Love in the Archives
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
Do you believe in true love? Do you believe in love at first sight? Do you believe in love that lasts forever? Many believe that love is unconditional, selfless, unchanging, sincere, and totally accepting. In the Western perspective, the definition of love has developed as a product of a long and powerful cultural heritage from Hebraic and Greek origins alongside Christianity, from various philosophers and writers, as well as sceptics and believers. Star-crossed lovers can be found in history books and literary writing the world over. Shakespeare’s plays, for example, are inundated with doomed lovers – unrequited passion and death makes for good reading, apparently.
Traces of love are also evident in both our Archive & Local History as well as our Museum collections, illustrating that this universal sentiment can be expressed in a myriad of different ways. There are a variety of photographs of couples in our Local History Image Collection. However, one significant item is a leather bound journal with a dedication – “To Mary from her most devoted husband Thomas Graham” – on the first page. Thomas Graham was a Major in the Highlands Border Militia. His wife Mary was the child of the Reverend Robert Balfour Graham and his wife Christina. Mary and Thomas were married, and lived, at the manse in Westgate, North Berwick where Reverend Graham was minister from 1822 till his death in 1855. This journal is dated 1st November 1854, two weeks after the wedding and appears to begin on the first night they had spent in their new home at Balfunning, Stirlingshire. One of the entries provides a long list of their marriage gifts, 67 altogether, which comprise items such as “wreath of seaweed”, “perfume bottle”, “pebble bracelet”, “lace sleeves” and “gold pencil case”. The journal entries also outline some key happenings in their lives including the birth of their children. It was not until the late Renaissance period that diaries and journals began to have some literary value as the significance of personal accounts emerged. Since then, diaries and journals have often been used by historians not only for their important supply of often unrecorded facts in historical and political chronicles but also as an illustration of the daily life of the writer’s time and personality.
Another notable item in the Archive is a script for a romantic comedy play, set in the early 19th century, entitled “Light of my Life”. The play is written by actor and comedian Douglas Currie and premiered at the Knox Academy Hall in 1966. “Light of my Life” was presented by the Haddington Drama Club and featured a backdrop designed by James Bowman which was based on the original drawing room of the Carlyle House in Haddington. The plot deals with the early love life of Jane Welsh and her tempestuous courtship and eventual marriage to Thomas Carlyle.
There is also a delightful item in the Museum collection, which is a traditional mark of love. It is a beautiful card, possibly a Valentine card, from either the late Victorian or early Edwardian period. Valentine greetings were fashionable from as far back as the Middle Ages when lovers spoke or sang about their Valentines. Written Valentines began to appear after 1400. In the early 1800s, factories began to assemble Valentine tokens in the form of hand-painted black and white pictures and, latterly, with real lace and ribbons.
Ultimately, no matter how one chooses to express, celebrate or even shun love, for many, love is still a powerful solution to finding meaning, acceptance, and happiness in life. The feeling that “makes the world go round” still seems to be the most important thing and without it life is harsh, empty and meaningless. So let us embrace and cherish this all consuming emotion because, as the song goes, love is all around…