Is this how your great-great-great-great-great-grandfather popped the question? Maybe…
Back in the 1700s, dating was a hell of a lot different to what couples do now. Instead of Tinder, dinner dates and face time, it was chaperoning, dowries and courtship. Would-be couples went on walks, attended dances, sent each other love letters, and eventually the guy would propose marriage in a very formal manner. Flash mobs and selfies would have been definite no-nos, if they had existed back then.
One popular method of courtship was the puzzle purse, a piece of paper covered in sketches and poetic verses, folded origami-style into a puzzle of panels. When unfolded in sequence, the puzzle revealed the romantic message hidden inside. And retired florist Ann Eaton has had one beautiful example sitting in her jewellery box for decades.
Ann thinks her puzzle purse was given to her mother by her eldest brother many years ago, and may have originated from somewhere in the north east of England where her mother’s family grew up. Apart from that, she unfortunately knows nothing else of the puzzle purse’s story except that it was created in 1782.
Ann had always been too afraid to open the purse because the paper was so fragile and she didn’t want to damage it. But eventually, curiosity took over. When she unfolded the paper, she found a beautiful poem composed by the sender in stunning cursive writing, along with delicate sketches of doves and hearts. Whoever the author was, he was certainly very much in love with someone and put a lot of effort into this beautiful gift. He wrote:
‘Dear Love, this heart which you behold will break when you this leaf unfold even so my heart with lovesick pain, sore wounded is and broke in twain.
‘On the inside sweet turtle dove, I’ve writ a moral of my love. The powers of envy can’t pretend, to say false stories I have penned. Do not mistake and me reprove.
‘You’ll find me constant to you my love. It’s to you my dear and only joy. Requite me now and be not too coy. Banish any rivals from your sight. And with your love now me requite.
‘Cupid’s my guide and doth my hand direct. To write to you whom I so much respect.
‘My dear, these my meaning is in matrimonial joys. For never will my heart find any ease.
‘Til our two hearts be linked as found like these.
‘So, if you deny my loving bride to be, you will bereave me of my felicity.’
Ann has decided to auction the puzzle purse, so it can find a new home with an avid collector or maybe even in a museum of some sort. It’s expected to fetch at least £200, but we think it’s priceless.
We think this is such a sweet way to propose. Bring back the puzzle purse!