Books of valentine sentiments were quite popular in the nineteenth century; one could find saccharine stanzas to pass off as one’s own poesy or vile verses for a vinegar valentine. A peculiar feature of these collections were the “occupational” verses to woo the practitioners of various trades—such as the undertaker….
To an Undertaker
I am a mantua-maker,
You are an undertaker
Whom much I do regard
Because you are a grave one,
And I’m sure won’t leave one
‘Til laid in the churchyard.
Miami [FL] Herald 13 February 1927: p. 4 [reported in 1927, but from a Victorian valentine.]
From an Undertaker to his Valentine.
Be to thine Undertaker kind,
And have him always in your mind;
Hid undertakings are profound,
And plumes have rendered him renown’d.
The Trades People’s Valentine Writer: Consisting of Appropriate Valentines Entirely Original, For People of all Trades or Professions, Alphabetically Arranged, 1830
TO AN UNDERTAKER.
To mournful strains I tune my lute,
Because to me the subject’s grave,
Too long ador’d thee, love, I have,
I can no longer be a mute.
If towards the ocean of my love
Rolleth thy fond Affection’s billow,
Send me a sprig of weeping willow,
Or cypress-wreath, thy truth to prove.
Reject me—and my fate is this:
Off life the fragile twig I hop,
And off, instanter, neck and crop,
I go to the neck-crop-olis!
In the serenest of snug corners,
I prithee, love, inter me then—
Plain walking funeral—(two-pound ten)
With return tickets for the mourners.
To Kensal Green I most incline—
There spend a half-a-crown a year,
In keeping turf’d the early bier
Of thy departed Valentine.
A collection of new and original valentines, 1858, pp. 104-5
“Let Chloe smile upon her lover,
Who will ne’er forsake her;
Each day new charms she will discover,
In her faithful undertaker.”
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 8 February 1969: p. 65 [reported in 1969, but Victorian in date.]
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must apologise. She made the mistake of commissioning that grave person over at Haunted Ohio to undertake a compilation of “occupational” Valentine verses. Mrs Daffodil might have known that the author of a book on the lore of Victorian death and mourning would veer into “vinegar valentines” with a mortuary flavour.
Mrs Daffodil has written before on such seductive stanzas and, while the poesy might be tortuously rhymed, at least the principals were upright tradesmen such as wheelwrights and corset makers. Mrs Daffodil hopes that this will not spoil her readers’ Valentine’s Day and, in fact, may prove useful if one is being courted by or courting an undertaker. She will try to post something in a more romantic vein on the day.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.