Encoded Love, 1853

Finding love in the Capital is always a mission, even before the invention of dating apps. However, even more difficult is hiding your relationship from the world if it is considered, for whatever reason, inappropriate. However, one couple in the nineteenth century managed to intrigue the public for nearly a month through their public, yet hidden messages.

Lonely hearts columns had been a feature of newspapers since 1850 and usually featured ‘beautiful women’ looking to move to the city and ‘handsome bachelors’ desperate to share their love with someone. However, this particular message in The Times caught the public’s eye:

‘CENERENTOLA. N bnxm yt ywd nk dtz hfs wjfi ymnx fsi fr fscntzx yt mjfw ymf esi bmjs dtz wjyzws, f imtb qtsldtz wjfns, mjwj It bwnyf f kjb qnsjx jfwqnsl uqjfxj: N mfaj gjjs ajwd kfw kwtr mfund xnshy dtz bjsy fbdb’

Luckily, readers of the newspaper cracked the code: f stands for a, g for b etc. The message therefore read:

‘Cenerentola, I wish to try if you can read this, and am most anxious to hear the end, when you return, and how long you remain here. Do write a few lines, darling, please. I have been very far from happy since you went away.’

Who was ‘Cenerentola’? She was never found, and neither was the writer. Perhaps the object of the writer’s desires was concealed beneath a code name like his message. A month later, he wrote another message. However, he must have been so embarrassed when underneath his painstakingly coded message a translation was provided by The Times.

‘…until my heart is sick have I tried to frame an explanation for you, but cannot. Silence is safest, if the true cause is not suspected: if it is all stories will be sifted to the bottom. Do you remember our cousin’s first proposition? Think of it. I know you.’

The lovers’ identity was never discovered, and in fact inspired others to try equally elusive methods of speaking to their partners via dating columns. However, the mention of ‘our cousin’, implying the writer and Cenerentola shared a single cousin, might explain why they were not keen to go public with their relationship.

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