Vic­to­rian take on ro­man­tic love

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

‘‘Plenty of love, Tons of kisses, Hope some day, To be your Mrs.’’

Yes, it’s that time of the year again – the day that’s been as­so­ci­ated with ro­man­tic love at least since the 12th cen­tury.

In Eng­land, Valen­tine’s Day cards and printed sheets be­came ex­tremely pop­u­lar in the 1840s with the ad­vent of the penny post. This made it cheaper and quicker for even lowly ed­u­cated peo­ple to send mes­sages of hope, long­ing and undy­ing love.

Ash­hurst Valen­tine’s Day card and post­card col­lec­tor Janet Thorn­ton says such was the ef­fi­cacy of the ser­vice, a card posted in the morn­ing could ar­rive at its desti­na­tion by the af­ter­noon. The penny post was the Vic­to­rian equiv­a­lent of email, text, In­sta­gram and Twit­ter, and was ideal for ar­rang­ing lover’s trysts. Back then, a penny, 1d, had the equiv­a­lent buy­ing power of around $NZ2 in to­day’s money.

A cou­ple of years ago, Janet ac­quired an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of Ge­or­gian and Vic­to­rian era mis­sives of love that she had first been made aware of some 40 years be­fore.

‘‘They came from Rita Stan­ley who had col­lected th­ese cards in the 70s. I heard her give a talk about them, and I was stag­gered by what I saw. That was what got me started on my own col­lec­tion. It was a stroke of luck that I was able to buy them in one of Mow­bray’s in­ter­na­tional auc­tions.’’

The col­lec­tion in­cludes prop­erly framed elab­o­rate three­d­i­men­sional pic­tures in a style known as pa­per tolle.

One of the cards is drawn to look like a ban­knote. Dated Fe­bru­ary 14, 1873, it claims to have been is­sued by the ‘‘Lovers Bank­ing Com­pany’’:

‘‘I prom­ise to pay you on DE­MAND the en­tire LOVE of the Sup­pli­ant who sends this ‘‘Tem­ple of Hy­men 1873’’ An­other colour­ful card be­gins: ‘‘To thee I send a line of love...’’

Some of the hand­crafted and hand-painted cards show fine de­tail, and even if the mes­sages they con­tain seem quaint and flow­ery by to­day’s stan­dards, their time­less sen­ti­ment is still the same.

Janet’s card col­lec­tion is to be dis­played as part of the Cen­tral Dis­tricts Stamps, Coins & Post­card Expo which takes place at the Com­mu­nity Leisure Cen­tre on Fe­bru­ary 27.


Colin Dyer, or­gan­iser of Fe­bru­ary’s Stamps, Coins & Post­card Expo with a se­lec­tion of 19th cen­tury Valen­tine’s Day cards from Janet Thorn­ton’s col­lec­tion.

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