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Originally for Valentine’s Day I was going to review Victorian Short Stories: Stories of Successful Marriages, which I expected to be full of stories celebrating love and devotion in marriage, that consummate expression of Christian virtue in the Victorian era. However, this bizarre book ought to have sarcastic quotations marks around “Successful” because all the marriages were more or less miserable, being either founded on deceit, marred by unthinkable tragedy or fraught with misunderstanding (notably, almost none of the authors turned out to be Christians, except perhaps Elizabeth Gaskell and hers was the “happiest” story of them all). Humourously, there is also a book in this series entitled Victorian Short Stories: Stories of Troubled Marriages. I can only imagine how depressing the marriages in that book must be.

So I decided to fall back on a classic love poem for Valentine’s Day, “How Do I Love Thee?”  by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a Christian, who also wrote Aurora Leigh, which I reviewed here. You might remember from high school English class that the sonnet is considered the ultimate love poem.


How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
 1850
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