"How do I love thee?" In the case of the Victorians, with a whopping, sarcastic dose of vinegar. Yes, many Victorian valentine cards were adorned with a sweet and sentimental mass of Cupids, flora, lace, and sentiments like "True love of mine, my heart is thine." Valentine's Day also, however, was a chance to anonymously send nasty notes to unbeloved ex-mates, employers, neighbors, lawyers, suffragettes, educated women, pompous men, or anyone deemed worthy of disdain and criticism. Called "vinegar valentines," these missives were hate mail at its taunting and caustic worst.
As with other myths about Valentine's Day, it's also not true that Victorians were mushy sentimentalists when it came to love and letters. The cards, which weren't even folded cards but rather postcards or single sheets of cheap paper, featured a few lines of derisive verse paired with unflattering illustrations. Men and women were both targets of vinegar valentines, also called mock, satirical, or comic valentines.
Adding even more sting, in the days when receivers rather than senders paid for mail, the unfortunate card recipients had to pay to be insulted.
1. The Lemon Recipient, Circa 1909Vicious Valentine?
2. The Cat Lady, Circa 1875Vicious Valentine?
3. The Reading Woman, Circa 1875Vicious Valentine?
4. The Drunkard, Circa 1875Vicious Valentine?