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February 3, 2004 > Love, Victorian Style

Love, Victorian Style

Cupid pays a visit on February 14th - Valentine's Day - and thoughts turn to how best to express affection for our loved ones. Romance is in the air, and often the writings and poetry from the Victorian Era of England is used to convey the breadth and depth of passion and feelings. In England, a young queen, 18 years of age, ascended the throne and the British Empire became a dominant world force. During Victoria's reign (1837 - 1901), the British Empire reached its zenith. Great expectations and wealth contrasted with terrible poverty and despair (sound familiar?).

These were vital times that inspired social and political activism, the first "world's fair," religious controversy and debate of patriotism, democracy, individualism, philanthropy, sexual morality, family, capitalism and progress. Unbridled hope coupled with monumental despair and turmoil within the British community explored the height and depth of human emotion and experience. Passionate public and private debate explored the emotional spectrum of life, leading to writings and poetry that has withstood the test of time.

The romance between Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning during the Victorian era is an example of poetic exploration of love amidst this turbulent time. A well-known sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning expresses her love eloquently. TCV wishes a loving and happy Valentine's Day for all our readers.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth, and breadth, and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right:
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life - and if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Courtship rituals of the nineteenth century and the "Art of Flirting" will be discussed at Ardenwood Historic Farm on Valentine's Day (Saturday, February 14, 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.). Spice up your Valentine's evening with Victorian romantic skills. Call (510) 796-0663 or visit for more information.

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