1893 text

The practice of choosing valentines was very general at this time, but some of the best examples of the custom are found in this Diary.

The observation of St. Valentine’s day is very ancient in this country. Shakespeare makes Ophelia sing

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window To be your Valentine.

Hamlet, act iv. sc. 5. — M. B.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

8 Annotations

David Quidnunc  •  Link

Messrs. Valentine
Pepys doesn't say so, but at least two men who appear in the diary even before St. Valentine's Day 1660 have the first name "Valentine," according to Robert Latham's index volume [11] of the Latham & Matthew's edition of the diary:

-- Valentine Wanley ("Vanly"), Pepys's Axe Yard landlord
-- Valentine Fage (a/k/a "Fyge"), Pepys's apothecary

David Quidnunc  •  Link

The name "Valentine" / Valentine Cards
"Henry Ansgar Kelly, a medievalist at the University of California at Los Angeles who has studied the day's origins . . . said that in medieval times the name 'Valentine' (derived from the Latin word 'valor') was so popular that more than 50 Christian martyrs claimed the name."

"According to www.holidays.net [apparently now defunct], the oldest 'valentine' greeting in existence was made in the 1400s, and is in the British Museum. Around that time in Europe, often hand-made paper valentines were exchanged, and were especially popular in England. By the early 1800s, valentines began to be assembled in factories . . .

David Quidnunc  •  Link

"[B]y the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France."

"In the Middle Ages it was believed throughout Europe that February 14 was the mating day for birds. For example, English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, 'On St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh to choose his mate.' The belief endured."

"In 1614, English clergyman and poet John Donne wrote a poem honoring the Saint Valentine's Day marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Frederick, Count Palatine of the Rhine:"

Hail Bishop Valentine! whose day this is;
All the air is thy diocese,
And all the chirping choristers
And other birds are thy parishioners:
Thou marryest ever year
The lyric lark and the grave whispering dove;
The sparrow that neglects his life for love,
The household bird with the red stomarcher;
Thous mak'st the blackbird speed as soon,
As doth the goldfinch or the halcyon . . .
This day more cheerfully than ever shine,
This day which might inflame thyself, old Valentine!

Source: http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/valentine/

David Quidnunc  •  Link


"Many superstitions related to birds seen by maidens on Valentine's Day. If a maiden spied a blackbird, she would marry a clergyman; a goldfinch, a millionaire; a redbreast, a sailor; a crossbill, a quarrelsome man. If she saw a flock of doves, she would have a happy marriage in all ways, but if she saw a wryneck she would suffer a lifetime as an old maid."

"In France and England in the seventeenth century it was customary for both sexes on Saint Valentine's Eve to draw names from 'billet boxes' to determine their partners for the forthcoming celebration. According to a 1698 account, 'The maids take the men's billets, and the men the maids', so that each young Man she calls hers. This means each has two Valentines.' Getting this involved situation sorted out into satisfied valentine couples was an exciting but sometimes combative procedure, handled differently depending on locality. In France, matters sometimes ended in a duel. According to the 1698 account, once the couples were 'fixed,' the young men took over: 'The Valentines give treats to their mistresses, wear their billets upon their sleeves, and this sport often ends in love.'"
-- Peggy Robbins, "This Day Might Inflame: Valentine Customs through the Ages," The World & I magazine (Feb 1994; p 252)

Mary  •  Link

Valentine's Day

Pepys and his wife seem to observe the simpler form of custom, namely that one might claim for one's Valentine the first person of the opposite sex that one saw on Valentine's Day (spouses being excepted). Note that Elizabeth only leaves the dressing-room when she has heard and recognised the voice of someone whom she considers a suitable Valentine

linda camidge  •  Link

This seems to be subverted in the device in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" whereby Titania, enchanted and thus made mad for a special festival of misrule (in this case, midsummer), falls in love with Bottom - "the first live creature that thou seest"

Bill  •  Link

"To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window
To be your Valentine."

Ophelia. Hamlet, act 4, scene 5.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.