Shapely Ankle Preferr'd, By Francesca Beauman


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The Independent Culture

For those who have ever looked for love in a newspaper column, take heart, your late 17th-century ancestors were doing the same. The lonely hearts format was born in 1695, in the Matrimonials section of The Times.

While they began as adverts for men seeking women of fortune, the changing tone and language over three centuries reflects the sexual politics of classes and eras, from a "fresh, free and willing Widdow" seeking sex, to a "gentleman of very considerable fortune" maimed by an ostrich kick in the East Indies, and a lady in 1921 who "will gladly marry officer totally blinded or... incapacitated in the War", right up to today's plea for a man with a GSOH.

A fascinating social history, this book will keep singletons warm on the 14th.