A secret Valentine's Day message

The tradition of sending Valentine's cards dates back to the late eighteenth century. Valentine's cards did not take long to become popular and by the 1830s, they were massed produced. The introduction of the Penny Black stamp and postage reforms in 1840 also helped boost the tradition of sending cards.

The two examples below are from the collection cared for by Hampshire Cultural Trust and date from the late nineteenth century, one consisting of hand written verses and the other using fun word play.  In the case of the latter, we have the envelope showing it was not franked in Dublin until 17 February 1874 and did not arrive at Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny until 19 February!  Was Lucy eagerly awaiting the post on the 14th and then disappointed when nothing arrived, only to be pleasantly surprised a few days later?

This card was sent around 1873. Can you decipher the full message?
The envelope for Lucy’s card showing its late arrival.

Many Valentines cards have been sent in secret but the secret is normally kept from the recipient not necessarily from the recipient’s father.  The letter below however, is just that, a broadside letter with a secret message.

When read line-by-line the letter appears to be a withdrawal of the gentleman’s affections for the lady.  However, this is written for the benefit of the lady’s father who is obviously not enamoured with the gentleman.  His daughter on the other hand knows that if she reads the 1st, 3rd, 5th etc lines only that the letter’s true message will be revealed.

Broadside letter, circulated around 1850.

Our copy is well worn and the thin paper rather creased so a transcript is provided below.


The great love and tenderness I have hitherto expressed for you

is false. And I now feel that my indifference towards you

increases proportionably every day. And the more I see you

the more you appear ridiculous, and an object of contempt, and

the more I feel disposed, inclined, and finally determined, to

hate you. – Believe me I never had the least inclination to

offer you my hand and heart – Our last conversation has

I assure you, left a wretched insipidity, which has by no means

possessed me with the most exalted opinion of your character

Yes, madam, and you will much oblige me, by avoiding me.

And if ever we are united, I shall experience nothing but the

fearful hatred of my parents, added to an everlasting dis-

pleasure of living with you. Yes, madam, I think sincerely –

You need not put yourself to the smallest trouble or send or

write me an answer – Adieu. And believe me that I am

so averse to you, that it is really impossible I should ever be.


Your affectionate lover till death

W. Goff

To Miss M. Wi____ms.

Although it is unknown if Mr Goff or Miss Wi__ms [Williams?] were real, the cleverly written letter shows an inventive way of sending a Valentine's Day message to a loved one.

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