V is for Valentines

It was surely deliberate that the year after Elizabeth Cobbold’s death, Laetitia Jermyn completed her memoir of her friend on “St Valentine’s Day, 1825”. In her memoir, included in “Poems by Elizabeth Cobbold with a Memoir of the Author”, she relates how for “nearly twenty years the hospitable mansions of the Cliff and Holy Wells were enlivened by an annual party on the evening of St Valentine’s Day”. These parties are described as full of entertainment and amusement but also “great taste and elegance”.

During the party guests who were unmarried were invited to pluck out of a basket a folded paper sheet within which were paper cuts on a Valentine’s Day theme like the one shown here. Elizabeth Cobbold is recognised as an intelligent lady having published poetry and a novel from a young age and she also pursued interests in natural history, languages and the arts; she was a keen supporter of charitable works too. Her light-hearted Valentines paper cuts were cut in plain uncoloured paper and afterwards mounted onto red or like the present example blue paper. She composed a poem to accompany them.

Hand-made valentine, attributed to Mrs Elizabeth Cobbold, [c1810] (HD1027/1)

The poem here, depicting a fortune-teller, reads:

“Cross My Hand, Worthy Sir, and I’ll freely relate
What for you is inscribed in the records of fate;
Whatever of Magical Skill you can fancy.
Of Palmistry’s Lines, or expert Chiromancy
I know, and am skilled in Egyptian Astronomy,
But an adept am chiefly in grave Physiognomy.
I know by the turn of your Nose and your Chin
At Cards you must lose and in Battle must win;
By the Lines of your Brow and the Form of your Eyes,
One may venture to fancy you valiant and wise.
What more of your Fate would you wish me to prove?
Would you know if your Lot is successful in Love?
A Hint shall suffice, and, since Myst’ry my trade is,
That Lot you must read in the Eyes of the Ladies”