Friday, January 8, 2010
This is almost a typical matrimonial ad, but it's just a little off. What do you think?
A gentleman, holding a lucrative situation and moving in a highly respectable circle, whose further claims are only to a persevering business exertion, and a disposition (if reciprocated,) to make a happy fireside, is anxious to unite in matrimony with a girl who owes her title of lady to education and demeanor instead of etiquette. In face and figure there are his superiors, matches, and inferiors. Reality is his heart of honor, instead of proclaiming to the world as actual just by using the hackneyed term of "strictly confidential." Where the object is just, confidence is [?]. Address J. Serious, Herald office.
I'm so annoyed I can't quite make out that last word - any guesses? I assume what he's trying to say is that where the object is just, confidence is a given, but I don't know what that word is. (Or, alternately, he's trying to say that where the object is just, there's no need to be confidential because there's nothing to be ashamed of?) The last lines are very confusing.
It's an odd ad. On the one hand, he claims to be a gentleman and uses most of the right words, but on the other, it's like he doesn't know how to put them together properly. Either he's a very bad writer, or he's borrowing a lot of phrases from different places and mish-mashing them together in a very disjointed fashion. I'd say he was borrowing from letter-writing manuals, of which there were many back in the nineteenth-century - very, very common - but since he seems to be eschewing etiquette, that would be a little strange. One explanation is that he's not what he seems. I believe that a lot of these ads were what they claimed to be, but a lot were con artists hoping to meet an easy target. And in the middle, I think a lot of advertisers were men and women who stretched the truth enormously to make themselves seem more successful than they actually were. So maybe this guy isn't quite the socially superior and persevering businessman he describes; maybe he's just a mid-level clerk with high hopes.
But I don't know - somehow that just doesn't match the tone. The other possibility that I'd buy into is that he really was someone who was just a bit eccentric. The fact that he says he wants to meet a lady who is educated and attractive but not obsessed with following proper etiquette says that maybe he's just bored with that lifestyle. The fact that he also sneers as the "hackneyed" but indeed very common phrase "strictly confidential" points to that as well. Here's a man trying to rise above social customs and niceties and wants to meet a woman who shares his slightly broader values.
He just puts it so strangely!
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!
©2010 Pam Epstein