Like a modern father ever-vigilant against the wrong sort of texting, this early 19th c gentleman takes matters – literally – into his hands regarding Valentines sent to his daughter and her friend. Since I doubt teenaged daughters or their admirers have changed that much in 250 years, I can easily imagine the howls of outrage that followed his actions, too. And don't you wish you knew exactly what "depravity" these Valentines contained? Depravity being highly objective, they might have simply been like the ones mentioned yesterday by Loretta, or they could have been...well, use your imagination! This letter of cautionary advice was written by W. Chamberlaine, and appeared in The Gentleman's Magazine, London, 1805.
"As the 14th of [this] month is a day anxiously looked for by the youth of both sexes, in the expectation of exercising their ingenuity in forming those amorous billets denominated "valentines," I beg leave, through the channel of your Magazine, to offer a few suggestions to parents and guardians on the subject of these productions. "As my family were sitting at breakfast, the two-penny-post-man brought in five letters. Three of these were directed to the young ladies; the other two were on business, to myself. My eldest daughter who never receives any letter which she would wish to conceal from her parents, finding that her billet contained what appeared to be Poetry, began to read it to us; but she fortunately had not gone beyond the second line, when I recollected (from having heard of them in my boyish days) what the sequel was; and, snatching, as quick as lightning, the abominable Valentine from her hands before she could possibly arrive at the meaning, threw it upon the fire, congratulating my daughter on having escaped reading the most horrid obscenity that depravity could invent. "A young lady, an inmate in my house, over whom I had not the same authority as over my own daughter, had by this time opened her packet of painted trumpery; and began to read the verses aloud. No sooner heard I the first line than I knew it to contain ribaldry more shockingly indecent, if possible than the former; I therefore made free to snatch that one also out of the reader's hand, assuring my young friend that, if she had gone to the end of it, she never could again have looked at me, or either of the young gentlemen who were then sitting at the table with us, in the face. "The third was then handed to me by my youngest daughter unopened. This was also a Valentine, but contained only a few innocent lines...."
Above: [The reader tickled by Cupid], London? c. 1800?, copyright Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.