Question: A young Man being an apprentice, and having served about half his time, hath a very fair opportunity to marry much to his advantage; would you advise such an one to take opportunity by the Fore top, or to let her go and say he cannot marry because he is an Apprentice? Gentlemen, Pray favour me with a speedy Answer.
Answer: Fair and Gently, Lad; marriage is no foot ball play . . . few men till some years above twenty know either how to govern themselves, choose a wife, or set a true value upon Money. Not one marriage in five hundred, made before twenty five, or thereabouts, proves happy ….
It’s been four centuries since this question and answer appeared in the 1695 edition of The Athenian Mercury, the first newspaper to publish an advice column in the English language.
And while it’s unclear whether we should be comforted or troubled by the fact this advice still translates, it’s amazing to think that thanks to the eternal human experience, columns like this one continue to thrive today. But what makes a good one?
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