Compass of the heart: following the map of matrimony on St Valentine’s Day

Thursday 14 February 2019
‘Map of Matrimony’ from ms37102

To celebrate St Valentine’s Day this year we are featuring the Map of Matrimony, with its Kingdom of Courtship, River of Love, Dangerous Straits of Flirtation, Isles of Jealousy and Quicksands of Censure. Allegorical maps of the world of relationships, ideas and politics flourished from the 18th century and particularly in the 19th century. The Map of Matrimony gives us an amusing look at the journey through love, courtship and engagement to marriage, showing the potential pitfalls on the way to wedded bliss. The topography of the map could be based on real landmarks or imaginary ones. Either way, it applied to both men and women in search of their soul mates, setting out from the Land of Spinsters or the Isle of Man into the Ocean of Admiration and trying to avoid all the hazards, trials and obstacles on the way to the Vale of Happiness.

The map comes from a scrapbook ms37102 compiled by Agnes McIntosh (1840-1923), one of 5 sisters of William Carmichael McIntosh (1838-1931), marine zoologist here at the University. She created many scrapbooks, some about his work, others more fanciful. Scrapbooking was a very popular pastime for Victorian ladies, and Agnes was one of many middle-class ladies to collect pretty pictures, cards, seaweed, flowers, engravings and so on.

Valentine 1
‘To be disposed of, by private contract. Inquire within’ from ms37102

They are also a fascinating record of life within the University and in the town of St Andrews in the late 19th and early 20th c, with photographs of street scenes and rare survivals of ephemera, such as invitations for hunt balls, church sales of work and at-homes. As well as the map, this scrapbook also contains a number of ornate paper lace Valentine cards, typical of this era, as the book was made between 1866 and 1869.

Assorted Valentine cards from ms37102

They may have been bought specially for the scrapbook or may have been received by the ladies of the house. Agnes never married, staying on at home to look after bachelor William and help with his career. Only two of her sisters married, firstly Margaret, and then Roberta, a talented watercolourist who illustrated William’s works on annelids and other marine invertebrates.

Valentine 2
‘The flowers that bloom, decline and fade, have not such charms, as thine dear maid’ from ms37102

Included in this scrapbook is the wedding favour that Agnes wore to Roberta’s wedding. In a poignant reminder of the other dangers faced by women after they had successfully navigated the map of matrimony, Roberta died a year later, just after giving birth to her son.

‘Aunt Agnes’s wedding favour’ from ms37102

We will learn more about the McIntosh family albums when our visiting scholar Dr Freya Gowrley visits in July. She will be looking at the McIntosh collection for examples of art and identity in collage.

There are interesting articles on these maps and many more examples of the map of matrimony at the links below. Ours looks like a version of the 1827 map by John Douw featured in the first post.

Learn more about scrapbooks and commonplace books in this blog post by one of our previous visiting scholars, Professor Kevin James of the University of Guelph.

Maia Sheridan
Manuscript Archivist

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1 thoughts on "Compass of the heart: following the map of matrimony on St Valentine’s Day"

  • The Pemberley Post, No. 7 (Feb 11-17, 2019) ~ Jane Austen and More! – Jane Austen in Vermont
    Monday 18 February 2019, 6.49pm

    […] Learn about the Map of Matrimony from the University of St. Andrews Special Collections:… […]


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