14th of February – St Valentine’s Day

St Valentine, priest and martyr, circ. 270. St Abraames, bishop of Carres, 422. St Maro, abbot in Syria, 433. St Auxentius, hermit, of Bithynia, circ. 470. St Conran, bishop of Orkney, 7th century.


Born. – Camille, Duke de Tallard, 1652, Dauphiné. 
Died. – Pope Innocent I., 417.



_20190204_232815.JPGALENTINE’S DAY is now almost everywhere a much degenerated festival, the only observance of any note consisting merely of the sending of jocular anonymous letters to parties whom one wishes to quiz, and this confined very much to the humbler classes. The approach of the day is now heralded by the appearance in the print-sellers’ shop windows of vast numbers of missives calculated for use on this occasion, each generally consisting of a single sheet of post paper, on the first page of which is seen some ridiculous coloured caricature of the male or female figure, with a few burlesque verses below. More rarely, the print is of a sentimental kind, such as a view of Hymen’s altar, with a pair undergoing initiation into wedded happiness before it, while Cupid flutters above, and hearts transfixed with his darts decorate the corners. Maid-servants and young fellows interchange such epistles with each other on the 14th of February, no doubt conceiving that the joke is amazingly good; and, generally, the newspapers do not fail to record that the postmen delivered so many hundred thousand more letters on that day than they do in general. Such is nearly the whole extent of the observances now peculiar to St Valentine’s Day.

At no remote period it was very different. Ridiculous letters were unknown; and, if letters of any kind were sent, they contained only a courteous profession of attachment from some young man to some young maiden, honeyed with a few compliments to her various perfections, and expressive of a hope that his love might meet with return. But the true proper ceremony of St Valentine’s Day was the drawing of a kind of lottery, followed by ceremonies not much unlike what is generally called the game of forfeits. Mission, a learned traveller, of the early part of the last century, gives apparently a correct account of the principal ceremonial of the day. ‘On the eve of St Valentine’s Day,’ he says, ‘the young folks in England and Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate a little festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors get together; each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men’s billets, and the men the maids’; so that each of the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man whom she calls hers. By this means each has two valentines; but the man sticks faster to the valentine that has fallen to him than to the valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms, or sleeves, and this little sport often ends in love._20190204_232953.JPG

The origin of these peculiar observances of St Valentine’s Day is a subject of some obscurity. The saint himself, who was a priest of Rome, martyred in the third century,1 seems to have had nothing to do with the matter, beyond the accident of his day being used for the purpose. Mr Douce, in his Illustrations of Shakspeare, says: ‘It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honour of Pan and Juno, whence the latter deity was named Februata, Februalis, and Februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian church, who, by every possible means, endeavoured to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstitions, and chiefly by some commutations of their forms, substituted, in the present instance, the names of particular saints instead of those of the women; and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St Valentine’s Day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time. This is, in part, the opinion of a learned and rational compiler of the Lives of the Saints, the Rev. Alban Butler. It should seem, however, that it was utterly impossible to extirpate altogether any ceremony to which the common people had been much accustomed – a fact which it were easy to prove in tracing the origin of various other popular superstitions. And, accordingly, the outline of the ancient ceremonies was preserved, but modified by some adaptation to the Christian system. It is reasonable to suppose, that the above practice of choosing mates would gradually became reciprocal in the sexes, and that all persons so chosen would be called Valentines, from the day on which the ceremony took place.’


1  Valentine met a sad death, being first beaten with clubs and then beheaded. The greater part of his remains are preserved in the church of St Praxedes at Rome, where a gate (now the Porta del Popolo) was formerly named from him Porta Valentini.


On this Day in Other Sources.



On the 14th, she proceeded to Burnt-Island, where she slept. Chatelard, notwithstanding, followed her into Fife, and came to Burnt-Island, on the 14th: And, the Queen having retired into her bed chamber, Chatelard presented himself before her, coming in, immediately, after her; to clear himself, as he said, from the former imputation against his conduct. Astonished at his audacity, “the Queen herself was fain to cry for help:” The Earl of Murray was sent for, when the Queen, amidst her agitations, commanded her minister to put his dagger in him: But Murray thought proper, to send him to ward; reserving this daring, or infatuated miscreant, to the due course of law, which would lay open the whole transaction.

– Life of Mary, pp.78-98.



When [Regent Murray’s] remains were committed to the tomb in which they still lie, the thousands who crowded the church were moved to tears by the burning eloquence of Knox. “Vpoun the xiiij [14] day of the moneth of Februar, 1570,” says the “Diurnal of Occurrents” “my lord Regentis corpis, being brocht in ane bote be sey, fra Stirling to Leith, quhair it was keipit in Johne Wairdlaw his hous, and thereafter cary it to the Palace of Holyrudhous, wes transportit fra the said Palace to the College Kirk of Sanctgeill, in this manner; that is to say, William Kirkaldie of Grange, Knycht, raid fra the said palace in dule weid, bearing ane pensall quherin was contenit ane Reid Lyon; after him followit Colvill of Cleishe, Maister (of the) Houshold to the said Regent, with ane quherin was contenit my lords regentis armes and bage.” The Earls of Mar, Athole, Glencairn, the Lords Ruthven, Methven, and Lindsay, the Master of Grham, and many other nobles, bore the body through the church to the grave, where it “was buryit in Sanct Anthonie’s yle.”

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.138-148.



Feb. 14. [1577] – The Regent, seeing the present abundance of corns in the country, and considering how in bypast times of dearth the people of Scotland had ‘received large help and support of victuals out of the easter seas, France, Flanders, and England,’ thought it proper that ‘the like favour and guid neighbourheid, charity and amity, should be extendit towards the people of the said countries in this present year, when it has pleasit God to visie them with the like dearth and scarcity.’

– Domestic Annals, pp.56-80.



“Notwithstanding of all this paines their appearing no hopes of a reconcilment their was a petition given in by the merchands on the 13 of Febr: 1661 narrating all the former storie with the overtours and intreating the counsell to interpose for setling their debates conforme to the tenor of the last act: which being red on the 14 of Feb: in counsell James Borthwick showed their were some neibhours at the door that had some thing to say; which being called in compeired a promiscuous crue of merchands and crafts, amongs whom Jo: Milne presented a bill desiring to have up the merchands bill to sie and answer: who being all removed the Counsell fell in agitation if the crafts should have up the merchands bill to see or no, or if they should presently fall on the consideration of the merchands bill and their overtures and give ane answer theirto or if they sould refer it to a committee of their oune number (as before) or if whether they should not medle in it seeing its already tabled before the Parliament: upon all such quæries when the Counsell was ready to voice James Borthwick not being able to disuade them from it he rose up with the rest of the crafts in counsell and protested in name of the haill trades that their might be no voicing in that businesse being a thing that so nearlie concerned the liberties of the trades and theiron asked instruments: Immediately also Baillie Jossie protested in name of the Counsell that the major part of the Counsell might proceid in that busines as verie competent to them to voit in and give their answer: Then James Borthwick with the remanent Deacons and Counsellers of crafts removed out of doors and the Counsell being the major part went to voycing and fand it fit to leive it to the Parliament. Upon all which the premises their was ane act of Counsell made dated the 14 of Februar 1661.”

– Scots Lore, pp.78-84.



On the 14th of February, 1705, appeared the first number of the Edinburgh Courant, a simple folio broadsheet, published by James Watson, in Craig’s Close. Its place was afterwards taken by MacEwen’s Edinburgh Courant, in 1718, a permanent success to this day. It was a Whig print, and caused the starting of the now defunct Caledonian Mercury, in the Jacobite interest, a little quarto of two leaves.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.198-203.

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