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Thursday, March 4, 2010

I can't remember the last time I was so excited about finding an ad. (OMG, this is my life, I get excited - seriously excited - over finding 19th-century personal ads.) Honestly, though, this is a true find.

I was browsing around looking for an ad that inspired me this morning, and ran across this one:

Marie L. - Friday last was the anniversary of our first meeting. One year ago to-day I last sought you through this medium. I have waited long and hopefully for some word from you. Does "Pour le present" mean forever? If not, please write appointing interview or giving address to Pressure, box 125, Herald office.

So, I said to myself: Self, go find the personal column from one year ago and see what ads are there. And I found this:

At fire in 42d St., Thursday evening. - Little lady in sealskin basque, shall I ever look into those handsome eyes again? If agreeable please address Pressure, Herald office.

People. Do you know what this means? This means that women really did answer missed connection ads. They did they did they did! Okay, I knew this was the case, because I do have one other ad in which this happened. But in that one, it appears that the two people never actually met - and there seems to be some confusion about identity.

But the ad here, not only did she reply, but they actually did see each other again, and repeatedly! He says that last Friday was the anniversary of their first meeting, which implies that they must have met more than once. Now, maybe it was only one other time, but it's hard to believe that he would have written another personal ad sounding so heartbroken to a woman he only met twice a year ago. He says he's waited a long time, but that could mean anything- it doesn't have to be a year.

I also like the French. "Pour le present" obviously means "for the present." My assumption is that she told him that she would have to stop seeing him for a little while. Something's come up, so for the present they're going to have to cool things down, or whatever. And now she just hasn't been in touch since. But the French is great because, you know, not everyone could speak French. Granted, this isn't complicated or anything (I didn't need to pull out a translator for this one), but that it's even there indicates some familiarity with the language. Which indicates that these are two people who were somewhat well-educated (also, poorer people don't own sealskin jackets). So, again, that helps my premise that the people writing and responding to personal ads were actually of all classes - not just the lower class rakes that critics assumed.

Poor guy. I think "pour le pr├ęsent" was her way of getting out of the relationship, and he's not getting the hint. However, much as I feel his pain, I'm (not-so) secretly pleased this happened because it resulted in a real gem for me. I doubt that would give him much comfort, but it's the best I can do.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein


Unknown March 4, 2010 at 10:35 AM  

OK, I'm sorry, but I have to ask - what on earth is a sealskin basque?

Pam March 4, 2010 at 10:49 AM  

It's a kind of jacket, seen here. Also, I ran across a very amusing article in The Daily Argus, linked here. It's the article in the top right corner on the front page. Very illuminating!

Bianca C March 4, 2010 at 9:53 PM  

Yay! How great was that find?!!? :-)

Pam March 4, 2010 at 11:10 PM  

Thanks Bianca! It was pretty cool.

Jo Walton March 5, 2010 at 9:43 AM  

She might have *been* French. Marie is a French name.

Unknown March 6, 2010 at 8:14 AM  

I think he's actually using "pour le present" to ironically ask if she will eventually begin the affair again, after the "present" circumstances change or the "present time" elapses. That actual phrase is so transparent that it doesn't seem likely that he doesn't know the meaning. And what in the world does the "Pressure" signatory imply?

Pam March 6, 2010 at 8:58 AM  

MissVolare - you may be right - I think it comes to about the same thing though, right? As for "Pressure" - I once found a similar ad in which the guy reminded the woman of "the pressure of the hand," by which I assumed he pressed or held her hand momentarily. Perhaps this is hinting at the same thing?

Anonymous March 8, 2010 at 5:14 AM  

Pam, regarding the 'sealskin basque': it looks to me more like 'sealskin sacque'. According to my Macquarie Dictionary, a sacque is 'a loose-fitting coat or jacket, especially for women and children', so it would fit the context. A Google search of the term returns similar results, including images.

Thanks, in any case, for this very interesting and entertaining blog.

- David.

Pam March 8, 2010 at 9:02 AM  

David - you may be right. I have seen "basque" a lot, so sort of assumed this was the same without looking too closely. (Me: Lazy) I'm glad you're enjoying the blog!!

aandthirtyeights March 22, 2010 at 2:42 AM  

The most curious thing is that they mey at a 'Fire in 42nd Street'. What at odd place to meet someone! At a fire!

Pam March 22, 2010 at 10:16 AM  

aandthirtyeights - right? That IS weird, certainly nothing I'd seen before. Everything about these two ads is interesting!!

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