Nixon love letters to his "dearest heart" on display

(Reuters) - Old-school love letters between a young Richard Nixon and the woman he would later marry have been unveiled at the former president's library in California, showing the poetic side of a man who addressed his future wife as "dearest heart."

The letters, written by hand from 1938 to 1940, include professions of love in which Nixon tells Pat Ryan, as she was then known, that "nothing so fine ever happened" to him as falling in love with her.

"Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy. In fact I should always want you to live just as you wanted - because if you didn't then you would change and wouldn't be you," Nixon wrote in one of the letters, part of a rotating display at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

"Let's go for a long ride Sundays; let's go to the mountains weekends; let's read books in front of fires; most of all let's really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours," he continued.

Nixon, who was U.S. president from 1969 to 1974, stepped down in the face of almost certain impeachment due to the involvement of his aides and campaign in an attempt to bug his political opponents' offices at the Watergate complex and the subsequent cover-up.

He was pardoned a month after he left office by his successor, President Gerald Ford. Nixon, whose wife stood by him throughout a scandal that damaged national trust in the White House and government, died in 1994.

The letters illustrate the couple's courtship between the time they met during tryouts for a community play in Whittier, California, in 1938 and when they were later married in 1940, nearly three decades before becoming president and first lady.

"What's so charming about these letters is that they are really from another time, because I think the writing of love letters has really become a lost art with technology," said exhibit curator Bob Bostock.

He said that while Nixon's letters showed a romantic side, Pat Ryan's letters tended to be "a bit lighter, humorous."

In one, she writes: "Hi-ho, Hi-ho! How does it go? It would be good to see and hear -. Night school is over about 9 so if you are through with club meeting perhaps I'll see you?"

In another letter, she offers to "burn a hamburger" for him.

Six of the letters will be on rotating display in the Nixon library in Yorba Linda, California, through September 3 as part of an exhibit to mark what would have been Pat's 100th birthday. She died in 1993.

(Reporting By Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Paul Thomasch; Desking by Eric Walsh)


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