This chapter considers how letters worked to move a relationship forward and facilitate greater emotional intimacy between writers. The chapter evaluates the role of the love letter on the path to matrimony using the correspondences of eight couples of varied social rank. Letter-writing is presented as a distinct stage of courtship, during which couples negotiated, tested, and cemented a marital bond. Men and women adopted particular gendered strategies, with women demonstrating their virtue, modesty, and self-doubt to suitors, who in return emphasized their sincerity, and—with increasing frequency over the century—rhapsodized about their depth of feeling. Engagement to marry was not a single moment but a lengthy process, becoming more assured as greater numbers of letters were exchanged. The chapter demonstrates the emotional value of missives as ‘thoughts’ or ‘favours’ sent by loved ones, which were treated as treasured possessions and praised as sources of pleasure that could even transcend death itself.
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