Vinegar Valentines

Vinegar Valentines

Love was a fertile subject for Victorian humour. Jokes about romance were a staple feature of comic papers, and jests about botched proposals were particularly popular in the weeks around Valentine’s Day.

Humour was also a big part of nineteenth-century courtship. Matrimonial advertisements – the Victorian equivalent of modern-day dating profiles – often stipulated that prospective partners must be ‘jolly’ and ‘fond of fun’.

Other Victorians used humour for cruller purposes by sending ‘Vinegar Valentines’ to people they disliked. These cheaply produced cards featured unflattering caricatures, intended to represent their unfortunate recipients, and insulting verses which pointed out their flaws.

These mock valentines were particularly popular popular in Britain and America from the 1840s. At the height of their success they may have accounted for more than half of all valentines sent.

Spare a thought for those who received these abusive missives in the era before pre-paid postage – they had to pay to receive their insults!

(Images from Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

A special Vinegar Valentine pop-up exhibition, guest curated by Grace Marks (BA History, Edge Hill University), is currently on display as part of The Atkinson’s We Are Not Amused exhibition.

Create your own Vinegar Valentine to send to that ‘special someone’ and match yourself with a Victorian partner via Tootsie’s Matromonial Agency.

Free Entry. Monday-Saturday. 10am-4pm.

Posted on 14 February 2020 under Exhibition

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