As psychotherapist and author Philippa Perry becomes our new agony aunt, she reveals why helping you with your worries will help us all. Plus, a special welcome from Jay Rayner
John Dunton founded the Athenian Mercury in the 1690s. A paper that consisted of readers’ questions and the answers. His idea was that readers could send in dilemmas to be answered by a panel of experts, the Athenian Society. But his great innovation was that they could do so anonymously and this has remained a feature of problem pages ever since. Poor old Dunton could have done with some advice himself, because he ended his days in poverty as he was a better innovator than he was a business person. He blamed his woes on other people rather than taking responsibility for his own failings. I think an agony aunt today might have spotted that for him and possibly saved him from destitution.
His panel of experts, depicted as 12 learned men with him in the centre in an engraving at the top of the pages, were largely fictitious. It was just Dunton and a couple of mates who went through all the letters in a coffee shop.
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