G. SIDNEY PATERNOSTER IN GRAND MAGAZINEAugust11906
G. SIDNEY PATERNOSTER IN GRAND MAGAZINE
Recognizing the frailties of human nature, the matrimonial agent sets to work to play upon them, and that he succeeds tolerably well is evidenced by his continuance in business. Some of his methods are here exposed. Naturally, they vary, but the aim is always the same.
HE—or she, for there are feminine as well as male matrimonial agents — is almost invariably a liar, and not infrequently a thief. There are, no doubt, exceptions; but the exceptions are few, and the matrimonial agents who grow true to type many.
Possibly everyone who has started in business as a matrimonial agent has done so with the intention of supplying another example of the exception. He can easily find an excuse for his existence. He may conscientiously believe that there are many persons of both sexes whose social environment is such that they lack the opportunity for meeting the one desirable life-partner. If, then, he can bring about an introduction between two such parties he will prove a benefactor to humanity. But he is not a philanthropist, and as he proposes to live upon his beneficent work he is compelled by self-preservation to charge fees !
He may start business in a very modest way. He probably has a few circulars printed, and addressing them “To the housemaid,” drops them himself into the letter boxes of West End residences. He will apologize soapily for the liberty he has taken, and declaring that he has received instructions from a number of gentlemen clients to arrange matrimony for them, he asks the housemaid to communicate her requirements to him, since his clientele is so extensive and varied that he has not the slightest hesitation in assuring her that he will at once be able to provide her with a desirable hus-
band. He says nothing about fees in this preliminary communication. It is no use attempting to pluck the pigeon until it is safely in the trap.
But not the humble housemaid alone is the recipient of such unsolicited requests. Here is another specimen of the brazen effrontery with which the matrimonial agent will tout for clients in higher social spheres than the servants’ hall : “Dear Madam : I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you in answer to my letter of the 9th inst. Might I ask you if you would be disposed to grant an interview to the gentleman I mentioned to you in my letter ? I have heard from him and he expresses a desire to see you. I should myself also be glad if you would grant me an interview, as I have received a visit from a gentleman from Yorkshire who has a nice estate and a large yearly income, and I should like to introduce him to your notice. I shall be in the neighborhood of Oxford street next week and should be pleased to have the
privilege of calling at--.”
The young lady who received this epistle had never heard of the writer before, and she replied to the effect that the matrimonial agent must be under some misapprehension as to her identity. Under the circumstances it might be supposed that even a matrimonial agent might have the grace to apologize. Nothing of the kind. He renews his request for an interview. He reiterates his statements about the desirable gentlemen who are on his books, and he enters into particulars regarding his methods of
carrying on business. There is only one method of dealing with such persistent insolence — to tell him that any further repetition of his offence will result in his chastisement with a hunting-crop ; and the matrimonial agent, having a very sincere respect for his own skin, then yields to the only form of persuasion which he thoroughly comprehends.
But touting for clients in this personal manner is too slow a method to be adopted by the really up-to-date marriage broker. Are not the advertising columns of the daily, the evening and the weekly press at his disposal ? He makes full use of them, and so modest and retiring of disposition is he that he rarely inserts his advertisements in his own name. He prefers to dangle an attractive bait before the eyes of the matrimonially inclined, while remaining himself discreetly in the background :
“MATRIMONY.—Young lady, eighteen, big blue eyes, hair of the fashionable hue, considered beautiful, of good country family, fond of hunting, possessed of £10,000 in her own right wishes to make the acquaintance of a young gentleman with similar tastes and possession of adequate means. Address, etc.”
What an attractive ily is here cast upon the waters to tickle the appetite of the matrimonial trout ; £10,000. and hair of the fashionable shade thrown in. And the trout rise to the bait. One such advertisement inserted in a country paper produced, to my knowledge, no fewer than fiftyseven answers. Of course the matrimonial agent does not hook all the fish which rise to the bait. Threefourths of those who respond to the advertisement pursue the matrimoni.u prize no further when they learn that before their applications can be placed before the eighteen-year-old
damsel with the hair of the fashionable hue, they have to forward a guinea to the agent whose client she is. Those who part with their cash are asked to forward full particulars of themselves with photographs. They do so and await the result. It is not long in coming. They learn through the agent that they have not been successful, and thev learn also that if they will only forward another four guineas they will be placed upon the agent’s books and thereby obtain the advantage of introductions to the large number of matrimonial bargains which he is empowered to offer to the public.
The matrimonial agent does not always want so big a sum as five guineas. Sometimes he is contented with a modest preliminary fee of five shillings as the price of one introduction, and the full advantages of his agency with an unlimited number of introductions may be obtained for a guinea. But whatever his charge his stock makes a good show in the bulk. It is of various patterns and assorted sizes. The females have a wide age-range. From the damsel of seventeen to the giddy young widow of five-and-thirty—there are few of the matrimonial agent’s clients who will confess to more than five-and-thirty summers—all ages are represented. Their heights and weights vary considerably more than their tempers, which appear to be uniformly sweet. Their eyes and hair are of all the colors of the rainbow. Their tastes are agreeably refined and pleasingly domestic. Some of them are acknowledged beauties, and there is not one amongst them who is not “considered good-looking.” It is true that in the descriptions given of them the matrimonial agent does not insist upon the blemishes. He does not put the speckled sides of the apples he exhib-
its in his shop window uppermost, and if there are any one-eyed, stonedeaf, or partially paralyzed maidens amongst his assortment they may possibly be domestically inclined, or even be considered good-looking from a carefully selected point of view.
Besides, the speckled apples in the matrimonial agent’s stock are usually blessed with compensations. Beauty and youth do .not need gilding ; but the one-eyed lady will perchance pass muster if she has a golden shade to hide her defect. So the matrimonial agent carefully apportions his gold leaf. The incomes of his clients are carefully graduated in proportion to the years they admit. Even a bald lady of sixty may be considered a bargain if she brings a thousand pounds for each of her years into settlement. She will never be lacking funds to provide for art wherewith to repair the ravages of time among her tresses.
On the other side of the ledger the matrimonial agent has just as extensive an assortment of male bargains to whet the matrimonial appetites of the feminine clients. Tall and short, dark and fair, moustached and bearded, young and old, rich and poor, may be found amongst them. One quality they all possess in common— there is not a man who is not a “gentleman” amongst them, from the royal prince who is known at every court in Europe to the proud proprietor of the hairdressing saloon in the borough. It. would seem impossible that any maid or swain should remain unmarried with so many eager clients of both sexes on the brokers’ books. But somehow their names do remain on the books—interminably.
The only objection to be found to the clients of the matrimonial agent is their curious faculty of vanishing into space at the critical moment
when the introduction is to be effected, and that this faculty may prove very distressing to the agent at times may be gathered from the following incident. An advertisement which had appeared in one of the weekly papers excited the interest of a gentleman who may be designated as .Mr. A. It was as follows :
“SPINSTER, 26, possessing independent income, desires matrimony with a gentleman of middle-class parentage.—D., Box —, etc.”
Mr. A. wrote to the “D.” spinster, and in return he received a reply from a matrimonial agent to the following effect :
“Dear Sir,—After inserting her advertisement Miss D. decided to place her affairs in my hands to shield herself from entering into correspondence with a gentleman whose object was merely amusement.
“Miss I). informs me that your letter has met with her approval ; she considers that you are quite suitable to her and would like me to arrange an introduction between you, but in doing so I am to take the full responsibility of your intentions being honorable.
“I am prepared to arrange an introduction between you and Miss D. providing you enrol as a member. My charge is £5 5s., and to ascertain enrolling bona fide members only, I request payment of £1 5s. in advance, the remaining £4 being payable on marriage.
“Should this meet your favor, upon receiving the above sum I will at once arrange the introduction, sending you Miss D.’s address, that all communications may take place direct.
“As each member is entitled to as manv introductions as may prove necessary to effect a marriage, should this introduction not end successfully
I will introduce you to other lady members. Trusting to be favored with your patronage, I remain, etc.”
Mr. A., having suspicions as to Miss D.’s existence, did not forward the £1 5s., but instead after waiting a few days inserted the following advertisement in the same paper in which Miss D.’s had already appeared :
“Will the gentleman who wrote Spinster D. last week and received agent’s letter write again ?—M. D., Box -.”
This advertisement brought replies from no fewer than twenty-three suitors, each of whom had received exactly the same letter from the agent as that quoted above. The applicants were of the most diverse appearances, occupations and tastes, and Mr. A.’s curiosity to see a lady of such catholic taste in husbands led him to pay a visit to the agent who acted on her behalf. He sought out the agent and found him in one of a diminutive row of new cottages in the salubrious if not exactly fashionable neighborhood of East Ham. But the “D.” spinster was not there, nor
had her agent the slightest idea as to where she might be found. The agent was as much in the dark as to her identity as his interrogator. All he knew concerning her was that, u: expected and unannounced, she had called upon him, bringing with her letters she had received in answer to her advertisement ; that she had instructed him to negotiate a marriage for her with one or other of the writers ; that she had paid him £2 10s. cash for his services ; that, after bringing him some more letters, she had written to him dispensing with his services ; and that he had neverseen or heard from her since. And it was this Vanishing Lady whom the unfortunate agent had offered to introduce to twenty-four ardent lovers at twenty-live shillings a head ! Truly, the fot of the matrimonial agent is. made exceedingly difficult by such aberrations on the part of his clients, for owing to them he may find himself before a magistrate at the police court or even in the dock at the Old Bailey with small prospect of continuing his beneficent career for a term of months.
No greater mistake can be made than that of thinking that splendid works are wrought easily. Nothing is evergiven out that has not first been faithfullv acquired. The study, the effort, the practice, may have been yesterday or twenty years ago, but it has been. No great character has ever been formed, no great work ever wrought, except by the patient, unwearying use of each day’s opportunities. There has been no truly great man who has not labored greatly.
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