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Just looking for a good time

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another batch from my new resource; these were all practically right next to each other, and I couldn't decide which one to go with, so I thought I'd post them all!




A refined but poor gentleman wishes the acquaintance of a generous lady. Nobless Oblige, Herald office.

A gentleman in fair circumstances wishes a young lady's acquaintance; object, friendly companionship.  Worthy, 150 Herald office.

Arion Ball. - A gentleman having a box, would like the acquaintance of a pretty, vivacious, and intelligent young lady on the night of the 21st.  Address Good Time, Herald office.

A gentleman desires the acquaintance of a young lady as a reading companion. Pleasant Evenings, box 204 Herald office.

A lady of refinement, under 35, wishes the acquaintance of a gentleman of position and wealth, fond of amusement, generous and refined; lady has her own home and income. Address R.V., 160 Herald Uptown office.
I don't feel the need to editorialize on all of these, as they really speak for themselves.  One notable thing for me is that the year this paper was published was right in the middle of tons of other editions I've already used, and although ads like this existed, they were not nearly so frequent.  So after a certain year, they started showing up, and then at some point they disappeared again.  (And then reappeared at the turn of the 20th century, but that's a different matter.)  So it's interesting how these trends occur.  Perhaps the paper was getting a lot of flak about the tenor of these.

And they are fascinating indeed!  The first one is so frank - it's like this guy just has nothing to lose so he goes all out and asks for charity.  But he really ought to sell himself more (in a manner of speaking).  If you want some rich woman to take pity on you, shouldn't you describe yourself in such a way as to make a woman want to help you?  I wonder if he got a single reply.

The second, third, and fourth - it's impossible for me not to assign some ulterior meaning to these ads.  The last guy wants a "reading companion"?  Really?  What does that even mean?  Are you going to sit together somewhere and read the Bible aloud to each other?  And where will this reading take place?  It'd be wildly inappropriate for either of them to go to the other person's house - unless, I suppose, a parent or chaperon was there.  Same goes for the man with the box and the one who just wants a friendly companion; I find it hard to believe that they just want to hang out. They really aren't expecting anything in return?  But - I live in a post-Freudian era.  I read licentiousness into everything!

The woman is also an interesting case.  Even if she's "under 35," if she's over 25 she's getting to be an old maid.  Perhaps she thinks her chance of getting married is no longer existent, so why not have some fun?  Or, perhaps more likely, she's either been married and wasn't happy, or has seen enough unhappy marriages that - because she has money of her own - she no longer sees the point.  Why not live up the single life?

It really is so much like casual dating, which is really fascinating because theoretically people didn't casually date back then.  Courtship was so formal - and yet here are these people who are just looking for a good time.  Or money!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

2 comments:

Liz December 1, 2009 at 3:05 PM  

I love that the fourth one wants a reading companion, but doesn't mention precisely what he wants to read. I can imagine that going horribly wrong - up turns a young lady hoping for a nice bit of Austen, only to be confronted by a scoundrel who desires to read Byron...

Pam December 1, 2009 at 4:22 PM  

Ha ha - that would be so awesome!

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