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For pity's sake

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

These make me sad.  But the second one, at least, makes me fascinated.

D - Any night but Wednesday; write at once; come this week; for God's sake, pity.

D.M. - Last delivery made, but no mail for Pennsylvania.  Have you no mercy?  A dreadful calamity is awaiting him.  He wanders like a shipwreck, with no soul to stand by him.  Write immediately that you will W. be early.

Juan - Utterly wretched; cannot rest; wait anxiously; send letter care Swed. Log., London; going there; give safe address to reply.

Jimme A.F. - I am broken hearted; write and let me know where you are.  Katie F.
Wow.  These are mostly pretty typical heartbroken ads, but that second one is awesome.  I'll get back to that in a minute though.  The other three, all from the same day, could practically have been written all by the same hand.  There were a few, rare people who believed that these ads were all inventions of the newspaper editors as a way to ensnare a romance-loving audience.  I don't think that's true, for a lot of reasons, one of which is that it would have been a full-time job coming up with clever new ideas every day, seven days a week, with as many as 10 or 15 ads each day.  That's my own personal opinion; I also have some compelling evidence that backs me up.  That being said, why are these so similar?  This is one of the things that I found really intriguing as I worked on my dissertation (and funnily enough, by sheer coincidence, I was sort of talking about in my last entry).  Were people modeling their ads on the ads of others that they saw? Or on romance novels?  Was it a self-conscious decision to make themselves sound so tragic?  Did people actually talk this way?  I don't think they did.  I think people 150 years ago talked pretty much like they do today, except maybe more politely.

Anyway.  It's interesting to think about the possibility that despite the fact these people were miserable, they still wrote in a style that indicated an awareness of the romance of their affairs.  And the knowledge that they were appearing in public must have made that even more clear.

And the second ad is a perfect example.  "He wanders like a shipwreck, with no soul to stand by him."  Oh, that is wonderful.  Who are these people?  Who is "he"?  What dreadful calamity awaits him?  What can D.M. do to save him?  It sort of sounds like "he" and D.M. were together, but D.M. broke up with him, and now he's totally miserable.  He can't live without her, he's directionless and alone, etc etc.  But while that would make a lot of sense if "he" was writing the ad himself (because he'd be all overwrought and whatnot), it's bizarre coming from a third party.  What does the writer have at stake here?  Why is s/he so wrapped up in this affair that s/he draws on this shipwreck analogy?  Parent?  Sibling?  Best friend?  And the "dreadful calamity"; is that just, he's going to be even more depressed, or is something bad actually going to happen?  Oooohh, the romance-thriller is shaping up in my head as I write...

©2011 Pam Epstein


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Heartbreaking? Isn't that makes us stronger?

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