5 Intriguing Letters To A 17th-Century Advice Column

Original article taken from www.listverse.com


In London in 1690, John Dunton founded the Athenian Mercury, a magazine to answer “all the most nice and curious questions.” It was the world’s first advice column.Any literate person could write in with questions on subjects ranging from the philosophical to the scientific to the personal. One man asked where the wind came from. Another asked for advice concerning the drunkenness of his wife. In one memorable submission, a man asked why a horse’s “fundament” was round yet it emitted an “oblong excrement.

5. Young Men Back Then Had Similar Concerns To Those Of Today

Q. It is my misfortune to be red-haired. I love a lady who has the greatest aversion imaginable to that colored hair. I love her to distraction and have sufficient hope of obtaining her were this obstacle removed.I don’t expect a perfect alteration of the hair. I only beg you would direct me in such a method as may make it brown for 15 or 16 days so that neither sweat nor rain will efface it, and then to repeat it again, for if she discovers it at any time after marriage, her aversion will be equally fatal to me.A. We fancy it can’t be impossible to have your hair stained or dyed by a skillful painter with ingredients so strong as it would never out till that crop were off the ground. For the rest of the hair, since it will be every day peeping out and in a little while your head will be like a bullfinch’s, of two colors, in which case we know no remedy but to repeat the operation

4. Cure For Hearing Voices

Q. There is a gentleman who has for a long time been possessed with a fancy that people are continually talking to him with an audible voice, sometimes one, sometimes another, who threaten to destroy him one way or another.Now, gentlemen, your opinion is desired, whether it be possible for persons to discourse with him at a great distance and in such manner as not to be heard by some friends near him who have the sense of hearing quick enough? Whence this fancy proceeds, and what means are proper to cure and remove it?A. We have heard a great many plausible stories of men conversing with spirits, but we neither see how it can be performed nor can positively prove the contrary.Yet are most apt to believe the notion proceeds from some distempers in the brain and is nothing else but the effect of a melancholy fancy which is often caused by the indisposition of the body and sometimes by want for agreeable conversation. But however it comes, the best way to remove it is by taking physic (medicine), walking abroad, and frequenting agreeable company.

3. A Clairvoyant Dog

Q. I desire your opinion of the following relation: My father had a dog which he kept a great many years, in which time I had two brothers and one sister that died, and it was observed that this dog always the day before they died, went about [90 meters (300 ft)] from the house and laid his nose toward the church where they are all buried and howled in a strange, hideous manner for an hour or more at a time, and when my father died, he did the same.Now it seems as if this dog had some prophetic knowledge in these matters. Gentlemen, your opinion would much oblige.[3]A. We can’t tell what to make of hundreds of such instances as these, some of which we ourselves are assured are true. All we can say is, there must be something in it not natural since what power in nature has a dog more than any other creature to foresee (or rather foresmell) such accidents.

2. Not The Best Husband

Q. I’m a married man, but having a very ill wife, have been parted from her for some years, and design never to live with her more. Now I desire your advice whether I may pray to God to take her to himself, that I may endeavor to make myself happy in another.A. Sure if she’s fit for heaven, she’s fit for you; and if she were as good while you lived with her as she is now, how came you to part? It would yet be handsomer to submit to God’s will and wait with patience, or rather pray that he’d convert her, than take her away in such a condition.

1. Or The Best Wife

Q. I have been married (God help me) to a pretended widow who keeps a public house for five years. She drinks herself very plentifully and extremely abuses me when she’s drunk, nor can I excuse her when she’s sober, which does not often happen.She gives me very scurrilous language—rascal, cuckold—and this before all the company that comes to her house. I can’t call it mine for I must confess it is she that wears the breeches.She takes all the money that’s spent in the house and won’t allow me one penny. She has already conveyed several hundred pounds out of the house, which she’ll give me no account of, but declares she’ll run me in debt as much as possible, on purpose, that I may rot and starve in a Gaol (O loving spouse). For charity, I beg your advice how, if possible, I may reduce her to a better mind.

A. Alas! If one-half of this be true, thou art in a very woeful pickle and require the charitable assistance of all well-disposed husbands. We’ll be short in our advice—for mending your good spouse, we think it is impossible unless as we mend an old coat with a new one.Your way, therefore, is to get three or four lusty, honest fellows into the house with ye, take your dearly beloved and mew her up in some garret till you have sold off house and household stuff, and retire somewhere or other into the country that she may not find ye (as you value your nose, ears, and all the rest of your movables) and there make much of yourself at a safer distance from her, since she has, it seems, feathered her nest so well already that there’s no fear of so good a creatures wanting.

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