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Valentine's day love letter

February 1477

Valentine's day love letter

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  • Intro

    This is probably the oldest surviving Valentine's letter in the English language. It was written by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston in February 1477. Describing John as her 'right well-beloved valentine', she tells him she is 'not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall I be till I hear from you.' She explains that her mother had tried to persuade her father to increase her dowry - so far unsuccessfully. However, she says, if John loves her he will marry her anyway: 'But if you love me, as I trust verily that you do, you will not leave me therefore.' There was a happy ending to the story, as the couple would eventually marry.

     

    The letter comes from one of the largest collections of 15th century English private correspondence, known as the Paston letters. The collection offers a unique glimpse in to the personal lives of the Paston family from Norfolk - the family name comes from a Norfolk village about twenty miles north of Norwich. The Pastons had risen from peasantry to aristocracy in just a few generations: the first member of the family about whom anything is known was Clement Paston (d. 1419), a peasant, who gave an excellent education to his son William, enabling him to study law. John and Margery's son, William, would become a prominent figure at the court of King Henry VIII.

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  • Transcript

    Valentine's day love letter

    In present day English:

     

    Unto my right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire, be this bill delivered.

    Right reverent and worshipful and my right well-beloved valentine, I recommend me unto you full heartedly, desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long for to preserve unto his pleasure and your hearts desire. And if it pleases you to hear of my welfare, I am not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall I be till I hear from you. For there knows no creature what pain that I endure, And even on the pain of death I would reveal no more. And my lady my mother hath laboured the matter to my father full diligently, but she can no more get than you already know of, for which God knoweth I am full sorry. But if you love me, as I trust verily that you do, you will not leave me therefore. For even if you had not half the livelihood that you have, for to do the greatest labour that any woman alive might, I would not forsake you. And if you command me to keep me true wherever I go, indeed I will do all my might you to love and never anyone else. And if my friends say that I do amiss, they shall not stop me from doing so. My heart me bids evermore to love you truly over all earthly things. And if they be never so angry, I trust it shall be better in time coming. No more to you at this time, but the Holy Trinity have you in keeping. And I beseech you that this bill be not seen by any non earthly creature save only yourself. And this letter was written at Topcroft with full heavy heart.

    Be your own Margery Brews.

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