7 Queer Love Letters and Lyrics in Literary History

Celebrate the enduring work of queer writers with this moving collection of queer love letters and poetry.

From Sappho to Oscar Wilde, this collection of writings encapsulates love in all its forms—whole, separated, unrequited, even after death—featuring works that hold a poignant beauty scarcely found outside intimate exchanges.

Encompassing writings from 600 BCE until the mid-twentieth century, the following collection champions the richly passionate relationships that were hidden and quieted for so long.

In words of intense love, heartbreak, and devotion, these queer love letters and extracts of poetry are a compelling testament to the resilience of forbidden relationships.

Explore a wider selection of movingly beautiful queer love letters and writings in Queer Correspondence. Aiming to capture the diverse array of queer love stories throughout history, this new collection of intimate, heartfelt writings immortalises the work of queer writers whose words continue to resonate and inspire.

7 Writers of Queer Love Letters and Poetry

Often hailed as one of the greatest lyrical poets, Sappho (c. 630–570 BCE) was an Ancient Greek writer from the island of Lesbos. While her oeuvre encompasses a wide range of themes, it’s her evocative queer love poetry exploring relationships between women that has captivated readers throughout the ages.

Paying homage to Sappho’s enduring influence and relevance in discourse on gender and sexuality, the words ‘sapphic’ and ‘lesbian’ were derived from her name and that of her birthplace.

‘Now Love has bound me, trembling, hands and feet,

O Love so fatal, Love so bitter-sweet.’

—Sappho, ‘The Captive’, Translated by Henry de Vere Stacpoole, 1818

The First Kiss

And down I set the cushion

Upon the couch that she,

Relaxed supine upon it,

Might give her lips to me.


As some enamoured priestess

At Aphrodite’s shrine,

Entranced I bent above her

With sense of the divine.


She had, by nature nubile,

In years a child, no hint

Of any secret knowledge

Of passion’s least intent.


Her mouth for immolation

Was ripe, and mine the art;

And one long kiss of passion

Deflowered her virgin heart.



—Sappho, Translated by John Myers O’Hara, 1910

King James VI and I

Reigning first as James VI of Scotland from 1567, and later as James I of England and Ireland following the Union of the Crowns in 1603, King James (1566–1625) presided over the Jacobean Era. Throughout his life, he was known for his preference of the company of men, eschewing marriage and being praised for his chastity. It is believed that the true great love of his life was George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham.

‘I am now so miserable a coward, as I do nothing but weep and mourn; for I protest to God, I rode this afternoon a great way in the park without speaking to any body, and the tears trickling down my cheeks, as now they do, that I can scarcely see to write. But, alas! what shall I do at our parting? The only small comfort that I can have, will be, to pry in thy defects with the eye of an enemy, and of every mote to make a mountain; and so harden my heart against thy absence. But this little malice is like jealousy, proceeding from a sweet root; but in one point it overcometh it, for, as it proceeds from love, so it cannot but end in love.’

—James R., Letter to George Villiers, 1622

Lord George Gordon Byron (1788–1824) is a luminary figure of the English Romantic literary movement. His life was marked by a series of scandalous relationships and well-publicised affairs with both men and women. When he began studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1805, Byron met John Edleston (c. 1790–1811). Their initial meeting blossomed into an intimate friendship, and Edleston gifted the budding poet a cornelian stone as a token of their shared affection.

The Cornelian

No specious splendour of this stone

⁠Endears it to my memory ever;

With lustre only once it shone,

⁠And blushes modest as the giver.

Some, who can sneer at friendship’s ties,

⁠Have, for my weakness, oft reprov’d me;

Yet still the simple gift I prize,

⁠For I am sure, the giver lov’d me.


—Lord Byron, 1806

‘His voice first attracted my attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever.’

—Lord Byron, Letter to Elizabeth Bridget Pigot, 1807

A widely celebrated author and poet of the American Renaissance period, Herman Melville (1819–1891) is best known for his novel Moby-Dick (1851). In the August of 1850, Melville became a member of a literary circle that included the esteemed novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864). The two quickly became infatuated with one another. They lived within a mere six miles of each other and although only ten of Melville’s letters to Hawthorne have been preserved, they are believed to have frequently visited one another’s houses.

‘I met Melville the other day, and liked him so much that I have asked him to spend a few days with me before leaving these parts.’

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, Letter to Horatio Bridge, 1850

‘In token of my admiration for his genius, this book is inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne.’

—Herman Melville, Dedication in the first edition of Moby-Dick, 1851

‘Ah! it’s a long stage, and no inn in sight, and night coming, and the body cold. But with you for a passenger, I am content and can be happy. I shall leave the world, I feel, with more satisfaction for having come to know you. Knowing you persuades me more than the Bible of our immortality.’

—Herman Melville, Letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851

One of the most important poets in America’s literary history, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) lived much of her life in isolation. Although she requested the destruction of most of her letters and journals upon her passing, the surviving writings illuminate her close bond with the woman who came to be her sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Gilbert (1830–1913). Across nearly four decades of friendship, the women were dedicated in their writing to one another, with Gilbert having received over 250 of Dickinson’s poems.


You left me, sweet, two legacies,—

A legacy of love

A Heavenly Father would content,

Had He the offer of;

You left me boundaries of pain

Capacious as the sea,

Between eternity and time,

Your consciousness and me.

—Emily Dickinson, 1890

‘Susan—We both are women and there is a Will of God. Could the dying confide Death, there would be no dead. Wedlock is shyer than death.

Thank you for tenderness.’

—Emily Dickinson, Letter to Susan Huntington Gilbert, Published posthumously in 1924

Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) was an Irish author, poet, and playwright known for his widely celebrated works such as The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). In 1891, Wilde was introduced to Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945) and the men entered an indiscreet, whirlwind love affair, which eventually led to Wilde’s arrest and incarceration. Learn more about The Trials and Exile of Oscar Wilde here.

‘He understands me and my art, and loves both. I hope never to be separated from him.’

—Oscar Wilde, Letter to Leonard Smithers, 1897

‘London is a desert without your dainty feet, and all the buttonholes have turned to weeds—nettles and hemlock are ‘the only wear’—Write me a line, and take all my love—now and for ever. Always, and with devotion,—but I have no words for how I love you—’

—Oscar Wilde, Letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, 1894

‘Dear, dear boy—you are more to me than any one of them has any idea—You are the atmosphere of beauty through which I see life—you are the incarnation of all lovely things—When we are out of tune all colour goes from things for me—but we are never really out of tune—I think of you day and night.’

—Oscar Wilde, Letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, 1894

A. E. Housman

A. E. Housman (1859–1936) was an English writer and classical scholar most celebrated for his poignant poetry. His personal life and written works have sparked discussions regarding his sexual orientation.

His poetry often explores themes of unrequited love, longing, and loss. Following the trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895, he wrote a poem titled ‘Oh Who Is That Young Sinner’, alluding to homosexuality being as natural and God-given as the colour of one’s hair.

Oh Who Is That Young Sinner

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?

And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?

And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?

Oh they’re taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.


‘Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;

In the good old time ’twas hanging for the colour that it is;

Though hanging isn’t bad enough and flaying would be fair

For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.


Oh a deal of pains he’s taken and a pretty price he’s paid

To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;

But they’ve pulled the beggar’s hat off for the world to see and stare,

And they’re haling him to justice for the colour of his hair.


Now ’tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet

And the quarry-gang on Portland in the cold and in the heat,

And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare

He can curse the God that made him for the colour of his hair.


—A. E. Housman, Published posthumously in 1939

‘He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?

  He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.

I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,

  And went with half my life about my ways.’

—A. E. Housman, Additional Poems, 1939

Literary Love Letters and Lyrics