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Lydia, oh Lydia

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Really I just like this one because it made me think of the song.


A lady, twenty-two years of age, of fastidious taste, wishes to correspond with a gentleman of refinement with a view to matrimony; he must possess rare mental endowments, superior education, be attractive in person and manners, have good social position; also entitled by noble qualities of heart, mind and birth, to the title of gentleman. She possesses every necessarily qualification to correspond with the requirements asked; wealth of no consequence. Address for one week Lydia Languish, Herald office.

Lydia Languish is, of course, not her real name. It rung a bell with me (and even if it hadn't, there is no way anyone could convince me that this was a real name), so I looked it up. "Lydia Languish" was a character in a play from 1775 called The Rivals, who wanted to have a romantic love affair. Interestingly, though Lydia in the play also claims to not care about money, she ends up with a wealthy nobleman who had been posing as a poor soldier, so I wonder if our Lydia is being just a tad bit disingenuous here. Thing I did not know until just now: the word "malapropism" comes from Lydia Languish's guardian, Mrs. Malaprop, who constantly makes, well, malapropisms. You see? You learn something new every day.

In any event, knowing where she gets her name from makes me like our Lydia. She likes comedies, she desires true romance, and she at least says she's okay marrying a man without money (I am skeptical of this - or rather, I suspect that she thinks she's okay with it, until she's actually courted by a man with no money, at which point she'll hope that Ensign Beverly will become Captain Jack). She does have quite a list of demands though: "rare mental endowments," excellent education, attractive, and manners, and "noble qualities of heart, mind and birth." Anything else, Lydia? You sure you didn't forget anything important? But, to be fair, she admits up front she's fastidious.

I have high hopes for Miss Languish. She's got a sense of humor and a heart of gold. Somehow or other, I bet she met her man...

©2010 Pam Epstein

1 comments:

snoekbrown October 18, 2010 at 1:40 AM  

"she at least says she's okay marrying a man without money (I am skeptical of this - or rather, I suspect that she thinks she's okay with it, until she's actually courted by a man with no money"

I'm not so sure. She also says she's looking for a man with "superior education," and aren't we talking about an era in which the well-educated were only well-educated because they also were well-off? Granted, her dream man could come from a family that used to be rich and then lost their fortune, and that might be fine with her. But there at least seems an expectation of experience with wealth, especially with that line about all his other "noble" qualities. Thanks to your explanation about the origins of her name, I'm reading "noble" as a kind of code word. Yes? No?

By the way, I think I've said this before, but it bears repeating: I absolutely LOVE this blog. I've shared it with all my friends and colleagues in gender studies and/or 18th- and 19th-C lit, and my wife and I like to read these posts together in the evenings. So much fun, and always so insightful!

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