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Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Lonely Hearts Club

Lonely heart ads had been around in Britain since 1695, when a pamphleteer concluded that love could be sold just like fish and chips or bread and milk and as easy as giving candy to a baby.

The first ever ad was by a 30-year-old man, with ‘a very good estate’, in search of ‘some good young gentlewoman that has a fortune of £3,000 or thereabouts’. £3,000 (sterling) is equivalent to roughly £300,000 today. Below are a few more lonely heart ads since:

In 1750 one read: ‘Good teeth, soft lips, sweet breath, with eyes no matter what colour so they are but expressive; of a healthy complexion, rather inclin’d to fair than brown; neat in her person, her bosom full, plump, firm and white; a good understanding, without being a wit, but cheerful and lively in conversation, polite and delicate of speech, her temper humane and tender, and to look as if she could feel delight where she wishes to give it.’

In 1768: ‘A lady, whose accomplishments hath acquired the esteem of the beau monde, having lately lost a secret friend, is desirous of putting herself under the protection of any person of rank and fortune.’

One in 1772 read simply: ‘No ­bodily deformity,’ 

Another in 1772, who wrote even more simply ‘shapely ankle preferr’d’

Yet another in 1787: ‘He must never drink above two bottles of claret, or one of port, at a sitting, and that but three times a week. His education must be liberal, and his address captivating. In company he must pay a ­constant attention to his spouse, and not ogle, or intrigue, by squints and looks, with pert misses, who constantly give men encouragement, by made-up leers, and ­manufactured sight. Only he has promised to do so in the sight of heaven. He must never get up after twelve, or rise before nine o’clock; in a word, he must be the very man he ought to be.’

In 1776, an ad appeared from a British member of parliment talking in the third person:  ‘He lives in great splendour, and from whom a considerable estate must pass if he dies without issue. He hath no objection to marry any widow or single lady, provided the party be of genteel birth, polite manners, and five, six, seven, or eight months gone in her pregnancy.’ 

By World War 1 (1914 to 1918, a British soldier had placed this ad: ‘Lonely young officer, up to his neck in Flanders, would like to correspond with young lady (age 18-20), cheery and good looking.’

While a soldiers girlfriend in1915 wrote: ‘Lady, fiancĂ© killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the War.’

During the American Civil War between 1861-1865, this extract from a soldier to a woman who had responded to his lonely hear ad is my favourite, and so describes the efforts of what a little embellishment can do in the tangled web he weaved when he lied (just a little) to deceive to support his quest for that special partner:-  

Camp of the11th Battery. Feb 9th 1864
‘Before proceeding further, truth and candor compel me to acknowledge that a little deception was used in the advertisement in the “Waverly.”  In other words, my true description differs materially from the one therein set forth, and may not please you as well as the one “fancy painted,” but I thought it was all for fun, therefore funningly gave a fictitious description as well as cognomen. 
Be it known unto you then, this individual is 29 years of age, five feet and eleven inches high, dark blue eyes, brown hair, and light (ruddy) complexion. There you have it. How do you like the description? Me thinks I hear you answer. I don’t like it so well as the advertised description. Well ! I’ll admit it is not quite so fascinating to a young lady as the fictitious one, but it is a fixed fact, “like the laws of the Medes and Persians,” which alter not.”……’

Barry Clifford