Victorian love letters from the archive

Ref: Brunner 1/3/1

Heartwarming love letters written 150 years ago, collections of romantic poems and 19th century books offering advice on the art of dating and marriage are just some of the fascinating love-themed items held in the University’s Special Collections and Archives.

The Archive has over 137 years of records in its collections, such as administrative records, personal papers of former staff and students, photographs, objects and ephemera relating to the history of the University, from its beginnings as University College in 1881 through to the present day.

Letters of love

Within the collections are the Papers of Sir John Tomlinson Brunner (1842-1919). Liverpool-born Brunner was a business man, astute liberal politician and generous benefactor to the University. Another, and much more private, aspect of Brunner’s life is revealed in a collection of over a hundred letters from John to his then fiancé, (and later wife) Salome ‘Sally’ Davies.

Robyn Orr, Library Assistant at the University of Liverpool, said: “If you read the letters there’s lots of talk about cricket and work, but the amount of letters shows a deeply strong desire to keep two people a part of each other’s lives. These letters are about 150 years old and so much has changed in the way people, and partners, communicate with each other, so they’re really interesting artefacts for the SC&A to have.”

To celebrate Valentine’s Day we’re sharing one of Sir John’s most heartwarming letters to Sally below. To learn more about these letters, and other interesting love-themed items held by the University, visit the Archive’s Manuscripts and more blog.

Ref: Brunner 1/3/1/25

“My dear Sally,

I have your likeness before me tonight so that I can look at you and talk to you almost at the same time.

What a serious face it wears that same likeness, but nobody knows better than I how soon the face of the original can break into a smile, indeed I have almost expected every minute to see a smile on the face in the portrait when I looked at it.

This time last week, lassie I had a chance which however I did not avail myself of, of dreaming of a very pleasant evening spent at Kirkdale, it is very pleasant now to think about it.

The possession of your portrait dear Sally, makes me think of … something we have tacitly agreed not to write about.

The past twelve months have been the happiest, the most rationally happy year of my life, and have taught me more than one thing that will I hope be useful and beneficial to me during the rest of that life.

I have been taught the pleasure of making little sacrifices for the comfort and happiness of others, and I have been taught the danger and folly of relying upon my own strength for the victory over my faults.

How very very far I am yet from completely conquering my faults no one knows so well as I do.

Thinking of you has often and I hope often will again, help me when I want help. Being able to see you almost as I can now will be better still.

I suppose you have been sitting alone [this] evening, as I have – your Mama sitting with Miss Houghton and Harry visiting Mr Smith.

Why did I not press you to pay me a visit here? [?], but you would have wanted to be off again to catch the last train one poor half hour after I came in, and that would have been only tantalising.

Perhaps, as I have often heard that lassie with the earnest face say “It is all for the best, after all, depend upon it John”.

But it is long past bed time, I must bid you good night, and put you [out] of sight and out of mind too, unless you appear in my dreams, till I can see you by day light, and think about without knowing that I ought to be in bed.

I suppose you have not altered your mind about going to chapel with me next Sunday.

And that we are to see Harry and Nell on Saturday Evening.

Please give my love to your Mama and to Nell if you are sending a message to her.

Good night love, may God bless you.

Ever yours
JT Brunner”

Ref: Brunner 1/3/1/31

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