Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Holidays - Valentine's Day

see also George Cruikshank in the Comic Almanack - click here

The vanity of this Paphian bubble, a Valentine, is naturally brought much closer home to the fair sex. All the sentiments associated with it are but too often delusive, nay agonizing. The day of the legendary saint is frequently fraught with disappointment. A girl expects many valentines and few arrive, or none come at all. Worse still, what do come are sent by the wrong people. Valentine's day thus becomes a sore trial of temper to many girls. When the longed-for billet does appear, and the doves of Venus have fluttered in at the postman's knock, they not unseldom bear with them a twig of wormwood instead of a spray of myrtle. The vision of bliss evoked by the Valentine rapidly turns into a wintry dissolving view. Cupid may bend his bow and light his torch, but will soon slink off disconsolately with broken arrows and quenched fires. Numbers of girls from the lower classes marry, ridiculous as it seems to sensible people, on no stronger encouragement than a sheet of gilded paper and a copy of purloined verses. Every now and then a trial for breach of promise discloses these love passages of a blighted existence to the wondering gaze of the social philosophers, and then they recognize for how much misery good Bishop Valentine has to answer.

The Queen (a magazine), 1882

To shops, and among others to Rimmel's to buy a Valentine. The perfumed shop was full of staid ladies and middle-aged gentlemen, busy with the same apparently absurd errand. And nothing can well seem more absurd, than to describe to the comely young woman behind the counter the particular variety of sentimental fondness which you wish to have. Most of the purchasers however were evidently intent, like myself, upon some pleasant surprise for young folks or practical joke upon elder ones. As for the young shopwomen, of whom there were several, all drest in a uniform or livery of black; they plied their amorous trade with the most businesslike coolness: which would have been amusing, only it was so sadly inappropriate to their sex and age. But it is to be feared that the yearning of the female heart for Valentines is checked in them by overmuch fruition. 'You must be quite tired of valentines?' said I: 'I am that, Sir', replied the civil kindly girl who served me . . .

Arthur Munby, Diary, 13 February 1863

Sir -
If Mercury condescends to help Cupid for one day in the year, I think Mercury should not do so at the expense of regular customers. On this morning of St. Valentine, as usual, the postman has delivered at my house a dozen more or less silly and offensive letters. As usual, also, on this Saint's day, he has not delivered my copy of The Times which, sent from Printing-house-square itself, arrives by the first post on all other days in the year with delightful regularity. Now, what is breakfast without one's newspaper. Even a genial mind is soured by such a void; but on this of all days throughout the year, when one was hungering to know what Ministers proposed to do for the advancement of learning in Ireland and for suitors in England delay was a refined cruelty, and one went into town in helpless ignorance, an object of mingled pity and wonder. I ask the Postmaster-General, on grounds of justice and of mercy, whether daily newspapers should be delayed in the post for the sake of this stupendous annual folly - these maudlin, impertinent love-letters, which might be kept back for a week, or, still better, pitched in the Thames by cartloads without hurt to anybody?
     I am, Sir,

letter to The Times, 15 February, 1873