Friday, February 4, 2011
I spun my mouse wheel and double-clicked on the first ad I saw and this was what I found. Not such bad luck for spin-the-bottle (as it were). I can't read all of it because the left side's been cut off, but I can make some good educated guesses:
[?] - A gentleman of refinement, education, and high toned honor, belonging to an excellent family, a stranger in this part of the world, would be happy to begin a confidential correspondence with a well bred and accomplished young lady, 18 or 20 years old, of find personal appearance and beautiful face, and occupying a good position in the best circles of society, with a view to matrimony. Good and satisfactory reasons can be given for this address to the ladies of New York; and he hopes that the honest impulses of his heart will inspire confidence in his honor and elicit proper responses from sincere parties. Address [?] Van Berg, New York city Post office.I made up a few words there; might be a little off but I'm sure close enough to his intent. In any event, I can't figure out what to make of this ad. On the one hand, it seems sincere, but on the other there's something just a little off about it to me. What is with this "high toned honor"? That's odd. I mean, I can imagine what it's supposed to mean, but it's a phrase I've never encountered before. However, when I think about it, I suspect English probably isn't his first language, which would explain why it doesn't feel quite right...like the "honest impulses of his heart"; that's another funny turn of phrase. But he says he's a stranger in this part of the world, and his last name is Van Berg, which makes me wonder if he's German...or Austrian?
All that aside, I tend toward believing this guy, because although he wants to meet a woman who moves in the best circles of society, he doesn't say anything about wealth. Granted, someone who occupies a good social position might be presumed to be financially stable at the very least, but not mentioning money is always a good sign to me. And he also doesn't make any promises about his own wealth, another good sign, because a swindler would probably try to draw women in by proclaiming how successful and rich he was, or at least that's what I figure.
It does make me think of this essay I read from the 19th century about upper-class New Yorkers and their obsession with European nobility. There's just a hint in here that he's got some mysterious past - that he's leaving something out - because he can give satisfactory reasons for his decision to address the "ladies of New York" this way. The article said that all a con man had to do was pretend to be an aristocrat, and all the social-climbing New Yorkers would fall all over themselves to win his friendship and throw their daughters at him in the hopes of giving her a title. But there's really nothing here that indicates he's trying to do that...just a feeling I get.
I don't know - there is just something here that doesn't add up, but maybe I'm just imagining things. You know, for a change! What do you all think?
©2011 Pam Epstein