John Dunton started the first advice column in 1690. He called it the Athenian Mercury. John, a bookseller, and his four "experts," wanted to answer "all the most Nice and Curious Questions proposed by the Ingenious of Either Sex." One person wondered why they would trouble themselves "and the world with answering so many silly questions." But it was a hit.
People have always been drawn to advice columns. They're a public forum for private thoughts; they're communal, yet anonymous; they reveal human strength, yet vulnerability. Despite their popularity, until recently, most readers in the recent decades have been white women. That's changing.
Are you an advice junkie? Join us.
- Jamie Fisher is a writer and researcher with The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, and the London Review of Books. She’s working on a collection of short stories.
- Danny M. Lavery is Slate’s Dear Prudence, co-founder of The Toast and the author of Texts From Jane Eyre, The Merry Spinster, and Something That May Shock and Discredit You. (@daniel_m_lavery)
- Christine Pride is a writer, book editor and content consultant. Her debut novel, We Are Not Like Them, written with Jo Piazza, will be published in October and is available for preorder now. Her advice column, Race Matters, is on Cup of Jo. (@cpride)
Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show.