With all the online dating sites these days, it might seem that cyber romance is the wave of the future. But as King Solomon so wisely said, there is nothing new under the sun.
Back in 1879, a female telegraph operator from Boston by the name of Ella Cheever Thayer published a romance novel entitled Wired Love. I ran across this wonderful little book while doing some research into telegraph operators. Apparently many operators were women and could often be identified as such by the delicacy of their “sounding” on the wires. The hero in Miss Thayer’s novel, Clem Stanwood, knows right away that the operator at the “B m” station is female.
Nattie Rogers is intrigued by the mysterious “C” at the “X n” station and seeks out converations that soon turn flirtatious. These two telegraph operators fall in love over the wire without ever laying eyes on one another. I haven’t read the entire novel, but the few chapters I did read were full of delightful humor and banter.
There is one scene about halfway through that was priceless. A case of mistaken identity had scared Nattie off, but Mr. Stanwood arranges a visit to her boarding house and while sitting amongst others in the parlor, he begins tapping out code with his pencil against a marble table top. Nattie recognizes her call name and, taking up a pair of scissors, drums out her own answer. They carry on an entire conversation this way with no one else in the parlor suspecting their action were anything more than idle tapping. Until, that is, Mr. Stanwood reveals himself to be the real “C”.
Nattie jumps to her feet and exclaims aloud, “What do you mean? It cannot be possible!”
Don’t you love it? Hysterical!
Of course everyone else in the room thinks she’s lost her mind except the hero who crosses the room to take her hand. Ahhh…
Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes was a best selling book for over 10 years. And why not? The story is timeless. Remember You’ve Got Mail, which was adapted to e-mail from The Shop Around the Corner where Jimmy Stewart did his courting through letters? Very similar premise. And there are so many parrallels to dating in today’s “wired” world. Can you trust that she looks like her description? Is he a gentleman or a stalker? How about the awkwardness of the first face-to-face meet? And with all the abbreviations used on the telegraph lines, it reminded me of the text speak our kids use today. It is really rather eerie how easily Ella Thayer’s story translates to our contemporary society 130 years after it was written.
Wired Love is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free from Amazon or you can read it on Google Books. Those who love research will find a treasure trove of details concerning how a telegraph was run. Those who love to travel back in time will enjoy delving into authentic 19th century life. And those who love a clean love story with a healthy dose of chuckles along the way will find a great read. You might want to give it a try.