I learned from Laura Schaefer’s entertaining book about personal ads that the very first was placed by a woman seeking a husband in Manchester in 1727. So I thought I’d share a few with you. Most of the Regency era ones are very polite, or they seem to be:
If the Gentleman (supposed a Foreigner) who kindly took a YOUNG LADY from No. 13, Charlotte-street, Rathbone-Place, to Bristol, the beginning of September last, will appoint a Place and Time of Meeting with the Advertiser, whose discretion and secrecy may be relied upon, it may be attended with real benefit to the young Lady. Direct to D.G., at John’s Coffee-house, Cornhill.
Mysterious stuff. The ad was placed on December 31, 1801, in The Times, a full three months after the journey. Surely this young lady’s journey with a nameless foreigner did not result in a pregnancy? Was it an elopement that went wrong?
Or how about this one, from June, 1804, in the chapter entitled A Little Bitter, Are We?
TO M-AM-E. “Forget” you? By Heaven I cannot! Engraven on my soul is your memory, in deepest characters, which time vainly will endeavour to efface, contracted as now must be its span, since without one remonstrance, one expostulation, you can resolve for ever to forget me. Wherefore, then, often warned, persist in exciting a reluctant, indeed, but never more unfeigned sensibility, only to wound it? DO I DESERVE THIS? Is it generous? Is it equitable? But severe no longer, welcome now, is the mandate of authority, enjoining oblivion of ORL-O.
Personals were not always anonymous. Here’s an excerpt from one placed in 1802 in the Ipswich Journal:
Sir John Dinely, of Windsor Castle, recommends himself and his ample fortune to any angelic beauty of a good breed, fit to become and willing to be the mother of a noble heir, and keep up the name of an ancient family ennobled by deeds of arms and ancestral renown …. favor him with your smiles, and paeans of pleasure await your steps.
So what happened? Sir John died a bachelor six years later. Perhaps despite his pedigree, maybe he didn’t meet the basics, as defined by a modern Craigslist personal: Please have all or most of your teeth. Hair is optional.
Personals were not restricted to the educated, the literate, or the upper class. Here’s a fascinating one from The Times, dated 1832, in the Just Plain Strange chapter:
Run away last night, my wife, Bridget Coole. She is a tight, neat body, and has lost one leg. She was seen riding behind the priest of the parish through Fermoy; and, as we never married, I will pay no debt that she does not contract. She lisps with one tooth, and is always talking about faries [sic], and is of no use but to the owner.–Phelim Coole, his X mark.
Didn’t Phelim mean he wouldn’t be responsible for any debt the one-legged lisping femme fatale might contract?
Confession time. Have you ever placed or answered a personal? Had a blind date, or used an online dating service?