Shapely Ankle Preferred is a diverting trawl through four centuries of lonely hearts ads, from the first recorded instance (London, 1695) to the present-day, offering glimpses of changing mores.
The earliest ads were strictly businesslike: a Gentleman with a "Very Good Estate" seeking a "young Gentlewoman that has a Fortune of £3,000". The rise of sentimental literature in the 18th century changes the game – now men seek women with sweetness of temper, and prize beauty and delicacy above riches. In the 1870s, a woman seeks a man who is "awfully jolly ... an easy-going kind of fellow with a fairish amount of brains." This book offers the same pleasure one gets from browsing today's lonely hearts columns, with a history lesson thrown in.