Can love exist in the modern age?
—Sandy Chapman, Freeport, ME
I have enjoyed a great many Loves in this illustrious life of mine: my wife, Julia Clapp Newberry; jewel-encrusted editions of early modern Epics; the principle, and the attendant Statutes with which it girds itself, of Private Property; ETC., ETC. The list goes on. The variety of the objects upon which I have affixed my loving Gaze has done nothing to attenuate the intensity of Passion I feel for those objects. It is this that confers upon me the Authority to hazard a response to your most vexing query. Vexing because, as with an iceberg one espies by Trans Atlantic steamship at a certain Latitude, there is much submerged beneath the churning Waters of your words.
Reading betwixt the lines, as they say, I intuit another question—or questions—cloaked by your explicit utterance: Is modern technology somehow inimical to romance? Do the cold, lifeless mathematical Algorithms touted by such courtship facilitators as “OK CUPID” and “MATCH.COM” actually lead to the discovery of a timeless, visceral love? I must warn you, dear Chapman, of confusing the character of the Means with the quality of the Ends. To illuminate the Disjunction between the two, I would like to adduce the frequency with which something as unromantic as an arranged pairing has stoked the gradual cultivation of the Flame of Love. It is true that “Love at First Sight” does transpire outside the bounds of Fiction; but is the measured burning of the Sun not preferable to the temporary intensity of the shooting star which winks across the sky and is gone?
Moreover, mechanisms for fostering love matches among a critical mass of the Human Population cannot be considered “MODERN,” or, at the very least, a development of recent vintage. Consider, as Exhibit A, an 1877 edition of The Matrimonial News periodical, currently on display as part of the Newberry Library’s Love on Paper exhibition. The Matrimonial News, an associate has shared with me in order to extend our “MILLENIAL” frame of reference, was the “CRAIGSLIST” of its day: It mediated a host of connections based on a peculiar gender distribution in this great Country of ours. The editors addressed themselves to the Reading Public thusly: “That there is a superabundance of men in the West, and a corresponding ratio of women in the Eastern States, is an indisputable fact, and it is equally true that many of these prolong their single estate for want of congenial and adequate society.”
The Matrimonial News provided for such society, as its progeny do today.