[Editor: This article, regarding Valentine’s Day, was published in The Ballarat Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 16 February 1880.]
St. Valentine’s Day.
On last Saturday about 7000 valentines passed through the Ballarat post-office. We should recommend persons desirous to ascertain for themselves the popularity of this custom of posting valentines to stand upon the steps leading to the post-office on St. Valentine’s morning, from the hours of 8 to 9, as it is between these hours that the young people working at trades or in shops go to their daily work, and for about an hour a constant stream of men, women, boys, and girls pours through the arches.
Of course the crowd is not composed entirely of young people, though they certainly comprise the majority. There is many a pasteboard box slipped into the receiving-box by other hands than those of “them insufferable young things.” It is more than probable that the maiden of many summers who laughs scornfully at the “poor young fools,” slipped out the night before when the house was quiet to post a valentine to some one-time master of her virgin affections, who now rests contented, “good easy soul,” with his pipe and glass to bear him company.
As a rule, you will notice that people don’t carry valentines openly in their hands, but concealed among their garments. Notice that young man, who, like Chaucer’s knight, is no doubt
A lover and a lusty bachelor,
With lockes curl’d as they were laid in press,
Of twenty years of age he was I guess.
He suddenly rushes to the receiving-box, plunges his hand under his coat, a something white gleams in the air, vanishes into the box, and the young man, who like a shadow came, like a shadow departs, leaving his “inkebus” behind him.
On Friday night all the stationers’ shops remained open until a late hour for the sale of valentines, and a rare trade they must have done. Young ladies of varied charms, some so varied that they had a little of every charm and not much of any, were bent over the scraps of tinsel and sentiment so dear to the feminine heart, lost in admiration at the “awful niceness” of the display before them. And great burly young fellows with big brown clumsy fists were gingerly handling these delicate morsels, and, smelling them, they seemed to judge of their quality in many cases by the pungency of the perfume, and if they were well backed up by a good strong-flavored sentiment, such as “I love thee ten thousand maids among,” those young men were “euchred” straight.
By the bye, why do people send valentines to one another? We have consulted many abstruse works upon the subject. One learned individual informs us that the custom arises from “a popular notion that on this day birds began to pair.” Well, we really don’t think that young Brown ever consults the parental relations of the cock-sparrow when he sands a representation of two hearts that beat as one to Miss Melpomene Stiggins. Nor did Tommy Jones ever think of the pairing of birds when he sends a “blooming valentine” to his schoolmaster.
Byron in “Don Juan” writes that “Man being reasonable must get drunk.” Suppose we alter the line, and say, “Man being amorous must send valentines,” because it really seems to be a necessity of human nature this sudden outburst of gush and spite; perhaps the restraint that men and women are compelled to put upon their passions finds relief in a day devoted to maudlin sentiment and spiteful recrimination. However that may be, the old and, in our practical age, almost Arcadian custom of choosing one’s valentine, that quaint old fashion of choosing a lover for a day, curiously mingled as it is in our minds with fresh mornings in the country and antique figures in the romantic garb of the past, has long since passed away, and with it all the grace and simplicity that surrounded it, and in its place we have the modern element of coarse ribaldry and coarser caricature, a bitter mockery of a simple kindly custom.
To those whose love it is to hurt where detection is almost impossible we commend these lines of Dr Johnson:—
Of all the griefs that harass the distressed
Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest.
Fate never wounds more deep the generous heart
Than when a blockhead’s insult points the dart.
The Ballarat Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 16 February 1880, p. 3
abstruse = difficult to comprehend or understand (for the average person), due to the subject matter’s extreme complexity, intellectually demanding nature, or highly abstract concepts; esoteric, obscure; (archaic) concealed, hidden, secret
Arcadian = of or relating to Arcadia: paradise; utopia; a serene place of simple pleasure (derived from Arcadia, an ancient region of Greece)
curl’d = (vernacular) curled
Dr Johnson = Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), known as Dr. Johnson (he was the recipient of two honorary doctorates), English author, lexicographer, and poet
See: 1) Robert Folkenflik, “Samuel Johnson: English author”, Encyclopaedia Britannica
2) “Samuel Johnson”, Wikipedia
euchred = exhausted, worn out; ruined (the term is derived from the card game “euchre”); cheated, deceived, swindled; beaten, done over, gotten the better of by someone else
locke = an archaic spelling of “lock”
thee = (archaic) you (regarding a person as the object in a sentence)
valentine = a Valentine’s Day card; a greeting card, gift, message, or token (anonymous or signed) which expresses affection, attraction, or love, which is sent to a lover, sweetheart, or the object of one’s affection on the occasion of Saint Valentine’s Day (14th February); someone who is the recipient or sender of a Valentine’s Day card, gift, message, or token; one’s lover or sweetheart
[Editor: Changed “valentine openly” to “valentines openly”.]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]