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