Responsible for Valentine's Day, too? Oh, gosh.
The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with love is in Chaucer’s Parlement of Foules (1382)
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
February is a little early for birds to be choosing their mates, and it's thought that Chaucer was referring to a date in May when the second saint Valentine (there were two of them) had his feast day. No matter, the winter tradition took hold, and Valentine’s Day endured, a burning ember from the fire of courtly love. The earliest surviving valentine was sent from the Tower of London in 1415 by the imprisoned Duke of Orleans to his wife.
On Feb 15, 1804, The Times reported -
Yesterday being Valentine's Day, the Twopenny Post had such an extraordinary influx of letters, with Valentines enclosed, that the Postmen, although assisted by a number of supernumeraries, could not get through their deliveries in the regular time. At the receiving house in New Street, Covent Garden, near 1000 Valentines were put into the box.
For many centuries Brits carried their customs around the world, or mailed them. Around 1847 Esther Howland received a valentine from a British admirer. Her father owned a large stationery store in Worcester, Massachusetts, and within a year Esther was producing valentines of embossed paper lace and selling them.
The bow of commerce has been shooting the arrows of love ever since.
This post was first published in 2007, a few months after we began the website. Since then we have heard from many wonderful readers and have received many "valentines" via email. Thank you!