I have much pleasure in announcing myself as the happiest man alive. My character is, I have reason to believe, new to the world. Novelists, Dramatists, and Entertainers of an easily-amused public have never yet, to my knowledge, laid hands on me. Society is obscurely aware of my existence; is frequently disposed to ask questions about me; is always wanting to get face to face with me, and see what I am like; and has never been fortunate enough yet to make the desired discovery. I come forward of my own accord, actuated by motives of the most purely amiable sort, to dispel the mists in which I have hitherto been hidden, and to gratify the public by disclosing myself. Behold me, then, self-confessed and self-announced—the long-sought type; the representative Individual; the interesting Man who believes in Advertisements.

In using the word Advertisements, I mean to imply all those public announcements (made chiefly through the medium of the newspapers) which address personal interests, and which require an exercise of personal faith in the individual who reads them. Advertisements which divert an unthinking public, which excite contemptuous astonishment in superficial minds, which set flippant people asking each other, “Who believes in this? Where are the people who can possibly be taken in by it?” and so on, are precisely the Advertisements to which I now allude. To my wise belief in these beneficent public offers of assistance to humanity, I am indebted for the unruffled mental tranquillity in which my life—a model life, as I venture to think it—is now passed. I see my fellow-creatures around me the dupes of their own fatal incredulity; worn by cares, which never trouble me; beset by doubts, from which I have escaped for ever—I see this spectacle of general anxiety and general wretchedness; and I find it invariably associated with a sarcastic suspicion, an irreverent disregard of those advertised roads to happiness and prosperity along which I have travelled, in my own personal case, with such undeniable and such astonishing results. My nature has been soft from infancy. My bosom is animated by a perpetual glow of philanthropy. I behold my species suffering, in all directions, through its own disastrous sharpness—and I compassionately come forward, in consequence, to persuade humanity that its business in this world is, not to make itself miserable by fighting with troubles, but to keep itself healthy, wealthy, and wise, by answering Advertisements.

I ask, believe me, very little. Faith and a few postage stamps—I want nothing more to regenerate the civilised world. With these treasures in ourselves; and with (to quote a few widely-known advertisements) “Graphiology,” “Ten Pounds weekly realised by either Sex,” “Matrimony Made Easy,” and “The Future Foretold,” all gently illuminating our path through life, we may amble forward along our flowery ways, and never be jolted, never be driven back, never be puzzled about our right road, from the beginning of the journey to the end. Take my own case, as an instance; and hear me while I record the results of personal experience.

I shall abstain, at the outset, from quoting any examples to establish the connexion between advertisements and health; because I may fairly assume, from the notoriously large sale of advertised medicines, that the sick public is well aware of the inestimable benefit to be derived from an implicit confidence in quacks. The means, however, of becoming, not healthy only, but wise and wealthy as well, by dint of believing in advertisements, are far less generally known. To this branch of the subject I may, therefore, address myself, with the encouraging conviction that I am occupying comparatively new ground.

Allow me, to begin by laying down two first principles. No man can feel comfortably wise, until he is on good terms with himself; and no man can, rationally speaking, be on good terms with himself until he knows himself.

And how is he to know himself? I may be asked. Quite easily, I answer, by accepting the means of information offered in the following terms, and in all the newspapers, by a benefactress of mankind:

“Know Thyself! The Original Graphiologist, Miss Blank, continues her interesting and useful delineations of character, from examination of the handwriting, in a style peculiarly her own, and which can be but badly imitated by the ignorant pretenders and self-styled professors who have lately laid claim to a knowledge of this beautiful science. Persons desirous of knowing their own character, or that of any friend, must send a specimen of writing, stating sex and age, or supposed age, with fourteen uncut penny postage stamps, to Miss Blank, for which will be returned a detail of the gifts, defects, talents, tastes, affections, &c., of the writer, with other things previously unsuspected, calculated to guide in the everyday affairs of life,” &c. &c.

This advertisement is no invention of my own. Excepting the lady’s name, it is a true copy of an original, which does really appear in all the newspapers.

Off went my handwriting, and my fourteen uncut stamps, by the next post. Back, in a day or two (for Graphiology takes its time), came that inestimable revelation of my character which will keep me to the last day of my life on the best and highest terms with myself. I incorporate my own notes with the letter, as an unquestionable guarantee of the truth of its assertions, and a pleasing evidence, likewise, of its effect upon my mind on a first reading:

“The handwriting of our correspondent is wanting in firmness and precision.” (Solely in consequence of my having a bad pen.) “There is apparent insincerity towards those who do not know you, but it is only putting a covering on your really warm heart.” (How true!) “Large-minded, and inclined to be very forgiving. Generous, but not very open.” (Well, if I must be one or the other, and not both together, I would rather be generous than open—for who can blame the closed heart when accompanied by the open hand?) “Of sterling integrity and inflexible perseverance.” (Just so!) “You are clever in whatever you undertake—kindly—original—vivacious—full of glee and spirit.” (Myself!—I blush to own it, but this is myself, drawn to the life!) “You conceal your real nature not so much from hypocrisy as prudence—yet there is nothing sordid or mean about you.” (I should think not, indeed!) “You show least when you appear most open, and yet you are candid and artless.” (Too true—alas, too true!) “You are good-humoured, but it partakes more of volatile liveliness than wit.” (I do not envy the nature of the man who thinks this a defect.) “There is a melancholy tenderness pervades your manner” (there is, indeed!)—”when succouring any one requiring your aid, which is at variance with your general tone. In disposition you are refined and sensitive.”

With this brief, gratifying, and neatly-expressed sentence, the estimate of my character ended. It has been as genuinely copied from a genuine original as the specimen which precedes it; and it was accompanied by a pamphlet presented gratis, on the “Management of the Human Hair.” Apparently, there had been peculiarities in my handwriting which had betrayed to the unerring eye of the Graphiologist, that my hair was not totally free from defects; and the pamphlet was a delicate way of hinting at the circumstance, and at the remedial agents to which I might look for relief. But this is a minor matter, and has nothing to do with the great triumph of Graphiology, which consists in introducing us to ourselves, on terms that make us inestimably precious to ourselves, for the trifling consideration of fourteenpenn’orth of postage stamps. To a perfectly unprejudiced—that is to say, to a wisely credulous mind—such a science as this carries its own recommendation along with it. Comment is superfluous—except in the form of stamps transmitted to the Graphiologist. I may continue the record of my personal experiences.

Having started, as it were, afresh in life, with a new and improved opinion of myself—having discovered that I am clever in whatever I undertake, kindly, original, vivacious, full of glee and spirit, and that my few faults are so essentially modest and becoming as to be more of the nature of second-rate merits than of positive defects—I am naturally in that bland and wisely contented frame of mind which peculiarly fits a man to undertake the choice of his vocation in life, with the certainty of doing the fullest justice to himself. At this new point in my career, I look around me once again among my sceptical and unhappy fellow-mortals. What turbulence, what rivalry, what heart-breaking delays, disappointments, and discomfitures do I not behold among the disbelievers in advertisements the dupes of incredulity, who are waiting for prizes in the lottery of professional existence! Here is a man vegetating despondingly in a wretched curacy; here is another, pining briefless at the unproductive Bar; here is a third, slaving away his youth at a desk, on the chance of getting a partnership, if he lives to be a middle-aged man. Inconceivable infatuation! Every one of these victims of prejudice and routine sees the advertisements—as I see them. Every one might answer the following announcement, issued by a disinterested lover of his species—as I answer it:

Ten Pounds Weekly.—May be permanently realised by either sex, with each pound expended. Particulars clearly shown that these incomes are so well secured to those investing that to fail in realising them is impossible. Parties may commence with small investments, and by increasing them out of their profits, can, with unerring certainty, realise an enormous income. No partnership, risk, liability, or embarking in business. Incontestable authorities given in proof of these statements. Enclose a directed stamped envelope to,” &c. &c.

All this information for a penny stamp! It is offered—really offered in the terms quoted above—in the advertising columns of half the newspapers in England; especially in the cheap newspapers, which have plenty of poor readers, hungry for any little addition to their scanty incomes. Would anybody believe that we persist in recognising the clerical profession, the medical profession, the legal profession, and that the Ten-Pounds-Weekly profession is, as yet, unacknowledged among us!

Well, I despatch my directed envelope. The reply is returned to me in the form of two documents, one lithographed and one printed, and both so long that they generously give me, at the outset, a good shilling’s worth of reading for my expenditure of a penny stamp. The commercial pivot on which the structure of my enormous future income revolves, I find, on perusal of the documents—the real documents, mind, not my imaginary substitutes for them—to be a “Fabric”—described as somewhat similar in appearance to “printed velvet.” How simple and surprising! how comprehensive and satisfactory—especially to a poor man, longing for that little addition to his meagre income! The Fabric is certain to make everybody’s fortune. And why? Because it is a patent Fabric, and because it can imitate everything, at an expense of half nothing. The Fabric can copy flowers, figures, landscapes, and historical pictures; paper-hangings, dress-pieces, shawls, scarfs, vests, trimmings, book-covers, and “other manufactures too numerous to detail.” The Fabric can turn out “hundreds of thousands of articles at one operation.” By skilful manœuvring of the Fabric “ninety per cent of material is saved.” In the multitudinous manipulations of the Fabric—and this is a most cheering circumstance—”sixty veneers have been cut to the inch.” In the public disposal of the Fabric—and here is the most surprising discovery of all—the generous patentee (who answers my application) will distribute its advantages over the four quarters of the globe, in shares—five-shilling shares—each one of which is “probably worth several hundred pounds.” But why talk of hundreds? Let clergymen, doctors, and barristers talk of hundreds. The Ten-Pounds-Weekly profession takes its stand on the Fabric, and counts by millions. We can prove this (I speak as a Fabricator) by explicit and incontrovertible reference to facts and figures.

How much (the following illustrations and arguments are not my own: they are derived entirely from the answer I receive to my application)—how much does it cost at present to dress a lady, shawl a lady, and bonnet a lady; to parasol and slipper a lady, and to make a lady quite happy after that, with a porte-monnaie, an album, and a book-cover? Eight pounds—and dirt cheap, too. The Fabric will do the whole thing—now that “sixty veneers have been cut to the inch,” mind, but not before—for Two pounds. How much does it cost to carpet, rug, curtain, chair-cover, decorate, table-cover, and paper-hang a small house? Assume ruin to the manufacturer, and say, as a joke, Ten pounds. The Fabric, neatly cutting its sixty veneers to the inch, will furnish the house, as it furnishes the lady, for Two pounds. What follows? Houses of small size and ladies of all sizes employ the Fabric. What returns pour in? Look at the population of houses and ladies, and say Seventy Millions Sterling per annum. Add foreign houses and foreign ladies, under the head of Exports, and say Thirty Millions per annum more. Is this too much for the ordinary mind to embrace? It is very good. The patentee is perfectly willing to descend the scale at a jump; to address the narrowest comprehension; and to knock off nine-tenths. Remainder, Ten Millions. Say that “the royalty” will be thirty per cent., and “such profit would give three millions of pounds sterling to be divided among the shareholders.” Simple, as the simplest sum in the Multiplication Table: simple as two and two make four.

I am aware that the obstinate incredulity of the age will inquire why the fortunate Patentee does not keep these prodigious returns to himself. How base is Suspicion! How easily, in this instance, is it answered and rebuked! The Patentee refrains from keeping the returns to himself, because he doesn’t want money. His lithographed circular informs me—really and truly does inform me, and will inform you if you have to do with him—that he has had “a good fortune” left him, and that he is “heir to several thousand pounds a year.” With these means at his disposal, he might of course work his inestimable patent with his own resources. But no!—he will let the public in. What a man! How noble his handwriting must be, in a graphiological point of view! What phrases are grateful enough to acknowledge his personal kindness in issuing shares to me at “the totally-inadequate sum”—to use his own modest words—of five shillings each? Happy, happy day, when I and the Fabric and the Patentee were all three introduced to one another!

When a man is so fortunate as to know himself, from the height of his “volatile liveliness” to the depth of his “melancholy tenderness”—as I know myself—when, elevated on a multiform Fabric, he looks down from the regions of perpetual wealth on the narrow necessities of the work-a-day world beneath him—but one other action is left for that man to perform, if he wishes to make the sum of his earthly felicity complete. The ladies will already have anticipated that the action which I now refer to as final may be comprehended in one word—Marriage.

The course of all disbelievers in advertisements, where they are brought face to face with this grand emergency, is more or less tortuous, troubled, lengthy, and uncertain. No man of this unhappy stamp can fall in love, bill and coo, and finally get himself married, without a considerable amount of doubt, vexation, and disappointment occurring at one period or other in the general transaction of his amatory affairs. Through want of faith and postage stamps, mankind have agreed to recognise these very disagreeable drawbacks as so many inevitable misfortunes: dozens of popular proverbs assert their necessary existence, and nine-tenths of our successful novels are filled with the sympathetic recital of them in successions of hysterical chapters. And yet, singular as it may appear, the most cursory reference to the advertising columns of the newspapers is sufficient to show the fallacy of this view, if readers would only exercise (as I do) their faculties of implicit belief. As there are infallible secrets for discovering character by handwriting, and making fortunes by Fabrics, so there are other infallible secrets for falling in love with the right woman, fascinating her in the right way, and proposing to her at the right time, which render doubt, disappointment, or hesitation, at any period of the business, so many absolute impossibilities. Once again, let me confute incredulous humanity, by quoting my own happy experience.

Now, mark. I think it desirable to settle in life. Good. Do I range over my whole acquaintance; do I frequent balls, concerts, and public promenades; do I spend long days in wearisome country-houses, and sun myself persistently at the watering-places of England—all for the purpose of finding a woman to marry? I am too wise to give myself any such absurd amount of trouble. I simply start my preliminary operations by answering the following advertisement:

To the Unmarried.—If you wish to Marry, send a stamped-addressed envelope to the Advertiser, who will put you in possession of a Secret by means of which you can win the affections of as many of the opposite sex as your heart may desire. This is suitable for either sex; for the old or young, rich or poor, whether of prepossessing appearance or otherwise.—Address, Mr. Flam, London.”

When the answer reaches me, I find Mr. Flam—although undoubtedly a benefactor to mankind—to be scarcely so ready of access and so expansive in his nature as the Proprietor of the Fabric. Instead of sending me the Secret, he transmits a printed paper, informing me that he wants two shillings worth of postage stamps first. To my mind, it seems strange that he should have omitted to mention this in the Advertisement. But I send the stamps, nevertheless; and get the Secret back from Mr. Flam, in the form of a printed paper. Half of this paper is addressed to the fair sex, and is therefore, I fear, of no use to me. The other half, however, addresses the lords of the creation; and I find the Secret summed up at the end, for their benefit, in these few but most remarkable words:

To the Male Sex.—If a woman is clean and neat in her dress, respects the Sabbath, and is dutiful towards her parents, happy will be the man who makes her his wife.”

Most astonishing! All great discoveries are simple. Is it not amazing that nobody should have had the smallest suspicion of the sublime truth expressed above, until Mr. Flam suddenly hit on it? How cheap, too—how scandalously cheap at two shillings! And this is the man whose generosity I doubted—the man who not only bursts on me with a new revelation, but adds to it a column of advice, every sentence of which is more than worth its tributary postage stamp. Assuming that I have fixed on my young woman, Mr. Flam teaches me how to “circumvent” her, in the following artful and irresistible manner:

I must see her as often as possible. I must have something fresh to relate to her at every interview; and I must get that “something fresh” out of the newspapers. I must tell her where I have been, and where I am going to, and what I have seen, and what I expect to see; and if she wants to go with me, I must take her, and, what is more, I must be lively, and “come out with a few witty remarks, and be as amusing as possible”—for (and here is another Secret, another great discovery thrown in for nothing) I must recollect that “the funny man is always a favourite with the ladies.” Amazing insight! How does Mr. Flam get down into these deep, these previously-unsuspected wellsprings of female human nature? One would like a brief memoir of this remarkable person, accompanied by his portrait from a photograph, and enriched by a fac-simile (for graphiological purposes) of his handwriting.

To return once more, and for the last time, to myself. It may be objected that, although Mr. Flam has illuminated me with an inestimable secret, has fortified me with invaluable advice for making myself agreeable, and has assured me that if I attend to it, I may, “after a few weeks, boldly declare my love, and make certain of receiving a favourable answer,” he has, apparently, omitted, judging by my abstract of his reply, to inform me of the terms in which I am to make my offer, when I and my young woman are mutually ready for it. This is true. I am told to declare my love boldly; but I am not told how to do it, because Mr. Flam, of London, is honourably unwilling to interfere with the province of a brother-benefactor, Mr. Hum, of Hull, who for twenty-six postage stamps (see Advertisement) will continue the process of my enlightenment, from the point at which it left off, in “the most wonderful, astonishing, and curious work ever published in the English language, entitled Matrimony Made Easy; or, How to Win a Lover.” It is unnecessary to say that I send for this work, and two new discoveries flash upon me at the first perusal of it.

My first discovery is, that identically the same ideas on the subject of matrimony, and identically the same phrases in expressing them, appear to have occurred to Mr. Flam, of London, and to Mr. Hum, of Hull. The whole first part of Mr. Hum’s pamphlet is, sentence for sentence, and word for word, an exact repetition of the printed paper previously forwarded to me by Mr. Flam. To superficial minds this very remarkable coincidence might suggest that Mr. Flam and Mr. Hum, in spite of the difference in their respective names and addresses, were one and the same individual. To those who, like myself, look deeper, any such injurious theory as this is inadmissible, because it implies that a benefactor to mankind is capable of dividing himself in two for the sake of fraudulently procuring from the public a double allowance of postage stamps. This is, under the circumstances, manifestly impossible. Mr. Flam, therefore, in my mind, remains a distinct and perfect Flam, and Mr. Hum, a distinct and perfect Hum; and the similarity of their ideas and expressions is simply another confirmation of the well-known adage which refers to the simultaneous jumping of two great wits to one conclusion. So much for my first discovery.

The second revelation bursts out on me from the second part of Mr. Hum’s pamphlet, which I may remark, in parenthesis, is purely and entirely his own. I have been previously in the habit of believing that offers of marriage might extend themselves in the matter of verbal expression, to an almost infinite variety of forms. Mr. Hum, however, taking me up at the point where Mr. Flam has set me down, amazes and delights me by showing that the matrimonial advances of the whole population of bachelors may be confidently made to the whole population of spinsters, in one short and definitely-stated form of words. Mr. Flam has told me when to declare my love; and Mr. Hum, in the following paragraph, goes a step further, and tells me how to do it:

“When the gentleman has somewhat familiarised himself with the lady, and perceived that he is not, at all events, an object of aversion or ridicule, he should seek a favourable opportunity, and speak to this effect:—‘I have come (miss, or madam, as the case may be) to take a probably final leave of you.’ The lady will naturally ask the reason; when the lover can add (and if he is a fellow of any feeling, the occasion may give a depth of tone and an effect to his eloquence, that may turn the beam in his favour, if it was an even balance before):—’Because, madam, I find your society has become so dear to me, that I fear I must fly to save myself, as I may not dare to hope that the suit of a stranger might be crowned with success.’”

No more—we single men may think it short—but there is actually not a word more. Maid or widow, whichever she may be, “crowned with success,” is the last she will get out of us men. If she means to blush, hesitate, tremble, and sink on our bosoms, she had better be quick about it, on the utterance of the word “success.” Our carpet-bag is in the hall, and we shall take that “final leave” of ours, to a dead certainty, unless she looks sharp. Mr. Hum adds, that she probably will look sharp. Not a doubt of it. Thank you, Mr. Hum; you have more than earned your postage stamps; we need trouble you no further.

I am now thoroughly prepared for my future transactions with the fair sex—but where, it may be objected, is the woman on whom I am to exercise my little arts? It is all very well for me to boast that I am above the necessity of toiling after her, here, there, and everywhere—toil for her, I must: nobody will spare me that trouble, at any rate. I beg pardon—Destiny (for a consideration of postage stamps) will willingly spare me the trouble. Destiny, if I will patiently bide my time (which I am only too willing to do), will hunt out a woman of the right complexion for me, and will bring her within easy hearing-distance of the great Hum formula, at the proper moment. How can I possibly know this? Just as I know everything else, by putting my trust in advertisements, and not being stingy with my postage stamps. Here is the modest offer of service which Destiny, speaking through the newspapers, makes to mankind:

The Future Foretold.—Any persons wishing to have their future lives revealed to them correctly, should send their age, sex, and eighteen stamps, to Mr. Nimbus (whose prophecies never fail).”

I send my age, my sex, and my eighteen stamps; and Mr. Nimbus, as the mouthpiece of Destiny, speaks thus encouragingly in return:

Private.—I have carefully studied your destiny, and I find that you were born under the planet Mars. You have experienced in life some changes, and all has not been found to answer your expectations. There are brighter days and happier hours before you, and the present year will bring to you greater advantages than the past. You will marry a Female of Fair Complexion, most desirous of gaining your hand.” (That’s the woman! I am perfectly satisfied. Destiny will bring us together; the system of Mr. Flam will endear us to each other; and the formula of Mr. Hum will clench the tender business. All right, Mr. Nimbus—what next?) “You will make a most fortunate speculation with a Male of whom you have some knowledge”—(evidently the proprietor of the Fabric)—“and, although there will be some difficulties arise for a time, they will again disappear, and your Star rises in the ascendant. You will be successful in your undertakings and pursuits, and you will attain to a position in life desirable to your future welfare.”

I have done. All the advertisements presented here, I must again repeat, are real advertisements. Nothing is changed in any of them but the names of the advertisers. The answers copied are genuine answers obtained, only a short time since, in the customary way, by formal applications. I need say no more. The lesson of wise credulity which I undertook to teach, from the record of my own experience, is now before the world, and I may withdraw again into the healthy, wealthy, and wise retirement from which I have emerged solely for the good of others.

Take a last fond look at me before I go. Behold me immovably fixed in my good opinion of myself, by the discriminating powers of Graphiology; prospectively enriched by the vast future proceeds of my Fabric; thoroughly well grounded in the infallible rules for Courtship and Matrimony, and confidently awaiting the Female of Fair Complexion, on whom I shall practise them. Favoured by these circumstances, lavishly provided for in every possible respect, free from everything in the shape of cares, doubts, and anxieties, who can say that I have not accurately described myself as “the happiest man alive;” and who can venture to dispute that this position of perfect bliss is the obvious and necessary consequence of a wise belief in Advertisements?


First published: All The Year Round 30 April 1859 vol. I pp. 5-10

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