As we heard in today’s episode of The Peoples Post, the introduction of cheap postage sent shockwaves through prim and proper Victorian society; private correspondence could now be sent cheaply, meaning anyone could express their love freely. While the likes of Blackwoods Magazine thundered…
The post-office system offers a facility for clandestine correspondence which no respectable father or mother on the European side of the Atlantic would think of without a shudder
…the truth of the matter was that love tokens, whether in the form of letters or cards, had been exchanged by the upper and middle classes in large numbers for several centuries, and less commonly before then.
As today, such expressions of love were often quite elaborate and beautiful, and some were written in code. Below are some of the more interesting examples from our collection.
'Your love my happiness' - c.1870 (OB1995.165/1A). Valentine card with gilt silver embossed paper lace around edges with pink fabric flowers. Gold scrap at bottom bearing greeting. Chromolithograph girl with flowers in centre surrounded by fabric and waxed flowers with net at top.
'To My Valentine' - c.1890 (OB1995.166). Chromolithograph valentine fan with 12 segments. Elaborate embossed design, gilt on handheld parts. Primroses and forget-me-nots design, with pretty ladies on each head. Each segment bears a verse: To My Valentine/ Dearer than all life's/ Joys art thou,/ A treasure without eclipse/ My heart beats proudly/ To know I share/ A love that is oure and free/ To feel there is one in/ The world doth spare/ Full many a thought/ For me. With warmest affection. Decorated with tassels and ribbon.
'My Valentine/ I love you' - c.1900 (OB1996.93/1). A mechanical card of a girl typing a valentine message. At the bottom of the card are the words: Write me a letter love.
'To the one I love' Valentine Card - c.1900 (OB1996.93/2). A mechanical card of a girl with scurrying feet bringing valentine hearts in a dish.
Pop up valentine card - 20th Century (OB1996.94). Depicts a honey house surrounded by heart with wings, and a googly-eyed girl. Message reads: Oh may I dare. To ask of thee/ A place within/ Thy heart for me?
– Alison Bean, Web Officer
For more on Valentine cards visit the Royal Mail Archive to read The Valentine and its Origins by Frank Staff or visit our website to view our online exhibition Valentine’s Day – Passion through the post.
For more on today’s episode of The Peoples Post see our webpage Love Letters. Further images can be found on Flickr. Use the Twitter hashtag #PeoplesPost to comment on the show.