There is nothing new about Lonely Hearts advertisements in magazines, as shown by this one from the March 1740 edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine:
“As your Paper is calculated for the Fair Sex, and comes to the Hands consequently of a great number of pretty young Ladies, I address this Letter to you, as the Contents of it regard their Interest as well as my own. You must know that I am an old Batchelor, worth forty thousand Pounds, in my sixty-third year, or thereabouts, somewhat infirm of Body but perfectly sound of Mind: I have always been averse to Marriage, but am now willing to enter into that holy State on such Conditions as will hereafter be specfy’d. Having fairly got over the Rigour of the late Severe Season which has swept so many of my Age away I am inclin’d to think from some sensible Juvenilities I perceive about me, that this Spring will make me twenty Years younger than I am, and that when Lent is over, the Entering into the Bands of Wedlock would conduce much to my Health as well as Happiness.
Having such an Intention, and such a Fortune, you may wonder that I want a Match. Why, sir, I know well enough that I might not be long wanting would I but disclose my Mind to some Ladies, but Sir, I am very bashful and at this Time should not care to go through the least Formality of Courtship: I know if I have a very fine, beautiful, accomplish’d young Lady (and such a one only will I have) my Money must buy her; therefore I endeavour to get such a Purchase with as little trouble as possible, and that is my Occasion of writing this Letter to you.
I have heard that when Persons of my Wealth and Age marry such young Ladies as I have described, they are us’d very ill by them when they are in any Sickness: and that sometimes the Doctor Apothecary, or Nurse or something or other helps them forward to the other World, that the young Widow may enjoy the large Jointure settled on her: For which Reasons… that I may be under no Apprehension of having my Pillow pull’d from under my Head in a fit of the Phthisick; and that I may have all due Care and Comfort administer’ to me by my Wife, I do propose to any Young, beautiful, accomplish’d young Lady, who will take me for her wedded Husband, to give her three thousand Pounds, down on the Day of Marriage, and to settle on her six hundred Pounds per annum during my Natural Life; but on the day of my Decease the said six hundred Pounds per Ann. shall entirely cease, and go as I shall think Proper to dispose of it in my last Will and Testament, she having no Claim or Title to any Part thereof.
You must see by my Meaning by this Scheme; tis her Interest to have me live as long as possible: If any Lady such as I have describ’d, will accept of this Proposal, let her send a line (… to the Editor) and on your advertising the Receipt, you shall hear from me.
Ed: If any Lady, after a very nice Calculation of the Value of such a Marriage, thinks proper to accept Mr Single’s Proposal, on her writing to me I shall obey his Directions…”
Well it has to be said it isn’t the most romantic of declarations – money for love (well, more like: money for status, with a bit on the side thrown in). I may be a gentleman of similar years to Mr Single, also perhaps of infirm body but sound mind (or is it the other way round…) but I cannot say I sympathize with him in his predicament!
In fact it merely highlights the lack of opportunities for women in the 18th Century unless they were prepared to marry – and for some, marrying an old goat for a lump sum of £3000 was perhaps a price worth paying. Play your cards right and the Old Boy’s ticker wouldn’t stand the pace for long, and you would be free to go looking for your next elderly gentleman….