Valentine exchanges in the early nineteenth century took a good deal of thought and effort. No pre-printed cards with mass-produced verse, thank you very much. Instead, the Valentine greeting must be penned from scratch, the sentiment entirely the sender’s own.
But for those who require inspiration, and perhaps even a good push, there is the New And Complete Valentine Writer, by B. Mace (1806).
The author worked in New Round Court, in the Strand. I like a bit of information about the business end of London, and New Round Court was apparently an area of shops adjacent to houses of the lesser gentry erected on church lands after the Dissolution. One victualler there in 1781 served on the City of Westminster’s Coroner’s Jury for Inquests into Suspicious Deaths (LondonLives.org). Matthias Darly was an engraver and printmaker there in the late eighteenth century, at No. 39 (British Museum).
From his address in New Round Court, Mace provided a variety of Valentines composed for a variety of senders, including those of certain occupations such as printing and fishmongering (!) As a bonus, answers to such declarations are included, specifically tailored responses to notes sent by masons, turners, malters, seamen and even stay-makers.
One in particular appeals to the female who might, at first blush, appear unapproachable. Surprisingly, the offering of love was not at all modest, but bold, with patent desire to go all the way:
And though Death twice has broken your marriage chain,
If you have patience to be bound again;
Your lover here profest, behold here I stand,
And dare you to join in the marriage band.
And the answer? It seems a bit obscure. I can’t decide if she will be his Valentine or not:
No need that you should take me for a wife,
As well without you I can lead my life;
So keep your courage for some new essay,
may it not suit you in the needful day;
Your love rejected for the Valentine,
Just as you please it shall be yours or mine.
What do you think?