How to Write a Good Love Letter

How to Write a Good Love Letter

How to Write a Good Love Letter

Benjamin Franklin wrote a good love letter. In 1779, Benjamin Franklin fell in love with Anne Catherine Helvétius, the widow of the Swiss-French philosopher, Claude-Adrien Helvétius. He was serving as the U.S. envoy to France at the time.

Nicknamed “Minette”, Anne maintained a renowned salon in Paris using her dead husband’s accumulated wealth. Among its habitués were France’s leading politicians, philosophers, writers, and artists.

Courting her attention, Franklin sent her many letters expressing his love, admiration, and passion. In one, he claimed that he had dreamed that their dead spouses had married in heaven and that they should avenge their union by doing the same on earth!

He wrote In another passionate plea: “If that Lady likes to pass her Days with him, he, in turn, would like to pass his Nights with her; and as he has already given her many of his days…she appears ungrateful never to have given him a single one of her nights.”

Boris Pasternak gives his character Dr. Zhivago so pretty racy lines in his letters to his lover Lara.

Don’t be upset. Don’t listen to me. I only meant that I am jealous of a dark, unconscious element, something irrational, unfathomable. I am jealous of your toilet articles, of the drops of sweat on your skin, of the germs in the air you breathe which could get into your blood and poison you. And I am jealous of Komarovsky, as if he were an infectious disease. Someday he will take you away, just as certainly as death will someday separate us. I know this must seem obscure and confused, but I can’t say it more clearly. I love you madly, irrationally, infinitely.

I think you’ll agree that’s powerful stuff but how would you feel if you got a letter like that? Would it please you or make you run a mile? I think I’d make a run for it. So what should you write to your love? Well if want to woo your love successfully science has some tips for you.

Yale psychologist Robert Sternberg’s theory of love, suggests that the ideal love letter should include the following components—intimacy, passion, and commitment. To test this hypothesis Donelson Forsyth and Kelli Taylor constructed a number of letters and asked people what they thought of them.

They discovered that, when it comes to love letters, commitment conquered all. The letter that proclaimed, “I know we will be happy together for the rest of our lives” and “I couldn’t imagine a world without you in it,” was rated much higher, in terms of expressing love, than one that made no mention of commitment.

Adding language that spoke of closeness and caring increased the letter’s good impression with readers, but it was a commitment that left readers feeling loved and in love.

As to expressing passion in a letter; frisky letters, which went on for too long about the sender’s sexual passions, were viewed generally negatively by both genders; perhaps because they were more about lust than love.

They also discovered that a message of commitment need not be delivered in a traditional love letter or a card; a simple email will do which is lucky as so many of us have lost the art of putting pen to paper. However, research shows that people think that letters are more trustworthy, and a handwritten letter shows effort and care too.

Therefore, if you want your love letter to get results you need to write it yourself, show your commitment to the relationship and put it in an envelope. Call me old-fashioned but a bunch of flowers wouldn’t go amiss either.


For more see:
The Science of Love Letters
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago


Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight

Turquerie was the fashion for all things Turkish. It started in the late sixteenth century and lasted well into the nineteenth. unconcerned with the realities of life in the east it was rather a product of European fantasies about the luxuries of the Orient. Turkey was a supplier of exotic goods such as coffee, perfumes, spices, and tea.

First diplomatic relations with the far east started near the end of the sixteenth century with Sir Robert Shirley going to Persia in 1599 to train the Persian army in the ways of English military warfare.

The West had a growing interest in Turkish-made products and art, including music, visual arts, architecture, and sculptures.

This fashionable phenomenon became more popular through trading routes and increased diplomatic relationships between the Ottomans and the European nations, exemplified by the Franco-Ottoman alliance in 1715 when Louis XIV received the first Persian ambassadors to France.

European portraits of the 18th century were used to portray social position and wealth. Dress, posture, and props were carefully selected in order to communicate the appropriate status. Choosing the exotic turquerie style to express one’s elite position in society involved wearing loose, flowing gowns belted with ornate bands of embroidered cloth. Some sitters donned ermine-trimmed robes while others chose tasselled turbans. Scandalously, most have abandoned their corsets and attached strings of pearls to their hair. (There has always been one law for the rich and one for the lower classes when it comes to letting one’s social hair down.) Many portraits have Turkish carpets displayed on the floor, woven with bright colours and exotic designs. The loose clothing and the unorthodox styles added to the lewd perceptions of the Ottomans.

At the same time portraits of real Turkish people by European artists were a la mode. They were often depicted as exotic, and it was rare that portraits were painted without wearing their traditional cultural clothing.

Perhaps the most influential transformation into the turquerie vogue in Europe was done by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Montagu went to Turkey in 1717 when her husband was posted as ambassador there. Her collected letters while there, describing Turkish fashion were distributed widely in manuscript form. They were then printed after her death in 1762. These letters helped shape how Europeans interpreted the Turkish fashion and how to dress. This phenomenon eventually found its way across the Atlantic and in colonial America, where Montagu’s letters were also published.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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75 Years of Spam

75 Years of Spam

The History of Food in Cans

SPAM is celebrating its 75th birthday today. Love it or hate it we’ve all had it at some time in our lives and it would not have happened without Nicholas Appert an 18th-century confectioner and chef from Paris.

In 1795, Nicholas Appert began experimenting with ways to preserve foodstuffs, succeeding with soups, vegetables, juices, dairy products, jellies, jams, and syrups. He placed the food in glass jars, not cans and sealed them with cork and sealing wax. The food was preserved by boiling the sealed bottles in boiling water.

In 1795 the French military offered a cash prize of 12,000 francs for a new method to preserve food. After some 14 or 15 years of experiment, Appert submitted his invention and won the prize in January 1810 on condition that he made the method public. The same year, Appert published L’Art de conserver les substances animales et végétales (or The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances). This was the first cookbook of its kind on modern food preservation methods.

La Maison Appert, in the town of Massy, near Paris, became the first food bottling factory in the world. This was years before Louis Pasteur proved that heat killed bacteria. In honour of Appert, canning is sometimes called “appertisation.” Appert’s method was so simple and workable that it quickly conquered the world. The French public and press were loud in their praises – “Appert has found a way to fix the seasons” said one paper. The French Navy was quick to use his method, but it was in England that Appert’s idea was fully exploited and improved.

English Canned Foods

In 1810, British inventor and merchant Peter Durand patented his own method, but this time in a tin can, so creating the modern-day process of canning foods. Tin was already used as a non-corrosive coating on steel and iron, especially for household utensils, but Durand’s patent is the first documented evidence of food being heated and sterilised within a sealed tin container. His method was to place the food in the container, seal it, place in cold water and gradually bring to the boil, open the lid slightly and then seal it again. In some quarters, he is hailed as the “inventor” of the tin can, but a closer look at the patent, held at the National Archives in London, reveals that it was “an invention communicated to him”. Norman Cowell, a retired lecturer at the department of food science and technology at Reading University, had shown that another Frenchman hitherto uncredited by history, an inventor called Philippe de Girard, came to London and used Durand as an agent to patent his own idea. It seems Girard had been making regular visits to the Royal Society to test his canned foods on its members. Girard was forced to come to London because of French red tape, says Cowell, and he couldn’t have taken out the patent in England at a time when the two countries were at war so he sold his idea to Durand for £1000 and disappeared from history. In England, there was an entrepreneurial spirit and venture capital to kick-start enterprise. People were prepared to take a risk on new ideas whereas in France if someone had a good idea they took it to the Academie Francaise and if the members of the Academie thought it was a good idea they might offer a ‘pourboire’ a small amount of money to develop it.

In 1812 Englishmen Bryan Donkin and John Hall purchased both patents and began producing preserves. Between 1814 and 1821, the Admiralty’s orders for canned foods increased from around 3000 pounds to 9000. Donkin’s role in changing history is rarely acknowledged. Standing on the spot of Donkin’s factory today is a school car park on Southwark Park Road, there is little evidence of the industry which, 200 years ago, was about to spread around the globe.

American Canned Foods

Canning arrived in the US in the 1820 but was not common until the beginning of the 20th century, partly because a hammer and chisel were needed to open the cans until the invention of a can opener by an Englishman named Yates in 1855. Canned food changed the world; it improved the nutrition of the masses, feed armies and explorers, transformed the work of women in the kitchen; Andy Warhol even made cans into art. Today, households in Europe and the US alone get through 40 billion cans of food a year, according to the Can Manufacturers Institute in Washington DC.

Of course, America is the home of SPAM. SPAM) is a brand of canned cooked meat made by Hormel Foods Corporation. It was first introduced in 1937 and gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II. By 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents and trademarked in over 100 countries (not including the Middle East and North Africa).

According to its label, Spam’s basic ingredients are pork, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrite as a preservative. Natural gelatin is formed during cooking in its tins on the production line. Many have raised concerns over Spam’s nutritional attributes, in large part due to its high content of fat, sodium, and preservatives.

By the early 1970s the name “Spam” became a genericized trademark, used to describe any canned meat product containing pork, such as pork luncheon meat. With expansion in communications technology, it became the subject of urban legends about mystery meat and other appearances in pop culture. Most notable was a Monty Python sketch which led to its name being borrowed for unsolicited electronic messages, especially spam email

Since 1942, each year the Chicago Section of the Institute of Food Technologists awards the Nicholas Appert Award, recognising lifetime achievement in food technology. In 1991, a monumental statue of Appert, a work in bronze was erected in Châlons-en-Champagne.

Sources:, Wikipedia

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress

Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress

Benjamin Franklin was a lover of knowledge; after all, he was the quintessential Renaissance man. He gave us the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, and Poor Richard’s Almanack. He was also an indispensable politician and civic activist who not only helped lay the groundwork for the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution but was also the country’s first ambassador to France where in 1779 he fell in love with Anne Catherine Helvétius, the widow of the Swiss-French philosopher, Claude-Adrien Helvétius.

Nicknamed “Minette”, she maintained a renowned salon in Paris using her dead husband’s accumulated wealth and among its habitués were France’s leading politicians, philosophers, writers, and artists. In courting her attention, he sent her many letters expressing his love, admiration, and passion. In one, he claimed that he had a dream that their dead spouses had married in heaven and that they should avenge their union by doing the same on earth!  In another passionate plea, he wrote: “If that Lady likes to pass her Days with him, he, in turn, would like to pass his Nights with her; and as he has already given her many of his days…she appears ungrateful never to have given him a single one of her nights.”

Franklin’s libido was apparently so strong, he himself was scared of it. In his autobiography, he confessed: “the hard-to-be-governed passion of my youth had hurried me frequently into intrigues with low women that fell in my way.”

One of the more revealing documents on his views on women, which had been known in certain circles but kept under wraps for almost 200 years, was a letter he wrote in 1745, offering advice to a young man who was having trouble with his own insatiable libido. In the letter, which was entitled “Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress,” Franklin advised: “In all your Amours, you should prefer old Women to young ones.” He goes on to explain that with older women they tend to have more discretion, will take care of you when you’re sick, are cleaner than prostitutes, and that “there is no hazard of children.” He also offered that you can’t really tell who’s old or young when you’re in the dark. What a romantic!!!

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £4.99   Also available on:

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Maria Cosway the Artist who Captured the Heart of Thomas Jefferson

Maria Cosway the Artist who Captured the Heart of Thomas Jefferson


Maria Hadfield Cosway, Repelling the Spirit of Melancholy

Maria Cosway was born Luisa Caterina Cecilia Hadfield was born on 11 June 1760 in Florence, Italy to Charles Hadfield, who was a native of Shrewsbury, England, and an Italian mother.

Her father was a successful innkeeper at Livorno, where he had become very wealthy. The Hadfields operated three inns in Tuscany, all frequented by British aristocrats taking the Grand Tour.

One of eight children Maria was born into a comfortable and happy family. Her life should have been a tranquil one. Unbeknown to the family tragedy would overtake them when four of the Hadfield children were killed by their  mentally ill nursemaid who claimed she was sending the children to heaven. Luckily she was caught and imprisoned before she could kill Maria.

While still in Florence, Maria Hadfield  studied art and painting under Violante Cerroti and Johann Zoffany.

The Florentine Violante Beatrice Siries (1709–1783) was an Italian painter of repute. She studied under Hyacinthe Rigaud and François Boucher in Paris from 1726. When she returned to Florence she married Giuseppe Cerroti. She was talented in several genres, but established herself as a famous portraitist She gained the patronage of the Medici family in 1731 and travelled to Rome and Vienna to paint various members of the family .Her most ambitious work was a fourteen figure family group of the emperor Charles VI, the father of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in 1735. Three of her self-portraits are preserved in the Uffizi Gallery.

Johann Zoffany (1733 -1810) was a German neoclassical painter, active mainly in England, Italy and India. His works appear in many prominent British collections such as the National Gallery, London, the Tate Gallery and in the Royal Collection, as well as institutions in Europe, India, the United States and Australia.  While Zoffany was painting The Tribuna of the Uffizi  in 1773 Hadfield copied Old Masters at the Uffizi Gallery. She continued copying for another five years and experimenting until 1778 when she was elected to the Academia del Disegno in Florence in 1778. She also went to Rome, where she studied art under Pompeo Batoni, Anton Raphael Mengs, Henry Fuseli, and Joseph Wright of Derby.

Self Portrait With Arms Folded

On 18 January 1781, Maria Hadfield married a fellow artist, the celebrated miniature portrait painter Richard Cosway, in what is thought to have been a marriage of convenience.

Richard was born in Tiverton, Devon, the son of a schoolmaster. He was initially educated at Blundell’s School but at the age of twelve he was allowed to travel to London to take lessons in painting. He won a prize from the Society of Artists in 1754 and by 1760 had established his own business. He exhibited his first works at the age of 20 in 1762 and was soon in demand.

Maria’s husband was one of the first group of associate members of the Royal Academy, elected in August 1770, and was elected a full member the following March, on the casting vote of the academy’s president, Sir Joshua Reynolds.  He was 20 years Maria’s senior, known as a libertine, and was repeatedly unfaithful to her.

Richard Cosway was “commonly described as resembling a monkey.” Her Italian manners were so foreign that her husband kept Maria secluded until she fully mastered the English language. Cosway also forbade his wife from painting, possibly out of fear of the gossip which surrounded women painters.

Her Self-Portrait with Arms Folded is seen as a response his command. The reprobate Cosway, realised his wife was his best financial asset and changed his mind.

More than 30 of her works were displayed at the Royal Academy of Art from 1781 until 1801. She soon enhanced her reputation as an artist, especially when her portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire in the character of Cynthia was exhibited.

Rather than being a social embarrassment she could claim the Hon. Mrs. Darner, the Countess of Aylesbury; Lady Cecilia Johnston; and the Marchioness of Townshend among her acquaintances.

In 1784, the Cosways moved into Schomberg House, Pall Mall, and developed a fashionable salon for London society. Richard was Principal Painter of the Prince of Wales, and Maria served as hostess to artists, members of royalty including the Prince, and politicians including Horace Walpole, Gouverneur Morris and James Boswell all attended the couples soirees. Maria who could speak several languages and had an international circle of friends.

The man who would be the American President Thomas Jefferson met the Cosways in August 1786 at the Halle aux Bleds in Paris, through the American artist John Trumbull. According to Trumbull, the President’s entourage “was occupied with the same industry in examining whatever relates to the arts …. Mr. Jefferson joined our party almost daily.” Their excursions included sites such as Versailles, the Louvre, Louis XIV’s retreat Marly, the Palais Royal, St. Germain, and the Column at the Désert de Retz.

Jefferson was enchanted by Maria, and her departure from Paris in October 1786 compelled him to write the only existing love letter in the vast collection of his correspondence.

In ‘The dialogue between my Head and my Heart,” dated October 12th and 13th, 1786. Jefferson poured out the contents of both. The bulk of the letter is a dialogue between Jefferson’s calculating reason (for which he is well known) and his spontaneous emotions (for which he is lesser known). Jefferson describes his emotional state after she has left saying he is “the most wretched of all earthly beings” and his reason responds by admonishing him for his attachment. His heart defends itself saying that no one will care for him who cares for nobody.

Their marriage was never a happy one. Richard and Maria had one child together, Louisa Paolina Angelica. The couple eventually separated. Maria took herself back to the continent. On one occasion accompanied by Luigi Marchesi, a famous Italian castrato. Marchesi was reputed to have been the handsomest castrato of all time and was said to have been adored by the whole female population of Rome. Maria, was a beautiful woman who attracted the most gifted and handsome of men.

Whether she ever had a relationship with Jefferson remains a mystery. Though her husband’s extramarital affairs were no secret, Cosway was  a married woman and a devout Catholic when she met him so it is unlikely she entered into sexual relationship with him. The pair did however engage in correspondence.

After returning to America in 1789, Jefferson’s letters to her grew less frequent; partly due to the fact that he was increasingly preoccupied by his position as President George Washington’s secretary of state. She, however, continued to write to him. In her letters she vented her frustration at his growing aloofness. She clearly wanted a some passion to pass between them even if it was only in writing.  In his last letters, he spoke more of his scientific studies than of his love and desire for her. Finally he admitted that his love for her had been relegated to fond memories of when their relationship had been “pure.” Whatever that meant.

Their relationship was fictionalised in ‘Jefferson in Paris‘ a 1995 Franco-American historical drama film, directed by James Ivory, which had previously entitled Head and Heart. The screenplay, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, is a semi-fictional account of Thomas Jefferson’s tenure as the Ambassador of the United States to France before his Presidency and of his alleged relationships with British artist Maria Cosway and his slave, Sally Hemings.

Maria Cosway eventually moved to Lodi, in Italy, where  she established a convent school for girls. Cosway and Jefferson wrote to one another occasionally, with letters coming first from Cosway.

At her home in Lodi, Cosway kept the portrait of Jefferson by John Trumbull that is now at the White House. It was presented to the United States by the Italian government on the occasion of the 1976 Bicentennial of the American Revolution.

Today, Cosway’s paintings and engravings are held by the British Museum, the New York Public Library and the British Library. Her work was included in recent exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 1995–96 and the Tate Britain in 2006.

Julia Herdman writes history ad historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 and Kindle  Also available on:

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See Also:

The History of the Love Letter

How to Write a Good Love Letter

Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me

Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me

The World’s First Children’s Charity

Thomas Coram was a philanthropist and campaigner. His greatest achievement was the London Foundling Hospital. But this was just one of many philanthropic projects.

Early Life

The Anglo-American Founder of the World’s First Incorporated Charity was born in Lyme Regis, in 1668. He was neither wealthy nor well connected. Aged 11 his father sent him to sea. This meant he never had a formal education.

Life in America

He arrived in  Dighton, Massachusetts in 1694. He lived there for ten years. Ardently Anglican, religious differences between Coram and his neighbours soon surfaced. These were played out in the courts where seemingly trivial issues quickly escalated; claims and counter-claims. Sometimes threats turned to violence against Coram. He frequently had to go to the Boston courts to receive a fair hearing at the local magistrates’ court.  In Boston, he met and married Eunice Waite, the daughter of an established family originally from England. She was a nonconformist Congregationalist but there is no evidence of any friction over religion between them. Letters show that Eunice and Thomas Coram were happily married for 40 years.

First Charitable Works

In 1704 at the age of 36. Between 1704 and 1712 he plied his trade on merchantmen and became a ship’s captain. In 1712, he obtained a role at Trinity House, Deptford, a private corporation that combined public responsibilities with charitable purposes. The Trinty House charity operated under royal patronage and provided and managed lighthouses and buoys to aid merchant shipping and to save lives at sea.

His interest in the welfare of merchant seamen continued and he developed an interest in supporting abandoned children although we don’t know why. In 1717, he made his first attempt to set up a home for abandoned children in a founding a colony, in what is today, the American State of Maine. With one foot in England and the other in her American colony, Coram was appointed one of the trustees for Georgia colony in 1732 and in 1735 he brought forward a scheme for settling unemployed English artisans in Nova Scotia.

Abandoned Children

Settled back in England, Coram bought a house in Rotherhithe about 4 miles down the Thames from central London. On his daily journey into town he was appalled by the number of infants he saw left to die in the streets. These poor children were most likely the unwanted result of prostitution, the main source of financial support for unmarried women in London, and the abuse of female domestic servants by their employers and male servants alike. Once again he campaigned for the creation of an institution where abandoned infants and orphans could be cared for. He laboured for 17 years and was finally successful in 1739 when George II gave his project a royal charter.

The First Children Admitted to the Foundling Hospital

The first children were admitted to houses in Hatton Gardens in 1741 and the land where the hospital still stands today was purchased. The Foundling Hospital was innovative; it educated both its boys and its girls which was remarkably advanced for the times. The foundation stone of the present hospital was laid on 16 September 1742. In October 1745 the west wing was finished and the children moved into their new and permanent home.

Great interest was excited in the undertaking, especially by London’s artistic community including William Hogarth and George Frederick Handel both of whom made donations to the cause. Sadly, for Coram he fell out with the hospital’s new benefactors, the reasons are unclear, and he was ousted from its Board of Governors in 1742.

Children’s Health

From the start, the governors of the Hospital went to considerable lengths to protect the children from the infectious diseases because they were so vulnerable. Children entering the Foundling Hospital were screened and turned away if they showed any signs of infection. Following their admission, they were sent to wet nurses in the countryside to give them a good start. They remained in the country until they were five and six then they returned to the hospital where they enjoyed a healthy diet including vegetables, meat, fruit and fresh milk from the hospital’s own cow.

The children were also inoculated against the endemic disease smallpox, probably on the advice of Coram’s old friend, Dr Richard Mead who, as well as being a pioneer of smallpox inoculation, was an influential governor of the Hospital and an eminent physician. He played an important role in the early days of the institution, often attending to look after sick children and advising on their care. It was probably down to him that by 1756, of the 247 foundling children who had been inoculated against smallpox, only one had died of the disease.

Native American Children

In his later years back in America, he advocated a scheme for the education of Native American girls. This remarkably enlightened man, “An Evil amongst us here in England is to think Girls having learning given them is not so very Material as for boys to have it. I think and say it is more Material for Girls, when they come to be Mothers, will have the forming of their Children’s lives and if their Mothers be good or bad the children Generally take after them, so that giving Girls a virtuous Education is a vast Advantage to their Posterity as well as to the Publick.”

A Royal Pension

After the loss of his wife, he neglected his private affairs and fell into difficulties. On 20 March 1749, an annuity of £161 was assigned to him, the Prince of Wales subscribing £21 annually. Coram died on 29 March 1751, aged 83, and was buried on 3 April in the chapel of the Foundling Hospital. An inscription was placed there, and a statue of him by William Calder Marshall was erected in front of the building a hundred years later.

For more about the Coram Foundation:


Julia Herdman is a historical fiction author and publisher. specialising in engaging historical fiction books and selected non-fiction. Current projects: Tales of Tooley Street – a series of novels set in 18th century London. Tales of Tooley Street is a work of fiction inspired by a family of apothecary surgeons who lived and worked at No. 65 Tooley Street in the London borough of Southwark. Available Worldwide on Amazon. The Sacred Numbers of The Gods – a book on the archaeology and religion of the Ancient Egyptians. Due soon.