Mimi MatthewsMimi Matthews

Valentine's Day in the 19th Century: Lost Connections & Lonely Hearts

Valentine's Day Card, 1864.(Image via Victoria & Albert Museum)

Valentine’s Day Card, 1864.
(Image via Victoria & Albert Museum)

February 14th is Valentine’s Day.  To celebrate the holiday 19th century style, I’ve collected a few Valentine’s Day news items from Regency England, Victorian England, and even 1890s Texas.  Some remind me a bit of modern day “lost connections” or “lonely hearts” adverts (hence the title of this post), others are simply humorous historical Valentine’s Day messages or, predictably, not so humorous Victorian Valentine’s Day news.

The first item is from an 1819 edition of Saunder’s News-Letter and was posted by an anonymous gentleman – a self-described “man of the strictest honour” – seeking his missing Valentine.

Saunders's News-Letter, February, 20 1819.

Saunders’s News-Letter, February, 20 1819.

victorian valentine 1830s via victoria and albert museum

Valentine’s Day Card, 1830s.
(Image via Victoria and Albert Museum)

The next Valentine’s Day advertisement, printed in an 1868 edition of the Cork Examiner, strikes me as being quintessentially Victorian.  Note the mention of the Crystal Palace and lion feeding at Trafalgar Square!  The Cork Examiner seems to think this advert (previously published in an earlier edition) was merely someone being facetious.  What do you think?

Cork Examiner, April 13 1868.

Cork Examiner, April 13 1868.

valentine card mid 19th century 2 via victoria and albert museum

Valentine Card, mid-19th Century.
(Image via Victoria and Albert Museum)

Not to be outdone for humor, an edition of the Laredo Times in Texas printed several personal messages for Valentine’s Day, 1897.  They range from the generic to the bizarre.  It’s nice to know that our late 19th century forebears could be as creative with goofy nicknames as some of us are today.

The Laredo Times, October 9, 1897.

The Laredo Times, 1897.

Victorian Valentine's Day Card.(Image via Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington)

Victorian Valentine’s Day Card.
(Image via Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington)

And here’s another humorous Valentine’s Day message from the 1897 Laredo Times:

The Laredo Times, October 9, 1897.

The Laredo Times, 1897.

Valentine's Day Card, 1860-1870.(Image via Victoria & Albert Museum)

Valentine’s Day Card, 1860-1870.
(Image via Victoria & Albert Museum)

Of course, it would not be a 19th century holiday without a grim Victorian tale.  For Valentine’s Day 1891, this was provided by the Daily Gazette for Middlesborough, which related the tale of a young lady (rather ironically named “Payne”) who drowned herself after her boyfriend had forgotten to give her a gift for Valentine’s Day.  It reads:

“On Saturday a young lady named Payne, chief of one of the departments of Mr. T. Beckett’s draper business at Peterborough, left the shop on some pretext, and a few minutes afterwards a messenger came in with a note from her saying that she had gone to drown herself.  A search party was at once instituted, and her body was found floating in the River Nene, life being extinct.  It is stated that she had some quarrel with her lover, and that not receiving a present on St. Valentine’s morning she so took it to heart that she resolved to commit suicide.”

Daily Gazette for Middlesborough, February 16, 1891.

Daily Gazette for Middlesborough, February 16, 1891.

Valentine's Day Card, 1860.(Image via Victoria and Albert Museum)

Valentine’s Day Card, 1860.
(Image via Victoria and Albert Museum)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief Valentine’s Day post. I will be off for a while, but I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule by next month. Thanks everyone and Happy Valentine’s Day!


Cork Examiner.  April 13, 1868.

The Laredo Times.  October 9, 1897.

“A Missing Valentine Causes Suicide.”  Daily Gazette for Middlesborough.  February 16, 1891.

Saunders’s News-Letter.  February 20, 1819.

About Mimi Matthews

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

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