British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Feb. 14.]                      st. valentine's day.                         103
there bought things for Mrs. Pierce's little daughter, my Valentine (which," he says, "I was not sorry for, it easing me of something more than I must have given to others), and so to her house, where wo find Knipp, who also challenged me for her Valentine f of course, Pepys had to pay the usual homage in acknowledgment of such choice. Then, as Pepys had a little girl for Valentine, so boys were welcomed to early gallantry by the ladies. A thoroughly domestic scene is revealed to us on Valentine's Day, 1665 :
" This morning comes betimes Dickie Pen, to be my wife's Valentine, and came to our bedside. By the same token, I had been brought to my bedside thinking to have made him kiss me; but he perceived me, and would not, so went to his Valentine—a notable, stout, witty boy."
When a lady drew a Valentine, a gentleman so drawn would have been deemed shabby if he did not accept the honour and responsibility. On the 14th February, 1667, we have the following:
" This morning called up by Mr. Hill, who, my wife thought, had come to be her Valentine—she, it seems, having drawn him; but it proved not. However, calling him up to our bedside, my wife challenged him."
"Where men could thus intrude, boys like Dickio Pen could boldly go. Thus in 1667 :
" This morning came up to my wife's bedside little Will Mercer, to be her Valentine; and brought her name writ upon blue paper, in gold letters, done by himself very pretty ; and we were both well pleased with it."
The drawing of names and name-inscriptions were remnants of old customs before the Christian era. Alban Butler, under the head of " St. Valentine, Priest and Martyr," says:
"To abolish the heathens' lewd, superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls in honour of their goddess, Februata Juno, on the 15th of the month (the drawing being on the eve of the 14th), several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day." This does not, however, seem to have taken place till the time of St. Francis de Sales, who, in the beginning of the seven­teenth century, as we are told in his Life, " severely forbade the custom of Valentines, or giving boys in writing
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