There’s a difference between the person we show to the world and the person we show to the people who love us. There’s a whole other side of a person that comes out in love letters. In letters to those who care for us, the real self comes through because we know we’re writing words that will only be seen by the one person who truly understands us.
Unless, of course, you’re famous. Because if you get famous and die, you can pretty much count on some hack writer somewhere gathering up every private word you’ve ever written and getting everyone in the world to make fun of you by publishing them in a book.
Or, sometimes, in a top 10 list.
10 Mozart’s Weird Poop Letters To His Cousin
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart left behind more than just music. He also left behind a whole series of flirtatious love letters written to his younger cousin, Maria Anna Thekla. But it’s not flirting with his cousin that’s weird—it’s his weird obsession with poop.
“I now wish you goodnight,” Mozart signed one of his letters to his cousin. It would be a normal enough way to end a letter if he’d stopped there. But he didn’t. “Shit in your bed with all your might,” he added, “sleep with peace on your mind and try to kiss your own behind.”
“Oh my ass burns like fire!” Mozart wrote in another letter. “What on Earth is the meaning of this! Maybe muck wants to come out? Yes, yes, muck.”
Even the flirtation involved poop. Mozart, apparently, was convinced that talking poop was what drove women wild. When he wrote his cousin begging her to visit, he worded it, “Come for a bit or else I’ll shit.” Then he promised to “kiss your hands, my dear, shoot off a gun in the rear.”
Strangest of all, Mozart didn’t just start doing this on his own—he seems to have picked it up from his mother. Her letters are pretty much the same as her son’s. In one letter to her husband, Mozart’s mother wrote, “Keep well, my love. Into your mouth your arse you’ll shove. I wish you goodnight, my dear, but first shit in your bed and make it burst.”
9 Warren G. Harding’s Letters About His Penis
Just before he became president, Warren G. Harding carried on a torrid love affair with a woman named Carrie Fulton Phillips. Each wrote some absolutely scandalous letters—but Harding was a senator, vying for the presidency. They couldn’t afford to get caught. So to keep things confidential, Harding nicknamed his penis, “Jerry.”
“Wish I could take you to Mount Jerry,” the 29th president of the United States of America wrote. “Wonderful spot.” It wasn’t the only time he wrote her about his Jerry. In another letter, he told her, “Jerry came and will not go.” Then he warned her, “I fear you would find a fierce enthusiast today.”
He didn’t just have a nickname for his own genitals—he called Carrie’s, “Mrs. Pouterson.” In one letter, he reproached her for not being more affectionate: “When I saw Mrs. Pouterson a month ago, she persuaded me you still loved. I had a really happy day with her.”
8 Albert Einstein’s Letters About His Mistresses
Albert Einstein wasn’t really one for monogamy. He had dozens of mistresses behind his wives’ backs, and his letters make it pretty clear that he didn’t feel the slightest bit bad about it.
When his affairs split apart him and his first wife, Mileva Maric, Einstein wrote her a letter offering his suggestion on how to keep their marriage together. He would stay with her, he promised, as long as she would “make sure that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order.” Apparently, Mileva wasn’t wooed.
Remarrying didn’t change him. When his second wife got mad, Einstein wrote a letter to his stepdaughter, Margot, asking her to pass the message on. His wife, he explained, was too crazy to talk to directly.
“It is true that M. followed me and her chasing after me is getting out of control,” he told Margot about one of his mistresses. “But, first of all, there was nothing I could do to prevent it.”
Still, he had some concern about his wife’s feelings. “For mother,” he told Margot, he would try to make sure that “not every Tom, Dick, and Harry gossip about it.”
For her sake, he was going to try to only sleep with women who could keep their mouths shut. “Out of all the dames,” Einstein promised his stepdaughter, “I am in fact attached only to Mrs. L., who is absolutely harmless and decent.”
7 Jimmy Savile’s Love Letter To Margaret Thatcher
Jimmy Savile wanted to be remembered as a great radio DJ. But when you sexually assault hundreds of children, it tends to eclipse whatever you did at work. Today, he’s remembered as one of the world’s worst pedophiles—and that makes a love letter he wrote to the prime minister of the United Kingdom deeply unnerving.
Savile thanked Margaret Thatcher for their lunch date and then told her, “My girl patients pretended to be madly jealous + wanted to know what you wore + what you ate.” Those “girl patients” were sick girls at a hospital whom Jimmy Savile was sexually assaulting. Some of them were as young as eight. In Saville’s mind, these girls were jealous of his affections for Margaret Thatcher.
“They all love you,” Savile told Thatcher. “Me, too!!”
It wasn’t their last date. A little after, Thatcher and Savile met for lunch again. Thatcher’s secretary, going over her papers, wrote Thatcher a deeply worried letter.
“Can you kindly let me know if you made any promises to Jimmy Savile when he lunched with you yesterday?” she asked the prime minister. “Did you offer him any money?” Thatcher may have been wooed. The only record of Thatcher’s reply just reads, “Will tell you in detail. MT.”
6 Herman Melville’s Love Letters To Nathaniel Hawthorne
Two of America’s most celebrated authors just might have been in love. Herman Melville, the author of Moby-Dick, left behind some letters he wrote to Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter. According to some scholars, they’re more than just friendly.
“Your heart beat in my ribs and mine in yours,” Melville wrote to Hawthorne. “Whence come you, Hawthorne? By what right do you drink from my flagon of life? And when I put it to my lips—lo, they are yours and not mine.”
It might have just been a declaration of friendship, but it’s hard not to read a little sexuality into some of Melville’s word choices. In a letter to a friend in which Melville gushes about Hawthorne, Melville wrote, “Hawthorne has dropped germinous seeds into my soul. He expands and deepens down, the more I contemplate him; and further and further, shoots his strong New England roots in the hot soil of my Southern soul.”
According to some scholars, the letters reveal a story of unrequited love. “Through the remaining 40 years of Melville’s life,” a scholar named Arlin Turner wrote, “he thought he had been rebuffed by Hawthorne.”
5 Peter Abelard’s Rapey Letters To Heloise
Peter Abelard was a medieval philosopher who talked about Christian ethics, but he’s probably best known for his secret affair with Heloise d’Argenteuil. There’s a little irony in a Christian philosopher being remembered for having an affair, but it gets a lot worse. Based on the letters he sent her, it doesn’t seem like Heloise was a willing participant.
“Even when you were unwilling, resisted as much as you could, and tried to dissuade me,” he wrote to her, “since your nature was weaker, I often forced you to consent with threats and blows.”
It might explain a lot. When their secret relationship came out, Heloise denied that she’d even been with him. In revenge, Abelard had her sent to a nunnery. He didn’t quite get away with it, though. Furious, Heloise’s uncle had a gang of men break into Abelard’s home and forcibly castrate him.
Even Abelard accepted that he had it coming. He wrote, “It was wholly just and merciful, although by means of the supreme treachery of your uncle, for me to be diminished in that part of my body where the power of lust resided.”
4 Benjamin Franklin’s Call For Free Love
Benjamin Franklin, apparently, was too much man for just one woman. After his wife died, he started playing the field. At age 73, he wrote a letter to one of his mistresses to let her know that she had to deal with an open relationship.
“You find innumerable faults with me, whereas I see only one fault in you,” Franklin told her. That fault, he said, was her attempts to “seek monopoly on all my affection and not allow me any for the agreeable ladies of your country.”
He wasn’t being totally honest, though, when he said that he only found one fault in her. He wasn’t just upset that she wouldn’t let him sleep around—she also didn’t put out.
“You renounce and totally exclude all that might be of the flesh in our affection, allowing me only some kisses,” Franklin complained. “What am I receiving that is so special as to prevent me from giving the same to others, without taking from what belongs to you?”
3 Marlon Brando’s Letter To A Stewardess He Didn’t Know
Marlon Brando was a sex symbol. Any woman would have been thrilled to get a love letter from him—but it would have counted for a bit more if he learned your name first.
After taking a flight in 1966, Brando left a love letter to one of the stewardesses on the plane. He doesn’t seem to have actually spoken to her because he addresses it to “Dear Lady.” But he’d worked out a fantasy about her life just by staring at her.
“There is something not quite definable in your face,” Brando wrote. “You have something graceful and tender and feminine. You seem to be a woman who has been loved in her childhood, or else somehow by the mystery of genetic phenomena, you have been visited by the gifts of refinement, dignity, and poise.”
It starts off nice enough, but Brando threw a few caveats in there to make sure she didn’t get too big of a head. He made sure to let her know that she was “not pretty in a conventionally thought of way” before telling her that she left an impression “irrespective of your gothic aspects.”
2 Kafka’s Kafkaesque Love Letter
As strange as Franz Kafka was, you still might expect him to write normal love letters. But he didn’t. As his private letters make clear, Kafka was exactly the man his writing makes him appear to be.
A love letter from Kafka to a woman named Milena could have been sold as a short story. It starts off deceptively normal: “Last night, I dreamed about you.” Kafka, though, isn’t being cute. He really had a dream, and he was going to tell her every crazy detail.
“We kept merging into one another. I was you, you were me,” Kafka wrote. It seems kind of sweet, but then it takes a turn. “Finally, you somehow caught fire.”
In his dream, Kafka started to beat this woman with his coat. Then he realized that he was on fire and he was beating himself with a coat. But it wasn’t doing any good. “In the meantime, however, the fire brigade arrived and somehow you were saved,” Kafka wrote. “But you were different from before, spectral, as though drawn with chalk against the dark.”
Kafka, it seems, wasn’t too comfortable with being romantic. Their letters reveal that he wasn’t too anxious to share a bed with her. In the end, he called their relationship off by telling her, “I can only love what I can place so high above me that I cannot reach it.”
1 Sigmund Freud’s Cocaine-Fueled Love Note
When Sigmund Freud was a young man, he got engaged to Martha Bernays. His fiancee was still a virgin, but Freud was pretty sure he knew how to fix that. He wrote her a letter encouraging her to take some cocaine.
Freud was at the height of his cocaine enthusiasm. That year, he published a paper called “About Cocaine” that recommended using cocaine for sexual arousal, for fighting headaches, and for pretty much everything else. He also wrote a series of letters arguing with people who said cocaine was habit-forming.
“Woe to you, my Princess, when I come,” Freud wrote his fiancee. “I will kiss you quite red and feed you till you are plump. And if you are forward, you shall see who is the stronger, a gentle little girl who doesn’t eat enough or a big wild man who has cocaine in his body.”