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Love Letters Hands-On Tour At The Rosenbach Museum & Library Coincides with Jane Campion's Bright Star


Photo image courtesy of the Rosenbach Museum & LibraryThe love letter should be considered classic art form. Everything from the carefully chosen words, elegant penmanship, sealing the folded paper with a kiss, to longing for an envelope’s arrival, seems to be bursting with passion. Although not always syrupy sweet, love letters can also speak of jealously and painsentiments of the heart and soul. 

It is safe to say that abbreviated text messages and harried emails will never suffice for this romantic form of expression. So why not turn off the phone, step away from the computer and revisit the art of love letters through The Rosenbach Museum & Library’s Love Letters tour. This hands-on experience offers visitors a “peek into some of the most personal and emotional writing in the museum’s collections, including some of the most famous, and touching original love letters written by poet John Keats to his beloved, Fanny Brawne.”


The world-renowned library, one of the many rooms in the historic 1865 Rosenbach mansion, offers the perfect setting for the tour. The rich wood and dim lighting (meant to prevent damage to the texts), make one feel as though he or she is a voyeur sneaking into a library to unlock a diary filled with secret love letters. Farrar Fitzgerald, the education coordinator who expertly led the tour, gently placed the books and letters on foam blocks to support the delicate treasures. The tour began with an original, hand-written letter from John Keats to his lover, Fanny Brawne. While examining Keats' words, exquisite penmanship and the aged cloth paper, the sentiments expressed through his pen seemed to come alive from the page, romance mixing with jealousy. The hands-on tour offers an intimate experience with pieces from the library, and according to Farrar Fitzgerald, “allows visitors a chance to interpret for themselves from the original texts.”


To add yet another dimension to this experience, the Love Letters tour coincides with the release of Director Jane Campion’s film, Bright Star, which takes a closer look at the love affair between Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Their passion is best expressed via poetry and an exchange of letters during Keats absenceKeats’ words truly defined their love, capturing the heartache, pain, longing & passion of a romance taking place while one lover was incredibly ill.


Given a closer look at one of Keats’ original letters, the tour sheds light on the fact that although the movie captured the romance and passion between Keats and Brawne, his sentiments and letters were not always sweet, but rather filled with jealously and bitterness. In the letter shown on the tour, Keats writes “could your own heart have felt one half of one pang mine did” and “you are to me an object intensely desirable—the air I breathe in a room empty of you is unhealthy,” as well as “my heart having been made a football.” This is not to say that the movie truly misled the viewer by not exposing sentiments such as the ones noted above, but rather that they chose to focus on letters that were far more gentleFarrar Fitzgerald notes that, “the movie while beautiful and very romantic does not really show (how could it) the amount of pain and suffering Keats endured. He was so very young and at time bitter with the thought of his own death. I think that part of his fascination with Fanny was her “lightness” and frivolity towards life as well as the tenderness which she at times extended towards him.”


Beyond Keats’ letter, the Love Letters tour also features a love letter from Marlene Dietrich to Mercedes de Acosta (begging for forgiveness), a forged loved letter from Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway and a love letter from Benjamin Rush to Julia Rush, outlining in a very scientific fashion the principles behind a successful marriage. This rare experience should not be missed, as the original texts are not only beautiful but also provoke deep thought regarding the art of expression.


Rosenbach Museum & Library


Love Letters Hands-On Tour Dates: November 13 and December 16.

Tours are hour long and limited to six guests, ages 8 and up.

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $5 for students



Ritz East

125 South Second Street

(Between Chestnut and Walnut Streets, Front and Second Streets)




In celebration on its theatrical release, Bright Star is hosting "Be My Bright Star Love Letter Contest" presented by a Diamond Is Forever and Montblanc. The grand prize winners will receive an Everlon Diamond Pave Ring from ADIF or an Everlon diamond pendant necklace from ADIF. Poetry lovers will be required to either submit a poem or because of the power of social media, writers could tweet their love poems on Twitter. 

To enter, please visit :http://www.brightstar-movie.com/contest