Cherished Memories

So many of the items we handle have fascinating stories to tell, tales that we hope will continue to be carried along as objects move to new homes to be cherished and revered. It is the history behind a particularly delicate pair of early 19th century paper cuts by Ipswich poet Elizabeth Cobbold, featuring in our next Fine Furniture & Works of Art auction, that have ensured their survival for over 200 years. Discover more with specialist Theo Burrell.

Elizabeth Cobbold was a woman who could quite easily inhabit a Jane Austen novel; strong of character, independent by nature, smart, talented, resourceful, and philanthropic, she was a fascinating woman fully engaged in life in the early part of the 19th century.

She published her first group of poems at nineteen, followed by others. At the age of twenty-six she married a man thirty-four years her elder, who sadly died less than a year into the marriage. During this time she wrote her first novel, juggling her domestic duties with an active work and social life.


paper cut out

Her second husband, a wealthy brewer in Ipswich, was twenty years her senior and a widower with a brood of fifteen children. The success of the marriage was evidenced by the seven additional children Elizabeth had with him. She also had a keen interest in science, particularly the study of shells, corresponding with leading specialists in the field. So astute were her observations and enthusiasm for the subject, a fossil bivalve shell was named after her. In 1812 she founded a charity to provide clothing to poor children, and in 1820 she started a charitable bazaar.


Every year in Ipswich she and her husband hosted a Valentine's Day ball for which she created individual cut paper valentines for unmarried guests. These she inscribed with her own verse on topics related to love and matchmaking, some for men and others for ladies. These sentiments proved to be so popular that in 1814 she published a volume of her designs and verse under the title 'Cliff Valentines', Cliff being the name of her house in Ipswich.

That these small bits of paper survive after two hundred years is remarkable, but testament to how they must have been cherished and kept by their recipients. They offer a remarkable window into life in the Regency period, and one can't help imagining the excitement in receiving one at Cobbold's Valentine's Day ball at Cliff House.


Illustrated | Lot 306
with handwritten verses, on pink paper grounds, in glazed ebonised frames; the first depicting a snail on leaves below a tree, 19cm x 24cm; the second a soldier in uniform on horseback, 19cm x 23.5cm (2)
£500-700 + fees




Date for your Diary


Auction | Fine Furniture & Works of Art | 31 January 2018 | 10am
33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3RR
Viewing | Tuesday 30 January 10am to 5pm | Day of sale from 9am


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