Henry Miller was a celebrated American author known for his bold and often explicit writing. His works “Tropic of Cancer” and “Tropic of Capricorn” both faced backlash and bannings given their sexually-explicit nature. Miller’s works helped redefine Western culture’s expectations and acceptance of mature literature. Meanwhile, the privacy of love letters between him and his lovers emboldened his writing even further. Referring to another famous author, Miller even wrote

“I wish God had given me the gift of writing about sex like D. H. Lawrence. Somehow my efforts always seem crude and shocking.”

Despite this harsh self-critique, Miller’s personal letters often involve very affectionate phrases such as “You’re food and drink to me” which break up the more explicit content. 

Letters to Anais Nin

Anais Nin is an accredited author in her own right, and her letters to Miller fuelled his passionate writings. When they were apart, Miller wrote

When you return I am going to give you one literary fuck fest—that means fucking and talking and talking and fucking.”

They often shared steamy memories, future promises and steamy hypotheticals.

With Miller’s characteristic stream-of-consciousness monologue style, it’s easy to imagine the lonesome author narrating the letter through his daydreams and fantasies. 

I feel your soft mouth closing over me, your leg clutching me tight, see you again in the kitchen here lifting your dress and sitting on top of me and the chair riding around over the kitchen floor, going thump, thump.

Letters could take weeks or even months to arrive and the drawn-out angst of awaiting a reply must have been agony. Compared to the near-instantaneous responses lovers can access now, the wait must have been practically unbearable. Much like the internet, the postal system held many a secret between lovers. Miller was acutely aware of the possibility of a mistaken recipient, remarking

God forgive me if this letter is ever opened by mistake. I can’t help it. I want you.”

These personal communications rarely appear publically, though Anais Nin’s family saved her personal diary and letters she kept from Henry. They were published after her death as part of an homage to her career in erotic literature. These two authors made their careers pushing the boundaries of published work, and their love lives clearly served as inspiration for their explicit narratives. 

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