Drop a Line

Late Love Letter Outlives

the Form And Old Love Vows

Letters can be time capsules. Specially now, that no one write them anymore. A couple of weeks ago, a love letter sent in 1958 finally landed at California University of Pennsylvania. It was lovingly addressed to Clark from Vonnie.
You’ll see that such a 53-year gap actually represents a much farther distance. To begin, sending love letters at this day and age may easily downgrade someone to a not so good mental standing category.
In fact, considering that even email in its long form, say, two or three sentences, is already on its way out, a letter written five decades ago could have been sent from Pluto, for all that matters.
You may argue that love and affection remain the same, but the way we express them has definitely changed. And so has even the recipient’s name, as the former Clark C. Moore has, since, converted to Islam and is now known by his loved ones as Muhammad Siddeeq.
Feel free to picture the imaginary distance that conversion itself may have added to the man Clark was then and who he’s become, and again you’re spinning around radically different worlds and times, just on the account of a missed and found declaration of undying affection.
Among those loved ones of his, you may also add the author of the letter who signed it “Love Forever, Vonnie.” They did get married and had four kids but, alas, it didn’t last nearly as long and they’re now divorced.
Letter delivered, recipient found. Everything else about it, though, is gone. It’s time to move on, folks.
But you’d be wrong to think that, just because they could, letter senders of yore wouldn’t know when to be brief. Take the “Letters to the Editor” crowd, itself a bunch not known for any brevity in their almost daily commiserations, in writing, about the news of the day.
In 1946, just a few years before Vonnie wrote Clark, a certain Lt. Col. of the Royal Dragoons Cavalry Club, who used to write often to the Sunday Times, had a moment of clarity and committed it, admirably briefly, to a short note sent to the paper.
“To the Editor of The Times./Sir, I have just written you a long letter./On reading it over, I have thrown it into the waste paper basket./Hoping this will meet with your approval,/I am Sir/Your obedient Servant.”
It’s reported that the staff enjoyed it so much that it kept it on the newsroom all these years. But, wouldn’t you know it? the letter was never published.
Finally, there are those unfortunately no longer with us, who were also known by the dexterity they’d express their feelings on a brief note. Some say they would’ve enjoyed Twitter and other (thankfully) ever so brief forms of almost-telepathic communications.
Take John Lennon, for example, a prolific letter writer, many of which periodically hit the auction block. Not known for half-words, he could be painfully direct, even though his usual diatribes always lacked viciousness or bad intent.
More like the musings of someone used to wear his heart on his sleeve, Lennon picked a few public battles with well-known figures of his time. But his biggest argument was with his best friend, former partner and the person he’ll always be associated with: Paul McCartney.
A 1969 letter John wrote Paul and his wife Linda was recently auctioned for an undisclosed sum to an undisclosed buyer. Its content, though, was indeed disclosed.
In typical Lennon fashion, the two-page typed letter is heavily redacted, corrected and crossed over, with a few handwritten words added for good measure.
The subject, as most of what really happened between the two songwriters and, ultimately, why their group split up, is, of course, absolutely irrelevant 40 years after. The minutia and specificity of their differences belong only to Beatle arcana and its passionate followers.
Still, it’s interesting to see how Lennon uses the form to spike his friends who, wisely, didn’t seem to have taken the bait. “I was reading your letter and wondering what middle aged cranky Beatle fan wrote it,” he writes.
Despite plenty of four-letter words and ironies and sarcasms, he sounds at times whiny, even when complaining, rightly so, about the way his wife Yoko Ono was treated by the group. All and all, the record shows a stellar use of style but as far as content is concerned, not so much.

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