Noël Coward’s Wise Words on Not Being ‘So Bloody Vulnerable’

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that heartbreak is truly an insufferable hell. And whether it’s the minor infractions or the soul-crushing kind of loss that alters our lives, that lovelorn brand of confusion and sadness is never a slight matter. But if there’s anything that alleviates the pain and puts our lives into perspective, it’s a good slap of tough advice from a dear friend.

And when it comes to someone who famously knows how to spin a phrase and make even the most harsh criticism and advice sound delightful, it’s Noël Coward. In his 40-year friendship with Marlene Dietrich, Coward and the iconic actress shared an deep friendship, pouring their emotions out to one another, and mending their wounds. But when Dietrich found herself in the throws of a seemingly never-ending relationship with Yul “Curly” Brynner, Coward wrote her begging for her not to be “so bloody vulnerable.” The letter came after a particularly harrowing experience Dietrich endured when she and Brynner found themselves on the same flight from New York to California. She noted in her initial letter about the flight to Coward, “Thank God I am German. Otherwise, I would have jumped out of the plane…” But although he’s speaking directly to his dear friend, Coward’s words provide a wonderful bit of inspiration for anyone ensnared in heartbreak’s dangerous psychological trap.

Thanks to Letters of Note, you can enjoy the letter in full below.

 Firefly Hill

Port Maria

Jamaica B.W.I.

Oh, darling,

Your letter filled me with such a lot of emotions, the predominant one being rage that you should allow yourself to be so humiliated and made so unhappy by a situation that really isn’t worthy of you. I loathe to think of you apologizing and begging forgiveness and humbling yourself. I don’t care if you did behave badly for a brief moment, considering all the devotion and loving you have given out during the last five years, you had a perfect right to. The only mistake was not to have behaved a great deal worse a long time ago. The aeroplane journey sounds a nightmare to me.

It is difficult for me to wag my finger at you from so very far away particularly as my heart aches for you but really darling you must pack up this nonsensical situation once and for all. It is really beneath your dignity, not your dignity as a famous artist and a glamourous star, but your dignity as a human, only too human, being. Curly is attractive, beguiling, tender and fascinating, but he is not the only man in the world who merits those delightful adjectives…Do please try to work out for yourself a little personal philosophy and DO NOT, repeat DO NOT be so bloody vulnerable. To hell with God damned “L’Amour.” It always causes far more trouble than it is worth. Don’t run after it. Don’t court it. Keep it waiting off stage until you’re good and ready for it and even then treat it with the suspicious disdain that it deserves…I am sick to death of you waiting about in empty houses and apartments with your ears strained for the telephone to ring. Snap out of it, girl! A very brilliant writer once said (could it have been me?) “Life is for the living.” Well that is all it is for, and living DOES NOT consist of staring in at other people’s windows and waiting for crumbs to be thrown to you. You’ve carried on this hole in corner, overcharged, romantic, unrealistic nonsense long enough.

Stop it Stop it Stop it. Other people need you…Stop wasting your time on someone who only really says tender things to you when he’s drunk…

Unpack your sense of humor, and get on with living and ENJOY IT.

Incidentally, there is one fairly strong-minded type who will never let you down and who loves you very much indeed. Just try to guess who it is. XXXX. Those are not romantic kisses. They are un-romantic. Loving “Goose-Es.”

Your devoted “Fernando de Lamas”


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