Thursday, August 6, 2009
Missed connections in the 19th century, while entertaining (if for no other reason than that they exist!), tend to be a lot alike, which makes it hard for me to find new things to say about them. But every now and then, I find a goody or two. So here are two that I ran across recently that I found, shall I say, unique.
This one more or less follows the pattern of most missed connections, but I like it for two reasons. One is that he seems to have some connection with the woman; the other is that I can barely make out what he's saying! The text is here:
Personal. - Will the lady with dark hair, to whom, while at a window with a friend this (Friday) morning, a card was shown, kindly send her card to the gentleman, whose name her friend knows? He regrets that he is compeled to resort to this method of making the request, but trusts that, under the circumstances, she will excuse and permit him (mentally) to kiss her hand.
Huh? If I wrote a sentence like that first one, my advisers would take me out back and shoot me. Didn't anyone ever tell this guy about the dangers of the passive voice? Seriously, though, it took me a couple read throughs to figure out what on earth he was saying, but even when I did, I was still mystified. So, this woman is hanging out with a friend who apparently knows him. He waves a card at this apparent total stranger (did her friend not see??) and then tells her to write, because "under the circumstances" he can't talk to her any other way. Now, there are a couple explanations for this; one is just that (as I've mentioned before) etiquette determined that men weren't allowed to go up to women in the street, even women they knew, so if the "friend" was also a woman he still couldn't talk to her - although she must have seen him. But if they knew each other, and everything was on the up-and-up, he could have just found a way to be properly introduced to the lady of interest through this mutual acquaintance. If the friend was a man, then wtf is going on? Are the circumstances just that it would be rude to approach? Are the circumstances that she is with her husband or beau and our gentleman is trying to make a move anyway? So many possibilities!!
Speaking of trying to make a move, here's another man whose motives seem less than pure. Men wrote to women (and occasionally vice versa, as we have seen) in theaters all the time, but this one had a great big flashing red light. Here's the text (a few words I can't quite make out):
Niblo's Theatre last Tuesday evening - lady in orchestra chair; had on black Astrakhan cloak and eye glasses: your admirer in the dress circle would like to correspond and have occasionally a promenade on Broadway when the weather becomes more inviting; extreme caution is necessary. Address Discretion, box [??] Post office. Mention some circumstance so that I may be sure of right party
"A promenade on Broadway"? Is that what they're calling it these days? Okay, okay, I'm kidding - that might be all he wants. Maybe. But anyone who says "extreme caution is necessary" is obviously suspect to me. Why, "Discretion," is extreme caution necessary? It's a bit confusing; if he's, say, married, the last thing he'd suggest is a promenade on Broadway - is there anywhere in New York City where people are more likely to see you? That's about the most indiscreet place there is, which is what makes me think the "promenade" is code for something else. And, as I and others have suggested before, it could be a code for anything at all. Still, odd!
Okay, enough for today!
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©2009 Pam Epstein