Sadly, in Victorian times not all valentines were declarations of love. When the practice first started, people complained about the sending of insulting and rude Valentines and more particularly about having to pay for them. This is because prior to 1840 and the introduction of uniform penny postage, letters were paid for by the recipient rather than the sender. As such, on Valentine’s Day some people with a particular grudge or spite against someone would, anonymously, send rude or grotesque valentines which the receiver would then have to pay for, really adding insult to injury. The cards are known as 'Vinegar Valentines' because of their acidic nature.
The oldest Valentine in the the Postal Museum collection dates from about 1790. Called the Puzzle Purse Valentine, it is a single large sheet of paper folded to a smaller size. The puzzle is to unfold it in the right way to read the verses handwritten on the folds, and see the small illustrations. One of the verses on the card reads: My dear the heart which you behold/ Will break when you the same unfold/ Even so my heart with lovesick pain/ Sure wounded is and breaks in twain.
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