Tag Archives: Victorian Valentines

The Young Man and His Valentines: 1887

[St. Valentine’s] day is observed right along now, and here in Springfield where we live, move and consequently don’t have to pay any rent, it is particularly celebrated. It’s the biggest day in the year for the largest percentage of people. I like St. Valentine’s day. I once paid $4.45 for a large, sweet-smelling affair with a heart-shaped basque and no end of flesh-colored kids, without buttons or anything on which to button, meandering around over it. I got another fellow to address the envelope. It was a girl on whose outline I was madly and passionately impaled. The other fellow was a good writer and the next day the girl accused him of sending her the valentine. He looked down in sweet confusion and said as he wiggled from side to side, “Oh, Miss Jones, who’d have thought you knew my hand-writing.”

Then the girl was sure it was him, and the next week she crocheted him a horse blanket and a lot of other fancy work, including a cute little money purse to be used as a savings bank in which his nibs was expected to put all his spare coin for missionary purposes. On  one side it had these crewel, crewel words, “Give freely,” and on the other side, “Love the giver.” The young man obeyed one of the mottoes, at least. I never in my life saw a man so stuck on himself. But I got even with him. He married the girl.

Since the sad and foregoing experience, I have rigidly adhered to the habit of slyly writing my name in one corner of every pretty and costly valentine I send. It adds to the poetry of the lovely trifle and keeps the girl’s father from kicking the necktie off of the wrong man.

I put my name once on a comic valentine which I sent to a young fellow whom I used to wake myself up at night with an alarm-clock to hate. I wanted him to know who sent it. It was a hideous caricature, got up in the most exaggerated style. It had a great mouth, like the map of somebody’s affected lung in the almanacs. It was unmistakably homely in six colors and a verse. I put my name on it and sent it to this fellow. I was wild with glee and excitement during the day, and fancied I could see him flinging himself over a four-story precipice and dashing his brains out with a three-“em” dash.

Next morning  I received a note from the recipient of the valentine. He had evidently recipped it. The note was as follows:

Springfield, O., Feb. 15, 1884.

Dear Fellow: — Photo received. Thanks so hard. But the signature was superfluous. I recognized the features as soon as I saw them. But don’t you think that part of the mouth was lost in the retouching of the negative at the expense of the naturalness of the picture.

Yours in earnest inquiry.


P.S. I don’t speak positively about the mouth. I merely throw it out as a suggestion. I had to throw it out, as there wasn’t room enough in the house.

Once More,


The next time I met Gus, we had a chat and when we parted, he looked hurt—especially about the left eye. During the next week, Gus put in his time trying to decipher the inscription on a beef-steak, at a distance of a decimal part of an inch from his sense of sight.

When I was fourteen years old I was wildly stuck on a little girl who lived across from where we were accumulating a rent account. I determined to send her a valentine. I got a lovely one, with a beautiful vine clambering over it and a cluster of violets in the center. A sweet little cherub, attired in an intelligent look and a maxillary dimple, was peering out from between the violets, with one little fat leg trailing along behind him in the airy fashion that cupid affects. But the verse on it made me tired. It was something to the effect that when the starlight was kissing the moonlight and the evening zephyrs were exhaling a bouquet of vesper odors, then I loved her—oh, I loved her. I knew that my girl was a practical sort of a person who always split the family kindling and had to draw the family rain-water by hanging head downward in the cistern and dragging an old brass kettle along the bottom with a sound like an escaped Wagnerian overture. I knew that if I wanted to make any impression on her, I mustn’t spring any “Luna, thou art the moon” business on her, for she would simply come to the front gate and yell across to my folks to put me on ice before I got mildewed. So I made some verses entirely of my own composure and pasted them over the sentimental lollipop. This was my poetry:

Oh maid! My little speckled maid!

This is a world of trouble,

But when I see you—am I glad?

Well, I should gently bubble.


You are the apple of my eye,

As I have oft declared;

And I’m the apple, too, of yours,

Why then can’t we be pa(i)red?


Forgive me for my crime-like rhyme,

And should we ever part,

Dost know fair maid, what restest next

My madly palping heart?

I didn’t see anything of my girl for four days and I had concluded she had fallen into the cistern and broken her pledge. But on the fifth day she came sneaking across the street, shoved something under the front door, rang the bell, and then skinned back again as tight as she could go. On the way she stepped on her left ankle with her right foot and brushed away a mud-puddle in the road, but I laid it to excitement. My heart beat wildly as I heard my big brother go to the door, and present he returned with an envelope in his hand and a broad grin bordering the hair on his head. My brother had the broadest grin I ever stood beside and examined. He handed me an envelope. It was dog-eared and finger-marked. I tore it open. Inside was a half sheet of paper, with the following written on it in red ink:

You talk as though you were a chump,

Or took me for a flirt:

I guess the thing that’s next your heart

Must be your undershirt.

I let this girl alone after this and turned my affections elsewhere. I always felt hard toward the family, and as soon as I grew up and went to work for a newspaper I took my revenge out on her brother. I saw him washing his neck one day, and he got so much soil off of it that I wrote the item up and put it under the head of real estate transfers. He must have appreciated this delicate piece of satire, for I never knew him to repeat the operation.

There are somethings in a person’s life which ought not to be made fun of, and I deeply deplore the habit of sending comic valentines. I admit that the temptation is strong, but it ought to be resisted. I knew a man who had a mother-in-law on his wife’s side of the house, who had a cast of features that would stop the progress of time on a sun-dial when she looked at it. She was so ugly that her son-in-law used to keep a jar of cucumbers pickled by setting her photo next to it. Yet he did not go and get a horrible thing in four and five colors with a satirical verse, and send it to his mother-in-law. Not he. He simply sent her one of her own tintypes. She had him arrested. She then expired to slow curtain, soft music, and plaid fire.

Any young man of good address ought to have no trouble in having plenty of pretty valentines sent him. Mine is care REPUBLIC office. But any one who intends sending me comic ones will please address them to Box ¾, New Zealand.


Springfield [OH] Daily Republic 29 January 1887: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The “comic” or “vinegar” valentine was the bane of St Valentine’s Day. The receipt of one of these horrors might cause tears, loving hearts torn asunder, ruptured engagements, horse-whippings, and even worse violence.  Still, unkind as it was, Mrs Daffodil feels that the verse hand-delivered by “the little speckled maid,” equitably summed up the narrator’s “chump” tendencies. One wonders what would have been the outcome had he not called her “speckled” (that deadly insult to the charmingly freckled complexion!) and had left the Valentine versifying to trained professionals.

To be Relentlessly Informative, the puzzling reference to “plaid fire,” refers to melodramatic theatrical conventions as in this passage from an 1866 edition of “Fun,” satirically describing a play: “Dance by all the characters, blue fire, green fire, red fire, plaid fire, grand transformation scene, and rhymed tags…”


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 anecdote

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.

The Three Valentines: 1871




(From Fun.)


I have loved three times madly–maniacally loved. My constitutional timidity has in each case prevented a verbal declaration of my sentiments, and confined them to the unsatisfactory medium of the Post-office. Preferring to hide these amatory outpourings under the veil of the anonymous, I have hitherto selected the Fourteenth of February as the most propitious day for their indulgence. With what success the reader shall determine.

Chapter I.

Maria was amiable, accomplished, lovely, and nineteen. Her sole surviving parent was the widow of an officer distinguished by his prowess in garrison duty. I respected the mother while I idolised the daughter. Often as I determined on declaring my passion, so often did my passion prove beyond the power of speech.

I bought my love a Valentine, elegantly embossed, and abounding in Cupids. The verses were more admirable than I should have conceived a modern poet capable of writing. This graceful missive I despatched by post.

But, by an error fatal to my hopes, I had forgotten to put a stamp on the envelope!

On my next visit I was coolly received, the angel’s mother informed me, during a private interview, that she could never sacrifice her darling’s future to a person whose avarice descended so low as a penny sterling. Maria, my heart was broken!

Chapter II.

I loved again, and Clara was perfection. She had a father in commerce, no mother, and money of her own. My attachment was of a nature which beggars description. It ultimately assumed the shape of a Valentine. Beautiful as I had thought my former offering at the shrine of Maria, this tribute of my undying affection for Clara surpassed it in loveliness. Consigning it carefully to a large envelope I affixed a postage stamp with great care.

That fatal missive never arrived at its destination!

On questioning the domestics at the house of my charmer, I discovered that the postman had rigidly demanded a payment of twopence in consideration of extra weight. This paltry sum was refused by Clara’s father.

Could I ally myself with the family of a sordid miser, whose mercenary nature could make so much of twopence? I retired in disgust. Clara, my heart was broken!

18th c valentine

Chapter III.

Once more the arrow of the rosy god perforated my bosom, and I adored Fanny. Both her parents were living, and kept a genial though unassuming tea-table.

I dared not breathe my passion in words, but resorted on a certain day in February to the novel expedient of a Valentine. It was a thing to dream of, a thing of bright imaginings. I procured an envelope worthy of such a treasure, and in a corner two stamps. There should be no mistake this time, I said.

That valentine sealed my bitter fate!

Fanny’s parents declared shortly afterwards that they could receive no more visits from a spendthrift so reckless as to throw money away by wasting twopence on a letter considerably under half-an ounce in weight. Fanny, my heart was broken.


I shall perhaps love again. In that case, I am resolved on forwarding my sentiments by the new postal card.

Star 26 May 1871: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a foolish young man, not to take his Valentine offerings to the post-office, where they could be weighed and the proper franking applied! Mrs Daffodil sympathises with the parents; a young man so lacking in common sense could never make Maria, Clara, or Fanny happy.

Of course, to-day the young lovers “tweet” or “text” their love from ‘phones that cost ridiculous sums of money. They will never know the delightful agony of waiting for the post-man on Valentine’s Day. One wonders if love was truer, more measured in the days of the penny-post.

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers the happiness of loving and being loved on this Valentine’s Day. And of adequate postage to ensure that all their valentines will be properly delivered to the beloved addressees.

Some previous Valentine’s Day postings: A Stolen or Stray’d Heart at Vauxhall; Hearse Verses: Valentines for Undertakers; War Valentines; St. Valentine’s Day Massacres.

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.


What Came of a Valentine: 1865

On the evening of the 13th of February, 1850, two young men sat in a comfortably furnished room in a large New York boarding-house. A bright fire glowed in the grate, well-chosen engravings adorned the walls, and a bright light was diffused about the room from an Argand burner.

Let us introduce the occupants of the apartments as Tom Stacy and John Wilbur, young men of twenty-five or thereabouts, who were known in business circles as Stacy & Wilbur, retail dry goods dealers, No.— Broadway. They had not been in business long, but were already doing unusually well. They had taken apartments together, one of which is now presented to the reader.

“Has it occurred to you, Wilbur,” asked his partner, removing his cigar, and knocking away the ashes, “to-morrow is St. Valentine’ s day?”

“Yes I thought of it this afternoon, as I was walking up from the store.”

“So did I, and to some purpose, too, as I will show you.”

Tom Stacy went to the drawer, and drew out a gorgeous valentine, an elaborate combination of hearts, doves, &c.

“What do you think I gave for that?” he asked.

“I don’t know, I’m sure. It appears to be very elegant?”

“It cost me ten dollars.”

“Whew!” whistled Wilbur. “it strikes me you are either very extravagant or very devoted. May I know what fair damsel is to be made glad by the receipt of this elegant missive?”

“That’s my secret,” said Tom, laughing. “I don’t mind telling you, however. It’s to go to Edith Castleton.”

“I presume you feel particularly interested in the young lady?”

“Not at all. But I told her I would send her a valentine, et la voila! Shan’t you conform to the custom of the day?”

“I had not thought of it,” said John, thoughtfully, “but I believe I will.”

“And what fair lady will you select as the recipient?”

“You remember the poor seamstress who occupies an attic in the house.”

“Yes, I have met her on the steps two or three times.”

“She looks as if times were hard with her. I think I’ll send her a valentine.”

“And what good do you think it will do her?” asked Stacy, in surprise.

“Wait till you see the kind of valentine I will send.”

Wilbur went to his desk and taking out a sheet of paper, drew from his porte-manteaux a ten-dollar bill, wrapped it in the paper on which he had previously written “From St. Valentine,” and placed the whole in an envelope.

“There,” said he, “my valentine has cost as much as yours, and I venture to say that it will be as welcome.”

“You are right. I wish I had not bought this costly trifle. However, as it is purchased, I will send it.”

The next day dawned clear and frosty. It was lively enough for those who sat by comfortable fires and dined at luxurious tables, but for the poor who shared none of these advantages it was indeed a bitter day.

In an attic room meanly furnished, sat a young girl, pale and thin. She was cowering over a scanty wood fire, the best she could afford, which heated the room very deficiently. She was sewing steadily, shivering from time to time as the cold blast shook the window and found its way through the crevices.

Poor child! Life had a very black aspect for her on that winter day. She was alone in the world. There was absolutely no one on whom she could call for assistance, through she needed it sorely enough. The thought came to her more than once in her discomfort, “Is it worth while living any longer?” but she recoiled from the sin of suicide. She might starve to death, but she would not take the life god had given her.

Plunged in gloomy thought she continued to work. All at once a step was heard ascending the staircase which led to her room. Then there was a knock at her door. She arose in some surprise and opened it, thinking It must be the landlady or one of the servants.

She was right. It was a servant.

“Here’s a letter for you that the post-boy just brought, Miss Morris.”

“A letter for me!” repeated Helen Morris, in surprise, taking it from the servant’s hand. “who can have written to me?”

“Maybe its a valentine, Miss,” said the girl laughing. ” You know this is valentine’s day. More by token, I’ve got two myself, this morning. One’s a karakter [caricature] so mistress calls it. Just look at it.”

Bright displayed a highly embellished pictorial representation of a female hard at work at the wash-tub, the cast of beauty being decidedly Hibernian.

Helen Morris laughed absently, but did not open her letter while Bridget remained— a little to the disappointment of that curious damsel.

Helen slowly opened the envelope. A bank note for ten dollars dropped from it to the floor.

She eagerly read the few words on the paper. “From St. Valentine.”

“Heaven be praised!” she said, folding her hands gratefully. “The sum will enable me to carry out the plan I had in view.”

Eight years passed away. Eight years with their lights and shadows, their joys and sorrows. They brought with them the merry voices of children—they brought with them new-made graves—happiness to some and grief to others.

Towards the last they brought the great commercial crisis of ’57, when houses that seemed built on a rock tottered all at once to their fall. Do not many remember that time all too well, when merchants with anxious faces, ran from one to another to solicit help, and met only averted faces and distrustful looks? And how was it in that time of universal famine with our friends— Stacy & Wilbur?

Up to 1857 these had been doing an excellent business. They had gradually enlarged the sphere of their operations, and were rapidly growing rich, when this crash came.

They immediately took in sail. Both were prudent and both felt that this was the time when this quality was urgently needed.

By great efforts they had succeeded in keeping up till the 14th of February, 1858. On that morning a note of two thousand dollars came due. This was their last peril. That surmounted, they would be able to go on with assured confidence.

But, this alas! This was the rock on which they had most apprehension. They had taxed their resources to the utmost. They had called upon their friends, but their friends were employed in taking care of themselves, and the selfish policy was the one required then. “Look out for number one,” superceded the golden rule for the time being. As I have said, two thousand dollars were due on the 1st of February.

“How much have you got toward it?” asked Wilbur, as Stacy came in at half-past eleven.

“Three hundred and seventy-five dollars,” was the dispirited reply.

“Was that all you could raise?” inquired his partner, turning pale. “Are you sure you thought of everybody?”

“I have been everywhere. I’m fagged to death,” was the weary reply to Stacy, as he sank exhausted into a chair.

“Then the crash must come,” said Wilbur, with a gloomy resignation.

“I suppose it must.”

There was a silence. Neither felt inclined to say anything. For six months they had been struggling with the tide. They could see shore, but in sight of it they must go down.

At this moment a note was brought in by a boy. There was no postmark. Evidently he was a special messenger.

It was opened at once by Mr. Wilbur, to whom it was directed. It contained these few words only:

“If Mr. John Wilbur will call immediately at No—Fifth avenue, he will learn something to his great advantage.”

There was no signature.

John Wilbur read it with surprise, and passed it to his partner. “What does it mean, do you think?”

“I don’t know,” was the reply, “but I advise you to go at once.”

“It seems to be in feminine handwriting,” said Wilbur, thoughtfully.

“Yes, don’t you know any lady on Fifth avenue?”


“Well, it is worth noticing. We have met with so little to our advantage, lately, that it will be a refreshing variety.”

In five minutes John Wilbur jumped into a horse car, and was on his way to No.— Fifth avenue.

He walked up to the door of a magnificent brown stone house and rang the bell. He was instantly admitted, and shown into the drawing-room, superbly furnished.

He did not have to wait long. An elegantly dressed lady, scarcely thirty, entered, and bowing said, “You do not remember me, Mr. Wilbur?”

“No, madam,” said he, in perplexity.

“We will waive that, then, and proceed to business. How has your house borne the crisis in which so many of our large firms have gone down?”

John Wilbur smiled bitterly.

“We have struggled successfully till today,” he answered. “but the end has come. Unless we can raise a certain sum of money by two, we are ruined.”

“What sum will save you?” was the lady’s question.

“The note due is two thousand dollars. Towards this we have but three hundred and seventy-five.”

“Excuse me a moment,” said the hostess. She left the room, but quickly returned.

“There,” said she, handing a small strip of paper to John Wilbur, ” is my cheek for two thousand dollars. You can repay it at your convenience. If you should require more, come to me again.”

“Madam, you have saved us,” exclaimed Wilbur, springing to his feet in delight. “What can have inspired in you such a benevolent interest in our prosperity?”

“Do you remember, Mr. Wilbur ,” said the lady, ‘ a certain valentine, containing a ten dollar note, which you sent to a young girl occupying an attic room in your lodging-house eight years since?”

“I do, distinctly. I have often wondered what became of the young girl. I think her name was Helen Morris.”

“She stands before you,” was the quiet response.

“You Helen Morris!” exclaimed Wilbur starting back in amazement. “You surrounded with luxury!”

“No wonder you are surprised. Life has strange contrasts. The money which you sent me seemed to come from God. I was on the brink of despair. With it I put my wardrobe in repair, and made application for the post of companion to a wealthy lady. I fortunately obtained it. I had been with her but two years when a gentleman in her circle, immensely wealthy, offered me his hand in marriage. I esteemed him. He was satisfied with that. I married him. A year since he died, leaving me this house and an immense fortune. I have never forgotten you, having accidentally learned that my timely succor came from you. I resolved, if fortune ever put it in my power, I would befriend you as you befriended me. That time has come. I have paid the first Installment of my debt. Helen Eustace remembers the obligations of Helen Morris.”

John Wilbur advanced and respectfully took her hand. “You have nobly repaid me,” he said. “Will you also award me the privilege of occasionally calling upon you?”

” I shall be most happy,” said Mrs. Eustase, cordially.

John took a hurried leave, and returned to his store as the clock struck one. He showed his delighted partner the cheek which he had just received. “I haven’t time to explain,” he said; ” this must at once be cashed.”

Two o’clock came, and the firm was saved—saved from their last peril. Henceforth they met with nothing but prosperous gales.

What more?

Helen Eustace has again changed her name; she is now Helen Wilbur, and her husband now lives at No— Fifth Avenue.

And all this came of a valentine.

Vincennes [IN] Weekly Western Sun 29 July 1865

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A most edifying story with the moral: “Always be kind to seamstresses.” One does so like a happy ending to this sort of tale. “Prosperous gales,” indeed. How delightful that none of the characters puts a single foot wrong: Helen Morris recoils from the sin of suicide; Mr Eustace was content with her “esteem;” Mr Wilbur thinks instantly of charity on Valentine’s Day; the prudent choice of an Argand burner. And that marvel:  two young men with “well-chosen engravings” on the wall of their boarding-house rooms! One does wonder about Mr Stacy and his impulsive purchase made in an attempt to impress Miss Castleton. Did he not remember that he could have bought a lavish valentine wholesale?

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers the happiness of loving and being loved. And of being presented with needed capital just in the nick of time by a deus ex special messenger.

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.


Week-end Compendium: 13 January 2016 Valentine Edition

Mrs Daffodil has noticed the fluttering in the dove-cote that is the Servants’ Hall over the upcoming Valentine’s holiday. Mrs Daffodil does her best, but managing a mixed-sex staff is sometimes like directing a Feydeau farce translated into Mandarin.  Here are the somewhat distracted posts for this week:

Hints for the Photographer shares tips on looking one’s best in front of a camera including the colours that photograph as dark or light and how to achieve the desired facial expression. “Say ‘bosom!'” says the photographer.

A Stolen or Stray’d Heart at Vaux-Hall is a rare look at a so-called “missed connections” personal want-advertisement from 1738.

That grave person over at Haunted Ohio contributed some occupational valentine verses in Hearse Verses: Valentines for Undertakers

On Valentine’s Day, Mrs Daffodil will share a heart-warming piece of Victorian Valentine’s Day fiction. Happy endings are guaranteed.

A late 18th-century buckle of a cameo showing "the education of Cupid" framed in pastes http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/19760/lot/230

A late 18th-century buckle: a cameo showing “the education of Cupid” framed in pastes http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/19760/lot/230

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog, in honour of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, a post featuring a Cornish road-demon and monkey ghosts in Aping the Devil.

And for the anniversary of the first appearance of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette, a post on the giant angel a psychic saw drifting over Lourdes.

Bonus holiday post: The Medium’s Valentine, should one be in love with one who talks with the dead.

From the Archives:  Speaking of vile valentines, the “vinegar valentine” roused some recipients to violence in The St. Valentines’ Day Massacres.

Favorite recent posts:

Posthumous portraiture: Is it live or is it a memorial?

The sad lives of some of the First Children.

That unlucky fellow who married not one, but two women accused of witchcraft. Or were witches just his type?

The best quotes about gin, AKA “Mother’s Ruin.”

Cover art, Richardson's New Fashionable Lady's Valentine Writer or Cupid's Festival of Love, 1830

Cover art, Richardson’s New Fashionable Lady’s Valentine Writer or Cupid’s Festival of Love, 1830

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.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.