Today, Valentine’s Day is popular and highly commercialised, but its celebration goes far back in time in Britain. Shakespeare wrote of Valentine's Day in the 16th century and 17th century diarist, Samuel Pepys, mentions observing the day. Special Valentine greetings papers were marketed from the Regency era, which is the period in which my recent historical romance, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody, is set. However, it was the standardisation of postal rates in Britain in the 1840s that led to commercially produced Valentine’s cards growing in popularity. In Australia, the first newspaper mention of Valentine’s Day occurred in 1825, but in 1888, observation of Valentine’s Day was regarded as declining by one colonial journalist. He eulogised the earlier custom:
“This day is by no means so generally observed as it used to be. Even the custom of sending those highly sentimental missives called valentines appears in a great measure to be falling into disuse. A few years ago the 14th of February occupied a much more prominent position in the calendar than it does at present. The manufacturers of this description of stationery began their preparation for the next festival soon after the last was past. Hundreds of women and girls found occupation in the construction of these dainty trifles.... A heart from this box, a cupid from that, a wreath, some lace-edge paper and a scrap of tulle – this last to soften the effect and perhaps suggest wedding veils – a few paper springs to make the figures or flowers stand out, and then a daub of gum here and there, and with a few deft touches the valentine is completed.... For weeks before the day itself the shop windows are crowded with them, valentines of every sort, size or description, pretty ones, ugly ones, expensive ones, cheap ones, valentines for the upper ten, valentines for the million, valentines for everyone to choose from as they will. And choose they did; the shop counters were besieged with eager buyers some wanting one kind, some another…. And when the eventful day arrived what an important man the postman became, how he was watched for …”*
This death knell was rung too soon and I, for one, am not sorry. Like my forebears, I love to receive Valentine’s cards. I hope your day is happy and brings you all the tokens of love that you desire!
The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody – available from: Steam eReads and Amazon
*South Australian Register, 14 Feb 1888, p. 6.
Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser, 18 Feb 1825, p. 3.
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