Monday, August 24, 2009
Matrimonial. - An intelligent gentleman, of good standing in society and in favorable circumstances, having some pretensions as to good looks, with a limited female acquaintance, wishes to correspond with a lady, either maid or widow, from 20 to 35 years of age, possessing an independent competency, with an ultimate view to matrimony; as to beauty, it is not particularly desired; mediocrity will be respectfully entertained. Any one considering this worthy of attention, it is at her pleasure to adopt an assumed name in her address, and it is desired that none will communicate unless the tenor of this notice is in unison with her inclinations, and with sincere intentions and profound secrecy. Address Orlando S. Summer, New York City Post office.
I start out reading this thinking, okay, successful, respectable gentleman, attractive, doesn't know many women, wants to meet a woman with some money. So far, nothing out of the ordinary. As to beauty, no big deal. That's kind of nice. But then he says, "mediocrity will be respectfully entertained." Er, what? "Respectfully entertained"? This being an era when one word is never as good as ten, and no grammatically correct sentence can be left unmangled, it's possible he's just saying in a rather insensitive way that he doesn't care about looks. Or maybe he's making sort of gentle jest. But it comes off (to me) as a bit callous, like: "If you're unattractive, I'll still consider you." Why bother with that last part? Why not just leave off after "it is not particularly desired"?
I am, as you have seen, often a bit suspicious about many of these ads, and here's another that strikes me as a little fishy. The only qualities he mentions as important in his wife is that she be between 20 to 35 and have some of her own money. She doesn't have to be respectable or refined, she doesn't have to be friendly or affectionate, or attractive (or even prepossessing). Plus he mentions "profound" secrecy (like, "don't tell anyone about this!"). Seems like he's reaching out to try and find some lonely, wealthy woman who can't get married because she's too old, or too plain, and he'll take her because he needs the money.
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!
©2009 Pam Epstein