Victorian take on romantic love
‘‘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.