Emma Butcher
Emma Butcher, Lecturer in English Literature and Culture

Contrary to popular belief, Valentine’s Day is not just a money-making PR stunt. An Edge Hill University expert in 19th century literature explains why she believes it should be reviewed in the spirit it was first intended all those years ago.

Emma Butcher, Lecturer in English Literature and Culture, uses the classic tale of the Brontë sisters and when they received their first Valentine’s cards in 1840 to explain the history, where the concept came from and why the trend has continued to this day.

“One story that is well documented and studied by literature students all over the world is that of the Brontë sisters and their first ever Valentine’s cards,” said Emma.

“When close family friend to the Brontë sisters, William Weightman, learned that Charlotte, Emily and Anne had never received a Valentine’s card, he took it upon himself to ensure they received one each that year. Following the arrival of the cards and figuring out who had sent them, the girls wrote a collective poem in return.”

It has been written that William was Anne’s only love interest, but just two years later this story sadly ended when he caught Cholera and died on 6th September 1842. Historians will never know if William’s efforts, walking 10 miles attempting to post the cards anonymously, would have eventually won over the charms of Anne or how their lives might have panned out differently. But the trend of Valentine’s Day has continued ever since and while some critics say it’s lost its true meaning and a way for businesses to cash in on love, Emma feels differently.

“At the heart of Valentine’s Day is a reminder to love and appreciate each other,” said Emma. “And that, especially now, we could all view as an opportunity to spread some cheer and appreciation to those that enrich our lives.”

Emma continued: “Anne and Emily never married, and Charlotte only agreed to marry in later life, initially turning her future husband down, and then died less than a year after in the early stages of pregnancy. So, there is a lot of sadness in terms of love and loss in their lives. William Weightman influenced Anne’s writing – with her writing a string of love poems after his death.

“I believe Weightmans’s death had a profound impact on all the family, and only added to a list of youthful deaths that shaped their lives. That’s what make their novels so haunting and affecting.”

To read more about the Bronte sisters and Valentine’s Day, take a look at Emma’s blog post.

It’s International Book Giving Day on 14th as well as Valentine’s Day – have you ever read one of the Brontë sisters novels?  Would you recommend them to a friend or love interest?

For more information on English Literature and Creative Writing courses at Edge Hill University, visit the course pages on our website.