If you think “posting” thoughts is something belonging to the 21st Century form of communication, think again. People have been “posting” their thoughts for hundreds of years. Here’s an example of 19th-20th Century posting. The above image is entitled: “Love’s Letter Box” by Arthur Hopkins (1848-1930). It depicts a young maiden posting a secret letter to her lover in their pre-arranged letter box. I wonder if this was “posted” on St. Valentine’s Day?
St. Valentine was a martyr whose Saint’s day is celebrated each year on 14th February. There are two Valentine’s who vie for this title. One was a Roman priest who was martyred on the Falminian Way under Claudius; the other, a Bishop of Terni who was martyred in Rome but whose relics were translated to Terni. Some even claim that both of these persons are one and the same. However; neither have any connection with lovers or courting couples. It has been suggested that St.Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14 February because it is the day when birds are supposed to pair – a belief at least as old as Chaucer. (from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 1978).
This may also explain Shakespeare’s reference to St. Valentine in his Midsummer Nights Dream : “St. Valentine is past: Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?”
As for the artist: Arthur Hopkins, the son of a prosperous marine insurance agent, was born on 30th December, 1848, in Stratford, London. He was educated at Lancing College in Sussex and after graduation worked in a London office before entering the Royal Academy school in 1872.
He exhibited in various London galleries including the Royal Water-Colour Society as well as the Royal Academy, painting in the genre of scenes of country life. As an illustrator, he contributed many illustrations over a 25 year period to The Graphic, Punch, and The Illustrated London News. He was made an Associate of the Royal Water-Colour Society in 1877 and became a member in 1896.
Although he died in 1930, his romantic and other works still touch hearts today, let alone this ‘early’ post to a young maiden’s lover.
To Wit or To Woo – A Happy St. Valentine’s Day to You!