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Is Romance Dead Asks National Trust Brits Swap Love Letters

Monday, 09 February 2009

A combination of technology and the frantic pace of modern life is killing romance in Britain, despite the country's unparalleled history for love and literature.

In the country that produced such romantic writers as Shakespeare, Byron and even Winston Churchill, most Brits today have never spent time penning a love letter - and only one in five have composed a poem to the one they love.

Yet in a survey of more than 2,500 people by The National Trust, more than two thirds of Britons admit to having said "I love you" by text message, while two in five said they had sent romantic emails.

Andrew McLaughlin, head of communications at The National Trust, said: "Considering our rich history of romantic letter writers, this really does suggest that we are forgetting to make time for romance in modern Britain.

"As a country, we have produced some of the most romantic writing ever produced in any language - from Shakespeare's Sonnets to touching love letters written by Winston Churchill.

"Even Charles Darwin, while he was busy formulating his theories on natural selection on board the Beagle, found time to send beautifully moving love letters to his childhood sweetheart, Fanny Mosten Owen.

"Yet now, we seem to have forgotten the value of putting our innermost feelings down in writing."

Not surprisingly, the loss of such a romantic tradition is most keenly felt by women, with 70 per cent saying they would rather receive a love letter or poem than a text message or email. Only 53 per cent of men agree.

A similar number of women said they wanted their partners to be more romantic (compared with 59 per cent of men). This is despite the fact that more women (14 per cent) admitted they had never surprised their partner with something romantic than men (eight per cent).

"In today's age of easy and instant communication, written letters and carefully crafted poems aren't as important as they once were, but if anything that makes genuine love letters more valuable rather than less.

"In comparison, text messages and emails just don't cut it, I'm afraid. Our survey shows that people would still love to receive carefully written letters or poems, but just don't make time to write them.

"Fortunately, while we may have lost practice, we haven't forgotten the letters and poems which once made Britain one of the most romantic countries in the world.

"Among the thousands of writings we have on display at properties up and down the country, the love letters are always among the most popular and say far more about somebody's life than almost anything else."

Charles Darwin - who was born 200 years ago this week - never married Fanny, the only known portrait of whom is house at Chirk Castle in Wrexham, where Fanny lived after marrying Robert Myddelton Biddulph. Darwin went on to marry his cousin, Emma Wedgwood.

Other love letters kept by the National Trust include:

  • Letters by Welsh artist, Rex Whistler, whose unrequited love for Caroline Paget poured into both his paintings and his private letters;
  • Copies of letters written by Winston Churchill, who proved in letters to his wife, Clementine, that his inimitable style was as powerful in romance as it was in politics; and
  • Benjamin Disraeli's writings to his wife Mary Anne, a relationship which was maybe born of convenience, but one which - the letters prove - definitely turned to one based on a deep and lifelong love.


- ENDS -


The National Trust surveyed 2,558 adults across the UK this month. Key findings include:

  • Only 38 per cent of people have ever written a love letter
  • Just 20 per cent have written a poem to their partner
  • Some 69 per cent have said "I love you" by text message, while 38 per cent have written a romantic email.
  • 65 per cent would rather receive a love letter or poem, than a text message or email.
  • 70 per cent of women would rather receive a letter or poem, compared with just 53 per cent of men
  • 14 per cent of women have never surprised their partner with something romantic, against just 8 per cent of men
  • 72 per cent of people surprise their partner just four times a year or less
  • Two thirds would rather their partner was more romantic - though this figure falls to 59 per cent among men.
  • Those aged between 41 and 45 are the more romantic, with 45 per cent having written their current partner a love letter. That was followed closely by those aged between 19 and 21 (44 per cent).
  • Those aged 26 - 30 are least satisfied by their love lives - with 72 per cent wishing their partners were more romantic.
  • Those in East Anglia are most likely to put their feelings onto paper, with 44 per cent having written love letters. Yorkshire and the Humber were second (41 per cent), while the South West (40 per cent) was third.
  • The West Midlands was the least romantic (where just 32 per cent has written a love letter), with London second (34 per cent).
  • Those in the North East are most inclined to verse, with 23.4 per cent having written a poem to their current partner, narrowly ahead of the North West, where the figure was 23.2 per cent.
  • Those in Northern Ireland are least likely to receive a poem on Valentine's Day, seeing as only 12 per cent there have ever written any romantic verse.


Notes to Editors:

The National Trust is Europe's biggest conservation organisation and looks after special places across England, Wales and Northern Ireland for ever, for everyone. People and places are at the heart of everything it does. Over 3.5 million members,  over 50,000 volunteers, 500,000 school children, and millions of visitors, donors and supporters help the Trust look after 300 historic houses and gardens, 707 miles of coastline and 250,000 hectares of open countryside.