Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Oh, these guys.
I said yesterday that Victorians never met a sentence they couldn't make more convoluted, and here's another that took a second read to make out. Why didn't anyone teach them to cool it with the commas and semi-colons?
Missed connections, however entertaining, can be remarkably the same, as I've said before (some contemporary critics even went so far as to argue that they were so similar they must have been written by the same people). But sometimes you run across ones that are better than most. Here's the text of this one:
If the young lady in a black silk dress, steel [?] cloak, with hood, who, in company with another lady, passed up Fourteenth street on Thursday afternoon about 4 o'clock, is willing to form the acquaintance of the gentleman she saw leaning against a tree at the corner of University place, and whom, when alone, she met an hour afterwards in front of the St. Nicholas Hotel, she can address Memphis, Broadway Post Office, stating when and where an interview may be had, or to what address a letter may be sent, with a view to a better acquaintance. Communications cordially welcomed and held sacredly confidential. MEMPHIS.
My, my, my. Where to begin? So much here of interest. How did this happen? A woman is walking down the street and sees some guy leaning against a tree. An hour later, she somehow knows to meet him at the St. Nicholas Hotel? How did they arrange that? (I couldn't find the exact location of this establishment, but it was somewhere on Broadway, and as it was built in 1853 would have certainly been in the general vicinity of where they first saw each other.) The hotel was quite a fancy place, so no way were they meeting for some tawdry rendezvous. Therefore, let's assume that she, at least, really is a lady. "Memphis," on the other hand - well, somehow I wonder about anyone leaning idly against a tree eying every woman who walks by - but let's give him the benefit of the doubt too.
So, they've met in front of the hotel by some mysterious pre-arranged signal. Did he hold up a big sign when she walked by: "Meet me at the St. Nicholas Hotel in an hour"? Really this baffles me, but moving on, somehow they met. And...he doesn't get her name? When he says "met," does he really mean: "I followed you and 'coincidentally' we ran into each other again as soon as your friend left, but didn't actually talk?" Because otherwise I can't think of how you "met" and not only didn't get an address but also didn't even get a name!
Maybe he was all flirtatious and they had a little chat, but to spice up the fun he told her to check out the personals column tomorrow and there'd be one addressed to her. Maybe she'd get a little thrill out of some cute guy putting an ad in the paper about her. And he certainly spared no expense - he must have money to pay for such a lengthy ad; it's much longer than the average.
I guess we'll never know - but I'll never stop wondering!
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©2009 Pam Epstein