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Poetry and Prose

Monday, September 21, 2009

I found these two matrimonial ads right on top of each other, and they make such an interesting pair. One is all about love and romance and dancing, and the other is, well, not so much.

The first reads:

The subscriber, a young man of fine personal appearance, good education, pleasing manners, doing a good business and twenty years of age, wishes to meet a young lady of beauty, refinement and education, with a view to matrimony, "to share his joys and halve his woes." She must be over eighteen years of age, a good musician and a graceful dancer. Money no object as the subscriber has enough of the "filthy lucre." Address, with real name, S.B.S. box 265 Norwalk, Conn.


Now isn't that sweet? I couldn't find the origin of the "to share his joys..." quote, but I didn't look that hard. If a quick Google search doesn't unearth the answer, so long as I'm not using the ad in my dissertation (which I'm not), I don't look much further. But I'm sure it comes from somewhere. The "filthy lucre" I don't need to look up - I'm not a religious person but even I know that comes from the Bible.

Now this ad, on the other hand, is a little less appealing. Imagine if you'd seen them together!

It says:

Matrimonial. - A gentleman of means, about to begin housekeeping, is desirous of meeting a young and prepossessing widow to take charge of his rooms with ulterior views to matrimony. Address Rochester, station D, New York.


Translation: I'm too cheap to hire a housekeeper, so I'll just marry someone to take the same responsibilities. Wow. Now there's a man I'd like to meet. It's no wonder so many critics were horrified by matrimonial ads; when you look at how businesslike some of them are, it is a little depressing. What a sad reason to get married! But the worst part is that you know while all the women reading these two ads probably wanted to meet S.B.S. (I think those are the initials, but it's a bit hard to make out), a lot of them probably wrote Rochester too. A loveless marriage to someone with the money to take care of you was better than no marriage at all for women who had no other means of support.

Oh well. At least Rochester wasn't looking for a governess.


Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

2 comments:

Anonymous October 6, 2009 at 2:15 PM  

I'm slacking at work, so I had a little more time to hunt that quote down. It appears to relate to an old Swedish proverb: "Shared joy is twice the joy and shared grief is half the grief." (roughly)

Hum. Looking further, found this Honduran proverb: Grief shared is half grief; Joy shared is double joy.

Pam October 6, 2009 at 2:46 PM  

It is so awesome that you looked this up! Thank you!!

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