Do you believe in love at first sight? Well, how about love that blooms even before setting eyes on each other?
While deep in research on a very unrelated topic, I fell into the fascinating world of correspondence courtship.
The more I read on this topic, the more transactional it sounds. But the more I fantasize about it, the more magical it sounds!
In my mind, I picture a slow-burning love affair playing out through pen and paper, through the mail, across hundreds or possibly thousands of miles. A story of love unfolding… one sentence at a time. SO romantic.
That’s how I want to think of it, anyway.
In the nineteenth century, the era of ‘matrimonial advertisements’, newspapers played Cupid, connecting hearts that might never have crossed paths otherwise. Imagine Tinder, but with quills instead of swipes. Couples fell in love through handwritten letters. Can you imagine uttering the words “I do” before ever locking eyes with someone?!
So what motivated these daring souls to commit to a lifetime with someone they’d never met? There were economic factors, and the aftermath of the Civil War, the California gold rush, and the great western migration lent hand to this unconventional courtship method. But for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to concentrate only on the love story. The love story not driven by physical appearance but rather by the depths of two hearts. It’s way more romantic this way.
While some people deemed it disreputable and scandalous, to me, the allure of love found through the printed word is irresistible. Imagine love transcending the barriers of time and distance… one handwritten letter at a time.
Here’s what I think it looked like (Yes, I am taking creative license):
The Matrimonial Bazar operated from 1869 through 1876
A Bachelor of ability, good moral character, 30 years of age, born and reared under Southern skies, desires to correspond with a true Southern woman, object matrimony. Teetotaller, musical, with good means. Advertiser has travelled foreign countries and would do so again if desired. Will some young lady take pity on one who would make a devoted husband. Address, Bachelor, Box 264, Oklahoma, Ter.
Your portrayal of a gentleman of good moral character, with thirty summers gracing your existence, all beneath the tender sunbeams of Southern skies, has captured my imagination. I wonder about the man you are and the dreams you cradle in your heart.
I wonder, do you possess the strength to carry in the sack of flour that will rise into the bread we shall share by a crackling fire?
I wonder, do you long to sit, nestled by the hearth, sharing tales with your new bride in the warm, flickering glow while the hours slip away unnoticed?
I wonder, do you find solace in the embrace of nature, as I do? Perhaps we might wander through Southern woods, hand in hand, tracing the footsteps of deer or marveling at the vibrant wildflowers that grace our path.
I wonder, can you name the constellations that adorn our Southern skies? For I dream of stargazing, my head resting upon a strong shoulder, as we chart the course of a shared destiny in the heavens.
I wonder about the songs in your heart that flow through your fingertips when you caress the keys of your instrument. Might you serenade me with a tune born of your own creation one day?
And what of the books that adorn your shelves, dear Bachelor? I wonder which favorite tomes that have stirred your soul, for I believe that the tales we hold dear can reveal the deepest recesses of our hearts.
My heart brims with curiosity and anticipation. And with a heart full of wonder and hope, I wait to hear from you.
Magnolia Evangeline Montgomery, a Southern woman
(Anyone want to play the part of the bachelor, Mr. Theodore Adams, and sweep Miss Magnolia off her feet?)