked -- and if you married a soldier or stockbroker or member of parliament or master of hounds you would be more tied. When I tell my friends that I am in love with a girl of 19 they looked shocked and say 'wretched child' but I dont look on you as very young even in your beauty and i dont think there is any sense in the line that you cannot possibly commit yourself to a decision that affects your whole life for years yet. But anyway there is no point in your deciding or even answering. I may never get free of your cousin Evelyn. Above all things, darling, dont fret at all. But just turn the matter over in your dear head.

I think part of what I like about this letter is that while it is entirely charming, I'm also not at all sure that she should marry him by the end of it. She might be better off alone. And that's my reminder to y'all for Valentine's Day -- while it's lovely to be with someone who's good for you, it's horrid to be with someone who's bad for you, as so very many people are. Far better to live safely and sanely on your own, even though it can be hard to remember that on a day like today. If you're single today and feeling mopey, I recommend spending some time thinking of all the horrible relationships you could be in instead, and considering just how miserable various people might make your life. :-)

Oh, Laura did eventually marry him, and they had six children. One biography describes "Laura Herbert, Waugh's second wife, who liked to present herself as the 'white mouse' whom Waugh first spotted when she was in her teens, but who was in reality a tough, humorous and resourceful woman, and every bit a match for her increasingly eccentric and irascible husband."

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