by Jeannie Swales
To mark St Valentine’s Day, a lonely hearts with a difference.
Our hero, a ‘poor, lone Man’, has no truck with the usual fripperies of romance; we have no idea if he’s tall, dark and handsome, or has a GSOH. He’s just fed up of dealing with day-to-day domesticity, and wants a wife to do it for him.
It’s easy to forget that for many centuries, marriage was very much a practical enterprise, with love often low on the list of priorities. For wealthier families, it could be a case of enhancing that wealth even further by marrying into an equally well-off, or even richer, family. For young women of lesser means, it was a way of guaranteeing future security.
And, judging by today’s exhibit from Scarborough Museums Trust, for the less fortunate, it was a way of dividing the labour –presumably he would go out to work, while she stayed at home and tackled the housework.
His circumstances suggest he’s not a wealthy man, but perhaps a clerk or scribe – bed, washing line (complete with some interesting undergarments), fire for both heating and cooking, personal washing items and cat all jostle for space in a single room; the dining table even doubles as an ironing board.
We don’t know who sent this mid-Victorian Valentine, but let’s hope for his sake it worked –the verse is enough to make the heart bleed:
Pity the sorrows of a poor lone Man
With washing, and ironing, and cooking my meat,
I am dreadfully tired, and all in a heat;
Then my bed I must make, or must else tumble in,
With my heels a lot higher than eyes, nose and chin,
And my stove wants blackleading, or rusty will be,
O! dear, will no lady take pity on me?
I am wearied of dusting, and scouring, and mopping,
I’ve always a cold, with my messing and slopping;
And tho’ by and by in clean things out I go,
With my red coddled hands, I shan’t look like a Beau,
Now where’s the hard hearted young Woman who can
Read this and refuse so forlorn a lone Man.
This unusual Valentine’s card is part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects that have been acquired by the borough over the years, now in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust. For further information, please contact Collections Manager Jennifer Dunne on Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org or (01723) 384510.