Even I hesitated for a moment before spending the princely sum of 10p on this postcard. Despite being good value for money, I sensed that this was an image that once seen could never be erased. Some staggeringly wretched postcards have turned up in a lifetime of collecting but in terms of content, conception and sentiment, this is desperately close to an all time low. A grim fascination compelled me to buy it – I tried to convince myself that it was a satire on the manners of the time but my heart wasn’t really in it – it must be taken as it is.
Even her hat is wrong – distorting the shape of her head and adding prominence to her pointy chin. But far worse are the frozen parted lips and exposed vampire-like top set of dentures. Together with the eyes, that subtly aim in two directions, they don’t suggest an imminent surrender to erotic passion. If anything our Adonis is even more disturbing – his neck has been removed and his eyes appear to be watching the clock. His lips are pressed ineffectually against his beloved’s chin as he wonders just how long this torment will last. It’s an enactment of osculatory hydraulics from which the warm glow of Romance is excluded. No soft-focus lens to seduce the eye – the full horror is revealed in the harshest of light.
An Edwardian suitor could choose from thousands of cards of courting couples – this would have to be the last one in the shop to be selected to guide Cupid’s arrow in the direction of the object of his affections. Sending such postcards was a way of communicating amorous intent in an age when the prevailing code of conduct made it almost impossible to express in any other way. There’s a reproachful tone in the message at the top – a suggestion that the recipient may have been bestowing favours outside the relationship. Leading us even further into dark waters is the space in which the sender can nominate a location for this dishonourable behaviour. It may be much safer to send something like the example below. Birthday greetings expressed in verse (complete with misprint), a gift of flowers, curtains parted in promise, an upturned moustache, a roguish eye and an air of consummate self-satisfaction.