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Letters, as promised

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

While letters in response to advertisements are extremely rare, I do have somewhere around 300. Some are from newspaper articles in which reporters, like the one I mentioned below, posted a matrimonial ad and then published the responses (oh-so-kindly removing any identifying details, as if that would make things less humiliating for the poor women involved). About half the letters come from a book in which the author did essentially the same thing. Nice.

So I'm writing out a few from an article in 1884 (the reporter's ad was not included, but apparently read something along the lines of "wealthy Western gentleman seeks a wife"). Check them out:

"I have concluded to answer your advertisement in the Sunday Tribune. I am 19 years old, my character is above reproach, and I have some means of my own. I am at present studying shorthand and typewriting. I thought that would be a good way of making a living. With that and my other money I could get along; but if you would take care of me it will be much more agreeable to me. I have received a good education and am fond of reading...My friends would ridicule me if they knew that I had answered a personal. But I dread the thought of being alone in the world."

The reporter was sympathetic to the pathos (his word) of the letter, but still added, "this may be a bitter lesson to you, never forget it." Thanks. As if she ever could.

"In answer to above advertisement would say I am desirous of corresponding with a gentleman as you advertise. Am 20 years of age, my education and accomplishments have by no means been neglected, and I am considered very nice-looking, but of course of that fact you must be the judge if we ever meet. It is not necessary that I should write more, and I shall be happy to correspond with you..."

This second note more or less typifies the style of most letters I've found. There are others that are more entertaining, but I'll save them for a future post.

As an aside, it's been one week since I officially "launched" this blog, and in that time it's already received almost 2,500 unique visitors (helped along this morning thanks to a link from Good Morning Silicon Valley!). Of course, the number of people who've actually come back is, well, a little smaller, but nevertheless I'm absolutely floored by the attention this blog has already received. I never expected to get half this many visitors in just one week - honestly, I didn't expect half this many visitors in one month! - so I'd like to thank all of YOU for spreading the word!! This process has been a real joy so far and it's pretty thrilling to see that the word is getting out.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


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