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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Okay, y'all, you remember there were a few ads that made me slightly uncomfortable because they were apparently between a brother and sister, but seemed a little too close?  (They are here and here.)  In both cases, I said I didn't think the two people involved were actually in some gross incestuous affair, but today I ran across this:

Bride of Abydos - I have written you a great many letters, but have received no answer.  Write to me in my own name where I now am, and tell me where a letter will reach you.  I have entrusted some of my letters to you to A. to deliver.  Put the letter to me in Boyd's box or in the Post office.  "There, there, dear." No 101.
So, The Bride of Abydos is a poem by Lord Byron, a Romantic poet who was quite the playboy in his day (to put it mildly).  He was famous for having affairs, with married and unmarried women, and quite likely one or two men.  Did I mention that this was all in the 1810s?  More important in this context is the fact that there is a great deal of evidence that he also had an affair with his married half-sister (and wrote a few rather risque poems to her), and maybe possibly was the father of one or her children.  Maybe.

Anyway, what do you think The Bride of Abydos is about?  If you guessed it involves a love story between half siblings (and apparently he originally wanted it to be between true siblings), you'd be right!

So - back to the ad in question.  I suppose it's possible that these idiots knew that this poem was a love story but hadn't actually read it so didn't realize the relationship between the lovers.  And it does seem odd that a brother and sister aren't able to communicate openly - she can write him letters directly (sometimes), but he has to use subterfuge and an intermediary (A) to reach her.  Unless their families had separated them for some reason, why would that be necessary?  Or, I suppose, one or both of them were married and there was concern that their spouses could read the letters? 

I'm hoping that the reference to the poem is more about the fact that the two main characters had an unrequited love - they were forbidden to marry and in the end they both die (he's murdered, her of sorrow).  So, I dunno, maybe these two weren't related but still felt that they were star-crossed lovers.  Or something.  Given how many star-crossed lovers there have been in literature, however, I don't know why they had to pick a story about a brother and sister.  It's not like there aren't other options!  Using Romeo and Juliet as pseudonyms is cliched, I'll grant you, but at least they aren't related

By the way, because I suspect someone here might bring it up: in the early 19th century (and before), it was fairly common for people to marry their first cousins.  I'm not sure when that became taboo; I think at the time this ad was written (in the 1860s), it was still okay.  But it was not okay to get involved with siblings, half or otherwise.  Ugh!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein


Lidian April 16, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

Byron had that affair with his half sister Augusta Leigh - maybe these were half siblings? Still, ugh is the word even so.

Where do you find these incredible ads? I love them and I love reading your commentary!

Pam April 16, 2010 at 9:46 AM  

Right, yeah, that's what I thought too. Gross.

I find them all over, but the main paper I use is the NY Herald.

And THANKS! I've enjoyed reading your blog too.

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