British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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102                           st. valentine's day.                   [Feb. 14.
hands of princes and courtiers was enormous. When the Duke of York was Miss Stewart's Valentine, he gave her a jewel of about 800l. in value; and in 1667, Lord Mandeville, being that lady's Valentine, presented her with a ring worth 300Z. The gifts of Pepys to his wife look small by the side of presents made by lovers to ladies. Pepys came to an agreement with Mrs. Pepys to be her Valentine (which did not preclude others from being so) every year, " and this year," he remarks, in 1668," it is likely to cost 4l. or 5l. in a ring for her, which she desires." In 1669, he bought more useful things for his cousin Turner, who told him she had drawn him for her Valentine. Straightway he went to the New Exchange, and bought her a pair of fashionable " green silk stockings, and garters, and shoe-strings, and two pairs of jessimy gloves, all coming to about 28s." London shops do not now exhibit green silk stockings, but they tempt buyers with gallant intentions; and " Valentine gifts " are in windows or on counters at prices to suit a few and terrify many.
Other old customs have not been revived, but we may learn some of these from old makers of Notes, and specially from Pepys, as to the old methods of choosing, or avoiding to choose, Valentines. When he went early on Valentine's Day to Sir W. Batten's, he says he would not go in " till I asked whether they that opened the doors was a man or a woman; and Mingo who was there, answered, a woman, which, with his tone, made me laugh; so up I went, and took Mrs. Martha for my Valentine (which I do only for complacency); and Sir W. Batten, he go in the same manner to my wife, and so we were very merry." On the following anniversary the diarist tells us that Will Bowyer came to be his wife's Valentine, " she having (at which I made good sport to myself) held her hands all the morning, that she might not see the painters that were at work gilding my chimney-piece and pictures in my dining-room." It would seem, moreover, that a man was not free from the pleasing pains of Valentineship when the festival day was over. On Shrove Tuesday, March 3rd, 1663, after dinner, says Pepys, " Mrs. The. showed me my name upon her breast as her Valentine, which," he added, "will cost me 305." Again, in 1667, a fortnight after the actual day Pepys was with his wife at the Exchange, " and
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