Originally created 02/13/98

Personal columns, circa 1787

Love is like the measles ... the later in life we have it, the tougher it is on us. -- Josh Billings

It was February -- the month of valentines -- in 1787 when a young man wrote to this newspaper.

He did not sign his name, as was often the custom when writing to newspapers in those days, but closed his letter with a Latin phrase Homo, caret uxorem ("Man desiring wife.")

His plea was straightforward:

"A young gentleman, whose residence in this country has been but short, wishes most ardently to enter into the holy state of matrimony with any lady, either widow or virgin, professing a fortune that will render the remainder of their lives in that respect easy and comfortable.

"Face or figure not absolutely necessary, as the gentleman is not very particular.

"His age being considerably under 30, it would be pleasing to him if the lady, who is so fortunate as to get him, is anywhere between 16 and 60.

"The writer thinks it may not be amiss to give some account of himself; as to person he is passably well made, rather athletic, of an easy and complying kind disposition, a genteel address, and upon the whole a desirable object. His family and connections indisputable ..."

Naturally, Augusta newspaper advertising being as effective then as it is today, he soon drew a reply from a local woman.

"In perusing your last Saturday's paper, I observed a pretty little smart advertisement, which I suppose, as is generally the case with productions of this kind, no bad emblem of the genius of its author, though his person, it seems, is rather athletic.

"I am what the world calls, but perhaps improperly, an antiquated virgin; and am -- let me see -- about 30 -- yet some elderly ladies, who were my companions when we were children, say -- out of mere spite I think, -- that I am at least 59.

"However, than to my good fate even that is within the limitation prescribed by this kind, complying, young beau, who, I have reason to hope by the tenor of his advertisement, has discernment enough to see my merits, which all the rest of his sex, who have had the honor of my acquaintance, have been stupidly blind to.

"My fortune, if I should be so fortunate as to get this desirable object, I undertake to affirm, will be fully equal to our desserts. With respect to my virginity, suffice it to say, I have never been married; as to my family and connections be they what they may, I can say as much as my beau has done, that they are indisputable.

"Finding that he is not particular as to figure or face, I shall forebear to describe mine. Respecting my place of residence the beau must excuse me if I refuse to inform him thus publicly of it; as there are very few gentlemen in this place but who visit me occasionally, I suppose he cannot long want an introduction."

She signed it Meretrix, which I translate again as Latin for "deserving woman."

Did they get together on an Augusta Valentine's Day 211 years ago? We don't know that they did. But who's to say they didn't?

Cupid's arrow has found less likely targets.


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