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At first, conversation was somewhat forced — but he was much impressed when his blind date revealed that she lived with a Lady Courtly.‘As her friend?’ he asked.‘Not exactly,’ she said, and changed the subject.‘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.They then inserted a second ad, asking for the man who’d answered to be at Drury Lane Theatre on a certain night, then to stand up at the end and apply a monocle to his right eye. As they caught sight of each other through their monocle, they gradually became aware that they’d all been had.In 1828, no fewer than 53 respectable ladies replied to an advert from 24-year-old William Corder saying he was in need of a respectable wife to provide him with property and domestic comforts.
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But over the ensuing decades, the qualities that people desired in a husband or wife began to change.
In the second half of the 18th century, it was clear that as well as money, men particularly prized domestic virtues and ‘delicacy’ — a word that constantly recurred.
He was willing to ‘give a considerable sum of money with her to any gentleman, or person in genteel business, who has good sense and resolution to despise the censures of the world, and will enter with her into the holy state of matrimony’.
Ads like these only contributed to the perception that personal columns were a hotbed of intrigue.