Posted by Admin on behalf of Elizabeth Jack
On 14th February 1924 (in G.A. Ref: D37/1/510) Maynard Ciolchester Wemyss wrote to the King of Siam:
It is curious how customs and habits change. Today is Valentine’s Day and when I was young & in fact for some time afterwards, it was widely recognised as the chief day in the year for the love-lorn youths and maidens to exchange tokens of their affection. I believe the custom began with verses always supposed to be the production of the sender. I believe these date back for a great number of years. I think Pepys refers to them & very likely he was author of many amatory verses. Then I believe came the time when the love-lorn swain was himself the Valentine to be accepted as such or rejected by the lady of his choice though I don’t think her acceptance implied necessarily anything but a very temporary arrangement. Then much later on came the Penny Post and with it the printed and illustrated Valentine no longer the prided product of the sender and though the swain was only, at first, supposed to send one, the maiden might rake in as many as she could get, and regarded them as sort of trophies, somewhat in the light that an Indian warrior regarded the scalps of his enemies. Now-a-days one never hears of such a thing as a Valentine and very few people indeed realize or remember that 14th February has any special history attaching to it. I never could make out how or why the custom came to be associated with St. Valentine. I believe he was a nameless and blameless individual who came to a tragic end. How different is the position and life of a young girl now to what her grandmother’s was in the days when she received tributes of Valentines and perhaps very demurely admitted their receipt. I am conservative enough to feel a little regret when such an innocent and humble little custom as this passes into oblivion. It is one of the vanishing links with the past and I always regret it when these links are broken.