Cyrano de Bergerac : How do I love thee? Let me count the ways – Part One

by |January 28, 2010

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching…

What to do, what to say?

Love is so complex!

In this age of Twitter, texting and ‘time poverty’ our capacity to communicate complicated feelings is in dangerous decline.

Sure, we can speak in short imbecilic bursts –  we can rant, we can reiterate, repeat and Retweet – but can we elucidate, extrapolate or explain?

In this, the shallow end of the 21st century, do we even have strong or deep feelings?

If we do, and I’m not so sure we do, can we be counted on to express these feelings fully to the person we love?

I think not – at least not beautifully, voluminously or even well.

(I could make an allusion here to Cyrano de Bergerac, but what would be the point… he’s not on Facebook – well, he is actually, but…. oh, never-mind.)

Books have always spoken for the tongue-tied and as we are all suffering from this inhibiting malady…

…this Valentine’s Day, let books speak for you.

As uniform as our desires appear to be (and as uniform as perfume commercials would paint love to be ie: men want sex, women want romance), in fact, we all suspect there are as many forms of love as there are strains of the flu.

So, this year, let books speak for you, but be sure to choose your books well… for Love’s library is vast and can be daunting.

Or better still, let me be your guide.

Let us count the ways together as we make our way towards 14th February.

Every day I shall offer up a handful of loves and the books which speak for them…

By Valentine’s Day I will have prepared a vast smorgasbord of delicious dainties and you can make your choice.

Let us begin at the beginning with the most obvious – Romantic Love:


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 everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
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.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning taken from Sonnets from the Portuguese

Tune in tomorrow when we explore the cul-de-sac that is Self Love: exemplified by the ever uncomfortable Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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  • Jane Logan

    January 29, 2010 at 9:44 am

    This will be very interesting…I will look forward to every single day in this countdown of LOVE!

    • January 29, 2010 at 10:02 am

      Yay! I will try to explore all of the regions of the heart by Feb 14!

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