ROSES wither, chocs get eaten, but many a Valentine card gets hoarded away as a precious memento of love.

Romantics have been writing and preserving Valentine cards for generations.

And it's men who send most. In fact men send more Valentine cards than any other kind of card.

Perhaps that's because the chief role of a wife or partner is to take on the card-sending burden through the rest of the year.

The first Valentine message was, of course, from St Valentine himself. He is said to have restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter and the night before he died, wrote a farewell note signed "from your Valentine".

Hallmark Cards' research shows that lovers have always wanted to send romantic sonnets and poems to their beloved. In the 18th century you could buy a book called Young Man's Valentine Writer filled with verses. They could just choose the one they liked best and pass it off as their own.

The idea caught on. Soon there were books that covered different trades so a suitor could pick one that matched his lifestyle.

The ladies' edition that followed included verses to give a firm put-down to unwanted suitors.

Some never give up. The Countess of Newburgh gave the brush-off to an earl 15 times and locked him out of her house. So he climbed down her chimney and pledged his love. It was a case of 16th time lucky.

More than 22 million Valentine cards will be sent this year.