Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I have no intention of posting on Thanksgiving Day, so how about a special Wednesday edition?
This ad is one of the first that I found. He's from around the same time as my dearly beloved Christopher Leighton and, of course, Bertram. Not quite as eloquent, but you can see the similarities.
Matrimonial. - A young gentleman of highly cultivated mind, refined manners, the first respectability, and in good circumstances, having sought in vain for a kindred spirit within the circle of his acquaintance, has concluded to try the virtue of advertising in order to reach the rest of womankind. Full description of person, mind, character, qualifications, accomplishments, &c., indispensable. If accompanied by photograph, will still further insure attention. All answers sacredly confidential. Address Box No. 5,313 Post-office.
I know that this guy means well, but doesn't the last part sound kind of like he's asking for job applications? It's interesting to me that he doesn't actually give any characteristics that he actually wants; he just says "tell me about yourself." Most men I've encountered who write lengthy ads describe their ideal mate as prepossessing, kind-hearted, accomplished, refined, etc, etc, all the usuals. He doesn't think to do that. Much as I would like to imagine that this means he doesn't care whether or not his wife is of the same class as himself, I think this demonstrates a bit of the attitude that was typical of the middle and upper-middle class at the time. He doesn't mention qualifications that would exclude the vast majority of women at the time (i.e., working class) because I don't think for a moment he considers anyone but his own "social equal" would answer - because he forgets that anyone else exists.
I'll bet he was really, really surprised when he started getting answers from stenographers and salesgirls and maybe even the occasional domestic. Who knows? Seamstresses and factory workers, etc, were often literate, and what Cinderella doesn't dream about marrying the prince?
Anyway, that's just my 8am take on the matter.
But, I don't mean to be unkind. He seems like a true romantic - hoping to find his kindred spirit, and willing to do something unconventional to find her. Of course, the men who wrote missed connections were often doing the same thing, and in many cases I do think their motives were pure (though not always!). But somehow it's just not the same, is it?
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!
©2009 Pam Epstein