My Courtship and Its Consequences, or the 1850s Dating Game

Henry Wikoff is not a name that is familiar to many today, I’m sure; I certainly had never heard of him. Stories conflict on what he was, exactly. He was an American agent to the British consulate (?), but he also had his hand in journalism for a while and some other stuff. He was left a large fortune upon the death of his guardian (he was also an illegitimate son of a doctor) and this gave him leave to travel around Europe quite a bit. It was here that he met with misfortune, in the name of Jane Gamble.

Apparently, Jane and he were friends for many years, as he was well-known to her family. After a space of time wherein they didn’t see each other, they renewed their friendship, and he discovered that he had fallen quite in love with her. He proposes, she spurns him, and she runs away on a European tour, only to have him doggedly pursue her and continually ask for her hand. She finally gives it to him on a walk in some little French town, as she says later, so that he would stop pestering her in front of people who were coming toward them. She reneges the very next day and runs off again. He decides to ignore her and see what happens, and soon after, she writes to him and invites him to where she has ensconced herself. Lather, rinse, repeat, until finally, Wikoff finds a ruse to get her to come to an inn and he barricades the door against her and her maid for several hours. The stories conflict on whether he threatened her with weapons, and whether or not he attempted to chloroform her (she supposedly told a journalist that Wikoff made an attempt and joked about a second one, but she also said that he only treated her with kindness during her alleged abduction, so you be the judge). After a space of several hours, he let her go, feeling vindicated. While locked up, she wrote a note pledging her hand in marriage, which she later said was done under duress.

Anyway, color Mr. Wikoff surprised a few days later to find that he is being arrested and must go to trial for a count of abduction! Jane Gamble tries to retract the charge, but according to the Italian government, it had gone too far by that point, and that trial must go on. In the end, after testimony that does not corroborate on the part of the little woman, Wikoff was sentenced to fifteen months of incarceration in a Genoese prison.

After he is finally set free, he is determined to tell the world his side of the story, as the press completely slandered him, he cried. Thus, this book, which is so unfathomably crazy, that one doesn’t know WHOM to believe. Jane Gamble never wrote about it herself, so we only have Wikoff’s word upon which to draw, and he seems like quite a con-man, anyway. If any of what he said about her and her actions is true, however, she was a mad dame. They were made for each other, and honestly, should have gotten married from the first.

If you strip away the names and the time period, some of this could be contemporary, really. We’ve all known these types of people who pursue and then stop to see if the other person is interested . . .

This book is in the public domain, so it’s very easy to find. It’s insane and totally worth your time.

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