Bile By Post

Vinegar Valentine 4

Vinegar Valentine 3

Vinegar Valentine 2Vinegar Valentine 1

One assumes that it’s the easy access to new technology that tempts people to leave malicious comments on blogs and feedback forms. But human nature, which is essentially nasty, is as old as the hills.

“There is nothing new under the Sun. It has all been done before,” Sherlock Holmes observes in “A Study in Scarlet.” Which is to say that what people do today, they’ve done before.

From around the 1840s until the 1940s, there was a fiendish practice of sending anonymous notes on Valentine’s Day to people one didn’t like. They were named “Vinegar Valentines” because they didn’t leave the sweet aftertaste of a Valentine card.

They were very cheaply made cards that carried a printed satirical image. Directly underneath it would be a five-line doggerel verse, which dissed and lampooned a physical or personality trait of the recipient.

They could vary in their tone from being playfully mocking to hurtfully insulting to downright vitriolic.

Before they began to be mass-produced in the 1840s, they’d be sent out on a single sheet of paper that was folded, and sealed with a clump of wax.

And in the days before the pre-paid stamp, the person, who got this hate mail, even paid for the insult.


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