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Washoe and Reese River, Part the Third

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Maybe one day I will post the entire Faith/Love correspondence, but I haven't even uncovered it all yet, so for now, we come to the conclusion of our three-part miniseries, The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie of Washoe and Reese River. (Somehow that doesn't have quite the same ring as "Romeo and Juliet," does it?)

Those of you who have been reading since Day One may recall this ad, which at the time I posited was, in my opinion, quite real - a conclusion I still stand by. Well, when I started researching all the dates that Reese River kept referring to in his ads, I looked up February 10, and lo and behold, there was Boulogne and Darmstadt!

Coincidence, said I. But when I looked up March 3, I discovered this ad:

Avignon - Read February tenth. Shall you move this year? Reply immediately. Have you changed your church? Darmstadt.

Well, that could still be coincidence, right? Wrong. This is how I know. Go back and read this ad from yesterday's post, and compare it to Darmstadt's first ad. I will quote for you two of the pertinent passages:

Clergymen (of your own denomination) are among those who say, "She should come to you." -- Faith on July 24.

clergymen of your own denomination fully endorse my view. -- Darmstadt on February 10 (the following year)
Am I right or am I right? Folks, I should be on "History Detectives." (Actually, if there's anyone who can make that happen, I'd be grateful...) In any event, here are the remainder of the Darmstadt ads I've found, with the last one on April 7. The poor guy just cannot give up!

Avignon - Why no reply to February 10th's? I cannot believe it possible; my faith in your love is too strong; look carefully Thursday for what you have forgotten. What mornings do you attend church? Darmstadt.

Avignon - One year ago to-day you wrote "I will not forget to send another." Have you forgotten that older likeness? Did you understand my box number as given March 24? If not, write immediately (before I move) to same address, as heretofore. Darmstadt.

Note, by the way, the connection between the second ad here and this one about the "proposed likeness." Yup, definitely the same people. And to make things even more complicated, the March 24 ad referred to above is this one:

Cologne - "Four thousand three hundred and thirty-three." Do you remember now? Last Tuesday's printed wrong. The first "semi-colon" should have been the word "that." Ens[?]en.
I can't quite make out that name, but either way, he's correcting the first ad to Avignon ("I cannot believe it possible that my faith in your love is too strong").

So what on earth do we do with this? Besides pity Reese River/Darmstadt/Ens[?]en/Love/Faith/Hope's increasing desperation? I know that Reese River switched "words" from this ad, so that's why, I assume, we stop seeing Faith/Love and start seeing Darmstadt - though for all I know there was another incarnation in between. But again it goes back to the crucial question: why all the name changes??

My best theory is that Washoe and Reese River know that all the world is reading these ads and finding them richly entertaining, and maybe RR doesn't like the idea of other people being in on his tragic romance. Although I have found the links between them (or at least some of them), that's because I have all the papers in front of me. Unless contemporaries who read the personals for entertainment actually hung on to old copies of the paper - extremely unlikely - they wouldn't be able to match the dates like I have, so they wouldn't be able to figure out that these people are all the same. But whatever names they're using, their love affair is still out in the public for all to see, and since no one could possibly be able to trace them, it doesn't seem necessary to go through all this effort.

Or, alternately, Reese River is very, very, very paranoid about getting found out.

This is almost as big a mystery as Sadda Rang and Lalla Rang! But I guess at least here we know why the ads were being posted at all. Unless it's all one big lie!!! Aargh!!

So, as far as I know, April 7 is the last time Darmstadt wrote, and April 14 is the date of the last ad from Reese River. But who knows - this may have dragged on forever under different names, or ads I haven't seen yet. If I find anything after April 14, you'll be the first to find out.

Ah well. There never was a story of more woe than this of Reese River and his Washoe. (Yes, I really did just go there.)

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Mario November 19, 2009 at 2:31 PM  

What a strange mystery! It reminds me, for some reason, of Byatt's Possession.

I tend to agree with your intuition that this is a heterosexual couple--I have trouble reading the "she should come to you" in anything but those terms--but is there a reading in which it makes more sense that they are not? While it seems insufficient, it does give a good reason for all the secrecy and name changes. (I'm thinking here of the whole "Boston marriage" idea--even if the name was created by James or whomever, I doubt James invented the practice wholesale.)

Second hypothesis: One or both of the parties is married. That does seem to make the "she should come to you" have meaning, even if it's a perverse form of what the clergy would have meant. It also necessitates the secrecy. Further, affairs are characterized often by emotional confusion--Who does she really love? Will he leave her for me? and so forth. And that seems to work with all the confusion and oblique language we see.

These are, of course, not mutually exclusive...

Pam November 19, 2009 at 5:05 PM  

Ooh, I love that book! One of my favorites.

I think the whole situation is baffling, but I tend to lean toward the idea of a woman not getting permission from her parents because he repeatedly refers to the issue of consent. She did not get consent from her parents, so won't come to him. I read the part about clergymen as meaning that he believes ministers would say that love trumps parental consent.

But who knows? It's so bizarre!

Mario November 20, 2009 at 1:13 PM  

I didn't even think of that! It does all seem very Wuthering Heights, doesn't it? :-)

Mario November 20, 2009 at 1:15 PM  

(By which I mean teenage-dramatic, not crazy Heathcliff and Catherine's ghost and whatnot.)

Pam November 21, 2009 at 9:19 AM  

Ha ha - very Wuthering Heights! Amazingly I've never seen a couple that use the nicknames from that book, which you'd think they would given the nature of their relationship...

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