An advice column by Persuasion’s own Mary Musgrove
It’s beginning to look a lot like Valentine’s Day. Or so says a popular song from your era, adapted for the occasion. And this could very well be the case in the Metropolis, where the shops are filled with fashionable gifts for ladies.
But here in the village shop, we are lucky if there is a stack of flowered cards for sale. These are sent to sweethearts or to officers away in the war. But I say, why not to one’s devoted and hard-working wife?
And if one is spending money on a card, why not a box of chocolates instead? Candies are just as temporary, here today and gone tomorrow, and are much more enjoyable than words on paper.
And if one is buying chocolates–which are not good for the figure–why not lay out a bit more for a gold necklace or a gown? One should spend money on items that will last, I say. Or at least for something that the receiver will enjoy.
Try as I might, my husband ignores my hints and suggestions. I might as well be speaking to the wind.
But if the boys ask for something, he immediately complies: a pig-a-back ride or a tramp in the woods or a trip to his kennels to see the new puppies. Sometimes he will spend pennies for sweets.
I suppose I ought to prompt the boys to ask for a present for me. Ah, but Little Charles is as mulish as his father. And Walter is too young to properly say ‘gown’ (or ‘gloves’ or ‘spring bonnet’). I might have to settle for a new ‘hat.’ But that lisp of his is troubling. It would be very like Charles to give me a ‘cat’ instead.
No one knows what I suffer.
According to Charles, I have enough in my quarterly allowance for gowns and such, and should not be hinting for gifts. He has no idea. The prices here are a scandal! A lady cannot go about wearing rags!
Unless my husband wises up, I shall have to settle for a Valentine’s bouquet–gathered by him at the last desperate minute from the meadow. But only if the daffodils or bluebells bloom early. Last year it was a sad little clump of winter aconites.
But really, what good is a Valentine’s token if one’s neighbors do not see it? So I must go to the trouble of arranging a dinner party in order to display Charles’ bouquet, straining the household budget even more. It would be so much simpler if he would buy a proper gift in the first place.
To help my husband remember the holiday, I am teaching the boys this nursery poem:
The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou’d be you.
I do not think much of Fortune’s choice for me, but one does what one can. I trust your Valentine will do better at gift-giving.
Mary Elliot Musgrove
Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.
Future Mistress of Uppercross
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Poem is from Gammer Gurton’s Garland (1784)
Mary’s “portrait” is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini