Mimi MatthewsMimi Matthews

Victorian Valentine's Day Verses for Rejecting Unwanted Suitors

The Two Central Figures in Derby Day by William Powell Frith, 1860.(Met Museum)

The Two Central Figures in “Derby Day” by William Powell Frith, 1860.
(Met Museum)

Published in 1875, The Lover’s Poetic Companion and Valentine Writer is a book intended for Victorian ladies and gentlemen “who wish to address those they love in suitable terms.”  It contains a variety of Valentine verses, ranging from the sweet to the satirical.  The book promises that these “Love Lyrics” are harmless and that even the more comical lines do not descend into vulgarity.  But what these verses lack in vulgarity, they more than make up for in unkindness and—in some instances—outright cruelty.

Much of this unkindness is directed at those unfortunate would-be Valentines whom the Victorian lady or gentlemen must reject for some reason or another.  For example, in the below Valentine, titled A Tinted Venus, a gentleman rejects a woman because of her penchant for wearing too much make-up.

A Tinted Venus

I’m fond of paintings, and admire
A form divine and human,
But one thing I abominate,
And that’s a painted woman.

When gazing on your tinted cheeks
I feel inclined to scoff,
If I should kiss them, or your lips,
I know they’d all come off.

From Madame Rachel do attempt
Your notions to dissever,
That’s not the way, believe me, to
Be beautiful for ever.

Don’t credit the advertisements
In paper or in serial,
You cannot manufacture charms
With ugly raw material.

a tinted venus the lover s poetic companion and valentine writer 1875

The next Valentine is a touch harsher—and even more personal.  In it, a woman rejects a potential suitor for being too tall and thin.

To a Tall Thin Person

I’m fond of light in any shape,
But can’t perceive a cause
Why I should wed a lamp-post,
Or a pair of lantern jaws.

When first your tall gaunt form I saw,
With face like any mourner,
I thought you were the shadow
Of some person round the corner.

I don’t know that I like a mate
Particularly lumpy,
But then, you know, you scraggy ones
Are always cross and grumpy.

If I am preying on your mind,
Dismiss, I pray, that matter;
The one I choose for life will be
At least a trifle fatter.

to a tall thin person the lover s poetic companion and valentine writer 1875

To a Tall Thin Person, The Lover’s Poetic Companion and Valentine Writer, 1875.

Unfortunately, an overweight Valentine was, in many cases, no more acceptable than a tall, thin one.  In the below Valentine, titled To A Fat Person, a lady not only rejects her plump suitor, but also offers him some advice on shedding a few pounds.

To a Fat Person

Whenever thy form I look upon,
My friend so stout and flabby,
I thank my stars I was not born
A ‘bus-man or a cabby.

Since sure I am, were such my lot,
I should feel most unwilling
To take a pair of folks like you
For sixpence or a shilling.

Do be persuaded, unctuous one—
Take something to get thinner;
Or, better still, don’t take so much
When you sit down to dinner.

Your friends may term you “embonpoint,”
Or “stout”—that’s very fine:
You’re fat—uncommon—much too fat
To be my Valentine.

fatty the lover s poetic companion and valentine writer 1875

Fatty, The Lover’s Poetic Companion and Valentine Writer, 1875.

Spinsters were not exempt from Valentine’s Day rejection—at least, not insofar as The Lover’s Poetic Companion was concerned.  In the following Valentine verses, addressed To a Cod-Eyed Spinster, a rather ungentlemanly gentleman issues a resounding rejection to a lovelorn old-maid.

To a Cod-Eyed Spinster

The very last that I should take
To village church or minster,
For purposes connubial,
Would be a cod-eyed spinster.

I’m fond of cod for dinner, ’tis
With me a favourite dish,
But shouldn’t like to own a wife
With eyes just like a fish.

Time’s hourglass now is running low,
So be no longer jealous,
Make way for younger girls and cease
To hunt up us smart fellows.

I’d sooner marry a giraffe,
Hedgehog or porcupine,
Than from the female sex select
A cod-eyed Valentine.

a poetical ruin the lover s poetic companion and valentine writer 1875

A Poetical Ruin, The Lover’s Poetic Companion and Valentine Writer, 1875.

Some of the Valentine verses offered seem justifiably cutting.  There are those directed at braggarts, drunkards, and hardened flirts.  One of my own favorites is the one below, addressed To A Vain Individual.

To A Vain Individual

Do give it up, ‘tis quite in vain
Each air and grace you try on;
Don’t lay this unction to your soul,
That you’re the British Lion.

The lions of a breed like yours
Eat thistles, hay, and grass,
And for a roar they give a bray,
And that is all — al-as!

I never like in my remarks
To venture on a strong key,
But you provoke me, lions’ skins
Do misbecome a donkey.

So give up lionizing, and
Be simply asinine,
And then perhaps some female (l)ass
Will be your Valentine.

to one with whom you have danced the lover s poetic companion and valentine writer 1875

To One with Whom You Have Danced, The Lover’s Poetic Companion and Valentine Writer, 1875.

 The above Valentine verses are only a few of the many contained within the pages of The Lover’s Poetic Companion.  Though they’re mean-spirited, I can’t help but find them rather humorous.  To the Victorian era person being rejected, however, these “Vinegar Valentines” would have been crushing indeed.  If you have to reject the advances of a would-be Valentine this coming February 14th, I strongly encourage you to find a kinder method of doing so.


Sources

The Lover’s Poetic Companion and Valentine Writer. London: Ward, Lock, & Tyler, 1875.

About Mimi Matthews

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library JournalPublishers Weekly, and Kirkus, 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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