Wired Love by Ella Cheever Thayer

Many stories have been told over the years, of couples who meet and correspond without – or before – ever coming face to face. ‘Wired Love’ is a particularly lovely example of that type of story, and – given that it was published in 1879 – a strikingly modern story.

Nattie – Miss Nathalie Rogers – was making her own way in the world. She was bright, she was independent, she hoped to become a writer one day; and she had secured a room in a respectable boarding house and employment in the small, local telegraph office. I lked her from the start, and oh how I empathised with her when she had a difficult day.

telgraph_drawing1She was trying to take down a message that was being sent far too quickly for her to transcribe, she was being interrupted by  a customer asking foolish questions, and then she upsets a bottle of ink all over herself. Of course she had to ask “C” – who was sending that message from another telegraph office – to stop and repeat quite a  few times. “C” lost patience with her , but when “N” stood up for herself and explained exactly what she was having to deal with  “C”  understood. The pair went on chatting over the wire – in Morse code – whenever things were quiet in their respective offices..

The relationship between “C” and “N” grew beautifully.  They weren’t really supposed to chat on the wire, but the other operators in their circuit were tolerant, and curious about what might happen. They knew that  “C” was a man, and Nattie knew too but he was so easy to talk to, she never expected to never meet him in person, and so she was maybe a little more open than she should have been.

“C” and “N” did meet – of course they did – and Nattie’s friend Cynthia, who was intrigued by the relationship that grew on the wire, drew him into their social circle. But things didn’t play out as Cynthia hoped. “N” was shy with “C” is real life, and quite sure that he would fall in love with Cynthia. And “C” was sure that “N” had another admirer; she did, but she could never see him as more that a friend.

The story played out perfectly, with a lovely mixture of comedy, drama and romance. The characters were beautifully drawn, and I particularly liked the way that Ella Cheever Thayer presented Nattie and Cynthia as modern, independent young women, with ambitions beyond matrimony, without pushing things too far.

Their friendship was beautifully drawn, and the pair brought out the best in each other.

The story was engaging, a likeable cast was well managed, and I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that the author was a playwright – this seems to have been her only novel – that she had worked as a telegraph operator. The story lived and breathed, and it rang true.

It was, at times, wonderfully prescient:

“Ah well  then the young woman was only in advance of the age,” said Miss Archer; “and what with that and the telephone, and that dreadful phonograph that bottles up all one says and disgorges at inconvenient times, we will soon be able to do everything by electricity; who knows but some genius will invent something for the especial use of lovers? Something, for instance, to carry in their pockets, so when they are far away from each other, and pine for a sound of ‘that beloved voice,’ they will have only to take up this electrical apparatus, put it to their ears, and be happy. Ah, blissful lovers of the future!”

My only concern was how we were going to get to the inevitable ending, which was also the ending I wanted.

It came, of course, via the telegraph …..

7 responses

  1. As you say, this is a story that repeats but it still has the magic to win us over every time. I haven’t come across this version but will add it to the pile and perhaps read it one day after re-visiting ‘The Shop Around the Corner’.

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