The following advice from 1891 will appear in my upcoming etiquette book
True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen.
PERSONAL - Will the lady who rode up Broadway last Thursday afternoon, about two o'clock, in an omnibus, getting out at Stewart's, accompanied by a little girl dressed in blue suit, please send her address to D.B.M., Herald office?
It is useless to advise people never to reply to a personal advertisement like the above. To do so is like totally refusing young people the privilege of dancing. People will dance, and they will answer personal advertisements. The best course, therefore, is to properly direct the dancers, and caution the writers in their answers to newspaper personals. If the eye of the young lady referred to meets the above advertisement, she will possibly be indignant at first, and will, perhaps, resolve to pay no attention to it. It will continue to occupy her attention so much, however, and curiosity will become so great, that, in order to ease her mind, she will at last give her address; in which case she makes a very serious mistake, as any lady replying to a communication of such character, giving her name and residence to a stranger, places herself at great disadvantage. Should her communication never be answered, she will feel mortified ever afterwards that she committed the indiscretion of replying to the advertisement at all; and, should the person she addresses prove to be some worthless fellow who may presume to press an acquaintance upon the strength of her reply, it may cause her very serious perplexity and embarrassment. It is clearly evident, therefore, that she should not give her name and address as requested; and yet, as the advertisement may refer to a business matter of importance, or bring about an acquaintance which she will not regret, she may relieve her curiosity on the subject by writing the following note in reply:
(Advertisement pasted in)
I find the above advertisement in the "Herald" of this morning. I suppose myself to be the person referred to. You will please state your object in addressing me, with references.
Address, A.L.K., Herald Office
It is probable that the advertiser, if a gentleman, will reply, giving his reasons for requesting the lady's address, with references, upon receiving which, the lady will do as she may choose relative to continuing the correspondence; in either case, it will be seen that she has in no wise compromised her dignity, and she retains the advantage of knowing the motive and object that prompted the advertisement, while she is yet unknown to the advertiser.
Great caution should be exercised in answering personals. The supposition is, if the advertiser be a gentleman, that he will honorably seek an interview with a lady, and pay court as gentlemen ordinarily do. Still, an occasion may happen to a man, who is in the highest sense a gentleman, wherein he sees the lady that he very greatly admires, and can learn her address in no other way without rendering himself offensive and impertinent; hence, the apparent necessity of the above personal advertisement.
Instances have also occurred where gentleman, driven with business, and having but little time to mingle in female society, or no opportunity, being strangers comparitively, desirous of forming the acquaintance of ladies, have honestly advertised for correspondence, been honestly answered, and marriage was the result.
Those advertisements, however, wherin Sammy Brown and Coney Smith advertise for correspondence with any number of young ladies, for fun, mutual improvement, "and what may grow out of it, photographs exchanged," etc. young ladies should be very wary of answering. Instances have been known where scores of young ladies, having answered such an advertisement, could they have looked in upon these young men a week afterwards, would have seen them with a pile of photographs and letters, exhibiting them to their companions, and making fun of the girls who had been so foolish as to answer their advertisement.
It is true that no one but the meanest kind of a rascal would be guilty of such a disgraceful act as to advertise for and expose correspondence thus, and it is equally true that the young lady who gives the advertiser the opportunity to ridicule her shows herself to be very foolish.
PERSONAL. - A gentleman, a new comer in the city, having a sufficiency of this world's goods to comfortably support himself and wife, is desirous of making the acquaintance of a lady of middle years, with a view to matrimony. Address, in the strictest confidence, giving name, residence, and photograph, H.A.B., Station H, Post Office.
I am led to suppose, from the reading of the above, that it is dictated in sincerity, by a desire to meet with a lady who would be treated with candor and respect. I have at present no acquaintance to whom I am inclined to give a very decided preference, nor have I ever had any very distinct ideas on the subject of marriage. I am free, however, to confess that, should circumstances favor my acquaintance with a gentleman whom I could honor and respect, I might seriously think of a proposal. Believing that you wish, as you intimate, this letter in confidence, I will say that I am -- years old, am in receipt of --- annually, from property that is leased. I have been told that I am handsome, though others, probably, will have a different opinion. Of that fact, you must be the judge. I am entirely free to select whomsoever I may choose. My social standing, I trust, would be satisfactory, and my accomplishments have not been neglected. It is not necessary that I should write more. I shall be happy to correspond with you with a view to better acquaintance, when, if mutually agreeable, an introduction may take place. You desire me to send name, address and photograph, which, I trust you to perceive, would be improper for me to do. It is due to myself, and, under certain circumstances, to you, that I should be very guarded as to the manner of my introduction. A letter addressed to M.A.L., Station A, Postoffice, will reach me.
I sign a fictitious name, for obvious reasons.