Yale University recently celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of the death of one of America's most original geniuses - Benjamin Franklin. When sixteen (1722), Benjamin Franklin published in the New England Courant a series of essays now known famously as The Dogood Papers. In these letters the widow Silence Dogood announces her availability for marriage and sums up her characteristics: "To be brief: I am courteous and affable, good humored (unless I am first provoked,) and handsome, and sometimes witty."
The placing of "personals" in the classified pages has become a commonplace of contemporary life. But it has wide precedence and deep antecedence. John Cockburn, in Lonely Hearts: Looking for Love Among the Small Ads (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987) demonstrates that the English have been advertising for dates in the press since the middle of the 1700s. "In 1760 a young gentleman of North Britain, 'but with very little of the brogue,' described himself as 'tall in stature,...
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