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Help wanted

Monday, August 17, 2009

As I am still recovering from a long, long day yesterday (totally off topic from my blog, but what a pleasure it was to see the premiere of "Mad Men" in Times Square last night!), I am turning to you, dear readers, for your thoughts on the following advertisement. Text below.

Wanted - A wife. The subscriber, having matrimonial happiness a primary object in view, wishes to form the acquaintance of a young lady of prepossessing appearance and lively disposition. One who, in weal or woe, can share the ills and pleasures of married life without ever referring to Mrs. Candle, may address, in confidence, George Freeman, box 795 Post office, N.Y.

This starts out all nice and normal - in fact, even sweet. No reference to money; he just wants someone with an attractive appearance and who is fun to be around. If it were me, I'd like to know a little bit more about him (like how old he is), but otherwise, I like his tone. But then the last line. He wants to find someone who can weather good and bad, and all that, which is great, but "without ever referring to Mrs. Candle."

Huh? Who is Mrs. Candle? The text is a bit hard to read, but I'm pretty sure I'm reading that right - do you agree?

At first I thought perhaps a character in a novel who was mean or thrifty or something, but after an admittedly cursory Google search, I can't find any book with that name in it (except one written almost a half century after this ad). I thought maybe Dickens - that's a sort of Dickens-esque name - but no luck. And if it was a character in a story, it must have been a fairly well-known one, because he was clearly sure that anyone who read this would know what he was talking about. The beauty of the internet is that any book that was remotely popular is now on Google Books, or websites like the excellent Project Gutenberg, so if Mrs. Candle was a character in a novel, she should have shown up.

Then I thought, maybe "Mrs. Candle" is some kind of weird colloquialism for money that I've never, in all my reading and research into 19th century America, seen. Which I guess is possible - I haven't read every book or article written in or about this era. I'm willing to admit that I might have missed something. "Mrs. Candle"! It's so bizarre! The rest of his ad is so nice and normal and then he throws in this afterthought and it just sets my curiosity afire. I won't be using this ad in my dissertation, so it's not worth it to me to hunt it down. But I would love to hear if any of you have an idea of what you think this might be about.

ETA: And we have a winner, folks! Already someone in the comments below figured out what I could not - I was indeed reading it wrong. The word was "Caudle" not "Candle," and refers to Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures, by Douglas William Jerrold. I have to admit, even if I'd read it correctly (Caudle vs. Candle) I still wouldn't have had a clue, as I'd never heard of these before. I knew I could count on you guys.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


arnold August 17, 2009 at 11:02 AM  

It's Caudle, not Candle -- a reference to Douglas Jerrold's popular book Mrs Caudle's Curtain Lectures.

Pam August 17, 2009 at 11:03 AM  


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