In it, she tells John she has asked her mother to put pressure on her father to increase her dowry, while at the same time saying that, if he loves her, he should be prepared to marry her anyway. It is thought the couple did eventually tie the knot and had two children.

The letter is noteworthy for two reasons. It shows that the concerns of five hundred years ago are in many ways instantly recognizable to modern eyes, and Brews used a particular salutation to address her beloved: "Unto my right well-beloved Valentine." The letter puts to rest any thought that Valentine’s Day, like Santa Claus, was a modern creation, something dreamed up by Hallmark to prompt sales. The Romans celebrated springtime’s return in early February, and mid-February marked the festival of Lupercalia, in which young men ran the hills of Rome beating women with the strips of goatskin called februa that gave the month its name. (The festival was possibly named after the god Lupercus, but was more likely named after the Lupercal, the cave where tradition said that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf before founding the Roman state.) The numerous Saints Valentine had absolutely nothing to do with the modern practice of Valentine’s Day; tales of him secretely wedding young lovers are a sort of folk etymology. Instead, the date of his feast day (now, like Saint Christopher’s, removed from the universal calendar) happened to fall near the old date of Lupercalia. The association with springtime fertility and mid-February continued long after the fall of Rome; Chaucer records in "The Parliament of Fowls" that the parliament "was on seynt Valentynes day, / Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make." By the early nineteenth century, however, celebration of the holiday as a time for human sweethearts had been formalized and commercialized, with pre-made valentines becoming more and more elaborate over the next hundred years. In 1912, Whitman’s introduced the Whitman’s Sampler (with real crosstitch), and St. Valentine met the chocolate market. Still, for a sense of Valentine’s Day’s past and present, you could do worse than look at NECCO’s candy hearts, still made with the same process used in 1866 (and until recently, made on a factory line that opened in 1927). Back in the day, hearts read "Be Mine", "Kiss Me", "Sweet Talk". Today, those saying are still around, but NECCO has added eternal romantic classics like "Pen Pal" and "Fax Me". Should you want something a bit more ringing, NECCO makes custom runs (if you’ll buy a ton and a half of candy hearts), or you can turn to the ACME Heartmaker if your desires are a bit more specialized.

In 1477, a Norfolk woman named Margery Brews wrote her fiancé, John Paston, a letter. As the BBC explains it it:

In it, she tells John she has asked her mother to put pressure on her father to increase her dowry, while at the same time saying that, if he loves her, he should be prepared to marry her anyway. It is thought the couple did eventually tie the knot and had two children.

The letter is noteworthy for two reasons. It shows that the concerns of five hundred years ago are in many ways instantly recognizable to modern eyes, and Brews used a particular salutation to address her beloved: "Unto my right well-beloved Valentine." The letter puts to rest any thought that Valentine’s Day, like Santa Claus, was a modern creation, something dreamed up by Hallmark to prompt sales. The Romans celebrated springtime’s return in early February, and mid-February marked the festival of Lupercalia, in which young men ran the hills of Rome beating women with the strips of goatskin called februa that gave the month its name. (The festival was possibly named after the god Lupercus, but was more likely named after the Lupercal, the cave where tradition said that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf before founding the Roman state.) The numerous Saints Valentine had absolutely nothing to do with the modern practice of Valentine’s Day; tales of him secretely wedding young lovers are a sort of folk etymology. Instead, the date of his feast day (now, like Saint Christopher’s, removed from the universal calendar) happened to fall near the old date of Lupercalia. The association with springtime fertility and mid-February continued long after the fall of Rome; Chaucer records in "The Parliament of Fowls" that the parliament "was on seynt Valentynes day, / Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make." By the early nineteenth century, however, celebration of the holiday as a time for human sweethearts had been formalized and commercialized, with pre-made valentines becoming more and more elaborate over the next hundred years. In 1912, Whitman’s introduced the Whitman’s Sampler (with real crosstitch), and St. Valentine met the chocolate market. Still, for a sense of Valentine’s Day’s past and present, you could do worse than look at NECCO’s candy hearts, still made with the same process used in 1866 (and until recently, made on a factory line that opened in 1927). Back in the day, hearts read "Be Mine", "Kiss Me", "Sweet Talk". Today, those saying are still around, but NECCO has added eternal romantic classics like "Pen Pal" and "Fax Me". Should you want something a bit more ringing, NECCO makes custom runs (if you’ll buy a ton and a half of candy hearts), or you can turn to the ACME Heartmaker if your desires are a bit more specialized.