Geoffrey Chaucer and Valentine’s Day
In “Civil War Valentine” Charlie Bristol sets up a display chronicling the history of Valentine’s Day. This display shows many heartfelt works of art as the old valentines were homemade. I love the art in the Victorian era and the valentines were beautiful. I remember making my own valentines for friends and family when I was a child. I’m not sure many people do that much any longer. It is so easy to just drive to the store and buy a box of valentines. In a sense the holiday has lost some of its sentimentality and magic. I wanted to remind people of the magic of the holiday and to remind them of simpler times. I hope I succeeded in my novella.
Valentine’s Day didn’t start as a commercial holiday. February 14th became a day associated with love thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer. The author of Canterbury Tales wrote a poem in 1382 entitled “Parliament of Fowles,” about the day when birds choose their mates. In the poem, an embodiment of Nature speaks to the birds:
Birds, take heed of what I say; and for your welfare and to further your needs I will hasten as fast as I can speak. You well know how on Saint Valentine’s Day, by my statute and through my ordinance, you come to choose your mates, as I prick you with sweet pain, and then fly on your way.
Chaucer’s poem references a pre-existing belief, at least in medieval England, that February 14 is the day when birds choose their mates. So the mating day for birds transformed into a celebration of romantic love.
Blurb Love, Valentine Style (Civil War Valentine by Haley Whitehall)
Recently divorced museum curator Charlie Bristol comes to Seattle to set up a display at the Fine Art museum chronicling the history of Valentine’s Day. The director of the museum surprises her with a package of Civil War valentines from an anonymous donor. She reads the heartfelt messages and is touched by his words. Does such powerful love still exist?
During a nap she dreams she’s alive during the Civil War and meets Elliot Lowery, the author of the valentines who mistakes her for his fiancée Charlotte. She and Elliot negotiate the murky waters of wartime romance. When she wakes she’s still under the dream's spell and Valentine’s Day love is in the air, but Charlotte has no reason to celebrate. The man she loves died 150 years ago. Unless love works some miracle even time and death cannot overcome.
Blending patriotism and romance, that didn’t happen in today’s society. It was fitting for the Civil War though, and despite the gory words it touched her. Even the back of the valentine was a piece of art. It was embossed with an eagle on the top, a man dressed as a Revolutionary War soldier at the bottom left hand quarter and a drum surrounded by flowers in the bottom right hand corner.
“That’s funny,” Charlie mused. “This valentine is addressed to a Charlotte Adams. My maiden name is Adams.”
“Oh. What a coincidence. I didn’t look through all the valentines this morning, but it looks like all of them are to this Charlotte Adams from her beau, Elliot Lowery.”
A shiver rippled from her neck to her ankles. “Do you know anything about this Elliot Lowery?”
“No. I haven’t had time; the valentines just came in this morning. Based on one of the old envelopes, Charlotte lived in Illinois, so I’m guessing he was a Union soldier.”
“I see. Well, if I have time after setting up everything I’ll see if I can learn a bit more about the sweethearts. It would be fun to print up information on them to include with the display. People love to make the human connection.”
Maybe she’d even find a picture of this Elliot Lowery. This intriguing mystery would help distract her from her heartache. It was going to be a lonely Valentine’s Day. The first since the divorce became final. Perhaps she could pretend that these one hundred fifty year old valentines had actually been written for her.
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Haley Whitehall lives in Washington State where she enjoys all four seasons and the surrounding wildlife. She writes historical fiction and historical romance set in the 19th century U.S. When she is not researching or writing, she plays with her cats, watches the Western and History Channels, and goes antiquing. She is hoping to build a time machine so she can go in search of her prince charming. A good book, a cup of coffee, and a view of the mountains make her happy. Visit Haley’s website at http://haleywhitehall.com.
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Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Haley-Whitehall/e/B0078EO6CE/