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Valentine's Day

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If only we could convey with a word, a flower, in one eternal hour, our hopeful love.

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.

It's thought that Chaucer was referring to a date in May, when the second saint Valentine had his feast day, but the winter tradition took hold, a warm ember lifted from the fires 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.

Four hundred years later, on February 15th 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.

Around 1847 Esther Howland received a valentine from a British admirer, and was inspired - not, perhaps, as he had intended. 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.

It's a sad, sweet day.

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach. . ."

A version of this post was first published in 2007.

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