Love Is In The Air

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we take a look at love in the Archives! 

As Valentine’s Day approaches at Suffolk Record Office, we often think of the beautiful nineteenth century paper cuts in our collections, produced by Elizabeth Cobbold (1765 – 1824).  Paper cuts (not the painful kind!) were popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as sentimental keepsakes or as a form of portraiture.  The pastime is still very popular today, with patterns and designs easily available online.

Elizabeth was famed for her Valentine’s Day parties.  It was surely deliberate that the year after Elizabeth’s death, her friend Laetitia Jermyn completed a memoir of her on Valentine’s Day, 1825.  In her memoir, included in “Poems by Elizabeth Cobbold with a Memoir of the Author”, Laetitia 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 below of a fortune teller.  

Elizabeth Cobbold is recognised as an intellectual, 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 Valentine’s paper cuts were cut in plain uncoloured paper and afterwards mounted on to red or (like the example) blue paper. She typically composed a poem to accompany them.

The poem here 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

Other Valentine’s Day gems in our collections include the charming little postcard below.  Like the paper cuts, a bit different to today’s commercial Valentine’s Day cards!

Postcard from early 20th Century (K1321/1)

Postcard from early 20th Century (K1321/1)

Suffolk, HistoryCarly Frances