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The Agony Column

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So I didn't post yesterday, but I have a very good reason: I'm in London! I'm here attending a conference (which is actually in Nottingham) - where I'll be talking about my personals, of course - and have been a little too busy being a tourist to sit inside and write up blog entries. But I have some time now, and in honor of my exciting new locale, I present to you personals from the London Times.

Yes, my friends, personals were not unique to the States. I'm not sure whose idea it was to start printing them first (I haven't done enough research into the Times to find out) though I think it was on my side of the Pond. But I can't swear by that. In any event, the Brits, being clever and dry, nicknamed the Times' personals the "agony column," which is so, so, so appropriate. It's a wonder this term never got picked up in the States, and too bad really, because wouldn't that have been a great title for a dissertation? (The term means something slightly different today.)

But without further ado:

Parkes Knott. - Please telegraph immediately where I can communicate with you. Suspense almost unedurable. Urgent.

Parkes Knott. - Do I deserve to suffer this killing disappointment and suspense? You promised on your honour to communicate in August. If I have been wronged all my life do not add this new torture to "her child." It is not like you, and there must be some mistake.
I have no idea what, or who, Parkes Knott refers to; British people give their kids such funny names that maybe that was someone's name (I kid, folks, I'm a total Anglophile here. Plus, no one would be so stupid as to put a real name in the personals). More likely, it was just one of those weird and bizarre pseudonyms that people used.

I also have no idea what was going on. Everything makes sense up until "If I have been wronged all my life do not add this new torture to 'her child.'" The only story that comes to mind is that the writer is the child of some woman with whom Parkes Knott had a little affair, or whom Parkes Knott used to love, and PK was taking care of him/her (I lean toward her, but whatever), but for some reason or another stopped. Although I may have come up with this soap opera plot from reading Sense and Sensibility somewhat recently.

Still, it does make a certain amount of sense. The reference to "her child" seems to indicate that the author (if the author is referring to him/herself as this child) is not valued due to his or her own self, but as the child of someone important to PK. Okay, now I'm confusing myself. I'm sure I'd be a lot more lucid if I wasn't still jetlagged.

If I have internet access at my hotel in Nottingham tomorrow, I will post again. Otherwise, you might just have to wait till the weekend.


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