Friday, 14 February 2014

Show someone you care on Valentines day

Assistant Curator, Louisa Knight, searches for romantic gestures in MoDA's collections...

Gift-giving is de rigueur on Valentine's Day, and last year we brought to your attention such gifts as cards or lingere. However, gift exchange is by no means the only action we should link to the adjective 'romantic'. Indeed, if romance is the display and expression of strong affection and love, then there are many other things one can do to show someone you care.

Take H.W. Longfellow as an example. The American poet expressed his feelings for his future wife Fiona Appleton with a seven year, relentless pursuit of her hand in marriage. Longfellow first met Appleton in 1839 and the next years were a demonstration of his constancy, faithfulness and determination towards her as again and again his proposals of marriage were turned down. In 1839, Longfellow published Hyperion, a book of prose which was also a thinly disguised tale of their courtship.

Title page for Hyperion: A Romance, by H.W. Longfellow, published by H.G. Clarke, 1844
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (CH/5/5/129)
The problem is of course, if a lover's advances are not welcomed, there is the danger that what was once romantic is instead perceived as clingy, delusional and annoying. Happily for Longfellow it worked out in the end: four years after Hyperion, Appleton accepted his proposal, they married and went on to have six children.

Longfellow is not everyone's idea of a romantic. For others, it is practical and helpful acts which are most appreciated. This article in a 1920's woman's magazine relates how one man chooses to "spoil" his wife once a week by cleaning the house and making Sunday lunch.

Page 20 article from Woman's Life magazine, 20 June 1929
Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (MJ144)

It should be noted that Woman's Life was aimed at a female readership and therefore the chance of a husband coming across this article of his own accord were slim. It would therefore need to be shared or casually left lying around the house if someone wanted it to catch the eye of their spouse.

On the other hand, if gift giving is still your thing, you could always order your loved-one a t-shirt, mug or mobile phone cover featuring a MoDA design.  Will that impress your beloved more than indulging yourself in "an orgy of domesticity"?  Let us know!

Happy Valentine's Day. We hope this year someone knows just the things you consider romantic!

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