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Southern love

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm revising a chapter all about matrimonial ads right now, so I've been digging up a lot of new gems.  I always think sooner or later I'm going to run out of good ads to write about, but those Victorians never fail to entertain.  These two, both from Southerners sojourning in New York, were right next to each other so I thought I'd just put them both in at once.

A wealthy Southern young lady, whom circumstances compel to live with strangers, where she is not happy, wishes to make the acquaintance of a thorough gentleman, not over thirty years, who would be willing to form an immediate matrimonial connection, as she don't like to return South.  Address for two days H.M ---y, Herald office.
A young man of superior education, habituated to good society, with abundant means at his control, but having a limited acquaintance at the North, would be pleased to open a correspondence with a young lady of good family and not over 22 years of age.  Should the correspondence prove agreeable to both parties and a more intimate acquaintance be desired, references will be exchanged.  Adress H. Andrews, station C Post office, N.Y.

Wow, the first is soooo intriguing.  Why is a wealthy Southern young lady compelled to live with strangers?  If she's so rich, can't she live alone, or at the very least, choose her living arrangements to her own satisfaction?  Well, probably not, come to that.  It's not so easy for a young lady to live alone or really make any of her own choices back in the day.  I'm going to go with the scenario of: girl's parents died and so she's living with her guardian, who was her dad's best friend from West Point or something, who she's never met before and doesn't like.  Anyway, the bff has a second home in New York, so they've been living there for awhile, and she really doesn't want to go back South at the end of the trip.  (And who could blame her?  The Deep South pre-air-conditioning?  Literally: hell.  Especially when you're wearing a hoop skirt with petticoats and whale-bone corsets or whatever dreadful things women had to encase themselves in back then.  But I digress.)  So since their return is imminent, her solution is to get married now.  Too bad she couldn't have met this guy, but they were years apart.  Still, like yesterday's advertisers, announcing that you're wealthy and then saying you want to get married immediately is just begging to be preyed upon by a fortune hunter.  All that being said, however, what's with the "she don't like to return South."  She "don't" like?  What kind of wealthy Southern lady has such bad grammar?  Almost makes me suspect her true identity, though on the other hand, they weren't blessed with word-processing grammar checks back then, so I guess I shouldn't be too harsh.

Speaking of strange mistakes in ads claiming to be from wealthy, well-educated, and refined people, I note that H. Andrews said "Adress" instead of "Address."  Possibly a printer's typo, although I've noticed these papers were pretty good about not making many spelling errors in these ads.  However, it happens now and then. Anyway, he doesn't actually say he's from the South, but just the explanation that he doesn't know many people in the North implies it.  Odd that he puts it that way.  Why not say that he doesn't know many people in this city?  Why the entire North?  Also, I note that he never actually says he wants to get married.  His ad is in the matrimonial column, but all he ever says is that he wants a correspondence and maybe something a little more "intimate" later on.  Maybe he's just looking for a fun time while traveling in the North and that's all.  Honestly, I doubt that, but you never know!

©2010 Pam Epstein


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