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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.


ALENTINE’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.

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.

The marquis of Huntly assembled his forces first at Turriff, and afterwards at Kintore, whence he marched upon Aberdeen, which he took possession of in name of the king. The marquis being informed shortly after his arrival in Aberdeen, that a meeting of covenanters, who resided within his district, was to be held at Turriff on the fourteenth day of February [1639], he resolved to disperse them. He therefore wrote letters to his chief dependents, requiring them to meet him at Turriff the same day, and bring with them their usual arms. One of these letters fell into the hands of the earl of Montrose, who determined at all hazards to protect the meeting of his friends, the covenanters. In pursuance of this resolution, he collected, with great alacrity, some of his best friends in Angus, and with his own and their dependents, to the number of about eight hundred men, he crossed the range of hills called the Grangebean, and took possession of Turriff on the morning of the fourteenth of February. When Huntly’s party arrived during the course of the day, they were surprised at seeing the little churchyard of the village filled with armed men; and they were still more surprised to observe them levelling their hagbuts at them across the walls of the churchyard. Not knowing how to act in the absence of the marquis, they retired to a place called the Broad Ford of Towie, about two miles south from the village, when they were soon joined by Huntly and his suite. After some consultation, the marquis, after parading his men in order of battle along the north-west side of the village, in sight of Montrose, dispersed his party, which amounted to two thousand men, without offering to attack Montrose, on the pretence that his commission of lieu tenancy only authorised him to act on the defensive. This act of pusillanimity weakened the confidence of his friends.1 

– History of the Highlands, pp.314-341.

1  Spalding, vol. i. p. 94. 


“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.

   “What’s in a name? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur [Change the name and the story’s about you]. When, as occasion served, we drew attention to the practice, across the border, or regularly sinking the first article of the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, and calling the United Kingdom of Great Britain by the diminutive misnomer, ‘England,’ we were met by such queries as these – ‘What’s in a name? why bother so much about trifles?’ In these practical days, it was said, people care nothing about such matters; and, when the point was brought out somewhat more prominently in the able letters of our correspondent, ‘North Briton,’ to Lord Palmerston and others, a deal of dull wit was expended on the subject by the London journals, as well as some of our friends nearer home. One contemporary spoke of the protest against the practice as ‘silly.’ Another assured his readers that ‘the term England was used for the empire, just as ‘grey hairs’ designated old age!’ And a third declared that sensible people cared not a straw ‘whether we were called Scotch or English, cannibals or Hottentots,’ provided we got rid of some pecuniary inequalities, or, otherwise ‘secured a share of the honest plunder!’ The London Examiner was one of those newspapers which saw nothing the people of Scotland should complain of in having their country dealt with as an appendage of England. Now, as an instructive commentary on all this, we shall quote from the Examiner, of Saturday week, the following paragraph –   

   THE KINGDOM OF PIEDMONT. – ‘To call this state by its legal title of Sardinia is about as absurd as it would be to include the British monarchy under the appellation of the kingdom of Alderney or Sark. At no time was Sardinia ever an independent kingdom; it is not the parent stock of the monarchy it is made to designate; it is not and never can become the seat of its government. It has neither hereditary nor traditional pretensions, nor present an actual importance to justify its pretensions. In population the island of Sardinia does not contain one tenth part of the subjects of the King of Piedmont; it does not yield one twentieth part of the revenues of the state; its trade, its wealth, its intelligence, form but a small and insignificant part of the strength of the kingdom; its position is not favourable to their increase; and though its mineral resources are no doubt great, its fatal climate forbids, and prevents, the importation of foreign capital and skill, by which only they can ever be turned to account on a large scale. Titles in this, as in most cases, have not been arbitrarily or stupidly selected. The appellation of Sardinia to the new Piedmontese monarchy was selected, in the interests of Austrian supremacy in the Italian peninsula, to disassociate from the minds and hopes of Italians the notion of a native monarchy, to preserve and perpetuate their divisions and divided allegiance, to check the growth of nationality and freedom, and to refer the only monarchy to a barren, semi-barbarous, unimportant island, as the source of its power, and so to degrade and humiliate it.’   

   Aye, soon as the scales of self-conceit and self-interest are removed from the eyes of our Southern contemporary, nobody can see more clearly, or feel more keenly, or protest more stoutly, that important consequences may result from the use of ‘a name.’ With regard to this said State of Sardinia, or Piedmont – which neither in revenue nor social importance exceeds Scotland – although it may be said to derive much of its present interest from the attitude it has assumed, assimilating it in a great measure to that of Scotland in the days of our Reforming ancestors, in the case of Sardinia or Piedmont, the Examiner would ignore the legal title, for the sake of the associations connected with another. For Scotland, on the other hand, we would retain the legal title, because the adoption of another is calculated – aye, and deliberately used – to ‘disassociate from the minds’ of Scotsmen the recollection of the true position of their country – calculated and intended to ‘check the growth of nationality,’ or rather to denationalize, and so ‘to degrade and humiliate’ our people. We gladly quote such an authority as the Examiner in favour of our principle of nationality.”   

– Glasgow Constitutional, Wednesday 14th February, 1855.



   The third annual meeting of this association was held yesterday at two o’clock in Professor Kelland’s class-room. There was a numerous attendance.   

   Professor CHRISTISON then said that he was a very old and a very radical University reformer… He would not enter into the general question of University reform; but there were one or two points on which he would make some observations. He thought the exclusion of Scottish medical graduates from enjoying the right to practise in England, was unjust and extraordinary. If any one would take the trouble to look over the Treaty of Union, he would find it impossible to doubt that the commissioners of both countries entered on their task with an anxiety and determination to accomplish all that could be done to effect a brotherhood and copartnery between the two nations by introducing a reciprocity in all the ordinary walks of life, wherever, at least, there was no difficulty arising from the difference of the institutions of the two countries. In the theological department, he was afraid Dr Guthrie would tell them that the differences were too great to admit of reciprocity. In the department of law, he was also afraid their late president would inform them that the statutes of the two countries were too wide apart to admit of reciprocity there; but he was at a loss to discover where any such obstacle existed in the department of physic. And would it be believed by the medical historian who, centuries hence, might have to write the history of the past twenty-seven years, that, notwithstanding the most vigorous exertions had been made by many of the most enlightened men in Scotland and England, they were at this day not a bit farther forward, and that the graduates of the Scottish Universities and the licentiates of their incorporations were still incompetent to practise their profession in England.”   

– Edinburgh Evening Courant, Saturday 14th February, 1857.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1850-1875.

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