Photograph of Grace MArksSecond Year History student Grace Marks has curated a display on Victorian ‘vinegar valentines’ as part of her history community project module.

The display will be featured at the Atkinson in Southport as part of the ‘We Are Not Amused’ exhibition on nineteenth-century humour. ‘We Are Not Amused’ is curated by researchers in Edge Hill’s EHU Nineteen research group, who helped to mentor Grace’s research.

Love was a fertile subject for Victorian humour, and humour was also a big part of nineteenth-century courtship. But some Victorians clearly had a crueller sense of humour and sent ‘Vinegar Valentines’ to people they disliked. Vinegar Valentines featured insulting verses which pointed out the recipient’s flaws and were popular in Britain and America from the 1840s.

Vinegar Valentine showing an unflattering cartoon of a woman reading.

Vinegar Valentine’s card, c1875. Image: Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton and Hove

Vinegar valentine showing an unflattering cartoon of a man with a broken heartGrace has been researching this curious trend in the archives of the Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton and Hove. She explained that:

‘Before I started this project, I wasn’t aware this kind of material existed and it was so much fun reading some of the harsher cards they sent. It contrasts the lovey-dovey assumption I had of the Victorian era and sheds a new light on Victorian humour.’

‘My favourite fact I learnt from this project was that it was the receiver of the post that had to pay for the delivery, therefore the poor souls had to pay to be insulted!’

‘This project has also taught me a lot about writing for different audiences. Writing for the public was very different to writing for my courses. I learnt how to adapt my style and be very concise. I am interested in a career in the museum/heritage industry so I have also learnt a lot about the logistics of curating an exhibition.’

You can see Grace’s display at The Atkinson in Southport from February 14th until March 2020.