What makes a good Valentines Card?

ETN 4/14/2Did you send any valentines cards this morning? If you did you are following on from a tradition that evolved in the 18th century. Although the notion of sending cards, chocolates and flowers has remained the same since then, cards themselves have changed from handwritten valentines to predominately mass-produced greeting cards we know today.

In the UK it is estimated we spend around £1.3 billion of gifts including 25 million cards each year.

We may not have time these days to write our own valentine poem, or make a card, but it’s really interesting to see some of those handwritten messages. We have been looking through a collection of valentines cards collected and created by George Clayton Eaton (ETN 4/14/2). George married Mary on 17 September 1873, and had two children, Frederic, born 1874 and Florence, born 1878. The letters and cards in this collection date from around the 1830s-1890, so cover the period when George had Mary would have been courting. We thought we would share a couple of our favourites:


Valentines card from the Eaton Collection. Norfolk Record Office ETN 4/14/2




The transcript reads:

Open your eyes and look about

I do not think you’ll find me out

Through sometimes in your bedroom seen

And in your school room too I’ve been


I sometimes meet you in your walk

I do not say I hear you talk

Again a fish, add not a letter

A flower perhaps will please you better


I’m such a simple chattering elf

I almost name my very self

And were you frozen into ice

I’ve power to thaw thee in a trice


I’ll visit soon with gentle breeze

And will not let you longer freeze

Give one kind word I’ll not repine

But be your humble valentine.


Another poem was clearly written by an avid card player, it reads:


Come, cut the cards, and deal the pack,

To every player red and black,

Arrange your hand; observe with care,

What cards are played, and when, and where,

Be very silent, and give heed,

To what your partner first shall lead,

If second hand play very low,

If third, as high as you can go,

If adverse suit keep the command,

Discard from weakest in your hand,

Lead up to weak suit, though the strong,

And you will never far go wrong,

Bring in your long suit if you can,

Support your partner, like a man,

And thus the noble game of whist,

Of which I’ve given you the gist,

Will give you many a happy night,

Until the evening shall be light,

A word of caution too, I pray,

(Not to be found in ‘Hoyle’ or ‘Clay’)

But very useful in its way,

Remember, at this time of year,

Hearts always will be trumps, my dear.


Has this inspired you to write your own valentines poem this year? We would love to know if it did.

This entry was posted in Snapshots from the Archive, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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