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9 Incredibly Cruel Valentine's Day Cards From Victorian Times

If you're alone this Valentine's Day, just be grateful it's not 1850 and someone sent you a card to comment on your "most hideous teeth".

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(Except for these two smug lovers, it seems.)

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According to Stephanie Boydell, curator at the Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections, people would send anonymous "vinegar Valentines" to someone they hated.

It was a way to tell someone something you could never say to their face – like calling them fat or bad at singing. Like a Victorian subtweet.

Boydell told BuzzFeed that it was a way to tell people off for not conforming to societal expectations: "There is some suggestion that there may have been a moral undertone to this, chastising those who didn't behave according to social norms."

"Some are quite nasty and we must suppose they were sent to people that were disliked, but some are more gentle and might be given someone you were fond of," Boydell said. "I'm sure some would have found them quite amusing."

1. These cards are totally still relevant, right? For example, is your lady friend a "saucy puss"? Absolutely. Then this horrendous card is perfect for her:

"You saucy Puss I am affraid,
That at the last you'll die a maid.
Among your sex there are but few,
That can use their tongues like you.
Let nothing tempt you to be witty,
You cannot and you are not pretty."

"Proudly strutting all the day,
Thinking you're so very gay,
Your figure here you see.
And though you'd make a 'plucky swain'
And crow so loud, it will be vain,
You'll not crow over me!"

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3. Or, if you have a friend who's "worse than an ass", send him this friendly poem which even contains a centuries-old grammatical error:

"You're no man but a Baboon about town,
A more ignorant Monkey never was known,
In taverns can sit with a pot and a glass,
But open you're [sic] mouth you're worse than an Ass,
No woman of sense would take such a fool,
Only suited for a scullery maid's tool
Besides your folly, the knavery you've got,
Shows you're only rubbish fit to be shot."

"I only just heard you're in want of a wife,

So I send you a portrait that's true to the life.

You'd like her much younger of that I've no doubt,

But if you won't have her, why then go without."

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"You're ladylike and very pretty,
And it seems almost a pity,
That you're such a sad coquette,
The greatest flirt I ever met."

"My dear, the truth alone I utter
In saying you're as fat as butter,
Fat ladies I love, so don't decline,
To be my charming Valentine"

8. If you want to reinforce Victorian notions of femininity (who doesn't??) upon your girlfriend who loves guns, then you can't do better than this one:

"You're a strong minded creature? Oh yes, there's no doubt,
With the hounds or the Enfield you're safe to turn out,
All your habits are masculine, forward, and bold,
And if ever a wife – won't you make a rare scold.
Learn to sew on a shirt button, (and they are no trifles,)
And give over this mania for hunters and rifles."

"The Lynx's eyes, the Baboon's face
All may in this remembrance trace
The growling Wolf's most hideous teeth
Are seen, the Bear's wide snout beneath
And is it true
That this is you?"

For more from the MMU's collection of Victorian Ephemera, see their website here.

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