‘Poem, Song, and Valentine’s Card’ from Grimston Family of Grimston Garth, circa 1760-1850 (archive ref DDGR/38/31)
For some, poetry is a dying art. With technology like text messaging, emails, and social media, you could argue that the way in which we express ourselves to our loved ones is becoming more plain and abbreviated. What a treasure it is then, to be able to search back through time for words of inspiration, to an age when it was common for people to engage in long verses just to say ‘I love you’.
Here at East Riding Archives, among our landed estate collections – the archives of the Grimston Family of Grimston Garth – are two examples of how love has been expressed over the past 250 years.
The first is what we would today call a Valentine’s card, from the mid-19th Century, entitled ‘On the Pleasures of Hope: Joys I Double, Sorrows I Divide’, in which a 16-year old youth proposes marriage in a heartfelt message to a girl named Florence, of the same age.
The verse ends:
“To share with me both real and woe,
Oh! Do not! Do not answer no
The blushing whispers meek and mild,
Can you consent to wed a child?
If so, I’m ready to be thine,
So take me for your Valentine.”
Such profound words from someone so young; nowadays, he would probably just put a photo or video out on his Instagram! These powerful words coming from an adolescent young man may seem unusual to us now, but this was quite normal around the 1850s, and people tended to marry at a younger age.
The boy’s use of the word ‘child’ should perhaps not be taken too literally, as it seems that he uses this more as a poetic alternative to the words ‘youth’ or ‘adolescent’.
Also in the Grimston papers is a song from around 1760, entitled ‘The Constant Lover’ by the famous baroque composer William Boyce. It was probably written for the organ, and would have been the 18th Century equivalent of a pop song. Our copy of the songsheet is by no means unique, in fact it was published widely at the time, but it provides us with a fine example of an 18th Century love song.
We were keen to know what it would’ve sounded like, so asked professional musician Nick Pymm and his wife Jessica, a professional singer to perform their interpretation of the song. Have a listen to the recording (above).
By Sam Bartle