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Ask Amy: Old love letters don’t age so well

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I am 68 years old (divorced, with two grown children and two grandchildren.) My former college boyfriend (from 1972-1975) is now 78 years old and, although still ambulatory, is in poor health requiring 24-hour professional care. No one knows how much longer he will live.

He has kept all my old (45 years old!) love letters. I have asked him repeatedly to return these letters to me, but he has refused.

He never married, nor has he ever had a live-in girlfriend. Now, when he dies, his niece (he has no children) will be the most likely person to sort through his personal effects.

These letters are, as you might expect, of a highly personal nature. They should not be read by anyone else. I have tried to appeal to his better nature and sense of regard for our former friendship, but to no avail.

I’m not losing sleep over this, but if you can think of the right words to say to him to convey how important it is to me to have those letters back, I would be grateful.

— Never Write Anything You Wouldn’t Want Published

 

Dear Never Write Anything, etc.: My understanding is that when you send a letter to someone, they own the (physical) letter: the paper and ink. You own the right to publish (or possibly sue someone else for publishing) the contents of the letter. So — your former squeeze’s heirs might be able to sell these letters at auction, or display them in a museum, but they could not publish the contents of the letters.

But that’s not really your question (I just thought it was interesting).

If you’re NOT losing sleep over this, then continue not losing sleep. That is definitely the way to go.

It sounds as if you have asked for these letters, repeatedly. So — stop asking.

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