Eighteenth Century Agony Aunts, Part Two

We continue our look at the replies to questions by our eighteenth-century agony aunts, we hope you enjoy them. We have to confess, the first one caused much hilarity here at All Things Georgian, both in terms of the question and its response!

Be not over hasty to bury those who die from an apoplexy

Question: A friend of mine was watching her friend who was busy making cheese when he suddenly fell head first into the vat of curd with just his feet sticking out. Someone went to fetch help and managed to get him out. The doctor tried to bleed him, but to no avail, so he was put to bed to get warm, but nothing would revive him, so he was pronounced dead. When it came time to bury him, a knocking could be heard on the coffin. The coffin was opened, and he was alive. Could you tell me how he managed to stay so still as to be presumed dead?

Answer: This must have been a very strong apoplectic fit during which time spirits entered his body, chiefly into his heart, making it seem to have stopped. Our advice is not to be too hasty to bury someone, make sure they are in fact dead first.

The Dead Alive!
The Dead Alive! Lewis Walpole Library

A young woman will not bed with her husband

Question: We have been married for a while now and my wife promised she would never change once married, but now we are married she won’t sleep with me. Can she lawfully do this?

Answer: NO! she entered a contract with you in the presence of God,  ‘to obey, to serve, honour and keep you, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live’, so she is in breach of that contract.

Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700
Scene in a Bedchamber; British School, c.1700; V&A

A gentleman of 500 pounds a year keeps me company

Question: I am a young woman with about 500 pounds in my account. A very charming young man of about the same wealth keeps me company, but he is adamant that he won’t marry. I love him very much but I’m not sure it is reciprocated. What should I do?

Answer: – Get rid of him, he’s not worth the trouble, look for someone worthy who will love you and marry you.

A beau desires to make himself acceptable to the ladies

Question: You give such wise advice that I simply had to write to you to ask what I need to do to create a good impression of myself amongst the Beau Monde. Please help me.

Answer: From the tone of your question it does sound as if you need some assistance. We would recommend that you are brisk in your repartee; let every action captivate the air, the flourish when taking snuff, the twirl of the wig will work wonders. Be witty, but not impertinent. Make sure that you are right on point when following the fashion of the day. Make sure you write your letters neatly and fold them nicely and ideally add a drop of scent to them. We hope these suggestions will be of assistance to your future happiness.

A young lady with 800 pounds pines for a husband

Question: I live in the country but do visit the town. I have 800 pounds, but I still can’t find myself a husband, why is that?

Answer: We see two issues with this –  firstly, you live in the country so unless you are able to spend more time in the town you will never meet a suitable husband as he will need time to get to know you. Secondly, 800 pounds really isn’t enough to catch a good husband, you need at least 1,000 pounds, so get saving.

In Fashion, Out of Fashion.
In Fashion, Out of Fashion. Lewis Walpole Library

Love more difficult to conceal than reveal

Question: There is a young lady that I am in love with, but I don’t think she even realizes it, she doesn’t know me, and I am not acquainted with anyone in her household. I am going abroad shortly, and I would like her to know before I depart. What should I do?

Answer: It is harder to conceal your feelings than to reveal them, so if she isn’t aware by now of your existence or your feelings by now then we feel that she isn’t worth your trouble.

Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740
Lovers in a Landscape by Pieter Jan Van Reysschoot, 1740

 A wife desires to know if she should live with her husband

Question: My husband has been cheating on me and now has an illegitimate child with the other woman which he denies. He has also had other affairs and has acquired something worse. He says he is sorry and it won’t happen again, so should I forgive him? Your speedy answer is sincerely sought.

Answer:  We would recommend keeping him on a tight rein. If he truly reforms then maybe remain with him, if not, you need a ‘plan B’.

Husband discovered in act of kissing a maid . Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Husband discovered in the act of kissing a maid. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

An ugly old maid

Question: What is unhappier than an ugly old maid?

Answer: It is possible for a handsome young maid, to be unhappier than an ugly old one; for happiness consists in our own mind and not in the opinion of others. Therefore, an ugly old maid, who thinks she neither looks old or ugly is happier than a handsome young maid, who is not content with the beauty nature has given her and is continually trying to improve it.

An Old Maid on a Journey by James Gillray



7 thoughts on “Eighteenth Century Agony Aunts, Part Two

  1. Great stories, particularly the one about the premature burial, it reminded me the extraordinary tale by Edgar Alan Poe. The caricatures of James Gillray are terribly funny and cruel at the same time, can we have more of them? Regards

    Liked by 1 person

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