Old Valentine Again, 1848

Tristrim Lowther Skinner’s Valentine verses


Old Valentine again has come –

With joy to most, tho’ grief to some;

And we who are young and gay should be,

Free to receive him merrily. 

sentimental closeup u glasgow RB 2499:16

Detail from the cover of The Sentimental Valentine Writer, 1850. University of Glasgow, Special Collections, RB 2499/16.


So I, most humble though I be,

Would raise my voice in praise of thee;

And bowing lowly at thy shrine,

Become thy faithful Valentine.


Oh! had I but the magic art,

To express the feelings of my heart,

I’d bid my muse to plume her wings,

To soar above all earthly things.


Be Mine, Art institute Chicago

Above, an English Valentine lithograph by Joseph Mansell, 1845-1850. Chicago Institute of Art. At the time that Tristrim Skinner wrote this 1848 Valentine poem, American Valentine cards were not yet commercially distributed in the United States. Expensive, elaborate cut-lace cards were imported from England throughout the 1840s until Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, formed the New England Valentine Company and imported English paper lace and floral designs. She created a dozen sample cards in 1849 and placed  her first advertisement in 1850.


But he who would praise excellence,

That’s true, and free from all pretence;

Must raise his thoughts afar above,

All else on earth except true love.


And I with wings unused to soar;

To realms so far above the sky

Could offer but a tribute poor,

To her whose praise I place so high,


To do thee justice well I see,

Would need a favoured Poet’s pen;

And I, not brave, but rash, would be,

To make the attempt: what can I then:


I needs must leave the tack undone,

Until some far more favored son,

Of song, shall raise in after days

Aided by Jove to sing thy praise.


Maiden Fair of Hgh Degree 1845-1850 by Joseph Mansell, English.

“Maiden Fair of High Degree,” 1845-1850, by Joseph Mansell, English. Collaged elements with water-colour on cut and embossed paper. Art Institute of Chicago.


Yet lest I fail entirely,

To win the heart I love so well;

I’ll write a few more lines, & try,

My heart’s best wishes even to tell.


Twas love first taught the birds to use,

This day, their annual mates to choose;

And shall not we my lady fair,

Follow the sweet birds of the air?


In all excepting one respect,

I’ll let them teach me to select;

They keep their mates but one short year,

While I through life would hold mine dear.


Then, by the magic power of love,

Or by those beaming eyes of thine;

I promise faithful e’er to prove,

If you’ll make me your Valentine


Feb: 14th 1848


valentine writer

Tristrim Lowther Skinner probably composed the above verses but it is possible he could have adapted them from a guide, such as The Sentimental Valentine Writer.


Valentine poem excerpted from Mary Maillard, ed., The Belles of Williamsburg: The Courtship Correspondence of Eliza Fisk Harwood and Tristrim Lowther Skinner 1839-1849 (January 2015). Available at Kindle, Kobo, iBooks.

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