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Orphan preferred

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why do all these men only want to marry orphans?  Okay, one other guy.  But I feel like I've seen this elsewhere.  Anyway, one man or twenty men, it's weird and I want to know why.


An American gentleman, thirty years of age, wishes to form the acquaintance of some American lady (an orphan preferred), not less than 18 nor more than 24 years of age, with a view to matrimony.  She must be of the highest respectability, prepossessing and genteel in appearance, of good education, accustomed to good society and of a loving disposition.  Any lady answering the above can do so with the utmost confidence, as all communications will be strictly confidential, and letters returned when requested; for this means just what it says, nothing more and nothing less.  Address for three days, giving real name and where can be seen (none others will be noticed), Knickerbocker, box 164 Herald office.
I call foul.  None of this rings true to me.  Here's what we know about the desired lady: she has no living parents, is very young, respectable, genteel, of good society, loving, and will give her real name and her address.  Here's what we know about the advertiser: he's 30.  Well, I guess at least he didn't say she must be wealthy to boot.  However, just because he doesn't mention money doesn't mean he doesn't want it.  It's actually somewhat clever, because by not saying you want a wealthy wife, people might be like, oh, he's not a gold digger, he must be sincere!  But probably he's hoping some young, foolish, unprotected heiress will respond and he'll ignore everyone else.  On the other hand, if you're hoping to seduce silly girls, this ad isn't really designed to draw them in.  Knickerbocker, my friend, you're supposed to talk about how rich and loving and handsome you are if you want a romantic young miss to write you back.  This ad is very no-nonsense.  So, I dunno, maybe it is sincere?  Maybe he's just kind of tactless and thoughtless and didn't really think through how this ad might come off? 

But if sincere, why the preferred orphan?  I hear-tell that sometimes in-laws can be a real nightmare, but are you really going to base your marriage choice on your concern that your wife's parents might be annoying and overbearing?  Because otherwise I can't think of a single legitimate reason why you would "prefer" an orphan that isn't completely nefarious.  I would imagine in the 19th century, an orphaned girl in her late teens or early twenties would be living pretty precariously and easily preyed upon, so it's hard for me not to be suspicious of Knickerbocker's motives here.

Speaking of that name, though, I was inspired to look up the origins of that word, which I amazingly never had done before, and I thought you'd like to know too!  According to handy Wikipedia, Washington Irving wrote a book about New York City under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, and ever since then it's been a term used to describe New Yorkers.  Indeed, it's where the New York Knicks gets its name too.  So now there's two things we know about Our Hero.  He's 30 and he's a New Yorker. I'm still not sold.

©2011 Pam Epstein

5 comments:

Cari Hislop August 6, 2011 at 2:29 AM  

He could just be a man with unrealistic expectations (I can't imagine there were many genteel orphans who didn't have guardians with pistols) but on the other hand that line where he says...nothing more nothing less...that strikes me as rather "I think the fortune hunter/ax murderer doth protest too much". Whoever he was he sounds creepy. I hope no genteel ladies answered the ad.

Anonymous February 27, 2013 at 5:25 PM  

You're right. There was some doubt as you get into it. On the other hand it woudn't be that interesting story if you woudn't spice it up.

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Patryk February 27, 2013 at 5:35 PM  

He could be, he could be not. I think that sometimes is better to stop assuming.

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Grace April 24, 2013 at 12:22 PM  

Orphans tend to be more sensitive, fragile. Someone taking an orphan seems to show a lot of courage and tenderness as they want to take care of. I think that people giving the chance an orphan chance for a normal life wants to repay for sing of their past. wypadek uk

Paul April 29, 2013 at 8:18 PM  

When I was doing some web design preston used to be a good place for orphans (in late 90's) as my neighbours had adopted two and nobody was bullying them at all. But times has changed.

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